Leading Lightly: Lower Your Stress, Think with Clarity, and Lead with Easeby Jody Michael
A practical guide on how to transform your mindset and optimize your leadership performance. Leading Lightly shows you the five muscles you need to exercise to gain mental fitness. This book will teach you how to be more accountable, gain greater self-awareness, embrace a change mindset, and make better decisions.
Choose accountability over victimhood
“Almost no one comes to me truly wanting to talk about their own accountability, because they think there is no need”
People in leadership positions assume that they are automatically accountable because they lead others. However, many corporate executives don’t display as much accountability as they think. Leaders avoid this topic when it centers around them but jump at the chance to complain about other people’s lack of accountability. For this reason, many leaders develop blind spots in their accountability.
Accountability means taking ownership of your thoughts, actions, and outcomes. It is the first step in improving your mental fitness and becoming a better leader. Accountability is choosing to acknowledge your role as the creator of your life. By working on this muscle, you can eliminate unproductive behaviors such as blaming, complaining, procrastinating, making excuses and rationalizing.
To be truly accountable, you first need to increase your self-awareness. This will help you identify those moments and situations where you’re not taking accountability. It also enables you to discern situations where you’re letting others get away with not being accountable for their outcomes.
Actions to take
Adopt a helpful perceptual lens
“Learn to identify deeply held perspectives that are impeding you and replace them with perspectives that help you thrive”
Part of being a leader is dealing with difficult situations. Many leaders believe that during stressful times, they need to be intense about solving whatever problems they’re facing. As a result, they fall victim to their false beliefs and take on a rigid mindset. Some adopt a doom-and-gloom perspective and can even become paranoid. They look at life through a lens that impedes their ability to resolve the problem.
However, to lead lightly, you have to shift away from an impeding lens toward a helpful lens. Your perceptual lens is naturally defined by the way you were raised and the experiences that have impacted you the most. As a result, you tend to fall back on this lens whenever you’re under stress. This prevents you from seeing reality as it truly is.
To avoid this trap, you need to get rid of all indoctrinated perceptual lenses that are limiting you. Once you’ve identified these impeding beliefs, you need to be willing to replace them with deliberate and helpful lenses of your choosing. This will empower you to increase your choices and expand your possibilities in every difficult situation.
Actions to take
Assess yourself accurately
“The more often you self-assess when you are triggered, the more quickly you can change and get out of that triggered state”
One of the remarkable characteristics of a mentally fit leader is their ability to tune in to their internal landscape. They can talk to a colleague while simultaneously observing their thoughts and emotions. By constantly self-assessing the inner commentary in real-time, they can self-correct and respond appropriately instead of reacting to a triggering situation.
This high level of self-awareness is a useful ally when it comes to noticing, identifying, and operating your perceptual lens. It allows you to gather vital data so that you can make more effective decisions. Assessing yourself may feel unfamiliar at first, especially if you tend to go through your day in a dissociative state. However, it’s a skill you can develop with repeated practice until it becomes automatic.
Self-assessment involves gathering internal data related to your mood, physiology, and core thoughts. When doing so, it’s important to avoid judging or condemning yourself. See yourself as an observer who’s simply interested in learning more about you and how your inner state influences your external world.
Actions to take
Discover multiple perspectives
“When you are a leader who has to be right, you cause some of the greatest damage possible to both your teams and organization”
We tend to view many of our daily situations as being binary. Even when dealing with a problem, we often assume that there is only one correct solution. As a result, we become locked into our perspective instead of contemplating the existence of other viewpoints. If you’re in a position of leadership, this can cause you to make ineffective decisions.
The best way to handle any situation is to look for multiple perspectives. You can achieve this by asking others for their opinions or collaborating with your team in the decision-making process. When you can see through many different lenses, you expand your breadth of possibilities and improve your leadership effectiveness.
Actions to take
Calm your body
“Breathing, done correctly, will make you a better person—and a better leader”
When you’re in a tense situation, your muscles contract, your breathing accelerates, and you take shallow breaths. This is how your body naturally prepares to fight against a perceived threat. Unfortunately, you cannot lead lightly while in a triggered state. Therefore, you have to learn how to interrupt your fight-or-flight response and quickly regain a relaxed physiological state.
One of the best ways to modulate your physiology is through deep breathing. Most executives don’t pay much attention to breathing because they see it as too simple or fluffy. However, diaphragmatic breathing can effectively put your body in a restorative state so that you can think more clearly.
Furthermore, deep breathing is faster than other restorative techniques such as yoga, meditation, or listening to music. As a leader, you need an approach that you can utilize in the middle of a tense situation. Done correctly, diaphragmatic breathing allows you to recover physiologically within seconds.