Oct
19
2009

Be the Best You, To Be the Best Leader

best

Being a great leader takes a tremendous amount of energy, creativity, strategy, empathy and stamina these days.  Leaders are givers – giving to their organization, teams, community, and when the workday is over, finally their family.  WHEW!  That’s a lot on anyone’s plate!  And that’s precisely why, as a leader, you need to be sure to put some focus on yourself too!

As a leader, you are outward focused – serving others –but you can only give your best when you have your best to give.  As such, it’s important to take “ME” time and consider five key elements that can help you be most productive leader.  Not only will you directly benefit, but everyone around you will as well.

Develop High Self-Awareness.

Leaders should become highly self-ware of their value system.  Ask yourself – What’s important to you and what do you value?  What “feeds” you and re-charges your battery and spirit?  What are you most passionate about?  What motivates you?  These are all critical, but important, questions that help you discover the passion, purpose and style of your leadership.  Knowing the answers to these questions helps you to stay motivated and on course with everything you say and do as a leader.  This advice comes from Bill George, author of True North, who further states,

“But knowing ourselves at the deepest level isn’t easy, as we are complex human beings with many aspects to our character.  We are constantly evolving, as we test ourselves in the world, are influenced by it, and adapt to our environment – all in an attempt to find our unique place.”

It may seem as if we should all simply know our values, but as George points out, they are ever-changing as a result of life experiences.  For this reason, leaders who regularly work with coaches may have an advantage since heightening awareness is a critical component of a coach’s job.  With proper training, coaches can use of a variety of assessments and can ask powerful questions to help clients achieve a deeper understanding.  This information helps leaders to better understand their values and priorities, which then can shape their motives and actions.

Spend Time with People Who Build Into You.

Again, this one seems obvious, but the reality is that when our calendars get jam-packed, it’s the people in our inner circles that often suffer the greatest consequences.  Why?  Because we know they love and value us, so they can be ‘pushed off’ a bit without losing the credibility that newer people in our lives still need time to discover. 

Consider, though, how beneficial it is to spend quality time with your family; to be surrounded with people who adore you – faults and all (yes, they’ve seen them!)  Consider how a professional peer group of leaders provides a solid sounding board of advice and re-direction, without judgment or bias to other organizational factors.  Consider how your long-time friends can take a walk with you down memory lane and remind you of how wonderful your life really is -oh, what healthy perspective that can be! . (And let’s not forget how stress-relieving a good, hard laugh can be, either!)

Always Learn, Always Improve.

As the great poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  For all of us, that means that the learning process should never stop…because there is always room to grow.  Leaders should remain humble and open-minded to receive good advice, new perspectives and the latest industry trends.

This is an age of innovation, where things can change quickly.  With an open mind, you can consider how to best leverage new technologies and creative, never-been-done-before approaches.  The most memorable leaders aren’t the ones who followed the path of the leader before them.  The greatest leaders thought outside of the box and implemented approaches that blazed new trails.  They couldn’t have done this without an open mind and a willingness to learn from others.  Leaders must embrace change, and they must continually learn to keep up with it!

Be Healthy.

With all the challenges on leaders’ plates – the economy, keeping their teams motivated, the impending talent war, increasing sales and the bottom line – there’s virtually NO downtown.  Leaders are constantly balancing proactive and reactive, and that means their leadership is in high demand!

Leaders, if you’re not in good shape, you’re going to feel it!!  These are stressful times, and they require stamina.  Are you not only mentally, but physically able to deal with it?  Do you eat right, exercise and get enough sleep?  I’m not suggesting that every leader go on a diet and/or become a weight-lifter…but I am suggesting that you give your body the proper fuel to best prepare you for each day.

In a recent study, the British Medical Journal found that chronic stress has been linked to the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as other conditions.  Know that these risk factors are real and that you must work to counteract them.  The article can be found here.

Have Faith.

