Lead Strong


Ongoing unpredictability in 2020 has left many leaders feeling fatigued, but times of complexity demand leaders use their A-games to help their teams feel secure and navigate the great unknowns. Your leadership matters and your ability to lead strong is instrumental to forge the path into the future, even when the present feels challenging.

In October, I outlined four key attributes to lead strong on The Innovative Leader podcast, and I wanted to continue that conversation with three additional tips for leaders. Implement these practices for a strong start to 2021.

1. Practice resilience and self-care.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a key skill to develop. Being aware of and in control of your emotions allows you to not get as activated when facing challenges and to recover faster when feeling pressed. Daily exercise and mindfulness help keep our minds healthy.

Think of it as starting each day at 0 (balanced, open, positive and optimistic) versus waking up already at an alert state of 5 (behind, tough day, worries and concerns). If a challenge comes when you are at zero, due to your daily self-care practices, you might rise to a 4 or 5 stress level. If you start at 5, you could quickly rise to a 9 or 10 stress level. Our ability to be resilient and bounce back has everything to do with our daily practices and our EI.


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2. Ask others for feedback to maximize your growth.

A great book by Marshall Goldsmith, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” points out that leadership requires ongoing growth. Often the greatest potential to grow lies in our shadows and blind spots, and leaders need to be humble and growth-minded to see that.

Even though you’re usually the one giving your team members feedback, ask them to return the favor and provide feedback to help you improve your leadership skills. Surround yourself with great people who give you honest and tough feedback. Be alert to your blind spots and be rigorous to grow in those areas. It is easy to grow in your areas of strengths, but developing your blind spots is what really expands your capacity.

3. Have a heart of compassion for others.

In the midst of tough times, leaders need their teams to step up, so they may feel disappointed, frustrated or irritated when their team is exhausted. However, consider how challenging this time is for your team members. As a leader, you sit “in front of the bus” and have greater purview over what’s going on. Team members likely feel you have greater control than they do. The more “in control” we feel, the better we can stay in the “frontal lobe” of solution focus; the less in control we feel, the more we can get triggered in a fight-or-flight response. Your team members may be experiencing greater stress and exhaustion because of their perceived lack of control.

It’s important to practice compassion, empathy and understanding. Let your team know you are all in this together. Take more time during one-on-one meetings to ask how they are doing, not just professionally but personally. Showing you care helps shift them from their “panic” mode and enables you to explore solutions together that will provide health and support.

It’s certainly been a challenging year through which to navigate. As leaders, we want to lead well. Be humble, open and OK with the unknown. Utilize your team. Listen to their thoughts and ideas. Design accountability to ensure your team has the support they need to succeed. Embrace tough conversations to quickly address and move past points of friction. Keep yourself grounded and healthy. Collaborate with those around you. Solutions will appear so you can move forward with confidence.