Successful leaders overcome painful challenges by responding in one of two ways. Either you learn to no longer care what anyone else thinks of you and your decisions, or you open your heart wide and care too much. Both of these paths can drive a leader and ultimately be a major factor in her success.
Though motivated by different reasons, the actions of these leaders may look very similar. This is because ultimately the mission, not the method, is the focus of their efforts. Mission-driven leaders have a story to tell, and that story is worth sacrificing for. But the biggest sacrifice is usually the leader herself.
A few years ago, I was forced to admit that I had let my mission become an avoidance tactic for my fears.
Through a painful and sobering journey, I learned an important secret about fear, and this secret enabled me to launch my coaching practice and serve other ambitious, compassionate leaders. Leaders who want to change the world, but who too easily forget the importance of changing (leading) themselves.
Strengths and Weaknesses
A mentor once told me, when preparing for professional interviews, always spin your weaknesses as strengths. For example, I could say, “I am a perfectionist. I care so much about having the work done well that, from time to time, I can get caught up in the details.” Or, “I’m very decisive. I rarely hesitate when making decisions, which sometimes means that I don’t take enough time to gather all the information.”
While this is a helpful trick in making my weaknesses sound attractive to a prospective employer, it is also an insightful lesson for recognizing the pitfalls of my strengths.
The source of my success as a leader is also the liability that could break me.
You already know this, right? Determined leaders who charge ahead, unconcerned about what others think, have probably been accused of being intimidating and lacking compassion. You know that emotional connection with others is important, but you don’t trust your emotions. Instead, you believe that it’s better to suppress your feelings and act according to logic.
Extremely compassionate leaders, on the other hand, have probably experienced the danger of not setting healthy boundaries and taking too much responsibility for everyone around them. You know that you need to care for yourself, but you can’t bear to imagine not taking care of others. You believe that paying attention to yourself is selfish and a hindrance to the mission.
In both cases, you sacrifice what is best for yourself in order to accomplish what is best for others.
This is what leaders do, isn’t it? We put everyone else ahead of ourselves, we consider the needs of others above our own, we never slow down, never rest, until the work is complete.
We either avoid our hearts completely, because it’s messy and complicated and painful and confusing to deal with all those emotions, or we rely solely on our hearts to enter into everyone else’s suffering and problems and tragedies and fears at the cost of neglecting our own. This is what leaders do.
But isn’t that getting exhausting? Doesn’t it feel awfully lonely?
The problem with leaders is that we have an expectation of how we should treat others that we don’t apply to how we treat ourselves.
We have learned to focus so much on our behaviors (am I doing the right thing?) that we have forgotten to examine our hearts (how does this choice make me feel?).
Whether we make decisions with our thoughts or with our feelings, we validate the outcome based on how it affects others - our audience, our staff, the people we serve. We have learned that it is easier to look outward rather than inward. It seems easier to solve everyone else’s problems rather than our own. It is more important to take care of everyone else, rather than ourselves.
But paying more attention to ourselves actually allows us to give better attention to others. We do not exist in an either/or reality where we must choose between good actions or good feelings, serving others or serving ourselves.
There is a better way where both needs are met, where head and heart work together, where we can give generously to others without overlooking ourselves.
Self-care is not selfishness.
Self-care is not self-centeredness.
Self-care is not self-indulgence.
Taking care of yourself is not neglecting to care for others.
Because here’s the secret to our fears of dropping the balls, letting people down, and failing miserably – this fear is an opportunity to give empathy. Empathy, to yourself.
We must give empathy to ourselves in order to truly serve others.
Whether you have armor covering your heart or you wear your heart on your sleeve, if you are not taking care of yourself, then your care for others is one-dimensional. It is coming from a place of “have to” that is rooted in fear, rather than a place of freedom that is grounded in faith.
Fear says, “I have to make sure that other person is taken care of.”
Faith says, “I can rest and take care of myself [so that I can give from a place of fullness later].”
One of the best gifts I can give myself as a leader is empathy – empathy for myself.
My own journey toward slowing down and caring for myself has opened up INCREDIBLE opportunities to serve others. And I want to share my success with you!
I've created the 30 Days of Ease and Intention so you can take your own journey toward a calm, confident, and in-control life (and business).
From January 8 - February 6, 2018, I'll be guiding motivated leaders toward a more authentic, focused, and better business (and self).
We'll learn to integrate our personal and professional commitments so that we feel wholly connected to every part of our lives.
We'll uncover the joy of doing what feels good.
We'll develop a confidence to reject distractions, inspire discipline, and empower their missions.
Plus, I'll be giving back 20% of my profits from ALL PURCHASES (made by November 28) of this experience!
Anyone who decides, by November 28, to join me for these 30 Days of Ease and Intention will directly allow me to give 20% to Dressember, an organization that raises awareness and forms strategic partnerships to identify, rescue, and restore victims of sex trafficking.
Click the image below to learn more about the 30 Days of Ease and Intention and please consider joining me - not just in fighting sex trafficking, but in giving OURSELVES the gift of freedom in life and work.