It’s no secret that I have had to learn how to work on myself (or battle myself, some might say) to get to the point I am now. I have written about this several times before on LinkedIn. I always felt as though I had to tame the beast within that was creating the chaos I didn’t need or want in my life.
This is my chance to share part of my story so you can hopefully learn how to work on yourself.
I would feel as though things were out of my control and I was just the observer in my own life. I would feel stuck and then break everything. Not in a physical sense, but rather my thought process was that I just needed to change careers, move cities, or anything that would break the status quo.
I became adept at what I called chasing buses. Finding something new to go after and then hyper-fixating on that.
You will hear me talk about human potential a lot in my articles. My bad habit was whenever I started to succeed, my subconscious would say nope, we can’t have this. It would create behaviors that were destructive. I used to use crudity and humor to deflect the focus from me as an individual.
It took a lot of time, money, coaches, mentors, and sheer grit to learn my triggers and patterns. A lot of it was that good old friend of shame and internalized homophobia. The rest were hangovers of different life periods. No family drama was a blessing!
I thought now would be good to share a bit of my story. I still struggle with a lot of these from time to time; the difference is I have learned to recognize them and then reflect on them. I have developed daily habits of success that keep me grounded.
Know that I write not from a textbook point of view but rather from life’s lessons. This is my story, but take from it what works and shows you how to work on yourself. I have had to develop my own daily habits to find my success.
The Roots of Self-Awareness in Leadership
Unveiling the Concept of Leadership Intelligence (LQ)
My past ten-plus years have been all about personal growth, and if there is one thing that stands out in great leaders (and amazing people, for that matter) is self-awareness.
It’s not merely about having a high Intelligence Quotient (IQ) or Emotional Intelligence (EQ) anymore; what I’ve discovered on my path to greater self-understanding and personal development is the concept of what I call Leadership Intelligence, or “LQ.”
How does this show up for me and my leadership style – total transparency? I know my strengths, and I also know where I am weak. I tell my team this.
My team knows where they stand and my promises to them:
- I am here for you and with you.
- I will always be honest with you.
- I have total trust in you and your intentions.
- Mess up? No problem, let’s work it out together.
- I also take the brunt of anything. Even when a team member F’s up, it is on me; protecting them is everything.
- I will also call out any BS from them or others. Integrity is number one!
I will also say, ‘Hey, this is where I struggle.’ They know that they have to remind me of things every now and then. It’s a trade-off, and they feel psychologically safe. They know where I am good and where I am still working on it.
Too often, leaders feel they have to hide their weaknesses; they don’t realize this is a weakness, and everyone sees right through it.
The Evolution from IQ and EQ to LQ
LQ transcends the capabilities defined by IQ and EQ by encompassing a deep understanding of oneself and one’s impact on others. It’s not just about being intellectually astute or emotionally competent; it’s about knowing YOUR strengths and YOUR limitations. This heightened self-awareness significantly influences your quality of life and personal relationships.
This skill is what ties everything together and enables you to apply it. I have a high IQ; I also have a high EQ; these two alone don’t make you a good leader. LQ guides you on how to apply them situationally.
The Journey from Resume to Realization
Right from my university days, I was always taught that you can tell a good leader by their resume. When hiring leaders, we look at their background and key performance indicators (KPI’s). We look at if a person is good at their job, not if they are good at leading. Are they good at doing what they do day to day.
I experienced this mid-way through my advertising career, promoted through tenour and skills. Suddenly I have a team – I failed miserably at this. My poor team had to make up for where I lacked the skills. This was not fair to them or me, and it led to a huge hit on my confidence. Don’t worry, though, my subconscious kicked in, and I switched careers. Damn, those buses…
So, what am I trying to say? We do not set our leaders up for success; our priorities are wrong. Yet, this is the primary way we recruit and promote. Sure, there are behavioral interviews, but they don’t do a lot. I have seen it time and time again.
Self-Work and the Transformative Power of Mindfulness
After a mini breakdown in my late 20s and seeking help, I started to learn more and understand more. My quest had begun – it was a real Hero’s Journey moment for me. Time to leave my Ordinary World.
Learn about the hero’s journey. It will help you on
your own journey.
This taught me the power of resilience and bouncing back. I started to identify the triggers that would make me behave a certain way. I still do – just yesterday, I had to sit myself down and have a hard conversation – with myself.
This journey of self-improvement included mindfulness practices, extensive self-work (the work), and profound self-reflection. It was as if I took a mirror (and a blade) to my soul, finally willing to look past the smudges and see the real image staring back at me.
