The past year has offered each of us, as leaders, numerous learning opportunities. A variety of situations and circumstances have required changes in how we work and how we communicate with those entrusted to our care. The shifts are subtle but are necessary for becoming the leaders needed for this time. Whether it is remote from the kitchen table or in-person in the meeting room, these shifts will help you navigate the leadership challenges of today. 

Three of these shifts are:

  • Rhetoric to Relationships  
  • Self-Awareness to Self-Direction  
  • Time Management to Time Value 

1.      Rhetoric to Relationships: Shift Your Focus to Empathy.  

Courageous leaders are effective communicators, but leadership is deeper than words. Courageous leadership transforms rhetoric into relationships. When people say, “we need to improve our communication” or “you are not communicating with us,” they are saying “we feel disconnected and not a part of things.” When they say, “You don’t know who we are” or “we don’t know who you are,” they are saying, “we are not connected, and we don’t trust you.”

The number one characteristic people want in their leader is trust. You are leading in a time when saying you care is not enough.  The people entrusted to your care want you to know who they are and understand their life situations.  Along with giving programmatic updates, asking questions, and active listening, you are being asked to go deeper and develop empathy. Brene Brown says empathy fuels connection: it’s feeling with people and connecting with a person’s situation. 

It is showing you care, not just as the leader, but as a person. I know this sounds simplistic, but over this past year people have missed relationships. The time is right to model active listening and compassion. It is important to connect with people through their stories, whether it be stories of family members being sick, the difficulties of homeschooling, or other kinds of loss and grief.  Make time in your work life and in the work of your people to shift from updates and reports to listening and connecting to what is happening in their personal lives.

Try this, ask people how they are really doing, and more importantly, wait for the response. Empathy is being able to make space between your question and someone’s answer. Shift the good of what you are saying into meaningful relationships. 

2.      Self-Awareness to Self-Direction

Courageous leaders have the understanding and ability to manage their own thoughts and emotions when responding to individuals and to unwanted situations. There is a difference between reacting emotionally and responding neutrally.  Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of and control your own emotions. We might call it emotional intelligence.   

The shift is from being only aware of your thoughts and emotions to directing your behavior willingly with curiosity and kindness.  Your response does not invalidate or deny your emotions but trusts them as a way of learning about yourself and how to use them in positive and productive ways.  

So, as you become more aware of your feelings, you know more how to navigate through them. How do we do this? Be present in the moment. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge that they are just thoughts and emotions. And understand that they do not define you.  As you become more aware of how to navigate your own emotions, thoughts, and responses, you will become more aware of what impact your actions have on others.

With this shift, you will not only be aware of your own feelings and the impact of your actions, but you will also become the leader people trust and look to for care and direction. 

3.      Time Management to Time Value

Courageous leaders not only manage their own time and value the time of others but they know the significance of the time they have been given to relate to and lead others.

Our workdays have changed. We cannot simply transfer how we worked in an office into the home space. Cramming meetings and presentations into zoom calls simply does not work. Our context has also changed. So, it is necessary to shift from managing our time to designing our time around how we work, based on what we are working on and with whom we are working. 

Consider being more intentional about how people come together. Consider what can be done by email and what needs to be done face-to-face. Do face-to-face meetings need to be in person or virtually?

When you are planning a meeting, consider who needs to be present, the agenda, and what decisions must be made. Again, I know this seems simple, but time value allows you to send out information before the meeting, have a conversation by text or email, and before making the decisions. Time value provides you the opportunity to not only manage your time, take seriously the time of others, but work more efficiently as you lead effectively.

So, to shift from rhetoric to relationships and from self-awareness to self-direction, build in time to meet individually, one-on-one, with the people you lead. Keep in mind that you always have the opportunity to listen. Sometimes your listening will be work and other times you are listening to what others have to share.  

It seems that there is never enough time in the day. But, since we all get the same 24 hours, why is it that some people achieve so much more with their time than others? The answer lies in shifting from activities to relationships. Being busy is not the same as being effective. It isn’t even working smarter instead of harder.  It is in using your time to develop relationships with care and compassion.  People want a leader who they can trust. Who you are is how you lead.

Your Next Step

This week, what one shift can you make? What one shift will you make?

Remember, Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I are discussing barriers to leadership growth and what you can do about it. Tune and listen to Episode 191: 4 Barriers to Leadership Growth and What You Can Do about it. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

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