7 Simple Ways to Building Lasting Leadership Muscle

People ask me all the time. Everyone wants to know how to grow and prosper not only in the workplace but also in life. There’s no silver bullet but these seven tips can help frame your outlook and may give you reason to reflect.

  1. Just chill. All too often the process of leadership development carries with it a laser-sharp focus on driving hard for success. That’s ok, but another approach is to unwind and allow yourself to be introspective. This is integral in terms of reflecting on possible answers to the $100,000 questions: Simon Sinek would ask you to start with why – what is your purpose? How would I like others in my peer group to describe me? What can I do to make a difference and leave a legacy that rings true? Allow yourself the time to reflect on your accomplishments thus far and don’t get lost in the process of self-improvement.
  2. Calm your lizard brain. Humans are hard wired to scan, identify and obliterate any sort of threats and our so-called “lizard brain” is an inherent survival mechanism programmed to help us deal with these alleged menaces.We protect ourselves by quickly becoming “warriors” – soldiers in a competitive world. Sometimes being courageous (a true leadership trait) means enabling others to enter your world with full consciousness that things may not go the way you expect or want. Taking chances and shedding rigidity can help you carve a path towards greater opportunity. Keep your instincts in check and allow new perspectives and ideologies to come into view. You can’t do that when you’re busy pouncing on ‘insects!’
  3. Mitigate what you know. It’s easy to operate from your expertise and rely too much on what you already know. Deep learning and a growth mindset come from a willingness to shake up what you know and believe.  Change can make you feel vulnerable yet it provides the opportunity to shift your frame of reference. Brene Brown, the author of Daring Greatly in an interview in Forbes says “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen” and that “it is the first thing “you” look for and the last thing …”you” show”.  That isn’t always easy and it sometimes touches on the pillars of success that have worked so far – but growth means taking on risk and in the mad flow of activity that is everyone’s life that can be nerve wracking.  Then again, staying with what you know is not productive either. So push yourself to be vulnerable and open up to the idea that other ways of doing things might be better.
  4. Squelch the skeptic in you. Your own assumptions can catch you by surprise. Try to be more objective when assessing a situation, a person or opportunity. As of HR for a division of Advanta, the CEO, Dennis Alter asked me to be a prism – to step outside of my biases, values and beliefs and look at the same thing from many angles. People sometimes tend to put up barriers that lead to self-sabotage without even knowing they are doing that. It’s worthwhile to be skeptical to a point – it’s a protective mechanism, but be mindful that your own skepticism doesn’t get in the way of great things.
  5. Avoid the skeptic to cynic slide.  US Senator, Corey Booker recently said “courage is the enemy of cynicism”.  It’s true. It takes guts to be vulnerable and it takes action to be spur change. Sitting on a perch in judgment could keep you from true self-transformation. Take note that evading cynicism does not mean sidestepping emotions. It is not about being phony or disingenuous in our daily life. Rather, it is about alleviating our own distress by dealing with emotions directly without letting them distort our view of the world. Perspective is everything.
  6. Know what moves you. Your own values and your innate ability to express and live them can bring you resilience and brings hope and optimism to others. Both your beliefs and your daily conduct fuel the energy needed to make positive change. Own your core values and don’t back down in order to fit in to a group or a certain way of thinking. And knowing what moves you allows you to be flexible about the things that don’t.
  7. Meet your new “frenemies”: Stress and Tension. Instead of walking away from conflict and/or curve-balls, address them productively and you’ll notice the world begins to open up. In turn, your confidence builds and you will slowly become the change agent you always knew you could be. Stress and tension are not controllable but how you react to them is. Messiness is everywhere and good dialogue won’t make it disappear, but it can clear the way. Start or even change the conversation and you’ll be well on your way to building true leadership strength.

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