Tag: Authentic Leadership

Staying grounded is key to balancing life and leadership

Posted on 12/07/15 by Aidan

Grounded LeadershipSuccessful leaders live complex and demanding lives. As the frequency of communication has intensified, the pace of business has increased.

Yet many of us have not learned how to deal with this. There is never enough time to do everything you want to do, because the world around you makes ever greater demands on your time. Nor will you be able to achieve a perfect balance between all aspects of your life – career, family, friends and community, and personal life. Inevitably, you will have to make trade-offs. How you do so will determine how fulfilling your life will be.

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Authentic leaders are aware of the importance of staying grounded. In doing so, they avoid getting too cocky during high points and forgetting who they are during low points. Spending time with family and close friends, getting physical exercise, having spiritual practices, doing community service, and returning to places where they grew up are all ways to stay grounded. This grounding is essential to their effectiveness as leaders because it enables them to preserve their authenticity.

To avoid letting professional commitments dominate their time, authentic leaders must give priority to their families and take care of themselves personally, in terms of their health, recreation, spirituality, and introspection. There is no silver-bullet solution to this issue, but neglecting to integrate the facets of life can derail you. To lead an integrated life, you need to bring together the major elements of your personal life and professional life, including work, family, community, and friends, so that you can be the same person in each environment. For authentic leaders, being true to themselves by being the same person at work that they are at home is a constant test, yet personal fulfilment is their ultimate reward. Doing so will make you a more effective leader in all aspects of your life.

Stay Grounded

To integrate your life, you must remain grounded in your authentic self, especially when the outside world is chaotic. Well-grounded leaders have a steady and confident presence. They do not show up as one person one day and another the next. Integration takes discipline, particularly during stressful times, when it is easy to become reactive and slip into bad habits.

Leading is high-stress work. There is no way to avoid stress when you are responsible for people, organizations, outcomes, and uncertainties of the environment. For global leaders, long overseas trips intensify the stress. The higher you go, the greater your freedom to control your destiny but also the higher the stress. The question is not whether you can avoid stress but how you can manage and relieve it to maintain your own sense of equilibrium.

When Medtronic’s Chris O’Connell gets stressed, he said:

“I feel myself slipping into a negative frame of mind. When I’m at my best, I’m very positive and feel I can accomplish anything, both at work and home. When I become negative, I lose effectiveness as a leader and become even less effective at home. Both positive and negative emotions carry over between work and home.”

Focus on What Matters

When Sheryl Sandberg worked as a McKinsey management consultant, her manager implored her to take more control over her career, telling her, “McKinsey will never stop making demands on our time, so it is our responsibility to draw the line … We need to determine how many hours we are willing to work and how many nights we travel.”

After the birth of her son, Sandberg adjusted her in-office hours at Google to 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., enabling her to nurse her son. To compensate, Sandberg got up in the early morning hours to check e-mails and worked at home after her son went to bed. She learned that by focusing her time, she did not need to spend 12 hours a day in the office.

“I focused on what really mattered and became more efficient, only attending meetings that were truly necessary. I was determined to maximize my output while away from home,” said Sandberg. “I also paid more attention to the working hours of those around me; cutting unnecessary meetings saved time for them as well.”

Stay true to your roots

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz goes back to Brooklyn from time to time, Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell stays in regular contact with his old friends in Homestead, Penn., which helps him keep perspective on life in Silicon Valley. To restore themselves and keep their sense of perspective, leaders may have a special place they can go with their families on weekends and vacations. Many renowned leaders found they can think more clearly when they escape: Thomas Jefferson had Poplar Forest and Winston Churchill had Chartwell. For decades, former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz and his wife went to an old family farm they own in Massachusetts.

“I once told the president, ‘This is my Camp David,’” said Shultz. “When I go there, I put on an old pair of pants and old shoes. I am so relaxed, I don’t worry about anything.”

Find time for yourself

To manage the stress of our leadership roles, we need personal time to reflect. Some people practise meditation or yoga to centre themselves and relieve anxiety. Others find solace in prayer. Some people find they can release tension by jogging. Others find relief through laughing with friends, listening to music, reading, or going to movies. It’s not important what you do, as long as you establish routines to relieve your stress and think clearly about life, work, and personal issues. It is critical not to abandon these routines when facing an especially busy period, because that is when you most need your stress reduction techniques.

From Discover Your True North, Expanded and Updated Edition by Bill George. Copyright (c) 2015 by Bill George. Bill George is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic.

Emotional Intelligence: Forget Business School – Why An Emotional Education Is Indispensible

Posted on 07/31/14 by Aidan

Where is the HBS for emotional intelligence?

