I often ask how you want to be seen as it applies to your demeanor as a leader. We spend a lot of time working on the outward appearance of who we are or how we want others to see us. I’m referring to the leadership behavior we place a lot of value on.
I want to suggest you look at how you see yourself and use that perception as the foundation to support your leadership behaviors. I have been researching different philosophies in an attempt to understand what it means to practice the art of living.
Stop making personal resolutions
At the beginning of every new year, many of us sit down and make a list of things we want to do and change. I for one would do good with my list for about the first three to six weeks of the new year, then slowly slip back into old behaviors because they are easy and safe. The old behaviors were what I knew best.
Over 20 years ago I made my last resolution and have never broken it since. My last resolution was to never make any more resolutions and pay close attention to the here and how. Much like captains of ships, when they discover the ship is off course they don’t wait days, weeks, or months to do something they make an immediate change to correct the course. Why not me and why not now?
Practice these three behaviors
In my search for the art of living, I have come across variations of three behaviors. I discovered that if I made these behaviors my foundation of how I acted and built my other behaviors on them I could practice the art of living as I understand it. The art of living is not about eliminating all negative things, for me, it is about knowing how to deal with what life gives me every day, the good, the bad, and everything else.
Okay, I don’t see the world through rose-colored glasses, you know, positively seeing things, often thinking things are better than they are. I am more of a realist and I see the world around me as such. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to change how I perceive the world around me. This brings me to the first behavior.
1. Control our perceptions
This has a lot to do with emotional intelligence and wisdom. We choose how we look at things and that choice can often result in some type of action or reaction. Each of us has created our source of truth lens that we use to judge and evaluate the world around us. This is a very myopic view of the world because it’s our personal view, nothing wrong with that, we just can’t be omnipotent in how we approach anything.
That source of truth lens or our personal psychodynamics is unique to each of us so treat it that way. Everyone has the propensity to see the world differently because of their source of truth lens.
The idea here is to remember that people will see things differently which doesn’t make them right or wrong and it doesn’t mean we have to change how we see anything. What it does mean is it allows us to be curious, learn something new, and expand our view of the world.
We will come across people whose personal beliefs will be in direct contradiction to ours which will solicit a response from us. This is where we practice emotional intelligence and wisdom. You know what situations, topics, and beliefs trigger your emotions, other people don’t, so there is a good chance they will unknowingly say or do something that challenges, offends, or contradicts your beliefs. You will have an emotional response and knowing your triggers will help you to understand your emotions and how to manage your reactions before you do or say something that causes a problem or hurt feelings which brings us to the second behavior, direct our actions properly.
2. Direct our actions properly
A friend of mine, we will call her Mary, shared an experience she had with her neighbor who we will call Adam. During the presidential elections her neighbor Adam, who lived across the street, was an avid supporter of a candidate who Mary despised. Adam had a huge sign in his front yard supporting his candidate, so Mary put signs in her yard for anyone who was running against Adam’s candidate. The very cold war began.
One day Adam was in his front yard watering plants so Mary decided she was going to confront Adam on his choice of candidates. In the time it took her to march across the street to Adam’s house something happened. Mary told me, that instead of confronting Adam about his choice of candidate, she decided to find out what she didn’t know about Adam.
As she approached Adam, she slowed her pace, smiled, and asked Adam how things were going. Adam was guarded and responded only with “Fine.” Mary told him that she couldn’t help but notice his choice of candidate for president and was curious as to why he supported him, being very careful of her tone and nonverbal language.
Adam kept his answer very general until he said that he had a son overseas in the military and liked the way his candidate supported the military. There it was, common ground. Mary had a brother overseas in the military and shared the same concerns that Adam had. Mary said she and Adam stood there for a while sharing their thoughts and fears about that whole situation.
They still voted for opposing candidates while developing a common ground friendship because Mary decided to ask the question, “What don’t I know?”
Control your perspective by staying curious, asking questions, and listening with the intent to understand, redirect your approach to actions that suspend judgment, and encourage dialogue. In doing so this brings us to number three.
3. Accept what is outside of our control
There was no way Mary could control Adam’s voting decision. So she changed her approach and decided to learn something about Adam that she didn’t know before and in doing so found common ground where she could begin to develop a friendship.
So why do we spend so much time trying to control what we can’t control? Sure, it feels good and safe to know that we are in control of our lives, kids, work, staff, deadlines, daycare costs, and the list goes on and on. But what’s the reality?
One very important practice we can work on is knowing the difference between what we can control and what we can’t. What we can influence and what we can’t. What we can change and what we can’t change. We need to stop throwing ourselves at challenges that we do not affect.
Change like many other things is inevitable, nothing ever stays the same no matter how hard we try to make it so. Businesses have to evolve to adapt to constant changes brought on by many factors the organization has no control over.
The same applies to us as leaders. Just when we thought we had everything under control, our best staff members handed in their resignations.
What we can control
The simple fact in all of this is that there is one thing we can control and that’s ourselves. We can control how we perceive things around us. We can ask questions and stay curious. We can suspend judgment and do the right thing. We can teach ourselves to know what to let go of and what to focus on. We can create a space that encourages others to be their best if they choose to be.
Working on understanding ourselves, in reality, does afford us the ability to influence change in many things. Our actions will always speak louder than our words.
How do you want to be seen, you have the ability to change that.
Exercise |Deliberate practice
Instead of a New Year’s resolution, how about a today’s resolution? What’s your leadership philosophy? Grab your journal and start writing down thoughts about what it might be. How you see yourself is something that you have control over.
The structure of a leadership philosophy can vary greatly. Some statements are as short as a sentence while others can be longer. Philosophies are highly personalized statements or positions.
Leadership philosophies can include the following components:
- Guiding principles
- Personal values
- Leader values
When I work with leaders on their philosophies I have them practice their statements by walking down a hall and reading their statements out loud. I usually time them, I give them 30 seconds to share their statements.
What we have found over the years is the best statements are:
- To the point
- Easily understood.
Don’t create a statement design to make you look intelligent, wise, or important. Write one that helps you to remember who you are and how you want to be seen as a leader. Here is an example from someone I know:
I am a transformational leader who creates space to suspend judgment, practice collaboration among everyone, and encourage others to do the same. I strive to understand all sides of conversations and decisions and do the right thing even if I don’t agree. I engage in continual personal and professional growth knowing that I don’t know everything and always have room for improvement.
Leadership philosophies must remain open for adjustments and changes over time because our role as leaders will change over time.
Writing a philosophy will take time and many edits until you reach a statement that represents who you are and your ability to live that philosophy. Don’t be in a hurry to arrive at a statement, enjoy the journey and self-discovery as you write and rewrite your statement.
Give yourself time and space to do this. That will help you to identify what’s important to you over time and could help you to identify what your core values are. You may be surprised at what you discover. What’s buried deep in your desire to be a leader may be unknown to you until you start to write about it.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.