Being a leader is a lot like being a tightrope walker. On a daily basis, you need to navigate that fine line between making decisions from your head versus your heart. Leaning too far in either direction could jeopardize your own performance — and your team’s success.
While striving for authenticity in your interactions with team members, effective leadership also relies on maintaining a certain degree of objectivity.
Many of our executive coaching clients struggle to connect with their employees and, therefore, are perceived as harsh or uncaring. Others become too emotionally involved, endangering their ability to make sound decisions.
Finding that right balance is essential to strong leadership.
5 Ways to Be a Teflon Leader
Regardless of your leadership style, managing your mood states allows you to lead with greater finesse. The following strategies can help you keep it together, even in the midst of chaos:
1. Don’t take things personally
Upper management, colleagues, team members, vendors and customers all have the potential to vent. Whether you’re just a sounding board or responsible for implementing solutions, focus on the situation. As you hone your leadership skills, try to peel away the personal element.
Resist the urge to blame yourself or to accept the role of scapegoat. Be aware of thought traps like labeling (“I’m such a pushover”) and all-or-nothing thinking (“They always reject my ideas”). Managing the thoughts that create your moods, influence your behavior and impact your results dramatically increases your agility as a leader.
2. Respond rather than react
When someone reacts, it is often by reflex — hence the phrase “knee-jerk reaction.” Unfortunately, irrational behavior usually results in regret. And, as the saying goes, it’s hard to squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube once it’s out there. Strong leaders can remain calm in a crisis, partly because they know how to respond.
How can you train yourself to respond? First, pause to observe. Then, decide on a course of action with intent, focusing on the desired outcome. Under the guidance of a strong leader, unforeseen obstacles can result in teachable moments, catalysts for positive change and opportunities for team building.
3. Maintain emotional boundaries
Effective leadership relies on connecting with your employees and being able to understand their unique perspectives, especially when they’re going through a rough patch. At the same time, putting yourself too deeply in someone else’s shoes can hinder your ability to make prudent, objective decisions. In order to keep empathy at healthy levels, cultivate compassion.
4. Develop a curious lens
Before jumping to conclusions (“I must have missed something”) or into action (storming into the CEO’s office, with a “You’ve got to be crazy; we can’t downsize now in the middle of busy season!”), engage your intellectual curiosity.
Exploring the reasons for a situation allows you to respond with resilience to its initial impact. It also encourages greater flexibility in your mindset, which is essential to finding not just a solution, but rather, the best solution. In some cases, it also breeds acceptance of those things that can’t be changed.
While it often goes under the radar when learning leadership skills, breathing has the ability to profoundly impact your actions. Slowing your breathing allows you to somatically change your physiology when in a triggered state. Developing a mindfulness practice can help you learn how to channel your focus, manage your stress and, in turn, enhance your overall leadership abilities.