How to strengthen your leadership

Last month, I shared “the one thing excellent leaders never stop working” – check it out here. This one thing will allow you to build caring relationships at work and stay aligned with your values while you create system change. Doing it well can reduce burnout and allow you to be a leader who supports equitable change in the world.

Haven’t read the last post yet? Here is what excellent leaders always foster – self-awareness. 

Self-awareness as a leadership practice includes:

  • Learning how you show up in different situations and scenarios, 
  • Knowing what you need to be clear and kind, 
  • Clarifying your values and goals, 
  • Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses,
  • Understanding how your different identities interact with systems and structures and affect you and your colleagues and
  • Acknowledging your personality, strengths, and weaknesses impact your work and colleagues. 

If you continually reflect on this list, I am sure you are a thoughtful leader.
This is an ongoing learning.

As promised, I want to share a pattern I noticed in my self-awareness exploration. I hope this can serve as an example of what behaviors and patterns to look for when you want to improve your leadership practice through self-understanding.

Here is a pattern I am working on in my leadership, business, (and definitely –) family life:

When I am not paying attention, I tend to oscillate between – 

  • “going full speed ahead with high personal expectations” 
    This looks like – saying yes to everything, wanting to support everyone, holding myself to unrealistic standards, not asking for support, or delegating.
  • “crawling into a little ball and being completely unavailable” 
    This looks like – needing to take a Saturday completely to myself, under the covers with Netflix and food in bed, not responding to personal communications, deciding not to schedule doctor appointments, etc., because it is “too much.”

Don’t worry, y’all! I have been working with this one for a while now, so there’s no need to check up on me. I’ve got this. I also know this is a normal nervous system response to running in overdrive and going into a freeze pattern. I continue working on finding a balance and finding fewer extremes in my pendulation between the two. 

How does this very personal pattern impact my leadership?

I can be experienced as controlling or absent. My care and intense response can diminish people’s agency in their learning and personal change work.

All of our internal “mechanics of being” – impact our leadership.

Here are overarching steps I use to allow self-awareness to create behavior change that improves my life and relationships.

Here is the self-awareness to action cycle in broad stokes:

  1. Seek out self-discovery and personal learning 

    I look for opportunities to see who I am and how I can improve. I do ongoing work to regulate my heightened emotions and improve my ability to receive feedback, allowing me to learn more about myself.

  2. Offer compassion and forgiveness

    I work to increase self-compassion so I do not attack or freeze when I learn how I show up, my behaviors, or how I am perceived. The kinder I am in my head, the more I can take in self-awareness moments and turn them into action. I work on forgiving myself for the ways I fall short.

  3. Reflect and deepen the learning 

    I seek out further learning about the patterns I notice or receive feedback on. 
    (For example, I took my colleague Molly Caro Mae’s course and worked on my behavior pattern, which oscillates between “hide away” and “do it all.” Her course is excellent, by the way!)

  4. Find Support

    Yes, here it is again – get support. I often get support from friends and teachers.

    We cannot do change work alone. We need each other. Find friends, colleagues, communities, coaches, therapists, somatic practitioners, or teachers.

  5. Practice & Apply

    Find doable, micro ways to practice. After a time of practicing in less visible ways, apply your learning to how you show up in real-life scenarios.

Rinse and repeat.

Personal behavior change is possible.
We know this through the learnings of neuroscience, habit science, somatics, and psychology.
We can change how we show up for ourselves and others – but first, we must notice.
Noticing is always the first step.

What is something you have been noticing? 

What behaviors and patterns are you working on in your leadership?

P.S. We created Clear Harbor as a support community for just these people – leaders who want to be more self-aware and reflective. If you want a brave, warm, and caring place to grow as a leader, join us.

Rheanna SmithHow to strengthen your leadership

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