Who wouldn’t want to be a CEO or an executive or senior leader? These are roles that can come with extras: status, authority, power and money. It would, of course, be naive to suggest that being a CEO, senior leader or executive doesn’t also have significant downsides. Even the most ambitious would recognise that the top job (as it were) comes with real pressures and heavy responsibilities, especially during times of economic challenge.
More recently there is a distinct focus on the softer skills of leadership where a great deal of importance is placed on how an individual can build and develop relationships, think through and communicate complex problems, influence without authority and speak their truth.
These qualities can be found in individuals from all walks of life, diverse backgrounds, and levels of education. In short, they aren’t in any one place, and can sometimes emerge from the most seemingly unexpected sources. A great leader will leverage these traits from all members of their teams.
Even those gifted with these traits in senior leadership positions can feel isolated, have a fear of being judged, struggle to delegate and invariably work with little to no support.
If you think about it, Senior leadership creates ‘abnormal life experiences’, these include: a high pace of activity, the hustle, the stress and the pressure. These are all abnormal life experiences that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily deal with. Abnormal life experiences create high levels of stress. Unaddressed stress can create loneliness, anxiety, depression, addictions, broken relationships and burnout… all of which will certainly undermine if not kill all the attributes of creativity and connection that made you into that great leader to begin with. That, is the dilemma of senior leadership.
If we don’t have healthy outlets to offload the abnormal life experiences then stress will compound and that’s when emotionality and health are adversely impacted.
We need to shift the paradigm of executive support from something that people need at the 11th hour to something that all senior leaders deserve and have access to.
Often senior leaders present for help when they are nearing a dishevelled wreck. Perhaps we should consider ourselves and our leadership skills in the same way as going to the gym and become emotionally fit to sustain our offer. As leaders we give a lot but we need opportunities and circumstances to recover and thrive.
Colleen Sterling, founder of Great Leaders Matter Executive Coaching Services, certified executive coach, advisor, workshop facilitator, mentor, author and project leader focusing on innovation, strategy and resilience shares 5 tips to upscale leadership capacity and business impact.
Take a proportionate view on every matter
Remember you will always have an important role to play in keeping a sense of strategic direction within your operational setting.
You can’t change the social circumstances of the people you manage, but you can collaborate with other agencies who can.
Join supportive leadership communities.
High-impact leaders should sit in as many supportive leadership groups as they do for board, strategy meetings or delivering from the stage. A small group of people who know you beyond what you do, such as a leadership community facilitated by a coach at fortnightly intervals.
Be in tune with your emotionality
Identify, clarify and then offload. Whatever emotion is presenting itself in the moment, for example, if you are feeling anger. Identify where you can feel it in your body and rank it between one and ten. Then take 3 sharp intakes of breath, hold each breath for 5 seconds and exhale.
Practice self-care FIRST
By caring for yourself, you are investing in your own ability to stay strong. Make time to do something that will allow your brain to calm: meditation, visualisation, mindfulness, prayer, yoga, gardening…
Remain socially connected.
Maintaining social connections will strengthen your own resilience as you go through the weeks and months yet to come.
- Who energises you? and reach out to them for a conversation.
- Make a point of speaking to your friends and family, even if you don’t especially feel like it.