Self-Leadership in Times of Crisis

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As part of our Better Together webinar series, Great Place to Work® had the privilege of inviting Andrew Bryant, a global thought leader and author of two books on self-leadership share his guidance in a webinar, Self-Leadership in Times of Crisis with our clients in the Asia community a week ago.

We tapped on Bryant’s experience coaching and working with leaders globally and insights he gleaned especially during this time of crisis. While many speak of the COVID-19 crisis as ‘unprecedented’, Bryant recommended that we take a step back and draw on learnings and experiences from crises that we have confronted before, for example SARS and the Global Financial crisis. While these are certainly different and difficult times, we have experienced aspects of crisis before and we can build on those learnings.

Self-Leadership is defined as “the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and actions to achieve your objective/s” (Bryant & Kazan). It is a practice that takes intention – knowing why we are doing things. At the core of self-leadership is self-determination – the belief that we have control over our destiny.

In a crisis, leaders can choose to self-sabotage or self-lead. In reacting to COVID-19 challenges, Bryant has coached leaders through various stages of grief – from denial to acceptance. He emphasized that one the biggest challenges for leaders in crisis is to be able to lead ourselves so we can lead others. Like a pilot in an emergency while flying an airplane, a leader may be affected but needs to demonstrate that he is in control. We can’t lead others unless we can first lead ourselves.

Bryant shared his model of self-leadership noting that it is an ‘inside and outside’ model. Inside is our intentionality and self-awareness that affects our self-confidence and self-efficacy. Outside is our influence and impact toward our Goal or Target, that provides a feedback loop.

Confidence is key to self-leadership. It comes from the awareness that we have skills and experience and an ability to play from our strengths. Bryant noted that in Asia, there is a tendency for confidence to be confused with arrogance but they are inherently different. Confidence is not walking into a room, thinking we are better than someone else. Confidence is walking into a room with no need to compare ourselves with anybody else. When we are confident, we are grounded in our strengths, which is at the foundation of humility – the opposite of arrogance.

A key in developing talent is to make sure that leaders know the importance of projecting their confidence, which Bryant described as a key component of ‘executive presence,’ defined as the ability to project gravitas, confidence and poise under pressure.

A framework of self-leadership includes three components:

1) Self-awareness

2) Self-regulation

3) Self-learning

To improve self-leadership, here are some self-coaching questions to reflect on:

♦ Who am I, what are my intentions? Times of crisis provide an opportunity for leaders to reflect on what is really important. Often leaders define themselves by what they do. A question to consider is who we are without what we do.

♦ What are my strategies to successfully achieve my goal? In crisis, leaders need to have our own strategies and not wait for others to tell us about what to do.

♦ What do I need to know and how am I learning? Self-leadership requires continuous learning.

“People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode. They never arrive.”
-Peter Senge

In closing, Bryant closed with some thoughts on how working virtually might impact how we think of great workplace of the future. Referencing Daniel Pink’s book on motivation, he challenged leaders to find ways to tap into the key motivational elements of autonomy (giving ownership), mastery (growing skills) and purpose (providing meaning). He noted that self-regulation can be particularly important during this time of working virtually.

Much food for thought as we close this webinar and reflect on how we can better lead ourselves and lead our teams in these unprecented times.

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