This process is hard, uncomfortable, and often painful. Just like cancer, self-doubt, poor self-talk, and limiting beliefs need to be cut out, or it will spread and invade everything.
A New Status Quo: A Newfound Sense of Purpose and Clarity
The years of introspection led me to the concept of LG. It gave me a sense of clarity and purpose. It led me to my why, which is why I started this blog.
I have seen the power of an organization that believes in leadership. A program I did at my current employer, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, ended my quest for my primary trigger, “shame.” Now that I have taken out the boss, dealing with its henchmen is much easier.
The Interplay of Mental Health and Leadership
Mental Health Matters in Leadership
The number of times I have been in leadership meetings where we are talking about mental health and our teams. I look around the room and wonder what makes us capable of having this discussion. Too often, leaders are making decisions for their teams with all the biases they can muster. The intentions are great; the impact can have a huge effect. I want to talk to them about how to work on yourself.
The elephant in the room is the mental health of leaders. As discussed earlier, we dump people into leadership roles without the rules of engagement. They often feel that they have to be buttoned up and exude confidence. It’s almost a ‘boys don’t cry’ wolf whistle.
I have been told before that I am too open with my team. That I share too much. That I am not ‘acting like a leader.’ Yet, recently, I have had the people I was leading say that I was the best leader they have had.
Jump back up to my promises – trust and honesty. I am always my authentic self with my teams. They are not dumb; they know when you are being fake or ‘acting like a leader.’
This ‘feedback’ would then lead to self-doubt in my ability to lead. My boss is saying I was not being leaderly.
I have come to realize that this was more about them than me. They were worried about how they were appearing to their boss. This ladder of projection creates mental health and insecurity issues right up the food chain of leadership.
Breaking Bad Habits and Fostering Good Ones
Bad habits such as ignoring signs of stress or putting work before well-being can sabotage your leadership potential and quality of life.
Last year I burnt out terribly. I am still suffering from it. I had taken on too much, and my husband and I had made the decision to move to Palm Springs. This meant that once a week, I had to commute to LA and back, staying with one of my best friends overnight.
A combination of burnout and long drives took its toll. I could not get healthy, and my body collapsed. Whenever I felt okay, the drive would send me backward, and the cycle would start again the next week. I took more sick days in a ten-month period than in the previous ten years combined.
This forced me to create good habits. I had to put myself first. I needed to take control back, even if the organization was resistant. The relationship with myself and my health far outwayed my relationship with work.
This push and pull between self and work brought back old emotions I thought I had gotten rid of. Luckily I had done the work and could identify them pretty quickly.
The Role of Self-Compassion in Leadership
Self-compassion plays an essential role in mental health and, subsequently, effective leadership. It’s a quality that helps us cope with life’s challenges and better understand the needs of those we lead.
Self-compassion is what saved me. I knew myself, and I had done the work. This gave me compassion for my situation.
I had recently started studying the philosophy of Stoicism. One of the Stoic virtues is Wisdom. I now live by this, and it is a guiding principle. It essentially says:
“Control that which you can control. Be at peace with that which you cannot control.”
This rule builds self-compassion. It quiets the voice and enables you to detach from the situation when you have no control over it. You are then able to focus solely on that which you can have an impact on.
The Transformational Power of Gratitude
One thing I could control was my dialogue. That annoying little (BIG) voice we all have that likes to create catastrophic dramas in your mind. You could be having a great day, and then one car might cut you off, or your boss says something dumb – suddenly, your entire day is ruined, and your imagination creates your own personal Game of Thrones.
Your subconscious can’t tell the difference between the truth (what actually is happening) versus your made-up BS. That dragon you have just imagined metaphorically is suddenly real and very scary.
The way I solved this was by being grateful. Think about everything you have in your life. You will soon realize you are doing pretty bloody well. You have to believe it and say it out loud, if possible, or write it down.
We have been living in a rental for eight months as our house flooded in a storm. I can find myself saying, “I hate this place.” I quickly have to rephrase this: “I am grateful for this house as it has provided a comfortable home while our house is rebuilt.”
Change your language, be grateful, and you will change your life.
Building a Strong Inner Circle
The Importance of Personal Relationships in How to Work on Yourself
Leadership can be lonely. We are told that we need to keep a distance from our teams. However, strong personal relationships can be a leader’s greatest asset. It builds trust and a lot of forgiveness.
Now, you can’t come to work and share everything. So you must have a close group of people you trust that you can vent with or even cry with.
In my journey, I’ve learned the hard way that not all relationships are created equal. Some may drain you, while others uplift you.
