5 Strategies to Cultivate a Healthy Leadership Spirit

OpennessLeading in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world takes its toll on the best of us. If we aren’t careful, the stress and difficulty of leadership can quickly become a burden that negatively shapes our perspective and causes us to lead in unhealthy ways.

Last week I wrote about five warning signs that indicate you’re leading with a wounded spirit. Those warning signs serve notice that something is off track with your inner life as a leader. They signify your values, beliefs, and attitudes have taken a negative hit from the rough experiences you’ve had, and there is a need to adjust your mindset and priorities so you can get back on track to leading at your full potential.

Even more important than recognizing the warning signs something is wrong with your inner life as a leader, is pursuing strategies to prevent yourself from running off the rails in the first place. To cultivate a fertile soil for your life as a leader, or to apply a soothing balm to your wounded spirit, try following these five strategies:

1. Live and lead for something bigger than yourself – “It’s not about you.” Rick Warren’s famous opening line of his book, The Purpose Driven Life, simply and succinctly illustrates a universal truth: your life and leadership will experience greater joy and fulfillment when you realize you aren’t the center of the universe. If your life and leadership is all about you, you have no choice but to be severely wounded by the trials of life. But if your life and leadership is driven by a higher purpose, something bigger than yourself, you are able to place the difficulties of life in proper perspective. For me, it’s my faith in Jesus that drives my leadership priorities. It’s my True North, as Bill George says, that guides the beliefs, values, and actions that help me lead in authentic ways. Identifying your higher purpose and calling is the most important strategy to ward away the debilitating effects of wounded leadership.

2. Have an abundance mentality – We have Stephen R. Covey to thank for helping us better understand the power of having an abundance mentality. As Covey explains in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, healthy leaders are others-focused and understand there is more than enough power, resources, and authority to share among everyone. As opposed to having a scarcity mentality—a perspective that information, ideas, and responsibility need to be hoarded—well-grounded leaders know they are here to serve and meet the needs of others. When the wounds of life and leadership begin to accumulate, abundance-minded leaders keep giving themselves away because they know it will come back to them tenfold.

3. Surround yourself with truth tellers – Every leader needs a few close associates who aren’t afraid to speak the honest truth. These truth tellers keep you grounded in reality and hold you accountable to living in alignment with your leadership purpose. Most of our leadership wounds are self-afflicted. Especially as we move higher up in leadership positions, we become more self-focused and less sensitive to the needs of others around us. If we aren’t careful, we begin to slowly drift off course and gradually start acting in ways counter to our ideals. Surround yourself with people who will compassionately, lovingly, yet honestly and directly, tell you the truth even if it’s difficult to hear.

4. Guard your heart – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) As the great proverb illustrates, everything you do as a leader flows from your heart—your emotional core, spirit, or soul. There are a number of ways you can guard your heart as a leader. Beyond the five strategies listed in this article, consider these others:

  • Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who inspire you to be your best.
  • Stay away from negative people who bring you down or detract from your leadership purpose.
  • Read books, blogs, and articles that help you grow your leadership knowledge and skills.
  • Be purposeful about identifying your leadership point of view—the values, beliefs, and ideals that define your leadership philosophy.

5. Practice forgiveness – Refusing to forgive ourselves and others keeps us mired in our leadership dysfunction. As I mentioned last week, refusing to grant forgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die; it does nothing but harm ourselves. Forgiveness grants freedom from past hurts. It serves as a regular cleansing of our leadership wounds, keeping them from getting infected and allowing them to properly heal. Yes, wounds can leave scars, but scar tissue is stronger and more resilient. Forgiveness makes you a stronger and more resilient leader.

Leadership is a demanding enterprise that requires our very best and it’s vital to have clear strategies in place that protect you from the inevitable wounds that will come your way. Feel free to leave a comment about the strategies you employ to help you lead at your best.

11 Comments on “5 Strategies to Cultivate a Healthy Leadership Spirit

  1. Hi Randy

    I agree that Rule number 4 is the core. The only person we are allowed to change one self. If we want to change anything we have to change our thoughts. Concerning forgiveness one of Buddha’s sayings popped up in my head: ‘Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’

    Have a wonderful week.
    Brigitte

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      • In exchange I will try to use proper grammar next time. My first phrase should read: “The only person we are allowed to change IS oneself. ” Sorry.

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  2. I’m thankful to know as a leader that I am clay and God is the Potter. And God, as the Potter, sends articles like this to me to help refine me… working in many ways… through the Word, prayer, what other members of the body say, to ultimately form me as a leader Because, quite honestly, I’d never trust me to lead anything. So, since God called me to be a leader, and I’m fully unqualified personally, He’s going to have to do the work in me and through me as a Potter with clay. That’s all I can say. People always want me to lead… and I always feel incapable of doing it… but since they compel me… and God compels me… I do it in His name. I think myself the least qualified. I know me. But, people must be seeing Christ in me… because I cannot lead at all.. I must rely on God.

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  3. Randy, each strategy is vital whether one is leading an organization or one’s own life. We humans all have “stuff” affecting our leadership. When it is any part of our personal past or present we are weighted down and our perspective is unbalanced. This prevents any clarity in our “inner life as a leader”. Through the power of Christ alone, my own personal and professional inner self have been healed using the strategies you enumerate above. The result? My leadership skills grew exponentially yet naturally based on the inner change. Sustained self-leadership in multiple situations requires intentional focus on these same strategies. I gladly tell anyone who wants to grow to be intentional, do the work to go beyond yourself and never lose sight of your values. I am thankful for the wisdom and encouragement of the Blanchard organization.

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    • Hi Jane,

      Thanks for your personal testimonial! Performing the difficult work of gaining clarity on our leadership values and motivations greatly increases the positive impact we have on others.

      My best to you,

      Randy

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  4. Great article!!! Especially about giving yourself away, realizing the truth that there is always more then enough for everyone. Of course, my favorite is guard you heart, for we all tend to mirror each other. The question is would you want to mirror those you are closest to?

    Look forward to more great articles.

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  5. Pingback: Coram Deo ~ 3.5.2015 | Coram Deo ~

  6. Pingback: Weekly Education Links (weekly) | A Principal's Life

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