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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find additional information at www.sagestone-partners.com.