Susan MacKenty Brady will be taking the stage at Linkage’s Global Institute for Leadership Development® on Monday, October 23 to share a practical construct that has helped her and thousands of leaders whom she’s coached to navigate the relationships that impact our ability to lead effectively. In this blog, she shares some of the thinking behind her upcoming keynote. Read her last blog “Growing Up with the Toilet Seats Up“ to learn more about what has influenced her approach to leadership.
Our recent research, Rethinking Leadership: The Power of Purpose, revealed that the most effective leaders do things for a purpose and with a purpose. Leadership is less about being methodical and more about being very clear about what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we are doing it. Ultimately, purposeful leaders make and keep five commitments to themselves and their organizations. The foundational commitment is becoming purposeful—that is consciously bettering ourselves and growing with determination, compassion, self-awareness and courage. All of us—regardless of age, level or position—are on a journey of maturation and self-discovery as leaders.
All too often, we come across well-intentioned leaders who leave behind a relational wake. They may think that they are coming across as inspired, but they leave little room for others to contribute. Or, how about the leader who has a firm grasp and credibility in their functional area, but misses countless opportunities to learn from others—always positioning themselves as the smartest person in the room. As an executive coach, I’ve worked with brilliant leaders—many of whom have risen to the top, but at the same time have managed to alienate the very people with whom they need to collaborate with to realize a goal or vision.
The soft stuff really matters
The longer that I am a student, teacher and practitioner of leadership, the more evidence I see that the hardest part of leadership to master is, in fact, the soft stuff. It’s managing ourselves in ways that invite and ignite others. I also have yet to meet a leader who gets out of bed in the morning to purposefully make others feel small, or a leader who may have greater potential who purposefully feels unworthy of advancement. And yet, we are surrounded by people who behave in ways that diminish their own impact and the impact of others.
It is for this reason—our ultimate efficacy as leaders—that we must take the job of understanding ourselves seriously. Who, where and what triggers us? When do we tend to jump in and think we know best? When do we tend to step back and not engage? What are we thinking and feeling and how does this impact how we show up? What are those critical voices in our head saying about us and about those around us?
Practice (yes, practice) self-awareness
The opportunity that I see for leaders as we evolve is to foster a practice of self-awareness. At some point, we need to question if the way we are thinking and feeling—and then speaking—is resulting in the impact we want to have on others. To do this, we need to get immensely curious about the stories we tell ourselves about our own behaviors and the behaviors of others and develop an internal muscle that helps us navigate the difficult business of all things relationships.
One such method that I have been utilizing and teaching for several years is the practice of returning to a place in my mind where I consciously choose curiosity and compassion for myself or someone else. Especially when I’m triggered—like when I’m seeing things differently, on the receiving end of feedback, giving feedback to someone else, or want to influence a specific direction. I call this coaching my inner critic—the voice in my head that is critical of myself or critical of others. This is a moment-to-moment practice, and one where I return to a place of curiosity and compassion at moments when I might prefer to shut down or lash out. I am human, and thus imperfect at this. And, I am committed to this process of ongoing self-awareness so that I can stay productive in my relationships and in my leadership.