Lead at Work, Don't Leave

Karin Killander
Feb 09 2022 | Insights

Our Global Community Manager Karin writes about the benefits of persevering when times get tough at work and how a change of perspective can turn career challenges into opportunities.

Being a leader is stressful at the best of times, and after a 2-year long pandemic, it’s certainly not smooth sailing. No wonder people are resigning left, right and center. After all, the grass often feels greener on the other side.

Truth to be told, although shifting jobs can seem exciting at first the reality is that we often face the very same challenges we tried to run away from to begin with. Tight deadlines, difficult team members, complex projects. You know the deal: always too much to do, and not enough time to do it. 

As former executive, Lars Sudmann wisely said: “Being a leader is a little like being a parent. we have all these rosy visions of how we’re going to do it, how incredible we’re going to be, and how we’ll sidestep the mistakes that we see other people make. But when it’s our turn to assume the role, we find that reality doesn’t match our expectations.”

Guess what: being a leader is hard. Becoming a good leader requires courage, adaptivity, and a hell of a lot of commitment. If you’re in for the ride, here are some things you can do to make the journey more enjoyable.

Get to know yourself, inside and out

The first thing you have to do is to take a long hard look in the mirror. Being a good leader starts with self-leadership and being aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

According to Leadership strategist Tony Gambill, research shows that the two primary reasons leaders fail are because of failed relationships or failure to continually learn. Having coached thousands of leaders he discovered that ongoing leadership success depends on the ability to adopt self-leadership behaviors

So what are they? Apart from becoming aware of what makes you tick and what your values and beliefs are, an essential ingredient of self-leadership is developing a solid self-reflection practice. Reflection is an integral part of learning from your experiences and gaining insights for the future. Reflection can also help you understand your outlook in life and how it influences your actions. 

Speaking of actions, as you become more self-aware, you’ll become better at decision-making, regulating your emotions, and taking accountability for your behavior. You’ll become a more responsible leader which will translate into your team – who will, in turn, become more efficient and productive. 

Change your perspective

Here is a good thing about hardship – it helps us develop our resilience (aka our ability to bounce back). Getting out of your comfort zone can literally boost your brain’s agility so that you become more flexible and resilient. 

Cognitive reframing is a term that refers to changing the view in which you look at things for the better. Stanford University health psychologist Kari Leibowitz famously looked into what makes Scandinavians cope better during the dark winter months and discovered that by adopting a positive mindset, viewing winter as a special time, they experienced greater wellbeing and life satisfaction. 

“People who see stressful events as ‘challenges,’ with an opportunity to learn and adapt, tend to cope much better than those who focus more on the threatening aspects — like the possibility of failure, embarrassment or illness,” Leibowitz said.

You might have heard of ‘hygge’ – a Danish term for coziness, the idea of getting comfortable to engender a feeling of contentment or well-being.

Step up, don’t step away 

When things are changing rapidly, it can feel a bit like stumbling around in the dark. In contrast to what many people think, being a good leader isn’t about knowing all the answers but staying calm when you don’t.

When things are in flux, you have an opportunity to lead by example, be a catalyst for positive change and take action against the things that frustrate you. Before you hand in your notice, think about what you can change in your environment, whether it’s making tweaks to your role, team, or the wider organization. 

In an era of ‘The Great Reschuffle’, find out what you can do to best support your team. Have open and candid conversations, express your needs and figure out what steps you need to take to together create a better work environment.

Dare to ask for support

It’s often said that it’s lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider hiring an Executive Coach who can act as a sounding board, help you identify blind spots, and bring a fresh perspective. 

At Ezra, we believe in the power of coaching, and we have a good reason for it. 95% of our coachees report that their performance has improved and their levels of motivation, engagement, and job satisfaction increased after receiving coaching. 

Before you throw in the towel, take time to get to know yourself, maybe log into your coaching app or look at hiring a professional coach if you don’t have one, and think about how you can turn challenges into opportunities. You might find that where you’re at is not as bad as it appeared to be.

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