Today’s employees are seeking leaders who are confident. Leaders who can rise above the noise to give them direction. Leaders who are grounded and centered securely in themselves. Studies have shown that employees’ perception of an authentic leader is the single biggest predictor for whether or not they are happy at their jobs. The keyword here is authentic—people who are willing and able to be themselves. This blog is about finding that authenticity in yourself, how to ground yourself in it and ways to keep it at work.
Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking: I know how to keep myself centered! I just want the tactical skills to get my people motivated. This way of thinking, however, is deeply flawed. Look, if you’re unable to include authenticity in your leadership style, then any other tactics or tips I share with you will come off as hollow. In order to find that centeredness in the storm that is everyday life, human-centric leaders craft daily practices that still their thoughts and help them make decisions that will have an impact on future goals.
Leader, Know Thyself
A practice is something you do every day that prepares you for the day. A great place with your daily practice is spending some time with yourself in quiet self-reflection. You can do this in a journal or some other kind of record that contains your intentions, self-reflections, and priorities. I first learned my method of journaling from Reboot, a coaching company that helped me in my own leadership journey. As I have grown as a leader, journaling has been a vital part of how I show up to work every day. If you’re stuck with what to put in your journal, ask yourself some of the following questions that my coach gave me when I first started journaling:
- What are you noticing about yourself today?
- How are you showing up at work and in your personal life?
- What is bringing you energy today?
- What is causing you stress?
In keeping this journal, you’ll be able to quiet your other hectic thoughts and listen to the voice that speaks deep in your heart. These moments of looking inward will help you understand what’s happening inside and how it affects your behavior. By chronicling your self-reflection, you will gain an inner touchpoint you can always return to.
Get Out of Your Head and Work Those Hands
Another part of successful centering practice is taking the time to look out and root yourself in something larger than your person and your current situation. This prevents what some have called the “tyranny of the moment” where people are stuck only in what is currently happening. It can be a spiritual practice that feels appropriate to you, such as praying, meditating, or reading something timelessly true. It can be engaging in some form of art or culture, or even nature. Whatever it is, it’s meant to give you a broader perspective than your own.
When you’re consumed with the day-to-day, it’s hard to let work do anything but exhaust you. To stay grounded, you need to do something with your hands that isn’t related at all to your job. Another great addition to your daily practice is having a hobby. It gives you a sense of purpose, and also a sense of time. For me, my hobby was raising chickens. Every day, I’d feed them, water them, clean their cages, and, every day, I’d get an egg from each of them. While it might seem silly, seeing my hard work pay off was a huge stress reliever. I found myself more present at home and more grounded when facing stressful situations as work. Now, I’m not telling everyone to go out and get chickens. Your hobby could be anything that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Playing an instrument, baking bread, or gardening are all possibilities, and good ones at that.
Finally, you must spend some time taking care of your physical health. I spend thirty minutes on a rowing machine each day, but even getting in a walk around the block or just being outside in nature will be incredibly beneficial. It has been proven that any amount of regular exercise gives you the energy you need to get through the workday with confidence and groundedness.
Laying the Foundation
After you have all these pieces in your practice—a method for self-reflection, a way to root yourself in something larger, a hobby outside of work, and a way to be physical—keep a healthy schedule that will help you to stick to this new routine and order. By keeping to this daily practice, you’ll continue to show up consistently as a growing and empathetic leader. Make the time and space for each of these important parts of your day.
The hard truth is that there is no magic bullet to becoming an “authentic leader.” It’s a com- bination of doing the work to become an “authentic person” and applying solid leadership principles and tactics. People who get to know themselves deeply—understanding their strengths and weaknesses—can observe what triggers them and can navigate how they can control those triggers. Authentic leaders are those who are physically and mentally healthy and lead their lives with intentionality. That is literally what it means to be a leader—you have to lead. With a daily practice you will create a centeredness that will allow you to lead with confidence.
If you’re ready to learn how you can become a confident and authentic leader, I encourage you to read my book Lead Like a Human. It launches today on Amazon, Target, and Walmart! The skills and lessons you’ll find there are things I believe in fervently because I have seen the difference they’ve made—both in myself and in other leaders. And it’s in finding a personal centeredness where you will discover the foundation for leading like a human.