Those of you out there who have hit the big 50 may have found yourself reflecting on life. For some strange reason, I found myself reflecting on my leadership and broader responsibility to the world. I was hit by an “aha moment” this past week as I pondered my growth as a leader. Over the past few months I have been focused on my wellbeing and training for a triathlon. Part of my routine has been finding mindful practice as well as Tai Chi. It’s done wonders for me as a person. Science and those who have studied eastern medicine had it right. The ability to create quiet in one's mind is life changing. Having a clearer focus and real time to think are only the beginning. The result of my mindful practice helped me reflect on how I have grown and is the inspiration to this paper.
It’s exciting to see that leadership is transforming as our world evolves. As you look back from the days of old and what was labeled as supervising or managing, to where we are today when we can easily explain all the pieces of being responsible to teams. Easy to understand tools and definitions exist so developing future leaders is digestible. The most inspiring part of the transformation is the focus on our broader responsibility to the whole person we lead and the positive impact we need to make on the world around us.
It’s amazing to me that it took this long for people to realize that behaving the way we should is so revolutionary. I know I have a habit of simplifying things, but did our parents ever say, “Go be strict and non social with the kids you hang with. It will prepare you for the days when you go to work in the world? ” No, in fact, I am willing to bet they said, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” So where did leadership get so far off track?
Here are my thoughts on needed characteristics of the top performing leaders of tomorrow, and it’s these qualities that will create the legacy they leave:
Dynamic Team Leadership
I’m giving credit to my sisters for my ability to connect emotionally with people. Lord knows I listened to them from a very young age. Seriously though, I’m blessed with the ability to know people and to see life through their lens. It’s an amazing feeling when you see the results of the effort. I know that I never get tired of seeing the impact on others. If you have not read the article "How Empathy Can Change Your Life" on the scientific benefits of practicing empathy, then I encourage you to read it now. In this article are tips for practicing empathy in our roles as leaders, friends and parents. A great app. from Happify even helps you build the muscle you may want strengthened. Science shows that when we are empathetic we have a better life. We are satisfied with our relationships, we feel a sense of calm, and most importantly we feel peace. Research also shows that those of us who are empathetic perform better at work. So step one, take the time to actively listen to your team. The rewards are many. Check out Happify.
This is where the most progress has happened. I have been reading a 4 part series from Harvard Business Review Press on Emotional Intelligence. I found the book on Mindfulness hard to put down. By definition, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, which may be used as a therapeutic technique. What is inspiring about this is that we have to focus and be present to truly be effective in the uber connected world in which we live. Our role as leaders has always been to cut through the noise and help prioritize,--that was easier when we only dealt with office meetings and an occasional phone call. Leaders today are reacting to situations and information coming at record speeds and from endless sources. However, being mindful brings calm to the storm. I have read the learning content and team based focus from id8te. They start with teaching the team mindfulness and its health benefits. I know that I am going to check them out with my team. If you are struggling and looking for a place to start, begin the simple practice on mindfulness. How, you ask? Personally, I started with the app Calm. I also read some books and listen to mindful audio books.
Dynamic Team Leadership:
If I were going in any real order I would start with this one. Having the right team of leaders around you is actually the most important responsibility any leader will have. I call it “dynamic teams.” Talent that can play any role and move from project to project with their only focus is supporting the greater good. You must make your leadership team diverse and have strengths that balance your opportunities. For me, it’s many. I’m confident that those who work with me now or in the past will concur. History has shown me that the majority of my winning teams have been filled with talented women. My mom would say it’s because I had 5 sisters and then was blessed with 3 girls. I would say, they are and were the best talent and they have the most to offer. Diversity goes further then sex or nationality. Having diverse thought is crucial. If you do not have a team that is filled with people who approach life from different angles, you are at a disadvantage. I promise if you get this right, life is easier. A 2016 article from Harvard Business Review reveals that “in recent years a body of research has revealed another, more nuanced benefit of workplace diversity: non homogeneous teams are simply smarter.” Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance. Let’s dig into why diverse teams are smarter.
An often overlooked leadership role is the one we need to play in society. If you have read my blogs before, then you know my perspective on your eulogy. No one will say, “Wow Bob was a hard worker and gave his life for the company.” No, what I hope they will say, “he lived life to the fullest by not taking life for granted and not making too much out of challenges.” We have a broader responsibility in life to share our talents and blessings with those around us. If we are not bold in acting, how will this world change? We live in an ever-evolving society and many are at risk of being left behind. Most of us are blessed with where we were born. I encourage you to please don’t take that for granted. There is no better feeling than helping those who need it. If you are not volunteering now or do not know how to become active, call me and I would be happy to point you in the right direction. Remember it’s not just food banks or local charities I am referring to. Advise a nonprofit, mentor a student or new hire--there is so much to do to ensure a better world for the future generations. An article from the Cleveland Clinic puts it like this: “We all know giving helps others, whether we volunteer for organizations, offer emotional support to those around us or donate to charities. But studies show that giving is also good for the giver — boosting physical and mental health. Studies find these health benefits associated with giving: lower blood pressure.” Helping others is actually good for you. And all this effort will culminate in you having a legacy of leadership.
The best leaders leave a legacy as a foundation for the next generation of leaders. Leave behind a group of leaders who carry on your commitment to making the world a better place. I have been reading a great daily devotion on Legacy Leadership. It was perfect timing as I was thinking through my evolution of leading people. I have to apologize for those who had to deal with me when I began leading people at 22. Talk about not having a clue. I was one of those who thought that being a friend was a good leader. Although, the hidden part of that approach is empathy. The rest never ends well. I still consider myself a work in progress for sure. What I will say is that you have to be yourself, even if it’s not accepted as mainstream. For me, it makes life easier to focus on a few things that I believe will be my legacy. I truly care for those around me and the world we live in. I know that when we all are happy and supported our lives and workplace are better. I understand that this is just work. Challenge your team to dream, create, fail, and learn. Amazing work comes in those environments. Give back outside of work. The world needs us too. Lastly, what I have learned is to live for today. Be in the moment, because this moment is all we ever have right now.