Leadership is easy; no it’s not. Leadership is hard; no it’s not. Even though I put together a book titled Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy, truth be told, the hardest parts of being a leader should be the easiest ways to deal with it.


What really makes leadership hard is the pressure to perform and deal with others. What contributes to it are the feelings of not being sure you know what to do and not addressing your own needs when you need to. Just like they tell you in an airplane to put your own mask on before you help someone else, as a leader you have to acknowledge your own needs and mental health before you can actually be any good for others.

Luckily, you have me here to give you some tips on how to do some self care and still be a good leader. Let’s take a look at some of these.

1. Give yourself opportunities to improve

The fact is that there aren’t an overwhelming number of good leaders. That means there are even fewer great leaders. Some people take to it easily. For those who don’t, they need to look to a bit of self improvement if they want to be better and gain some confidence in leading or managing.

How? Here’s a few ideas.

First, there are lots of good books out there on leadership and management. Even though it’s older, I’ll tout my first book on the subject of leadership. There are a lot of great thought leaders on the subject, from Ken Blanchard to Tom Peters, that will offer you a lot of knowledge and comfort.

Second, there are networking groups in almost every industry in the country. Many of them will be filled with your peers and some top industry leaders who are probably pretty good at it. It always helps to talk to someone else who either is going through the same thing you are or might have some positive options for you. It also helps that these people don’t work where you do, as I know it can feel embarrassing acknowledging to someone you work with that you’re unsure whether you’re doing things correctly.

Three, take in a few seminars on leadership and management. I’ve run into a lot of people who complain that they go to too many of these things. What I’ve found over the years is the people who don’t complain are not only the people who are good but the ones who keep going to seminars to improve on their skills.

2. Stay relaxed; no one can do it all

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I’ve fallen into this trap a few times in my days as an employee when I’d start a new job as a director. I would spend my first 4 to 6 months trying to immerse myself into my new role by trying to do everyone else’s job, working overly long hours, and forgetting that I was the person in charge and not one of the employees.

Sometimes we all get into that mode where we forget that leadership doesn’t mean we’re supposed to do it all. There’s no way we can do everything. That’s the reason we have employees to work with in the first place.

Outside of the employees who report to you, it’s always a smart move to establish a nice working relationship with some of your peers in the company. You’ll find, just like you would in the networking types of groups I mentioned above that having someone to talk to every once in a while will help you relax. It’ll also probably help you to focus on your tasks and goals, even if they don’t really know what you do. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of communication to help you push forward during the day.

3. Take some moments for yourself during the day

I rarely took any breaks during my work days when I was a director. I’d often go to the cafeteria, grab some food, and come back to the office to eat… that is, when I ate at all. I always enjoyed working, and felt that the breaks I was taking were when I got to talk to some of the other directors or my own supervisors.

That is, until I was diagnosed at being diabetic. That meant it was time for a few lifestyle changes. The first was making sure I took my lunch breaks, which sometimes meant hopping into the car and driving somewhere so I could have a bit of time to myself or sitting in the cafeteria with some of the other directors, which I wasn’t doing before. Sometimes it meant going outside and walking around, either to clear my head, give some thought to a project, or for a bit of exercise and movement.

It’s never in your best interest to wait until a health issue forces you to change some of your bad habits. Your employees get mandated breaks and take them; you should make sure to do the same.

4. Don’t be afraid to evaluate yourself

Now I have an employee evaluation module where, if I were an every day director, I could put together criteria that I felt was important and use it to evaluate my employees. Back when I was a director I didn’t have anything like that.

Instead, what I used to do was kind of a two-pronged thing that I set up in Excel. One part of it were the departmental numbered goals that I wanted all of us to hit. The second part was putting down the criteria of how I wanted to act and treat the employees who reported to me.

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Then I would evaluate myself to see how well I thought I was doing on both fronts. Luckily, we were often doing well with the numbers so I couldn’t beat myself up on that. On the other front, I might recognize that I wasn’t making sure to keep in touch with everyone like I said I would, or wasn’t offering enough encouragement, or even walking out of my office to make sure everyone could have a chance to talk to me if they chose to do so.

If you do something like this and find yourself lacking, don’t beat up on yourself. Once you acknowledge something you feel you’ve been deficient on, just fix it. 🙂

5. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself when you feel you’re right, or accept criticism when you may be wrong

Here’s my truth. I was always good on the first half of this statement but not as good when it came to the second. About half the people I meet are good at the first part but universally bad at the second part. Why?

Standing up for ourselves is hard to do because sometimes we feel like we’re being whiny or making excuses for things that go wrong and we feel like we should just take it. We might also feel that our opinions aren’t wanted and keep them to ourselves.

That was never me. I’ll always believe I lost one of my favorite jobs because I spoke up in a meeting and countered everything upper management was saying about something I knew a lot about. I found out many years later that I was kind of set up to take the fall for something that not only wasn’t my fault, but that I’d mentioned was faulty reasoning and date in that meeting. Although I was crushed to lose that job, it was gratifying to learn that I was right, even if it took 7 years to find out.

It’s because of that reason that I’m often bad at accepting criticism when I might be wrong, because I go out of my way to try to always be right. Yet, I have accepted it when I’ve been proven wrong, which sometimes happens when I assume something without asking the proper questions or doing enough research on all aspects of a situation.

With that said, the one thing I’ve always been pretty good at is listening to the criticism all the way through before I’ll comment on it. After all, you can’t learn what’s going on if you’re always interrupting the other person. I figure that’s both the courteous thing to do as well as the smart way of going about things. There have been a number of times when I’ve been wrong, and I’ve never been afraid to admit them if I agree.

As a leader you have to work on keeping an open mind about how good or bad you are. Balance is the key; work towards perfection while realizing you can’t always get it right.
 

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