Leadership Legacy or Leadership Lethargy?

Creating a Leadership Legacy is my new thing. It’s the vision for my business and the core promise of my leadership coaching and signature leadership program – Leadership. Done By Design.

You see, I always thought I was a smart and savvy leader. That I’d grown my career at the right pace, that I was heading in the direction I was meant to. I went to Uni, managed the balance of qualification to experience, participated in the professional development opportunities made available to me by my employers and did what I needed to do to stay up to date and current in my chosen profession.

It took me from a casual sales assistant to an industry trainer in a large retail organisation. And later, from an APS6 to an SESB1 in the public service.

It was great strategy….. until it wasn’t.

You see when I was at the height of my career in the public service, I hit a roadblock. A clash of values. As a senior leader, I was expected to both endorse and tolerate behaviour that went against everything I believed in and in all honestly, I didn’t know what to do or how to handle it. I tried. I looked everywhere I knew to find the answers, but I kept hitting a brick wall. So, I left.

That was 5 years ago, and in setting up my own business I’ve learnt a lot since then.

So, here’s what I wish I’d known back then.

1. I was never going to find the answers I was looking for.

They don’t exist. The hard truth is there is no right way to handle these situations there is only your way. You’ll only know what your way is if you are clear and conscious about your values. I thought I knew what my values where. I was certainly clear on them when things where easy. However, when things became more difficult, and I’d already started to compromise them along the way to fit in and be who others expected me to be, they became hazy and unclear. I no longer knew what was important and therefore it was so hard to know what to do. I’d lost my north star.

  • Are you really clear about your values and what’s important to you?

  • Have you watered your values down or adjusted them to fit in and be accepted?

  • How will you know when that line has been crossed?

2. Psychological safety is a fundamental leadership responsibility.

When we don’t feel safe, we have a physiological reaction. Our body goes into what’s often referred to as a trauma response. This is what I experienced and as a result was unable to make sense of what was happening and became paralysed and unable to decide what to do next. When we are in this state our nervous system is shot, and we are unable to regulate our emotional wellbeing. We often experience what is referred to as the fight or flight response. Our blood leaves our brain and travels to our extremities (so we can physically fight or run!) leaving our brain empty and without what’s needed to process complex information leaving us feeling foggy and unable to make decisions. Our world closes in on us and we can no longer see what is right in front of us.

  • Will you recognise when you experience this “trauma” response?

  • Do you know what triggers you and what to to look out for so you can manage and moderate yourself when you find yourself up against it?

  • Is the culture you work in competitive or collaborative? Do your peers and your leaders have your back? Or, are they waiting on the sidelines for you to fail? Do you have strategies in place to deal with this?

3. Our unchecked childhood beliefs are real; as is their impact on us

When we are young, we process what’s going on around us through the eyes of a child. We don’t have the life experience or maturity of an adult to make sense of things in the same way we do as adults. Our priority as child is to feel accepted by those most important to us. We take our cues on how we must be from our parents and our caregivers and form beliefs about ourselves that align with this. These beliefs manifest themselves in many ways. For example, it could be perfectionism for those who felt most loved from getting good grades at school, excelling at sports etc. It could be staying small and quiet for those who were rewarded for being “good” and not disagreeable. These beliefs and behaviours served us well as children but don’t serve us well as adults, especially as leaders. If we don’t uncover and question these subconscious beliefs as adults, they continue to direct our behaviour and prevent us from becoming all that we can be. For me, it was my good girl tendencies that where my undoing in the end. I was unable to be be the adult that saw what was happening for what it was. I adopted those child like behaviours that had kept me safe, unable to see the big picture and navigate my way through it to a reasonable conclusion.

  • What are your go-to traits when you feel under pressure, stressed?

  • What childhood experience did they come from?

  • What core belief sits at the heart of this behaviour?

4. If we don’t know where we are going, we don’t know where we will end up.

My businesses name “done by design” was created on this premise. It wasn’t until after I left my public service career that I really understood the power of intention. This isn’t a new, revolutionary concept. We all already know this and yet so many of us leave our lives and careers to fate. Consciously deciding what we want to achieve as a leader, what legacy we want to leave and then understanding who we need to be in order to achieve that was the missing piece for me. If I had done this, and invested time, energy and resources into living into this vision then I would have known exactly what to do when I found myself in a difficult situation. There were signs I could have seen and, options and decisions that I could have made along the way that did align with my values and the way I saw myself. But, without this clarity, this sense of purpose and without a deep understanding of my triggers and what was happening to me on a physiological level I was unable to put myself in the driver seat and navigate my way through a difficult time.

  • Do have a vision for how you want to be known as a leader?

  • What do you do everyday to reinforce and remind yourself of this?

  • Who do you need to be to create that legacy?

Our personal growth is just as, if not more important than our professional growth. Having a deep understanding of who we are and who we want to be is the answer to the questions I was asking myself all those years ago. If you resonate with this but don’t know where to start, then I’d love to invite you to join my mailing list. Each week I’ll provide with you some food for thought and some practical ideas on things you can do to live and lead with intention and create your own Leadership Legacy. You can sign up here.

I’d love it of you joined me on this journey.

PS. Want to try out some tips on what I think are the most important things you need to know about leading with courage and vulnerability? Then download my FREE publication from my Resources page here.

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