During “business as usual” times, effective leadership, both individually and collectively, is highly correlated with positive business performance and greater levels of employee engagement. Effective leadership is even more critical in times of uncertainty and change.
High-performing leaders deplete two precious commodities – energy and time – to deliver on constantly changing initiatives, address unexpected fire drills, and negotiate the political landscape. Some may view this as heroics, but the pace and output levels aren’t sustainable.
Now is the time for adopting a new set of principles for leading that create sustainable energy and focus for the long term.
Some leaders cope with stress by doubling-down (complying – work harder and longer), some disengage (protecting – enter sarcasm and silos), while others become overly directive and autocratic (controlling – and perfection) in an effort to control the chaos. While these coping mechanisms can work in the short term, they have significant consequences on vitality and physical health as well as mental and emotional health.
There is a different way. Here are three principles to support your personal leadership health and help recalibrate your quality of life and outlook. Yes, I am suggesting that you take steps to be your own kind of hero.
1. Manage your energy bank
Let’s define energy bank as the ‘gas tank’ you bring to a project, workplace environment, or a community in which you are engaged (e.g. church, volunteer work). You add to, or deplete, your personal energy bank on a daily basis based on how you spend your time. 2
Your energy bank is influenced by a variety of factors, including nutrition, sleep, meeting pace, team culture and demands or stressors in the work environment. Knowing which factors impact you the most is the first step. Begin by looking at some of the basic patterns you have in a typical day. It helps to write down the activities or interactions that take energy versus those that give you more energy. Awareness is the first step.
Not surprisingly, an accumulation of depleting activities and interactions will negatively impact your outlook and overall leadership effectiveness. When you have depleted your energy bank, it is harder to remain open to new ideas, remain flexible and manage conflict productively. On the flip side, with a full energy bank, you find decision making, courageous conversations and creative solutions flow more easily.
You can influence your energy bank by making explicit choices at moments throughout each day. Personally, when I exercise regularly and plan meal choices ahead, I have much greater capacity to be in a high intensity work environment and stand in my leadership strength.
2. Recalibrate your sense of purpose
The second element of leadership health is a sense of purpose. Meaningful sense of purpose and direction not only increase your energy levels but also allow you to screen time and effort because you are clear on how well a project or activity contributes to the bigger goal.
Based on a team role you hold today in some capacity, take a moment and think about your top three priorities. How clear are these priorities? How do they contribute to the overall team purpose or mission? The level of clarity you have on your priorities contributes to, or diminishes, your confidence and overall sense of well-being at work.
You know you are operating on purpose if your energy bank feels generally full and you operate in the “flow” space, often losing track of time as you work on a particular project. On the flip side, you know you are not operating in the zone of purpose when you feel restless, anxious about performing and wonder about whether this role is a good fit for you.
Either way, having a discussion with your leader or direct report about your role, your purpose and aptitude in the role assigned to you is critical. It takes courage to check in with your boss and discuss expectations and clarify purpose. I guarantee it feels good after!
3. Pay attention to self-care
Self-care, by definition, is making choices to support sound physical, mental or spiritual well-being. Carving out time for self-care often goes out the window in times of crisis and uncertainty. Yet, self-care has the power to transform your outlook and contributions both at home and at work.
What does self-care look like in general? It is as simple as doing something that boosts your energy bank or spirits. In my personal life, I plan two big hiking trips a year to ensure a broader worldview and leave technology behind. At work, I have some rituals. There is a park near my office with a glorious old tree and active birds that I glance at during conference calls or walk 3
over to have a quick lunch on the park bench. These are reset moments. I also get a lot of energy from connecting with colleagues outside the conference room. So, I schedule one lunch outing a week with someone who is a fellow learner and leader.
Scheduling your day based on self-care intentions and needs will inevitably add to your energy bank – even if what you plan gets interrupted sometimes. Intuitively, you probably recognize that what works for one colleague doesn’t feel like self-care to another. Do what serves you. Self-care is an act of courage and is ultimately one of the most rewarding things you can do to support your leadership.
Together, these three principles are a leadership well-being check that starts with your own personal assessment. A leadership well-being check is a way for you to honestly examine your leadership using indicators that gauge the degree to which you are engaged, living and leading thoughtfully, and satisfied with your overall quality of life. To learn more, visit www.leadershipherocode.com.