The following is a guest piece by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD.
We leaders tend to focus on developing external resources. How can we make the best use of our team’s time, budget, and expertise? Yes, these are important considerations, and leaders who ignore them won’t be leading for long. But too often, leaders focus so much on external factors that they neglect (or completely ignore) their internal resources: their attitudes, perspectives, motivation, and beliefs that make up their true selves.
I get why this happens. Too many people view self-work as an unnecessary “soft skill”, a waste of time. It can seem especially wasteful when your life is a series of exhausting sprints from one impossibly tight deadline to another. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Nurturing and developing your inner resources — which I call leading from the heart — makes your workday better in innumerable ways. Among them: your satisfaction will increase while your stress will decrease. You’ll become more empathetic, resilient, and open to opportunities. You’ll find it easier to connect deeply with others, which, in turn, will help you cultivate mutually beneficial relationships that are based on sharing and co-creating.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It gets better. By extension, your team will also benefit. When you connect with your internal sources of strength, you and the people who work with you will be in a much better position to influence your external environment, instead of the other way around.
Here are six ways to develop your ability to lead from the heart:
1. Trust the process
When things don’t seem to be working in your favor, it can be easy to succumb to anxiety and discouragement — and, sometimes, to give up. But my coauthor Lisa Mininni reminds us to have faith that everything — even the seemingly bad stuff — is working for our greater good. You may not understand how in the moment, but this mindset will give you a sense of calmness and confidence. And eventually, she says, you’ll be able to see the big picture.
Let’s say six months after a coveted prospective client signs with the competition it’s discovered that this client has been engaging in unethical trading practices. You’re deeply grateful that you didn’t get the business. See how trusting the process works?
2. If it’s no longer working, let it go
Lisa Mininni also points out that our inability to let go — of relationships, clients, and even belief systems — can hold us, our teams, and our companies back. Many great masters have noted that hanging on to the familiar is based in fear — and I agree. Have you ever continued to work with an abusive client because you were afraid you wouldn’t be able to fill the empty slot?
It isn’t easy to recognize and release what isn’t working anymore — but honing this ability can help you shift out of a self-limiting, scarcity-based mindset that delays results and prevents you from recognizing opportunities. Instead, Mininni suggests that you walk in confidence that the resources you need will be there when you need them.
3. Focus on what could go right
When you’re starting a new initiative, how often do you worry about everything that could go wrong? How often do you picture everything that could go right? If you’re like most people, the balance is heavily skewed toward “worry”. Lisa Mininni reminds leaders that we can consciously choose to pass through the fear and picture what we will feel like, accomplish, and gain when we take a step toward our goals.
4. Acknowledge and be thankful for what you have
We all know that living with an attitude of gratitude has its benefits, but how many of us really practice it? My coauthor Kristin Andress counsels us that mindfulness and thankfulness bring joy — and that joy attracts both inner peace and outer opportunity. Start by thanking employees, clients, and colleagues often and with sincerity, then notice the subsequent boost in your productivity and theirs.
5. Give before you get
Andress also points out the rewards of giving to others instead of worrying about what you’re going to get. In a business context, this might look like mentoring a new hire, helping a colleague finish a project with a fast-approaching deadline, or offering above-and-beyond advice to a client. While these actions might require you to make short-term sacrifices of time or energy, they’ll bring you pleasure and good karma.
6. Reframe your assumptions
How many times have you dreaded working with a particular client or tackling a certain project, only to find that you enjoyed yourself and learned a lot? Andress reminds us that our assumptions and expectations often bring us unfounded stress — and can even limit our success.
The next time you find yourself not looking forward to a responsibility, reframe your perspective by asking questions like: Who can I meet? What can I learn? How can I help? How do I want to make others feel?
Far from being soft skills, these inner resources should be part of every leader’s toolkit. They are essential for leading a grounded life, maintaining a healthy perspective, accepting yourself and others, and identifying positive possibilities.
Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is an author of “Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life”. As a clinical psychologist, motivational speaker and women empowerment expert, O’Reilly helps women create the satisfying and purposeful lives they want to benefit themselves, their families and their communities. To learn more about Dr. O’Reilly’s work, visit her website www.drnancyoreilly.com. You can also her on Twitter.
© 2015 Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, an author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life.
Some other posts you may enjoy: