Every day talented and accomplished leaders struggle because they don't know how to achieve success without sacrificing their quality of life. Fortunately, there is a way to be successful as a leader in today's world that is more strategic, more fulfilling and more sustainable. In fact, you can learn to lead in a way that preserves your talent while enhancing your quality of life.
Every leader has an inner and an outer edge. Your inner edge is the "you" behind the scenes: your thoughts, motivations, aspirations, values, strengths and weaknesses. Your outer edge is the "you" that shows up in the world: your words, actions and interactions with others.
Your inner and outer edges are intimately related. The way you feel influences the way you act; your actions affect your results; your results determine the way you experience life. In order to be effective as a leader and in your life, you need to sharpen both your outer and inner edge.
Many leaders concentrate mainly on their outer edge. They focus on the company vision, mission, results, customers and sales volume. They send e-mails, make phone calls and attend meetings, but often run out of time to tend to their inner garden, which is quieter, where they can think and connect to who they really are so that they can continue to perform at their peak.
Just as your inner and outer edges are intimately related, so are your life and your leadership. The way you lead helps shape your life; the life you live will help you lead. And if you don't pay attention to both outer and inner aspects of leadership, you may suffer a fate common to many leaders: you'll lose your edge.
To bring your inner focus into balance and make it part of your everyday life, pay attention to the following:
• Your Vision
Many leaders are motivated, driven and extremely busy, yet they don't have a clear picture of what they want. Creating a different reality is not possible unless you stop moving long enough to figure out what you're after. In order to achieve success in your life and as a leader, you need clarity about what you really want. That clarity comes from contemplative thought.
Schedule some quiet time for yourself each day, even if it's just ten minutes, so you can develop a clear vision for yourself. Ask yourself, "Who am I as a leader?" "What do I want to achieve?" and "What do I hope to contribute?"
• Your Strategy
Developing your strategy means choosing the select few areas that you must prioritize in order to achieve your vision. When you have a clear vision and a strategy to help you achieve it, you know your different priorities, you can think about them all at once, you keep them from crowding each other out, and you find new opportunities for them to work together.
When you have a strategy, you're no longer just managing your workload: you're leading your life. Ask yourself, "What are the most important things I should be doing right now to achieve the vision I've set for myself and my business?"
• Time for Reflection
When you're reflective, you're able to identify, leverage and maximize your unique attributes to be an effective, higher-achieving leader.
The truth is, if you want to be your best, you need to take the time to reflect on what's brilliant about you. Once you do, you can develop an approach to leadership that uses all your attributes in the most advantageous way. As a result, you save time, energy and effort. You get better results, because you are doing things in the way that works best for you. Best of all, you do this not by changing who you are, but by becoming more of who you are.
Ask yourself, "What's working?" "What's not working?" and "What should I change?"
• Your Intuition
When going after your vision, you have two choices: you can either make things happen or you can let things happen. Making things happen is the active mode—often the default mode for leaders. It's about being rational, strategic, action-oriented and result-driven—sometimes even forcing things if necessary.
By contrast, letting things happen is the receptive mode. It's about being intuitive, trusting, insightful, knowing, optimistic and open to possibility. Cultivating your intuition means letting things happen and creating space to recognize opportunities as they present themselves to you, so you don't have to work as hard.
Ask yourself, "What opportunities are available to me now?" and "What do I instinctively know?"
• Your Alignment
When you're in alignment, the you in your personal life is at one with the you in your professional life. The ideas that apply over here also work over there. You are true to yourself wherever you are.
Too often, we separate our work and our life into boxes. While compartmentalizing may work well in a storage room, it's no way to live a life. You are whole and complete.
Take some time to consider all the pieces of your life and business and make sure they all jive together. Ask yourself, "How are the different decisions I'm making all contributing to the vision I have for my leadership and my life?"
The Gift of Leadership
When you practice the personal leadership strategies presented here, you gain a greater sense of self. You achieve your vision and goals, and you do so in a way that fulfills and sustains you. You get a sense of control in this changing world, and you gain the ability to make choices, take risks, and be the leader only you can be. That's when you discover that leadership truly is a gift you receive and share.
JOELLE K. JAY, Ph.D., is president of
the leadership development practice, Pillar
Consulting. As an executive coach, author and
speaker, Joellehelps leaders achieve top
performance and business results. Her
clients include presidents, vice-presidents and
executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle
is the author of The Inner Edge:
The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.