I know it’s been a couple of weeks since our last Learning to Lead installment, but there’s been so much going on with the 40 Days to 40 journey and my work travels that I got a little sidetracked. But I’m back. In the Learning to Lead book, I highlight that there are three other leadership tips I couldn’t devote a full segment to but that are helpful when learning to lead:
1. Abandon the Black-and-White Approach –View success on a continuum. How often do we see “success” and “failure” as complete opposites? Something is either a success or it’s a failure? Not true. Every time we take a risk and try something new, there will be successful outcomes, and also ways to learn and become better the next time around. It’s all about your perspective. Let go of the idea that your leadership goals or plans are an all-or-nothing proposition and give yourself some latitude for success as well as learning. In Break Your Own Rules, the authors highlight that leadership views success as “both-and”:
Black-and-white thinking does not lead to career success or personal satisfaction. Because complexity and constant change are everywhere in business and in our world today, dealing with ambiguity has become a primary leadership trait that women need to master. One phrase that has crept into dozens of our coaching files over the years is the notion of having it all. It’s no coincidence that many of the women who are trying to have it all are also the ones who are most disappointed and frustrated. This is just one example of the type of extreme thinking that pushes us off the path to success.
Susan Ivey, CEO of Reynolds American, counseled, “The equation to solve for is happiness with the least amount of guilt. There are no right answers here.”
2. Persistence – Jane Goodall once said, “If you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way.” I spoke with women at the top who repeatedly shared stories of getting knocked down or losing an election or a promotion or a project, but they just kept going. They learned something from the hit they took, but they didn’t agonize by constantly looking in the rearview mirror at the defeat. They moved on knowing they had a greater purpose and a bigger goal.
Persistence. Stick-to-it-ness. Courage. Decisiveness. All words that describe a great leader. In How Remarkable Women Lead, the authors describe how persistence actually equates to taking charge of your own destiny: “Self-confident women are persistent. If one approach does not work, they develop another way to achieve the goal. In pursuit of an important goal, they have the courage to continue forward no matter the odds.”
3. Take Care Of Yourself – It can be easiest to put your needs lowest in priority order because you are the easiest to ignore. It’s hard to set aside a demanding client, team member, supervisor, or even a child, while your welfare can be pushed to the back of the line. Not to mention, many women see “self-care” as selfish. Yet without allocating time to relax and replenish, you can find yourself on the fast track to career burnout.
Additionally, leaders have to set an example for their team that there is more to life than a career. If you model the behavior for your team, then they will be more likely to follow it in their own lives and you will have a healthier, more fulfilled team working on your behalf.
When leaders were asked by a Forbes Magazine what they needed to improve, they frequently responded that they needed to take better care of themselves. The article, New Year’s Resolution for Leaders: Take Better Care of You, said: “If you don’t take care of you, then how can you take care of your team or organization? The answer is not simply about health and fitness, though that is part of the equation. It is more about taking time to know yourself.”
This piece of advice can run long on platitudes and short on practical tips, so Leadership Skills – Apply Your Leadership Skills to Your Own Life and Take Better Care of Yourself gives three simple ideas: (1) Set some limits with people in your life to make sure they understand that you are truly committed to good self-care. (2) Don’t allow yourself to be talked out of your self-care needs. Establish a routine and stick to it. (3) Give good self-care even during a crisis or stressful time. That’s when you need it most.
As Jane Fraser of Citigroup counsels, “When I leave at night, it’s done. I shut down. I find I need some time with no voices to relax. I call that my recovery time. I detox and get the stress out by having quiet for a while.”
What leadership technique have you found most useful as you seek to lead in your sphere of influence?