Leadership is hard.
Perhaps inherently so. When the mission is to empower others to cause change, there’s bound to be lots of challenges. CNN says being CEO should come with a health warning. One legendary CEO even called it “the torture.”
I think there’s another metaphor that’s more helpful.
In an episode of Stan Lee’s Superhumans, Tom Owen survives being run over by a heavy truck. Through testing, the conclusion isn’t that his abdominal muscles are significantly stronger than average. Instead, he’s able to generate enough inter-abdominal pressure to withstand massive external loads. “If I can’t push out harder than the weight of the truck pushing down, then I die,” says Tom.
I think leaders can use the same approach.
By generating enough internal force with our habits, we can push back against the external pressures that threaten to crush us.
Here are a few to get started with, and we’ll explore more together. I’d love to know what other habits you use to survive and thrive.
“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” – Thomas Jefferson
As leaders, we’re asked to make decisions daily, often without complete information. We need all the advantages we can get.
We know that chronic stress can be damaging to our body and mind. Meditation counteracts this, soothing our nervous system. Our heart rate slows, our respiration slows, and our blood pressure drops. Over time, our brain actually changes, shrinking the amygdala – the part of the brain where reactive fear and anxiety originate. Just ten minutes a day is enough to see benefits.
How to get started: Headspace or Stop, Breathe, Think
“When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and latter for everyone else.” – David Brin
Leadership is lonely and it’s tempting to withdraw, especially if you’re an introvert. (I am.) After a day full of meetings and conversations with team members, all I want is quiet and a book. But that can be dangerous.
As leaders, we need to be sure we’re investing in relationships that are close enough to hold us accountable. These are needed both inside and outside the organization. Ideally, we should spend focused time on this at least weekly. (Motivational speaker Eric Thomas has a phone call with his accountability group every morning.)
How to get started: Think of 2 to 3 friends with ambition, work ethic, and integrity similar to yours. Call them and setup a recurring weekly call where you each share your top goals for the week and talk through your challenges.
“Thinking is hard work; that’s why so few do it.” – John Maxwell
There’s a storied leadership principle that tells us to never ask someone to do something we’re not willing to do. Regardless, we’re likely not serving our role if we seek to demonstrate the principle too regularly. I might win some kudos for wiping down pool tables every afternoon, but they’ll quickly disappear if I miss a preventable challenge because I spent that time poorly.
Free time often feels like a luxury, but we must make it a necessity. And we’ve got to invest it well to become better thinkers and better leaders.
How to get started: Review your calendar for next week and carve out a half day for thinking. Go ahead and schedule it like you would any other appointment. Protect it fiercely.
Your turn. Have you tried any of these habits regularly? What others have worked for you?