The need for resilience has never been more important for leaders than it is now. It is not necessary to always feel brave, confident, competent, or certain when you are making decisions and charting new ground. You may well dread the reactions by some employees to an organizational policy. You may doubt if you can handle the latest crisis. You may feel embarrassed about a recent “miss.” Or, it may seem that success of a new initiative is only 70%.
Welcome to the world of leadership. These challenges are not usually the aspirations high potential leaders have in mind when they are preparing to assume new roles but ready or not, they will.
In articles on leadership, much is written about managing stress and staying resilient. We have all had to practice that in the last year. Much has been written about empathy; CEO’s have been challenging themselves to lead with their hearts, not just their heads. Staying open-minded, truly listening to ideas that are not one’s own; understanding and attempting to alter our own unconscious and conscious bias to those who are different than us is exhausting, as it is necessary.
I know, you are doing the best you can. I believe you. But I want to add one more thing to your to-do list. Self-compassion.
Kristin Neff defines this as being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. I love this definition because the pain we experience in being a leader (sometimes) is inevitable. What we do AFTER we experience that pain is the only place we have some choice. Pain arises like when a doctor taps your knee with a rubber mallet and your leg kicks. Go ahead, try and control that reaction. You can’t. And you can’t control the pain, discomfort, and/or doubt that creeps in to being a leader at times.
But, after you feel this yucky feeling, what do you do. I hope you do what you’d do with a good friend. You’d listen and console. You might give them a hug (or you soon will again) and remind them about their worth as a good human being and your appreciation that they are a part of your life. This is a hell of a lot more effective than a kick in the pants to go do the hard stuff (though with some friends, this may do just fine) or heaping more blame and shame on them.
This is self-compassion. It is forgiveness, gentleness, kindness, even as you do better next time. Growth happens from a place of acceptance and love, not judgments and scorn. I have been talking to lots of leaders this past year who have dug deep to give to their teams, their kids, their organizations, even their dogs. And, I have seen them brought to tears when I focus my attention on how THEY are doing. It is not your employees’ job to comfort you and build you up. You have to do that for yourself as a leader. But, you can rely on your colleagues, and a coach. I’m here.
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