During this historical conflation of crises, all leaders, especially women, can shower us with sprinkles of wisdom and inspiration. The havoc of Covid-19 has caused unpredictable expectations at work and churned home offices into family mobile learning centers leaving most uncertain and exhausted. Here are four concepts to proactively guide a leadership mindset.
1. Flawsome Matters.
In peak moments, self-optimize by recognizing talents and embracing flaws. Be willing to engage in self-reflection and brutal honesty, and there are an abundance of tools targeted at identifying strengths and shortcomings. Ask someone close, perhaps a trusted professional colleague, to share their perception of your leadership, both assets and soft spots. “Push for the truth, even if the comments seem hurtful, and recognize that some flaws are personal while others may be disbursed throughout the team or the organization,” points out Dr. Ray Burgman, Director of Programs and Research at Higher Education Resource Services (HERS). “Leadership and personality self-assessments can help you learn more about yourself, but recognize some may come with cultural or gender bias.” If all else fails, hire someone, there is an array of paid professional consultants such as life coaches or career coaches. Check with your alma mater as they may have career assessment services resources available to alumni. Burgman says, “The questions a coach may ask are quite different from a trusted colleague who may hesitate to be open and honest.”
Wise leaders tend to surround themselves with people who possess strengths in their areas of weakness; this can mitigate blind spots and deepen your perspective and knowledge base. Intentionality and purpose matters. Learn to guide your growth, understand how you show up to others, and who to invite into your inner circle.
2. Embrace Missteps.
We are living through a charged time and consistently operating at a high-octane level. There will be moments when a direct, forthright conversation is curt or insensitive. A recent study in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that “Workplace interpersonal stresses, conflicts, and injustices comprise a major source of “injury.” This injury leads to lost productivity, diminished well-being for workers, and has a negative toll on the business.”
The leader’s temperament affects others; the speed or intensity of a high-pressure situation never excuses losing control or showing disrespect to colleagues or co-workers. You are human; it happens. Your behavior and attitude drives others, recognize your reactive triggers, own up, and take swift corrective action to maintain authentic relationships. In this prolonged period of uncertainty, everyone is prone to missteps. No one expects perfection; the ultimate display of wise leadership is to role-model sincerity and kindness, especially when seeking forgiveness.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Say NO. Do not automatically jump at every proposal or idea presented to you; instead, find the space and permission to say N-O. Understand your winning formula and focus your mindset on the unique set of competencies and talents that define you. Clarity usually sharpens decision-making and provides a framework to reject opportunities and queues up conditions for success. Wise leaders are under constant surveillance and routinely offered high profile activities, tapped on to lead teams, or asked to join boards. Know thyself. Ensure your talents are engaged in the highest and best use by focusing on the importance of what and who brings value to you and politely say no to what does not.
4. Be Awesome. Awesome times necessitate awesome leadership. If your work has been cutback, seek out gigs that build upon your expertise or grow your skills. Activate your network to seek opportunities in other industries, new job functions, or even volunteer at an organization that can benefit from your talents. These are fragile times, and wise leaders should inspire open-minded, inventive thinking. Acknowledge that organizational capacity is overburdened, but that should not pause problem-solving. Especially now, during ambiguous business environments, teams need creativity, and strategic thinking is crucial, so share those awesome ideas.