April 21, 2020

Leading in uncertain times: how self-awareness plays a key role in leadership

At GL Solutions, we strive to offer expert guidance to our coworkers and customers alike. Then, along came the coronavirus crisis, bringing all kinds of change to our workplace, families and lives. Frankly, it’s been challenging to adjust to so many changes so fast.  Revising our management, information and personnel systems in a week was no easy feat.  I’m appreciative of my management team that came together over many hours to keep us running well and our clients’ needs met.

The coronavirus brought more than change.  It brought uncertainty, fear and anxiety to our regular lives.   If you’ve given any attention to the media, you have undoubtedly read forecasts calling for economic and health catastrophes.  What impact has the coronavirus had on you?  Have you noticed subtle changes in your mood lately?

I’m a person who likes order.  It’s something I cling to in order to make sense of the world around me.  We all have something a little different we cling to.  Some might seek to follow the rules to stay safe.  Others might want to know about a disease we know little about.  There are lots of ways the pandemic can challenge your sense of personal security.  How has the crisis impacted me?  Well, this un-orderable world leads me to feel unnerved for no apparent reason.  What about you? How are you feeling?  Have you noticed changes to your sleep, mood and patience?

Self-awareness can help you be a leader in these uncertain times.

It starts with “self” awareness.  Without attempting to change yourself, you can simply become aware of how you feel.  Anxiety and anger can creep into our subconscious.  Before we even recognize being agitated, we find ourselves withdrawing or snapping at a friend.

Clinging to an idealized version of how the world should be leads to habitual behaviors that try to get the world to conform.  These habits limit your leadership abilities, because you are confined to a prescriptive response likely not intended to meet the challenging dynamics of the day.  Take my example; I like order.  If I habitually respond to the coronavirus by attempting to bring order, what will happen?  I’ll be a frustrated, exhausted wreck.  There’s simply not a lot I can do about a virus.  My work and family life will suffer as I keep trying to achieve the impossible.  Insecurity will enter my mind as I grapple with the gap between my personality-driven desires and the way the world really is.

Self-awareness can help.  If you can merely say, I feel sad, anxious, afraid or whatever you feel, you will have taken a bold step toward being able to make a conscious choice about the situation at hand.  You cannot control the coronavirus.  You can come to understand and accept the way you feel, even when you don’t like it.  Accepting a situation usually leads to the discovery that your fears were overblown.  The situation is not beyond your endurance.  That’s reassuring by itself.  You might also find that resisting your feelings was tiring.  Just letting them be gives you an amazing source of energy that can be redirected from resistance to places where you can make a difference.  Finally, understanding and accepting the way you feel, enables you to consider additional input.  In my example, I can tell you that when I’m angry about a chaotic world, I’m not in a good place to realize all the support and teamwork around me.  I’m just focused on being mad.

This last part is key to leading clients.

Until you can understand and accept how you feel, you will not be able to hear when people need your leadership.  Such an open and cooperative relationship between an expert and someone who needs their help is not possible when we are just zombie habit executers, focused on our own irritations.

Even if you don’t feel agitated, I encourage you to spend a few minutes journaling or talking with a friend.  Ask, how does it make me feel that things are so uncertain?  How do I feel about financial or health insecurity?   How do I feel when someone walks around me on the sidewalk like I was a bomb?

Self-awareness play a key role in our ability to lead our clients.

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