Written by: Amie Crews, Guest Writer
Leadership is a huge topic, and one that has so many lenses to it. In fact, that’s what makes it both incredibly simple yet hugely complex all at the same time. Being a leader can be lonely too.
In this article, I want to share how leadership can be isolating and how you can increase your effectiveness by being aware of the emotional impact on yourself and others.
All leaders experience isolation and stress, but it’s a topic that is rarely discussed out loud. In a corporate world, having a team around me meant that I could talk things out, share the load and get some perspective on my challenges. In contrast, treading the first steps towards entrepreneurship was an unexpectedly tough landscape.
No one really talks about how all the confidence and clarity you have can be whipped away from you when you are having a tough day, trying something new, going out on a limb with a difficult message; making decisions where only you see the full picture, or building and launching a new product, service, or business. Sometimes you experience feelings with supportive, productive thoughts that can ride them out easily. Other times you might feel stuck in them for several days or longer, twisting yourself up in knots over and over.
But there is another way.
An often-overlooked aspect of leadership is self-compassion, or the art of being kind to oneself. When I talk about self-compassion, I’m talking about the ability to notice the energy and emotion in our bodies and how we’re responding to it. It’s about reflecting with respect for ourselves and giving permission to feel. After all, if we can’t lead ourselves with compassion, how can we be a lighthouse for others?
I’ve challenged myself on this several times in my life by asking, “How can I be a role model [self-compassion] if I’m not living and breathing it myself?” Often, it is the foundations of life that we need to look to. Getting sufficient rest, eating foods that fuel and sustain, staying hydrated; it is usually the fundamentals of our wellbeing which get ditched in favor of late-night Netflix binges; just another biscuit and grabbing a cuppa instead of reaching for the water. Such simple tactics, and if these are not in place, it’s less likely that you’ll find it easy to be kind to yourself in other ways.
Calibrate your internal compass.
As an entrepreneur, those who look towards you are not necessarily employees or people supporting your business. They are the people who follow your journey, who love your products and services, who want to live a slice of your life in theirs. I talk a lot about not comparing yourself to others, and as a coach on a mission to help people lead their own best lives; it’s easy to say – be kind to yourself, but I am acutely aware that it’s not always easy to look at our internal compass and navigate to kindness as our true north.
When you increase your self-compassion, you can reduce your feelings of isolation and increase your effectiveness, and in turn, you enter a cycle of learning how to be kind to yourself and what that really means for you. Leading yourself and others effectively means becoming aware of the emotional impact of the work you do within the parameters of noting those feelings, particularly the uncomfortable ones, and feeling empowered to talk about them.
Compassion in everyday life.
Noticing the ups and downs is important; a few minutes spent each day; perform a brief body and mind scan; noticing how your energy is. It’s ok to reach up to cloud nine when you’ve had an awesome win and sit with a quieter energy when work or life feels overwhelming.
Honestly, as you’re reading this, think for a moment; when was the last time you sat in silence and gave yourself the time to reflect on that? If you’re like 97% of the people who have experienced an emotional wellbeing session with me since May, that’ll never be, or at least, not since writing reflective journals as part of university studies. It takes a conscious effort, and it really makes a difference. From several years of personal experience of (mostly) daily practice, I feel so much more resilient, and noticing those niggles means you can address them before they become an issue.
Hold a kind space.
It’s worth considering who you have around you to hold a supportive, open, and non-judgemental space. I’m not talking about those therapy sessions over a glass or two; I mean really holding that space for you.
Perhaps it’s participating in a session that supports your emotional wellbeing, your coach, mentor, or business community, or a trusted friend who will truly just listen. I am truly fortunate to have people in all these camps who I can call on. They let me speak without giving their opinion and let me speak without interjecting with their own agendas – that’s crucial.
There is something incredibly powerful about closing your mouth to hear and share in others' stories and experiences without being poised to jump in and share your own. They allow someone space to speak, be silent, and hold that space, waiting until they have finished. The mute button on a video call has never been more useful!
Acknowledge the emotional impact of the work you do.
“I had no idea you felt like that” I hear it time and time again when people are talking about shared experiences; colleagues sat in the same room in some situations yet still so far removed from one’s individual, personal experience.
This happens because naturally, people are focused on solutions, alternatives, solving problems, and remedying a crisis. Don’t get me wrong; all those elements are important; however, too often, the emotional impact is skipped over in favor of tacking the aforementioned items. Does it seem easier to talk about problems and solutions? Probably in most cases, yes, it does because we haven’t been taught to put ourselves first, acknowledge what we’re thinking and feeling and allow it to simply be.
Why? Emotions mean vulnerability.
Vulnerability feels exposing. I’ve been guilty of withholding my true emotions when I didn’t feel safe to share them.
Feeling exposed can bring up thoughts and beliefs. I’m talking about all kinds of emotions and questions. “Is it ok to show my sadness?” “What if I cry and people perceive me in a certain way?” “What if I thought that was a massive success and felt elated, but others didn’t share in that?” I know I’ve asked myself questions like this before, but when you ask through the lens of compassion, not sabotage, the answers are often vastly different.
Do you feel comfortable and safe to share your experiences' emotional impact and become ever more effective as a leader? Maybe now is the time to start?
Amie Crews, Guest Writer Brainz Magazine
Amie Crews is a life coach on a mission to teach busy and stressed people practical ways to move themselves up the priority list so that they can live a better, happier life now with more joy, ease, and freedom. She is also the Founder of Your Best Happy Life Podcast and Membership.