Last fall, I read a great book about leadership: Resonant Leadership. Co-authored by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, the basic premise is that leadership is relationship based. While this might not come as a surprise, what really resonated is the fact that leadership should be rooted in an emotional connection, based on mindfulness, hope and compassion. Perhaps the best definition of leadership comes from one of my favorite lines in the book: “Leadership is about followers, not subscribers.”
Don’t fall victim to power stress
Leaders can feel immense pressure: power stress. Going unaddressed, this type of stress can lead to something called the “sacrifice syndrome,” which often leads to burnout and damaged careers, broken relationships and more. We have all been there at some point in our careers, but unfortunately, we might not recognize it in time. The exploration of these topics will undoubtedly help leaders identify that they’re currently in the power stress/sacrifice syndrome cycle – or that they have been. Ultimately, though, it will help work through the process of getting back on track.
That brings me to the next thing that really struck me.
Getting on track… but whose track?
One of the critical components of being a great leader is understanding yourself. I have talked about the importance of self-awareness quite a bit and preach it in my executive leadership class at Villanova University. I talk to new hires about it during their initial week at SEI. And I personally practice it every day. Heck, writing this piece is a big exercise in self-awareness for me.
During a recent meeting, a younger colleague shared her thoughts about the pressure of peers. She did not express it in those words, but her message was clear.
She asked, “How do you know when it is the right time to buy a house? Or get married?” Today, due to social media, we are connected to our friends to a greater degree than any other time in history. I could instantly identify with her struggle. I remember feeling that way when I graduated business school. It was the beginning of being connected 24×7 through email and text. I found myself comparing my life to others. I wasn’t jealous, but I was competitive; I wanted to make sure I was on track.
So when she mentioned it, I understood her issue and I could only imagine what it must feel like in the age of social media. People today post about their every thought. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for yourself, but how you determine what is best for you when the “perceived” best for everyone in your life is literally at your scrolling fingertips 24×7? Who defines your “track? ” This is where the book comes in again.
The “ought-self” versus the “ideal-self”
The book explores two states of self-awareness: the “ought-self” and the “ideal self.” Powerful, right? Most people live their life through the “ought-self.” What am I supposed to be? What would my parents want? What did my professor suggest? What did my friends do? There is nothing wrong with seeking their guidance and advice, but they should not determine your future.
Your future should be based on your “ideal self.” What is your ideal self? It is what you dream about. That’s right….dream. Think 5 to 10 years from now. Imagine no conditions, no constraints. What do you want your future to look like? Think and talk about what you see in great detail. What does your family look like, your friends, your home, career, etc.? Spare no detail. It should be based on your values, experiences and dreams.
Be selfish. What makes you happy? Be honest and (most importantly) do not write what others would want you to say – write what you truly want. Be greedy and think about yourself for a while. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but I promise it is a powerful, worthwhile exercise. Then, once you have it documented, look at where you are today and start to plan a course towards achieving your dream. It is an amazing exercise. In fact, the book walks you through how to do it. I followed their exercise and I loved it. I wrote a personal vision and shared it with my wife.
I hope you will consider thinking more critically about leadership and trying this exercise. But even if you don’t, I’ll leave you with two very important questions: Are you on track? And whose track are you on?
This blog post originally appeared on Money Inc.