Most people still equate intelligence to academia, the power your brain has to process and remember information and your ability to draw conclusions from fact and data. But it is painfully obvious that there is much more to intelligence than just raw IQ.

How many people do you know who are academically brilliant and have degrees from the best schools, but have not managed to become successful in their professional or personal lives, despite having had many opportunities handed to them? How many times have you come across an employee who is brilliant and excels at the skill set required, but is so incapable of communicating or listening that he thwarts his own growth? How many times have you thought: “How did this idiot become so successful?” Often, the answer is linked to emotional intelligence.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, use, manage and control emotions. This not only comprises our own emotions but also those of others, including their motivations and desires. Throughout your life, from childhood to adulthood, your level of emotional intelligence affects your behavior and interaction with others: your family, your friends, your colleagues, people you don’t know, those you respect, those you want to gain respect from, those you want to impress, those you need, people you fear, people you love. Your level of emotional intelligence will determine how good you are at engaging with others and drawing them to you.

Like many children, I grew up being told by my teachers throughout school that being the best in academics, being intellectually curious and working hard would make me successful. Therefore, as a diligent student, I collected the honors and academic brand names one after the other to put on my resume. And do not get me wrong, I am very proud of my achievements. Institutions like Stanford University and Harvard Business School have been invaluable in my growth and the path that I have taken, not only because of the classes but also because they connected me with some of the most admirable people I know. However, when faced with life’s personal and professional challenges, I do not find myself relying on the teachings from those institutions as much as I find myself having to draw from my emotional understanding of my environment and of myself.

According to the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory published by the Hay Group, emotional intelligence is defined by four fundamental attributes: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. I strongly believe that it is by developing all of these that we become more successful and fulfilled people.

Self-awareness is about knowing yourself and being able to assess your own emotions.

When you are able to understand why you respond a certain way to a situation, you are then able to manage it better and avoid the stress and discomfort that comes with it. The other source of self-awareness is an understanding of the way others respond to you. This is a difficult skill to grow because we naturally tend to see what we want to see. But being aware of your impact on others allows you to better motivate and lead them, which is an indispensable trait of a successful leader.

Self-management is your ability to control impulsive feelings.

It is your ability to adapt to changing situations while staying positive without reacting to them quickly. This is particularly important as an entrepreneur when you are constantly faced with new challenges. Managing your impulses is the only way to tackle challenges successfully and prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed. In practical terms, this can translate to taking a cool-off period before responding to an investor who may have upset you, or taking the time to explain a problem to an employee instead of telling her off in front of the team.

Social awareness is the ability to understand the needs and concerns of others.

It requires a high level of empathy and will enable you to recognize power dynamics. People who are socially aware are able to relate to others and to draw them in. They know how to make every individual feel special, understood and respected. As an entrepreneur, if you are trying to build a team and motivate people, you need to be socially aware in order to create and foster a culture in which your team can grow in a healthy way.

Finally, relationship management is the ability to nurture relationships and inspire people. It is the capacity to influence others and defuse conflicts. For this you need to have developed self-awareness, self-management and social awareness. This is the attribute that leaders most share. Inspiring others comes naturally to them and because people believe in these strong leaders, they are more likely to overcome challenges for them.

Where do you learn Emotional Intelligence?

None of these attributes are taught in school. There is no official track one can follow to improve them. And yet they are integral to success and self-fulfillment. I have focused here on their professional impact, but it is easy to draw parallels to one’s personal life. Ever since I started Boticca with my business partner, it has been blatantly obvious to me that it is almost impossible to be a successful entrepreneur without high emotional intelligence. This is even more significant today, when teams are cross-cultural and businesses are global, thus increasing the complexity in the nuances of how emotions are expressed. Yet where does one learn how to hone it?

People I know with high emotional intelligence have often developed it thanks to their families. Their parents are themselves highly emotionally intelligent and have taught them as children through dinner conversations, through the simple observation of their interactions with others or through their direct coaching. They also surround themselves with friends with similarly high emotional intelligence. I see that with my successful entrepreneur friends who openly discuss issues of self-awareness and relationship management amongst themselves. Organizations such as EO or YPO try to encourage the development of emotional intelligence by creating environments where young leaders feel comfortable enough to discuss these issues. But this only comes along when you have already reached a certain level of success and awareness.

So, without a strong support system of family, friends or mentors to teach you and help you grow your emotional intelligence, what are you supposed to do? This is such a critical component of success and yet it is mostly ignored. Where is the Harvard Business School equivalent for emotional education? Why shouldn’t you prepare for emotional conflicts and management while you prepare for a career in business? Until someone opens the University of Emotional Intelligence or creates a curriculum for it, we’re stuck learning exclusively through the School of Life.

Original Article by Avid Larizadeh  in Forbes.com