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Leadership starts with your self – making sure that you’re personally well-equipped for the job and in tune with the demands, needs and issues of those you are leading and of the work that is expected of them.
Your role as a leader is to inspire, engage and support others to be their best self for the organisation, and you can’t ask ‘best self’ of others unless you are that yourself.
Inspiring others is about how you communicate the purpose and vision of your organisation and how you make that meaningful and energising for those on your team.
Engaging others is about how you ‘pull’ your people’s hearts, minds and bodies into their work – a combination of a highly positive workplace environment and value placed on high performance work.
Supporting others is about how you empower them to do their work – personal relationship, delegated decision-making, suitable tools and processes, and development opportunities.
In today’s workplace, leadership is a big ask, especially in flatter organisations where you as a leader also carry an operational workload; leadership and task management exert competing pressures for your time and attention, every day.
You need to make yourself in charge of how you spend your time and energy at work so that you can sustainably add value to the work of your people. Personal burnout and/or an inability to juggle everything you need to attend to can be the consequences of poor self-management and are of no benefit to you, your team, or your organisation.
Here are a few tips on how to improve your own self-management so that you can sustain your leadership:
Brain scientists tell us that we can only focus on one thing at a time; ‘multi-tasking’ is a myth – what is going on is switching our attention from one thing to another. And the more we do this, the less attention we give to each thing and the slower is our progress.
Find out about Attention Management and put steps in place so that your attention is devoted to those things that really matter. In particular, take steps to minimise interruptions so your attention is not pulled away from the priority leadership or task management work you are attending to.
Authentic leaders engage in organisations that share their moral compass and world view. There is synchronicity between leaders’ personal values and the organisational values; both play out through seamless and consistent behavioural norms. Inconsistencies between words and actions will be perceived as your not supporting the organisation.
Ensure that your written and oral language is consistent with your own behaviours and your organisation’s purpose, vision and values. Reflect these in everything you say and do. Refer back to these as context when you communicate your decisions.
Unless you are genuinely interested in the lives of your people, you won’t make much of a leader. In a small organisation your interest in others will be visible to everyone; in a larger organisation you need to do some work to make sure your interest in others is visible, even to those you do not have personal contact with. Authentic interest is the only interest that will work.
Establish a communication style that is personable and approachable; use that style in person and in your internal written and video communications. Tell stories that make you vulnerable and human.
Groups and individuals will notice when you are preoccupied or distracted from them when you are with them. They will see the gaps between your body language and your mouth and ears. They will perceive that you are not interested in what they are telling you and that you would rather be elsewhere. Your ‘absence’ will fuel gossip and will disincentivise people from being honest with you.
When you are interacting with others, give them your undivided attention. Understand how body language works and make sure your body and mouth/ears are saying the same thing. Practise active listening; paraphrase, ask clarifying questions, and read between the lines.
There are mega-movements among global leadership at the present time; MeToo, Sustainability, Climate Change, Diversity and Inclusion, and Resilience and Wellbeing. These can be powerful vectors for establishing your influence as a leader.
Hitch your wagon to a leadership mega-movement. Study it and identify its best practices. Advocate for these practices in your organisation, cement them in through crafting policies, action plans and accountabilities for change. Become the ‘go-to’ person for that movement in your organisation.
Emotional intelligence is a hallmark of leadership. Emotional regulation will help you to maintain visible equanimity when times are hard, when tough decisions are needed and when bad news is to be delivered. It can also calm those around you who may be looking for behavioural cues.
Regulate your own emotional behaviours. Understand your personal triggers and defuse/avoid them. Attend to the emotional outbursts of others by paraphrasing their message back to them in non-emotional language. Watch your own language and approach so you are not triggering emotional outbursts among others.
Looking after your physical, mental and spiritual self will enable you to sustain your leadership work and will offer a powerful role model of self-care for your people.
Look after your physical health with a good diet and exercise and make sure you get enough sleep. When you’re unwell, see your doctor and stay away from work.
Learn about the symptoms of poor mental health, seek professional support if needed and follow the advice offered.
Look after your spiritual self by ensuring you have a life of meaning and purpose, one that is calm and serene, and one that is within community. Take time to reflect on matters of the spirit and engage in some of the practices that support this; yoga, mindfulness, meditation and many others.
If you would like some help with your self-management, contact Kyran or Nicky on firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 943 2373.