Stress impacts everyone in one way or another. Some people withdraw while others lash out in frustration and anxiety. As a leader, every decision, action and behavior you make impacts your direct reports, your teams or your organization as a whole. Unfortunately during difficult times you can’t just hide, waiting until things get better or pass.
Many different traits can be used to describe one’s leadership style: vision, empowerment of your direct reports, communication style, ego control, listening ability, validation approach, supervisory skills, decision making, coaching skills and many more.
Self-management, regardless of what is going on around you, is a vital trait of all successful leaders. If you have excellent people skills and are a decisive manager, but you deviate from these skills during uncertain periods, you are sending a message to your direct reports that you can’t successfully manage your own emotions and actions. This can have drastic consequences on the performance, motivation and productivity of your team.
It’s natural to ebb and flow as a leader. No one is perfect. No one is immune to mistakes, errors in judgment or the inability to control oneself no matter the circumstance. The question is, how are the changes in your leadership style having an impact on morale, communication, team spirit or the trust and respect your direct reports have for you? And if so, what can you do about this?
Kevin Cashman in his book, Leading From the Inside Out (Berrett-Koehler, 2008) stated that the key to successful self-management and ultimately leadership is the ability to function from the “inside out” and not the “outside in.” In other words, become a master at remaining present, centered, calm and focused no matter what is going on around you. I have seen many leaders who just seem not to ‘get it’. They are unable see how their behaviors impact the morale and actions of their direct reports. They keep pointing their fingers at others rather than looking in the mirror.
In my work as an executive and leadership coach, one of the first thing I do is have the client start a process of self-awareness; learning who they are and why they act in certain ways in different situations. How they act under stress is a critical part of that understanding and how their actions are being perceived by others.
One of the most vital leadership traits for success is consistency—the ability to remain focused on the task at hand no matter what is happening around you.
So, how consistent are you? How would your direct reports rate you? Think about it.