Three Pillars of Strength to Help Leaders in Tough Times
By Joelle Jay, Ph.D.
In the current economic climate, where businesses are merging, downsizing, and outsourcing at mind-boggling rates, itâ€™s hard to maintain your leadership equilibrium. To keep from getting knocked off your feet, you need to have something stable to hold onto – something that will keep you on steady ground when all around you is shaking and/or crumbling.
Unfortunately, most people donâ€™t deal with change in a positive way. They become overwhelmed; and instead of taking care of themselves so they can withstand the daily onslaught of change, they try to prove their worth by working longer and harder so theyâ€™re not the next one escorted out the door. As a result, theyâ€™re not only stressed from the current situation, but theyâ€™re also tired, disengaged, and dissatisfied with both their professional and personal lives.
What these leaders need to realize is that doing extra work, staying late, and taking on more responsibilities will not keep you strong. Itâ€™s time to upgrade that way of thinking. You donâ€™t just need to work hard. It serves no one for you to stay at work at all hours, eking out shoddy deliverables through squinty eyes, powered by fast food and triple lattes. â€œGetting aheadâ€ has less to do with time and effort than it does thoughtful, reflective consideration: the kind of â€œinner workâ€ that allows you to choose who and how you want to be, and enables you to work in a way that supports your life.
In fact, when you do this kind of inner work, your external circumstances no longer matter. Because you have a strong sense of self, a strong character, and a strong internal support system, you can weather any storm.
If youâ€™re ready to start this inner work – the kind that will help you reaffirm your leadership edge – then start with the following three pillars of strength.
Your vision, your goals, and your actions donâ€™t automatically lead to fulfillment. No matter how good you are or how successful you become, your accomplishments will feel meaningless if theyâ€™re not congruent with the values in your heart. When you clarify the values that guide your life, define the specific ways they enhance your experience, and learn to live in integrity with those values, you are able to find a renewed sense of purpose and joy. Thatâ€™s when your happiness and stability become a choice rather than an achievement.
To begin to reconnect with your values, answer the following:
- What do you really stand for?
- Are you honoring those things?
- Whatâ€™s most important to you?
- Are your values in alignment with what your organization values?
When your values drive your everyday activities, every day feels like a success, no matter whatâ€™s going on around you.
In order to excel, you need to build on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. This idea was popularized by â€œthe father of strengths psychology,â€ Dr. Donald Clifton. His research touched off what is now known as the â€œstrengths movementâ€ – a groundbreaking way of thinking that capitalizes on strengths to help people grow.
Using this approach, in order to be your best, you maximize your strengths and manage your weaknesses. By doing so, you are emphasizing the elements of you that are enduring and unique. When you develop an approach to leadership that uses all of your attributes in the most advantageous way, you save time, energy and effort. You get better results, because you are doing things in the way that works best for you. You discover what it truly means to achieve success with quality of life, because they become one and the same. Best of all, you do this not by changing who you are, but by becoming more of who you are.
So ask yourself the following:
- Where are you especially talented?
- What do you do without even thinking?
- What do people count on you for?
- What activities would you gladly never have to do again?
- Are you doing the things you do really well so you can contribute your most to your organization or to the endeavors you take on?
Remember, you need to go beyond just getting the tasks done, as that doesnâ€™t serve anyone, especially in todayâ€™s market. Rather, you need to use your strengths to stay on top. The companies that survive arenâ€™t the ones who just get tasks done. They figure out what they do well and then they do it. To stay successful, you need to do the same.
Your support team
Building your support team means identifying the people in your life who are smart, experienced, insightful, perceptive, challenging, and inspirational, and then asking them to support you in your success. This team is probably not the team you already have in place. Weâ€™re not talking about your assistant, your employees or your vendors. These people help you get your work done; they exist for the betterment of the business.
The support team you want in place is one who can help you reach your vision and goals; this support team exists for the betterment of you. This distinction is subtle but key. Your team is made up of leadership all-stars: your role models, mentors, and inspirations. As members of your personal support team, these people are committed to you no matter what your vision, where you work, or what goals you choose. They advise you, support you, advance you, and elevate you.
When thinking about your support team, ask yourself the following:
- Who will you ask to be a part of your support team?
- How will you maintain the relationship?
- When times get tough, are you able to reach out to your team?
- Are you there for your team to reciprocate?
While you definitely need team members who are committed to the day-to-day work, you also need people who are devoted to you: to your success, your decisions and your vision. After all, when the ground beneath you starts to shift, you can either run and hide or you can reach out to others for support. Smart leaders choose the latter.
Change in business in inevitable. Sometimes the changes are subtle, and other times theyâ€™re downright scary. However, no matter what happens in your external world, if your internal world is in order – if youâ€™ve developed your values, your strengths, and your support team – then whatever happens externally wonâ€™t cause you to lose your footing. So if youâ€™ve neglected the inner aspects that make you successful, now is the time to refocus your energy and build your inner resolve. By doing so, youâ€™ll be able to weather the economyâ€™s ups and downs unscathedâ€¦and prosper for many years to come.
About the Author:
Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting. As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership. To find out how Joelle can help you reach the next level both personally and professionally, email: or visit: www.Pillar-consulting.com.