Yes, you read that title right…I wrote this blog on my vacation!  No, I did not bring a computer or a pad of paper and pencil  – I  designed it in my head as I walked around London, had my morning coffee, toured historical sites, and had lively discussions over dinner.  Some people think in the car, at the pool, or even in the shower.  I do my best thinking when I get out of my regular routine – as I take off on the runway and know that I am about to embark on an adventure…a sense of excitement about the possibilities comes over me.  I don’t have to be “on” for anyone,  live by my calendar, pore over spreadsheets, or jump on Zoom meetings.  I love my work, but there is still a sense of freedom!

We saved our American Airlines and Marriott points this year and took the family to London.  Some of us had visited before, and some hadn’t.  We stayed for ten days and had a fantastic time.  So much of what we saw was historical from Churchill’s War Room to The Tower of London. So what exactly did I think about during this vacation?  It was random musings on leadership, of course, since that is what I live and breathe every day. I distilled it into three concepts that are easy to understand but hard to practice.  If you take on the challenge of these disciplines, your leadership could be greatly enhanced.  All of this being said with the awareness that we are all naturally good at many things and have developmental opportunities in other areas…so a lot of grace for all of us as I push our thinking!

3 Strategies to Accelerate Your Leadership Capabilities

1.  Protect Your White Space.
So back to my vacation…Every morning I would get up and walk around the Chelsea neighborhood we were staying in.  I would get a coffee, do a little reading, people-watch, and daydream.  I always get lost in my thoughts during this precious time, and time can escape me if I’m not careful. I do my best thinking during this time to myself – using both the creative and strategic sides of my brain is a gift I am always thankful for.  Free time or “white space” to relax or enjoy an activity will give you that opportunity.

A sense of being lost in activity is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a guru in the motivational psychology world, calls “flow”.  If you’ve ever heard someone describe a time when their performance excelled and used the term “in the zone”, then they are experiencing flow. It occurs when you concentrate completely on the task, your “work” is effortless, you get clarity in thought, and time seems to stand still.  I would give myself a B on this one – always working on making that space.  How about you?

Leadership Challenge:  What activity (or non-activity) can you integrate into your week that allows you to have some white space allowing free-flowing ideas that will positively impact both your creative and strategic thinking?  Can you eek out even 30 minutes a week to be by yourself, in nature, or do something you enjoy to free up your brain?

2. Be The Rock During the Storm.
 On June 4, 1940, the future of Great Britain seemed to hang in the balance. Nazi tyranny had spread to Western Europe, and bombing campaigns were becoming more widespread.  “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be,” Prime Minister Winston Churchill urged his fellow countrymen. “We shall fight on the beaches, and we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Though our leadership stakes are far different than Churchill’s, the notion of being resilient and never relenting inevitably appears in various aspects of our lives.  Leadership can be lonely.  It can feel like you get one problem solved and another pops up.  I know sometimes I feel strong in those challenges and other days I can feel defeated and want to give up.  But, you are that person in the organization that people look to for guidance.  You have influence and what we know from research is that people want a steady hand.  How do you do in this area?  Anything you need to improve?

Leadership Challenge:  Resilience isn’t just about getting through tough times; it’s about returning stronger and wiser.  Is there someone you can do a post-action debrief with and have an objective view of what you might do differently next time?  Are there strengths you need to leverage or your reactions that need to be managed?

3.  Aspire To Be Known As a Benevolent Leader.
During this trip to the UK, it struck me how important Queen Elizabeth was to this country.  She never wanted to be queen, but she gave her desired life of living with her horses and dogs in the country to serve Great Britain.  She knew her needs should be overshadowed by the subjects she was charged with loving and protecting.  There is an important message for leaders here. Be a benevolent leader.

Benevolent leaders stay above the fray.  They see the big picture.  They know what is happening around them and have grace for others.  They take very seriously the welfare of those in their charge.  They ask what it will take to create a better environment for themselves and those around them.  A benevolent leader is pragmatic, has a generosity of spirit, and always looks to create a sustainable future for all stakeholders.  I am constantly looking to improve this – I’m not there yet.  Dig deep…how are you doing?

Leadership Challenge: Listen to and observe those leaders that you find inspiring.  What is it that most resonate with you?  Choose one behavior they have and try it out in your leadership journey.  Remember, it is not a full makeover…just a small tweak that will make a  difference in your leadership, making an even bigger difference in your culture.

This week choose the one of these three that you know is a challenge for you and try out a few new behaviors…then let us know what kind of change it has made for you and your team.  Good luck and have a great week!