The Most Challenging Aspect of Leadership?
I am currently working with a client in Saudi Arabia conducting a couple of courses on Leadership and Interpersonal Communications, so far it’s been an incredible experience. The timing has meant that I have not had time (or energy – jet lag can be a bummer) to write a blog for this week, so I’ve gone back to an earlier one I wrote which still fits in with my on-going series on Leadership. Interestingly I use the story in this post in my course. Enjoy….
This week a post arrived through one of my LinkedIn groups with the question: “What are the group’s thoughts about the most challenging aspect of leadership?” I love being confronted with these types of posts because they make me stop and think. I don’t always respond to them but this one I did. I wrote: “Time: Leadership is about connecting with people - the Five Practices are all based on that connection. I just wrote a post about what happened when that connection was lost (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141010215811-27257638-lessons-learned?trk=prof-post). My experience has been that often we get so caught up in the ‘operational’ end of our work that we forget to take the time out to stop, reflect and be present. A consequence of not doing that is that we lose connection, not only with ourselves but also with the people we work with”.
As I reflected on that post, I recall a past supervisor of mine telling his team that we needed to make sure we took some time out of our busy week each week, to just stop and think. That sounds really good in theory but in practice it’s another thing entirely. But that supervisor is right, you really do need to find the time and space to reflect, to think. I realize that there are pressures, projects have to be completed, sales reports produced, numbers to generate, deal to close, and that you say “where do I find the time?” But…
Why is it important to find and take this time? It’s not necessarily to spend a lot of time reflecting on the past. Although it’s important to learn from the past, it’s not good to wallow there, to get stuck with the what-ifs. That’s over, we need to move forward. Nor is it necessary to focus far into the future. Yes, it’s important to have goals, to know where you are headed so you can plan. But as Kevin Cashman stated in his book Leadership from the Inside Out (Berrett-Koehler, 2008), “Until we learn to live our lives in the flow of the present, we can never really deal with change effectively… When we worry about keeping things like they were in the past and avoiding some new, unknown future, we limit our ability to impact our success in the present”.
So how do we make this a practice? First I believe we have to be committed to making it happen and if we do that time will open up for us. Next, block the time into our schedules, planners, calendars and mobile devices. Mark the time as “busy” so people know you are unavailable. It doesn’t have to be during “working hours” whatever that is. How about early in the morning? In the evening? Remember it’s just once a week…
Where do I find that place and time to just think? My hot-tub. You can do some serious thinking, sitting in hot water in the dark. I’ve come up with some of my best ideas there, and still do.
This is the ninth on a series specifically exploring what leadership is and how we can not only understand leadership, but implement it
Leadership series directory:
John Whitehead, coaches’ individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.
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