Employees who thrived through the past year are undoubtedly excellent self-leaders.
When life is demanding, unpredictable and uncertain, those who lead themselves from the inside out excel. They have greater focus, direction and stability. As will be illustrated through some examples below, their capacity to navigate change, ensures they are more responsive and less reactive to a constantly changing environment.
Those who are not so developed in self-leadership have less cognitive and psychological bandwidth. They are more passive, reactive, and fall into unproductive habits more readily. They are also more reliant on others for guidance and depend on stable circumstances to feel safe and comfortable. Poor self-leaders are more likely to get pushed around by outside situations, feel more out of control, and are more likely to be driven by fear.
We all know too well that life has lost its predictability, and as we continually acclimatise to an ever-changing environment, like sudden lockdowns, we need skills in dealing with uncertainty and adaptability.
Excellent self-leaders know how to optimise their ability to think, relate and learn. They are less likely to waste mental and emotional energy on inconsequential issues; they keep shepherding their focus towards what is most constructive.
Excellent self-leaders do not wait for others to be the best leaders to themselves. They realise they can fill that role themselves.
No one can lead you better than you can lead yourself. No one else will ever know you or understand you as you know yourself, what YOU need and what makes YOU tick.
What do excellent self-leaders do differently?
Most mornings we wake up with a significant amount of mental and emotional energy. We can invest this energy on what matters, or we can squander it away on things that are insignificant. Poor self-leaders can waste a lot of mental and emotional energy worrying about things they can’t control.
Annika and Yindi, two coaching clients, illustrate the differences between excellent and poor self-leadership.
Annika describes her days filled with worry. Every morning as she wakes up, she checks the news and the Covid statistics before she has had her morning coffee. She is unintentionally priming her mind to be focussed on things she cannot control. She worries a great deal about everything. Her mental and emotional state is a victim, powerless and unfocussed. Being mentally unfocussed leads her to being very self-critical and drained, which keeps her in a cycle of negativity. Annika is not a strong self-leader – this is what she is keen to enhance this year.
Yindi is intentional about what her mind focuses on. Every morning, Yindi plans her day with a focus on what she can control, and her mind attends to those things. Although she keeps informed with the news of the day, she does not allow her mind to fixate on those things. She knows it drains her mental and emotional energy and that it helps no one, especially herself. Yindi is an excellent self-leader.
Although Annika and Yindi both are at work for the same number of hours, Yindi is a powerhouse in comparison and she brings a far greater capacity, both mentally and emotionally. She gets more achieved, with less effort, which means she goes home each day with far more energy for herself and her loved ones.
Yindi has worked hard to master her mind and attention. In particular, she has built skills in:
Self-awareness – Yindi has made huge inroads in self-leadership through learning to pay attention to where her thoughts are invested. In building this skill, she recognised she previously had been wasting a lot of her mental focus on things she couldn’t control.
Self-care – Yindi optimises her energy and capacity through investing in self-care. Her executive leadership role is quite demanding, especially mentally and emotionally. She has found several self-care strategies to be non-negotiable. Some examples include acknowledging the strengths and skills she has used over the past day while on her daily walk and taking five minutes twice per day for mindfulness.
Self-manage – Yindi has learned to manage her triggers, so when she recognises her thinking is in a negative spiral mentally or emotionally, she takes a few minutes of time-out to find her equilibrium. Rather than ignoring her triggers, and pushing through, she realises that a quick break provides a huge return on investment in her productivity for the rest of her day.
Excellent self-leaders can influence and steer themselves and are determined from the inside out. They are less reliant on external anchor points to feel calm and stable.
In 2021, as we manoeuvre from a highly disruptive period, self-leaders will shine and lead themselves and others to greater productivity and wellbeing.