We tend to think of leadership as an innate quality – you’ve either got it or you don’t. Such a static view of leadership is limiting, as all of us can embody leadership principles no matter where we are at in our careers or what our view of ourselves might be.
Leadership, rather, is a process and a practice. It is a process of aligning to your inner compass, building trust in yourself and lifting those around you. More than anything, leadership is a commitment to the growth mindset (for more on the growth mindset, see works by Carol Dweck.) Adopting a growth mindset means recognizing that you can constantly improve your skill set through practice and effort, and that failure is really an opportunity to learn and pivot, rather than the devastating be-all-end-all that a “fixed mindset” would see.
If you believe you can get better and that your work will pay off, everything else will start to fall into place. True leadership is a thoughtful process and means knowing there is not necessarily an end goal of becoming “a leader,” but assuming a constant commitment to personal and professional growth. Yep, it’s like yoga. There’s no level of enlightenment to be reached by touching your toes – the growth comes from unrolling the mat every day and connecting to your internal rhythms and flow.
Much like yoga, you can develop a daily practice that involves contributing a bit of conscious energy towards cultivating your leadership every day and see how that allows you to show up more strongly in yourself and in your work. It creates accountability to your growth and only through consistency, can we see real, lasting improvement.
Here are five things you can do to cultivate a structured daily leadership practice:
1. Set aside time to check in with yourself.
It happens. We all get busy and truthfully, it is easier to put off yourself than your responsibilities to others or your workload. Sure, if you have time to do a 1-hour meditation and journaling session every morning, that’s amazing! For many of us, that isn’t realistic, no matter the benefits. (To all the ladies maintaining that kind of meditation practice: you are a goddess and a spiritual rockstar. Keep it up!)
The only expectation is that you carve out conscious time for yourself every day. It can be 3-minutes of breath work, keeping a bullet journal or even, taking a moment to feel into your heart and ask yourself, “How am I feeling today? What feels good? What is out of balance? Why? What does that area of my life need from me?”
Don’t expect to fix the imbalances in the moment. Just notice where you are at and feel what arises. By better understanding ourselves and the energy we bring into our daily lives, we have greater perspective on what underlies our behaviour, reactions and fluctuations in productivity.
2. Take stock of each day with gratitude for your personal accomplishments and your team’s accomplishments, as well as the lessons that you have left to learn.
This is a practice of balance and positivity. Depending on your leadership style, you might heap all the credit to your team leaving none for yourself, or alternatively, be so caught up in getting things done that you forget to recognize how far you have already come. A good leader uplifts both themselves and others daily. It’s important to acknowledge your team, but don’t lose sight of your contribution.
Include #2 in your practice by allotting 5 minutes at the end of the work day to write down 3 great things you did personally, 3 things your team did that stood out to you, and 3 lessons you learned or have to learn. Bask in the glory of not having all the answers!
PS: If it’s hard to write down what your team’s successes are, ask them to share them with you. Encourage celebrating your wins and lessons at your staff meeting.
3. Deepen your expertise and skill set.
As much as it is amazing and humbling to know how much there is left to learn, the deep unknown can contribute to the imposter syndrome that so many women leaders feel every day. You’ll never know everything, but a surefire way to improve your confidence is to put a dent in that unknown.
Do something every day to learn about your field and/or improve your skill set. If you feel insecure about your knowledge on a particular topic, learn something about it day by day. Read an article on your commute or lunch break. Download a relevant podcast. If you’re feeling stressed about using Microsoft Excel or your low follower numbers on social media… You can take an online course on either. Devote a bit of time to learning rather than feeling stressed about not knowing.
If you really feel like an expert in your field, good for you! Reading an article here and there can help keep you up to date, because even if you know everything (you don’t), the beauty is that things are always changing.
4. Ask yourself if there is anything you are avoiding.
Fear pops up in the most interesting ways… Our feelings of unworthiness and fear of failure can lead to procrastination. Usually, if there is something that for some reason you can’t get started on, it’s because it is triggering a fear located somewhere beneath the surface. Even simply identifying the avoidance can put a spotlight on a new opportunity for growth.
Integrate #4 into your practice when you look at your daily to-do list. Is there something big and scary on that list? A phone call you have put off making for a few days? Dig deep and ask yourself truthfully why you’re avoiding the task. Keep track of the patterns that arise. In the meantime, see if there is something you can do to lessen that fear. Do you need to bounce your idea off of someone? Can the task be broken into smaller, more manageable pieces?
5. Set your personal and professional goals.
#5 is an obvious one, but we rarely do it consciously. Being clear on your goals allows you to prioritize and strengthen your intuition even more. Heart-based goals provide that personalized structure to your leadership practice and focus your energy on what’s important over the short- and long-term. Your goals allow you to create a work back – “What do I need to do to get from A to B?” If you take it a step further, you can use your goals to identify what is a distraction and what is holding you back.
Make #5 a part of your day, month and year. Set broad, but achievable goals over varying timeframes with a breakdown of steps to get you there. Write them down. Check your list of goals often to help hold yourself accountable to them.
If you want to set better goals, stay accountable over the long-term and include a deeper reflective component to your leadership practice (you should!), join us on January 4th for our webinar “New Year, Deeper Goals: Step into your leadership in 2019” for a discussion led by veza’s own Manpreet Dhillon and a free copy of our e-book!