Actually, what is sustainable leadership?
Much of the work I do is helping Clients adopt a sustainable leadership practice, which blends methodologies and practices in emotional resilience, mindfulness and wellbeing, supported by leadership theory. It is an assessment of your current energy levels.
By understanding what is fuelling you at any point in time, you have the ability to make different choices, and alter your focus to drive performance that lasts.
Most of us understand the way we’re currently ‘operating’ isn’t healthy, sustainable or encouraging wellbeing for ourselves and future generations. We’re often stuck, and can’t see the alternative way, or believe in the incentives to take a different path. I see time and time again, people not taking responsibility for their wellbeing management, pointing the finger at their employer or external circumstances for the high levels of stress and sickness. People aren’t equipped with the knowledge or tools on how to take care of themselves. The pace of work, demands of the family, expectations on friendships, volume of life admin, and pressure to be ‘always on’, is being sped up. This isn’t going to change.
The Australian Psychological Society runs an ongoing ‘Health and Wellbeing study’, to identify the top stressors of Australian workers, the top five were identified as; 49% of us are worried about personal finances, 45% on family issues, 44% on personal health, 40% on trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and 38% worry about the health of other close to us. This indicates to me that not only are we stressed about our health and lifestyle, compounded with not knowing how to manage or change circumstances of our health. The Black Dog Institute also released a stat that one in five Australians are suffering from a mild level mental illness, and 65% don’t seek any type of treatment. This means 20% of Australians, likely to be people who are productive and valuable workers performing at high levels, usually dismiss ‘stress and burnout’ as part of the course of modern life.
There has been an abundance of tips on how to manage your time and finances, now emerging is the capability to look at a more valuable resource, your energy. Books such as ‘Thrive’ are the perfect precursor to this article, and I love that Arianna Huffington is endorsing sleep in her latest book.
What are the foundations of sustainable leadership?
We all have a finite amount of energy. What we’re not often aware of is how to manage it effectively or invest it wisely. A sustainable leadership practice is deeply grounded in personal responsibility, in fact it’s where it all starts. The ability to recognise what boosts or drains your energy and how to make choices on what best fuels you.
Ultimately energy is a precursor to performance. Elevated energy levels allow us to perform better for longer and thus thrive or operate in the ‘peak’ zone, like an athlete may. This can only be achieved when we look at the situation holistically. Reviewing what impacts our energy across four aspects;
Mental aspect; your ability to focus, have clarity and not give in to distraction.
Emotional aspect; ability to reconcile your feelings, foster relationships with yourself and others, and bring your best self to situations.
Physical aspect; what you put into your body, impact of body systems and hormones, how to replenish and work with your own rhythms effectively.
Spiritual aspect; a sense of connection with self and others, having purpose and values you align to, time to reflect and find meaning in what you do.
Why is it important?
We need to learn how to manage our energy. I’ll repeat again, you only have a finite amount each day. Invest it wisely, and look for the return on the investment.
Four key concepts come to mind on why it’s important…
Awareness; if we’re able to control the direction of our awareness (what we shine a spotlight on) within our mind (think of this like a vast open space), then we’ll be able to control our energy better. By managing where attention goes, how we use it, and how this translates to the creation of our reality. Consider how many times a day your awareness wanders to insignificant topics, time wasting and off track vs. things that are important to you or what you want to achieve.
Integration; when working with Clients we re-build foundations based on experiences to date, focus on strengths we can enhance and challenges we can overcome, incrementally. Knee jerk reactions and bold claims aren’t sustainable. Small pivots are achievable, keep you on track and motivated. Consider the difference one small tweak can make… an extra 15 minutes of uninterrupted sleep vs. wrestling with snooze three times, taking the stairs to one meeting per day, bring healthy lunch four days and a treat yourself once a week.
Alignment; we all like feeling congruent, not out of whack, we often deplete our energy reserves when an internal battle is going on (yes, those critical or disparate voices!) I use a fabulous process on alignment called Head, Heart and Gut. It’s where we can start to really pinpoint beliefs, as thoughts, emotions and an inner knowing or intuition around situations to reconcile and align, to guide decision-making.
Willpower; not many of us are taught the art of concentration. How often do you finish what you start? On time, and on par with your quality standards? Effective energy management requires completion of tasks, to do it a little better than your own expectations, and to a level you’re proud of. Reflect how ‘focusing’ and ‘completing’ impact your level of satisfaction – and subsequent energy levels.
What are the benefits?
We become good at what we practice. Being able to shift gears on your energy levels is an art, feeling better means you perform better, in all aspects of life – your goals, relationships and level of fulfilment with life.
I encourage Clients to build their own toolkit as often it’s not a one size fits all – not everyone can sit quietly in a room and meditate, but many of us can walk and enjoy the spacious-ness of being able to focus our thoughts, or even slow them down (even if it’s just a few seconds!)
How can you integrate it into your way of being?
Experiment a little…
How can you take responsibility? How can you start with one thing, and do it really well?