Every leader will need to embrace some level of risk.  Because leaders create vision and strategy, they are future-focused, looking forward, making improvements they believe will improve their people and their business results.  I, for one, cannot predict the future…can you?  This is where faith can be immensely helpful to a leader.

By having a faith in something much larger than themselves, leaders can incorporate their value system into their strategy and have a higher level of confidence (and lower stress!) that they will attain the desired results.  By having faith in their people, leaders can more highly engage their team and be able to “let go,” not having the need to touch every plan and decision.  By having faith in themselves, leaders can exude confidence, motivate their people and be willing to make difficult decisions.  As stated by Dr. Laura Nash, Ph.D. and Director of Harvard’s Divinity School,

“Faith not only helps a person see the ultimate values, it can provide the courage to pursue them when the market offers plenty of reason for fear.”

 

Take a moment and consider what you’re doing to take care of yourself.  Are you doing enough?  Are you able to give others your best?  What’s one thing you can improve upon to better serve those around you?

 Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  She is passionate about developing people and companies to achieve their greatest potential.  You can reach Erin at eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com or you can find additional information at www.sagestone-partners.com.

Join The Conversation

Latest Comments

Bill Bliss   |   19 October 2009   |   Reply

Erin,

What a great post – you have hit on a number of key things. (Personally, I’m glad I just came back in from some exercise before I read the part about staying healthy.) Having a coach or someone who can make those observations is so important. Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing has said that leaders “cannot afford to not have a coach.”

There are some good peer advisory groups out there for business leaders and owners. Vistage is a good one. For those who want to integrate their Christian faith with their work, two great peer advisory groups are Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (www.fcci.org) and C12 Group. Both are highly recommended ways to help leaders stay focused, accountable and build great relationships with fellow CEOs.

Keep up the great stuff!

Joanne Maly   |   19 October 2009   |   Reply

Erin,

- A lot of good info in today’s ‘Authentic Leadership’ blog post.

While reading your post this afternoon, I’m reminded of the V8 commercial where the TV ‘character’ says, “Thanks, I needed that.”

So…. “thanks…. “.

Amy Bryant   |   19 October 2009   |   Reply

Great questions to ponder, Erin. I appreciate you mentioning friends in your post. Balancing my family, business, church and other pressing obligations leaves little time for me these days and although friendships are so nourishing to the spirit they do often get pushed back when other things come up. Of course, I am in touch with a handful on a regular basis, but there are definitely some folks who could use a call from me. Thanks for the reminder!

Amy

Colleen Kearney   |   19 October 2009   |   Reply

Erin,

Nice summary of what it takes. I can’t tell you how important the last 2 have been for me…being healthy and having faith. I’ve been working on my personal health for the last 9 months, and just like having a career coach, a personal trainer is another “must have”. I own a gym and you would think I would have gotten it a lot sooner than now. I used to downplay what a trainer could do for me, but now that I have one, I won’t ever go back. She works me, keeps me on track, encourages me, and gives me truth when I should be doing things differently. Change your lifestyle, Change your life!

I’ve been working on my faith as well, and feel like I’m finally getting closer to God in all things, at all times. Including in my job at P&G where experimenting how faith plays out is risky business. We operate in a data driven environment and until recently acting on faith hasn’t necessarily been a respected practice. It’s nice to see that our new leader, CEO Bob MacDonald, is also embracing his faith and developing a “purpose inspired culture” because, he says, “purpose provides meaning to what we do.” He encourages us to recognize the voice of authority and act on it. Somehow, I think there is positive change happening in the business world, despite all the stuff we hear in the news.

Thanks for your dedicated leadership to developing “authentic leaders” and giving us the tools and means to further develop ourselves.

Colleen

hour9   |   19 October 2009   |   Reply

Erin,

I wrote a similar post a few weeks ago (http://hour9.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/lead-yourself/). I love the extra detail and questions you provide here though.

I’ve been calling this “leading yourself” or “self-leadership.” It’s been changing the way that I see leadership and encouraged by the fact that someone as established as yourself is helping me think about the idea of self-leadership. Thanks.