The quality of your personal relationships is not just about your well-being; it’s a critical component in becoming a leader who effectively inspires and motivates. Remember, you are a sum of the people you associate with. If you want to be an inspiring and amazing leader – hang out with a seek leaders who embody that. Build a relationship with them. Avoid negative people and watch your energy levels.
Avoiding Negative People and Embracing Positivity
Negativity can be contagious and pull down your mental health and potential for personal growth. By carefully curating my inner circle to include supportive and constructive individuals, I’ve been able to foster a more positive environment that contributes to my personal growth journey.
I am beyond grateful that my role is building the people networks for New Zealand in North America. Creative and inspiring people surround me. This grows me and energizes me. They make me aware of my gaps and the work I still need to do – in a constructive and caring manner.
The Unseen Benefits of Being Self-Aware
There is nothing more important than being self-aware. I don’t see a lot of people who truly are. Most people are on the easy path, the black road. They are blissfully unaware of how their emotions are guiding them or how they are projecting their own insecurities – rather than being deeply aware of them.
When I first started my journey, I was told I had a limited emotional vocabulary – happy, sad, angry, frustrated. I had closed myself off, which led to a pile of shit I hadn’t worked through.
When you are aware of the nuances of your emotions, you can more easily diagnose what is going on for you and what triggered it. Just yesterday, I was walking back from lunch, and I had some not-so-helpful internal dialogue going on. I picked it up straight away and literally thought to myself, “OMG, stop it! Get out of my head.”
Reflecting on it, I realized it came from a fear base and a lack of control. I then listed everything that I was grateful for. By the time I got back to work, I was a different person and a better person for it.
The Influence of Your Inner Circle on Your Leadership Style
You are a sum of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose wisely.
As I mentioned before, the people in my inner circle have significantly influenced my life and my leadership style. When I need a boost, I spend more time with them.
Find your posse. Trust me, let go of those that are not benefiting you. Spending time with the wrong people has the opposite effect.
How to Work on Yourself
A Never-Ending Journey of Personal Growth and Leadership
Life’s journey is perpetual, filled with twists, turns, and valuable lessons. Self-improvement and personal development will help you identify your blind spots scientifically. As you develop new habits and spend time on things like new language and a gratitude journal, you will grow your self-esteem.
Developing your Leadership Intelligence is a continuous process, just like self-improvement. Years of mindfulness practices, self-work, and self-reflection that I have engaged in, it’s clear that my personal growth journey has changed how I lead and how I live my daily life.
There are no online courses for this work. Find a good friend that can be real with you. Find a new sport or a new hobby.
Future Topics and Conversations
In the coming posts, I’ll share more improvement tips, dive deeper into the intricacies of self-awareness, and explore how to navigate personal relationships in leadership roles.
We will also delve into practical ways to improve your mental health, increase your self-esteem, and become more self-aware, enhancing your Leadership Intelligence (LQ).
Tomorrow we will talk about the importance of affirmations, specifically for men, and how as men, we often discard mindfulness as woo-woo and not helpful.
So, that is how I became me. Well, part of it, anyway.
Embrace the Journey of Self-Improvement and Leadership
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Whether you’re just starting your self-improvement journey or a seasoned leader, I encourage you to assess and develop your LQ continually.
Learning new skills, stepping out of your comfort zone, and acknowledging your blind spots are essential steps.
Self-Compassion in Daily Life
Incorporate self-compassion into your daily life. It’s not just beneficial for you but also improves the quality of life for those around you. When you spend time being compassionate toward yourself, you are better equipped to extend that compassion to others, making a big difference in your personal relationships and work environment.
Leading With Compassion
The best leaders don’t just focus on tasks and goals; they lead with compassion. By practicing self-compassion, you’re not only moving forward on your personal growth journey but also setting a tone of empathy and understanding in your leadership style.
Focus On Your Mental Health
Don’t forget you. Start recognizing what is healthy and not for you. Ask your good friends what makes them want to be your friend. Get them to tell you all the things that make you your best self. They will reveal the feelings they have around you when you are being authentic.
Your Self-Improvement Journey
Life is too short to stay stagnant. Let’s push ourselves to be continually growing, not just as leaders but as individuals.
The same things that your friends tell you should write down in your gratitude journal. The more you write them down, the more you will believe them.
Your self-improvement will never stop. Fall in love with the journey, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Your Next Steps
Ready to make some positive changes? Start by identifying one area you want to improve and take actionable steps today. Whether developing a new habit, learning a new skill, or committing to an exercise routine, let’s make hard work and progress our mantra. Remember, the most important things often happen when we make a conscious effort to grow.