Leadership is a responsibility. One that bears tremendous weight, often in ways we can’t even begin to imagine or measure. The stresses that we face internally are only half the battle; we must also have the courage to pause and examine what lies ahead—all with the ultimate goal of remaining relevant within our teams and organizations.
At Linkage, we understand that leading effectively is a purposeful practice that produces results. But what are the things that get in the way of purposeful leadership? What stops us from being truly present?
Listening to our Inner Critic is one of the biggest ways we get in our own way, as Susan MacKenty Brady explains in her book Mastering Your Inner Critic & 7 Other High Hurdles to Advancement. The Inner Critic is that nagging voice in the back of our head keeping us from achieving our highest potential as a leader. Our Inner Critic has a field day with the long-standing false narratives we believe about ourselves.
If we continue to allow the Inner Critic to have free rein, we lose out in every sense—as leaders, friends, parents, and partners.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Wellness is a state of being in good health, especially while actively pursuing a goal. It’s the active process of paying more attention to habits that help us become better versions of ourselves. And as leaders, we have an extra responsibility to be serious about keeping our bodies and minds healthy.
I recently facilitated a healthy leadership session at Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute™ in Phoenix, Arizona, where I had the pleasure of working with women leaders from across the globe.
I’ve compiled three of the lesser-known wellness practices I shared with these women leaders, in hopes that these tactics will help you:
1. Hyper-Elevate Your Self-Awareness Thermometer
The first step in using wellness to mitigate your Inner Critic is to become conscious of the problem sooner.
When we become better attuned with our bodies, we are able to notice the symptoms of our Inner Critic acting up. Then, after the moment passes, we take the time to reflect upon why we were triggered in the first place. This process allows us to slow down our thinking, press pause, get curious, and then step away and reframe how we want to “show up.”
When you’ve gained a heightened awareness of your Inner Critic, you can reduce the amount of time you stay in a triggered state. The goal here is to build up stronger neural pathways—the same ones that help bring us back down to our compassionate center.
2. Look at the World with Fresh Eyes
Why should a leader—who handles plenty of complex problems and daily dilemmas—try to explore totally new, out-of-the-box perspectives that may make her feel uncomfortable?
When you attempt to solve a problem you’ve never faced before, or when you try something new or unfamiliar, your body and brain have a big influence on how you react. Essentially, our mammalian brain and unconscious body are preprogrammed to look for the bad and avoid it at all costs. The problem with this instinct is that although past experience does help us learn from mistakes, it also blocks the path to new possibilities and perspectives.
Here’s how you can embrace fresh perspectives as a leader: First, manage with an attitude of gratitude. Scientific studies show that when we explore difficult or complex situations from a state of appreciation and wonder, we are more likely to be creative.
Second, take on and truly embrace meditation. This simple and consistent practice has a tremendous impact on our bodies and well-being. Meditation helps us reprogram our brains so we can open the gateway to new thoughts—becoming less reactive to situations that don’t matter.
Finally, be curious and intentional about creating a culture of inclusion. Studies show that more diversity in the room is a gateway to innovation, and being continually exposed to a diversity of opinions and voices helps you enhance your decision-making abilities. A fresh perspective allows you to identify opportunities you may have been blind to in the past.
3. Say “No” More—and Mean It
Dr. Tara Swart, a neuroscientist, leadership coach, award-winning author and medical doctor who will appear at the 2019 Women in Leadership Institute, reminds us that we have only a finite amount of energy each day and throughout our lifetimes. Are you protecting your time?
You have the power to set limits—and as a leader, saying “no” allows you to respect your limited time and energy resources.
That’s where the art and science of delegation comes in, advises Susan MacKenty Brady in her book. When we delegate projects or responsibility, it doesn’t diminish our authority—it allows for the multiplication of our leadership impact. My leadership philosophy with regard to delegation is simple: What can be delegated should be delegated.
This practice allows you the space to empower and coach others. It allows you to look up from the day-to-day grind to seize opportunities—or “course correct” around potential dangers.
Here’s the bottom line:
All of us—every single one of us—have the power to master our Inner Critic and realize new potential and reach new heights in our personal and professional lives. Armed with these wellness techniques, you’ll be on your way to returning to your compassionate center—and becoming the leader you were meant to be.
What wellness and mindfulness techniques do you use to master your Inner Critic? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Linkage’s Advancing Women Leaders Academy is a 9-module, on-site learning experience that seeks to equip women with actionable steps and practices to address the barriers that impede their advancement in the workplace, including the Inner Critic.