Flexibility will help you survive, and succeed, in leadership.
Research has told us for some time that those of us who don’t cope well with stress tend to fear change. This impacts on our ability to make effective decisions, not just for ourselves, but for those we lead as well.
Most importantly it reduces, or removes, our ability to be flexible; to bend with breeze, roll with the punches, and then be resilient enough to pick ourselves up and just get on with it.
There are two easy things you can start doing today that will help you increase your flexibility and resilience as a leader; prioritise need vs nice to know and get 'stress-aware'
Prioritise need to know versus nice to know
We all know that the pace of change in business and life is rapid, and the reality is that we won’t be able to keep up with everything. Yet this is an increasing source of stress for leaders, especially in global organisations with complex structures where it seems policy, process and structure is shifting on a regular basis. The key is to be smart; prioritise the changes that are important for you to be across against those that are nice to be known. This will not only help you think more critically about what is happening in your organisation or industry, it is a rational process that allows you to develop skills in time management (which as we all know is another source of stress!)
Improve your 'stress-awareness'
Leadership can be a lonely place; and if you are a leader responsible for driving change it can be even lonelier. This is not the ideal environment to be experiencing destructive stress. Unlike constructive stress, that’s sort of stress we experience when we are being stretched, learning new things or playing sport for example, destructive stress has it’s foundation in unhealthy beliefs about our self, and our ability to deal with situations. When we experience destructive stress we are unable to access the full range of possible solutions to problems, because we are more focussed (unconsciously) on protecting ourselves.
To improve your stress-awareness, the quickest and most effective way to get results is to team up with a coach, mentor or counsellor who is qualified to explore with you the source of your stress, and to help you work with it. Alternatively, depending on the level of stress you may experience, there are plenty of online resources available, and of course volumes of books in the self-help section of your local book store.
I guess the key message is to do something about it!
An effective leader is a healthy-minded and resilient leader. Remember that your behaviour is out there for all to see, including the decisions you make and how you make them. If you are able to keep up with the changes in your organisation and industry, and have a healthy level of stress-awareness, then you are in a far better place from which to lead.