It’s easy to lead others. But when today’s business climate includes untimely squalls and unpredictable tsunamis, it’s difficult to know how to lead yourself.
While many leaders rely on proven past methods (often learned in B-school), others are taking new approaches that help them transcend what they already know. These fresh methods help them handle the day-to-day, while becoming responsive to other things that matter.
One of these “new” methods is a coaching approach that has been used with individuals, now making its way into the C-suite.
“The ‘coach approach’ asks leaders to define who they want to be at this moment and in the future,” says Jennifer Antolak, president of Learning Journeys, a life coaching academy. “And it’s about helping others understand that we support their choices.”
Here are things responsive leaders can do to lead themselves.
1. Have an intention. A desired outcome for yourself, others, and your organization. (No one can lead if they cannot see the forward path.) Ask yourself, Who do I want to be in this moment? Who do I want to become going forward?
2. Be open-minded and curious. If an employee says they have a better idea, listen hard. Ask them questions to better understand what will support, stretch and challenge them–rather than tell them what you think they need. Then ask yourself, Where can I shift and adjust to stay the course and honor others on their course? What difference can I make?
3. Never forget that your employees are your first line of advocates. If they love where they work, they talk. (If they don’t love where they work, they’ll talk too–you just won’t like what they’re saying.) Ask yourself, How do my actions impact myself, others, and my environment?
There are actually physiological reasons for this responsive approach. Positive support (including positive support of your own actions) grows the prefrontal cortex of the brain–increasing resilience, creativity and belief in self.
“What we experience,” says Antolak, “is that leaders who make decisions that honor their values and true potential, ultimately live lives they have previously only imagined.”
A note. In the past, organizations often have mistaken “coaching” as leaders providing advice to help guide employees. Those situations are usually misconceived and backfire, with those on the receiving end feeling judged, undervalued or incompetent.
But when we learn to lead ourselves, everyone benefits. Setting positive goals for yourself helps set positive goals for those around you. The point of leadership is to help those around you feel as important as you are.
Leadership has not always been described this way. But as R. Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing one obsolete.”