Becoming a better leader means making yourself a priority
May 30, 2017
In a recent Quartz article, 15 CEOs and presidents of companies were asked to write down “one secret they never shared about how they really feel inside.” The answers that came back were things like, “I am terrified of failing as the leader of my business,” and, “I fear dying at an early age from overwork and stress,” and, “I don’t love myself very much.”
And it gets worse. Ninety-six percent of senior leaders studied by Harvard Medical School experience some degree of burnout. In a Gallup poll, 65 percent of leaders are not engaged at work and 79 percent of the 1,500 global CEOs polled by IBM in 2016 believe escalating complexity at work has no end in sight, and over half of them feel unprepared to handle it.
Renee Moorefield, CEO of Wisdom Works—a company devoted to helping business leaders create thriving organizations, starting with themselves—isn’t surprised at these stats at all. She’s heard these challenges firsthand from her clients. Moorefield works with executives across industries on becoming more authentic in their roles. She works to help them thrive, not only in their jobs but in their personal lives, so they can be the kind of leaders who can bring out the best in their employees.
“We live and work in unprecedented complexity, interdependence, disruption, and change,” says Moorefield. “Flourishing in this environment demands continual transformation for organizations. Yet, organizations cannot change faster than their leaders. For organizations to thrive, their leaders must thrive. Without leaders who are willing to upgrade their mindsets, wellbeing, and performance, the organization’s culture and competitiveness erode. Depleted, disengaged, ill-equipped leaders lack the stamina, clear-headedness, emotional balance, and world-centric acumen to make the wisest decisions for organizations and societies.”
Because she and her team began noticing these same patterns across industries, Moorefield created a set of programs called “Be Well, Lead Well®” where leaders are encouraged to ask themselves two questions: “What enables me to thrive?” and “How can I be the kind of leader that enables others to thrive?” And then, Moorefield and her team educate leaders in four strategies that help them examine how they live and lead, change unhealthy habits into healthy ones, and make thriving part of their leadership effectiveness toolkits.
Strategy 1: Find your fuel
The first area looks at how leaders fuel themselves—how they eat, move, breathe and recharge. Here, leaders learn how to proactively use their diet, physical movement, breath, and rest as tools for a sustained, balanced source of physical, emotional, and mental energy throughout the day. These are the things that can be changed immediately, allowing executives to show up more physically and emotionally engaged in their role at work.
Strategy 2: Find your flow
Flow means being in the zone. Like all of us, when leaders bring their full presence and mindfulness to their activities and relationships, they are intrinsically rewarded with energy, enjoyment, and a rich sense of effortlessness and ease. They can then bring this refreshed energy and positivity to the workplace. “Most of us have, somewhere hidden inside us, a belief that, ‘I have to do work to get on with my real life.’ I think it’s time to turn this belief on its head. Work can be a source of rejuvenation rather than depletion,” says Moorefield. “The best leaders—the ones people are most inspired to follow—understand work is a vehicle for vitality, connection, and growth. Of finding our flow. And doing so not only helps the individual, it bring abouts a culture of flourishing in the company.”
Strategy 3: Find your wonder
Wonder is all about leaders continually evolving their worldviews, a necessity when leading in today’s constantly-changing markets. Moorefield says, “Really effective leaders see the attitude of wonder as part of their jobs. They are innately curious, looking for opportunities to stretch outside the filter bubbles and limiting biases of their organizations, industries, and personal thinking.” Finding wonder happens as a leader engages in new experiences and challenges with a growth mindset, seeks opinions and ideas that differ from their own, and uses every situation—no matter how difficult—to grow as a human being.
Strategy 4: Find your wisdom
In the fourth strategy, Moorefield guides her clients to explore deeper personal questions:
- What is my holistic vision of success in life and work?
- What is the greater purpose guiding why and how I lead?
- What legacy do I want to make?
- What unique gifts can I authentically bring to how I lead?
This strategy enables leaders to tap into inner greatness—the worthwhile purpose, larger vision, and innate genius that can help shepherd decisions in life and work toward meaningful impact. And at the same time, leaders can help others do the same. Leading from a deeper inner wisdom brings more meaning to the role of leadership and life itself so that leaders can approach their complexities in a more strategic and thoughtful way.
Putting these four strategies in action, leaders become less reactive and more creative, more expansive, and more authentic.
We spend so much of our time and energy at work. The workplace is the place where you have to deal with complex issues, whether diverse cultures, diverse ways of thinking, or diverse worldviews, says Moorefield.
The workplace, she believes, is a place where real change can happen. It’s why she does what she does—to create a better world by starting at the place where we spend most of our time: at work.