Three weeks into my latest Stress Management course and the feeling of wonder never diminishes. What a privilege to be a partner in the transformational process—all those “storm-battered boats” reclaiming their lives and becoming lighthouses of leadership—for themselves, their families, employees, colleagues, co-workers and communities.
Are you allowing stress to kidnap your neo-cortex?
Do you know why chaos, accidents or ill health follow you like dog shit on your shoe? Do you know why you feel as though you’re drowning in demands, can’t seem to communicate or relate to people in a productive way; why you keep making silly mistakes, feel so overwhelmed, inadequate or energy drained?
Maybe you can relate to Sandy’s comments—until this course, I didn’t know that stress could be controlled. I just thought I’d have to suck it up until circumstances changed, so learning how I was stressing my body, and how I could change that was mind blowing! I never thought of myself as a victim but I realize now that I was, until I finally realized—ME, My choices, My responsibility, My Attitude, My mindset determine My life. What control I got from owning it! Then everything else seemed to fall into place.
For many of us the truth is, we don’t really know what leadership qualities are, we certainly don’t believe we have them, or we have no idea how to develop or leverage them in our daily lives.
In fact, if you’d asked me whether I had leadership qualities twenty years ago, I would have categorically said no. And there was plenty of evidence to support that!
It all comes down to your level of self-awareness—how well you know and manage yourself and your resources. What physical, mental and emotional state you operate in most of the time. What triggers your stress response; why you’ve chosen the goals you have and what drives you. Most of all it’s about developing a respectful, caring and trustworthy relationship with yourself because this is what determines how you communicate and relate to others.
The fact is you can’t be responsible for others if you’re not being responsible on every level for your own life.
Here are nine qualities that are part of the leadership package:
1. Walking the talk
True leaders walk their talk and that’s how they earn the respect of others. Allowing stress to hijack your life makes you untrustworthy. It scrambles your brain, makes you impulsive, short fused and irrational. When the shit hits the fan, you have to be able to keep your head when everyone else is losing theirs. People look to a leader during times of uncertainty and change for reassurance and security. Think confronting a major family decision, or getting a startup off the ground. Risk levels are high. Successful outcomes don’t happen overnight. Staying calm and solution focused allows you to see the bigger picture, keep those long term goals and benefits in sight, makes embracing challenges and persisting in the face of setbacks possible. You need flexibility to handle sudden, unexpected changes. If you expect your team to keep their commitments, you need to lead by example.
Confidence is a prerequisite of leadership—and anyone can acquire it. It allows you to learn from criticism, instead of being destroyed by it. When you have healthy confidence levels there’s no need to make excuses or blame others. Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires and maintain the team morale. You need to be clear on the difference between a setback and a stone wall. Failure guides a leader, it doesn’t define them. They know the value of failing forward.
Leaders are willing to risk rejection, disapproval or abandonment by drawing firm boundaries when necessary. This builds respect, saves time, increases productivity and confidence. It enables a team to work as a team—everyone is headed in the same direction, towards the same clear goals. Having a well defined framework builds accountability within your team. It frees up energy and enthusiasm, minimizes conflict and misunderstandings and makes delegating work effectively. It teaches team members to think for themselves. Setting boundaries vastly improves communication—everyone knows where they stand and what is expected of them.
It’s interesting how many employee surveys and blog discussions list micro-managing as the most irritating, counter productive quality of management. Trusting your team to turn your vision into action indicates confidence in your ability to pick the right team members. Pick your inner circle with care. Delegating tasks to people and departments with the necessary qualities, skills and resources is one of the key hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs. Micro-managing and spreading yourself thin sabotages productivity. Successful leaders have a talent for identifying the strengths of their team, and capitalizing on them.
How good are you at transferring what’s in your mind to someone elses? You may be clear about what you want, need or expect, but is it clear to the person you’re communicating this to? You often have to customize your communications to get the result you want. Even within a family different personalities respond to different approaches. You may have to factor in cultural conditioning, language barriers, diverse educational backgrounds, personality traits and varying value systems to the way information is processed and interpreted. Some people work well under pressure, others don’t. Some respond to a direct challenge, others take it personally and shut down. So, effective leadership requires customizing your approach to the individual, in order to avoid unnecessary conflict or misunderstandings. This article illustrates this concept on a global scale.
6. Self Trust
In order to be trusted, you need to be trustworthy. When you value yourself, your products or services, and your team’s ability to deliver, others will too. After all, how can you sell yourself to others, if you can’t sell yourself to you? And if you mess up or don’t know something, admit it—and make it right, or find out. Nothing damages credibility faster than excuses, blame or BS.
Endorse yourself and your team regularly. Appreciation and validation is what motivates everyone, and you can only make others feel good when you feel good about yourself. Ignoring, taking for granted or constant criticism and lack of positive feedback kills motivation and confidence.
Successful leaders peg their priorities in alignment with their primary goals and values; the areas of life that are most important to their vision at any given time. Make your well being a priority—especially when under pressure. Prioritize people, tasks and goals in order of their importance in your life, and remember to change these priority filters when necessary. Situations and circumstances are constantly evolving, so your priority filters need to evolve with them.
As a leader, you’re automatically a mentor, whether you know it or not. Mentoring is a win/win situation. You get to share knowledge, experience and expertise and keep up to date with new developments. Networking, interpersonal relationships, and change management benefit, building co-operation and harmony within your team. New ideas and approaches are shared. Strengths are developed and weaknesses overcome, and a culture of personal and professional growth is fostered. Mentoring encourages team effort and identity.
The fact is that whether you’re a home executive or the CEO of a blue chip company, the more you reclaim control and grow into your leadership role – the more likely it is that your team will respond positively.
If you can’t wait to discover the leader in you, but don’t know where to start, click here.