Christy Whitaker-Clarke   |   19 October 2009   |   Reply

Erin,

Thank you for another beautifully written and thoughtful piece by an equally beautiful and thoughtful person. You have always lived by these tenants and have used them as a guide in your own life. I am glad that you are sharing your thoughts and wisdom to help others in their endeavors. Besides, I really enjoyed the part about how “long-time friends take a walk down memory lane and remind you how wonderful your life really is”. I have had the priviledge of watching you on your life journey for many years (25?) and I am so proud of all you’ve accomplished and of who you have become. Even when we first met at age fourteen, the leader in you was clearly evident, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to watch this talent develop and grow over the many years. Keep it up E!
~C

Christy Whitaker-Clarke   |   19 October 2009   |   Reply

Sorry, I just realized that I misspelled two words! I am usually very particular about my spelling…as you know. Sorry, I should have proof-read!

Paul McConaughy (MiNutrition)   |   19 October 2009   |   Reply

This is really on the mark Erin. The element that I relate to most is “Always learn. Always improve.”

Twitter has been a Godsend for me. It opens so many doors for learning. It enables me to be current in my knowledge and it broadens my horizons. It gives me opportunities to learn from people I never could have connected with before.

I think Twitter has created a wonderful opportunity for leaders to connect, share, learn and grow.

Best of all it introduced me to you.

anniehu123   |   20 October 2009   |   Reply

You’re right on target, Erin. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your insight. . If a leader doesn’t know he/she is, how can he/she help others understand themselves? Knowing who(m) you are, as a leader will help you build what you will become.

My average work hour is 14 to 16 hours a day, sometimes Saturdays. It’s very typical in the Silicon Valley. At least 12 hours of my time are devoted to people development. I can tell you it’s not an easy task – but it’s well worth it. I coach individuals/executives by recognizing their style difference. Some people likes to receive feedback by writing it down, some prefer to hear it in person. I use process to organize my work, and exercise to balance my physical energy. I just finished an offsite today and one of my closing comments is to ask our executives to stay positive and dream big for themselves and their people they lead – well aligned with your sharing.

I agree with you completely, “life is a journey, not a destination”. Leadership is a process, not an event. It’s not about me; it’s about “you (them)”!

All the best for your continued inspiration and success!

http://twitter.com/anniehu123

Dan Black   |   20 October 2009   |   Reply

Great pointers. I love the section about “Spend Time with People Who Build Into You” the people who you associate with will make or break a leader. Thank you for your thoughts.

Randy P. Seitz   |   20 October 2009   |   Reply

Always learn, always improve! Amen!

Shalini Bahl   |   20 October 2009   |   Reply

That’s a good list! In addition to the elements you have discussed I wrote about authentic entrepreneurs as being inspired, integrated, open, making positive contributions, courageous, and enjoying the journey.

To read the full post: http://mindfulmarketers.blogspot.com/2009/07/are-you-authentic-entrepreneur.html

Wally Bock   |   20 October 2009   |   Reply

The people who love you are the people who forgive you. They let us work late, extend trips, and opt out of events with family and friends. It took me a very long time to learn that if you let them love you that way, things start to slip away, imperceptivity at first. For me the solution was to make appointments with family and with friends as sacred as business appointments.

nicoledefalco   |   22 October 2009   |   Reply

As always, an inspired post. I think leaders who lack confidence tend to be micromanagers–living a lifestyle opposite to what you propose here. The strongest leaders I know have stable self-confidence–they do not get plagued by self-doubt in the face of failure. They see failure as a learning opportunity and move on with the confidence that they are that much smarter for the experience.
Thank you for generously sharing your insights!

–Nicole

Tevin Vidal   |   08 July 2010   |   Reply

Yes, life is a journey with many steps on your unique personal journey that takes you down a winding and sometimes bumpy road of constant evolution.

Tevin Vidal
Leadership Coaching