Self-Leadership in Unprecedented Times

In the last months, our worlds as we knew them have shifted and changed, and we are all making sense in our own way. To quote a friend: “The challenge is to find a balance between being pollyanna-ish and alarmist”. As I participate in conversations with different groups – coaching community, executives, leaders, global and local, friends and others—the one aspect that gets underlined in each conversation is our very individual meaning-making ability: how do we see the world?

As we struggle to find vision, understanding, clarity, agility and effectiveness, an understanding of ourselves will help us manage in truer, more authentic ways. This moment is also asking us to be compassionate and give ourselves more grace. In other words, cut others and (more importantly) ourselves some slack.

Purpose, Safety and Intelligences

Now, like never before, we’re feeling the polarity between our purpose and personal safety. We’ve all heard of  ‘flight, fight, freeze’– our instinctive response to any situation that threatens us or our way of being and doing. Many of us are drawing further into our habitual ways of protecting ourselves: some of us need more distance, some are wanting more connection, and some are getting rooted in passivity. As I write this, I am finding that my own sense of worth and security is causing me to be driven—I need to do something to feel worthwhile. Even things like simple communication feel less solid and certain. Normally crisp, the other day I found my response to an innocuous ‘how are you doing?’ so scattered that I had to consciously gather and focus.

We have multiple—six—intelligences that contribute and determine how we behave and are seen in the world. Integral Coaching calls this the Six Streams of Competence. A couple of these intelligences—cognitive and emotional—most of us are familiar with. The other four—relational, spiritual, somatic, and integrating—often require more attention and development. The blend of competencies in each of the areas are different for all of us. This inner play impacts our outer game, so it serves us as leaders to explore and develop each of these areas in ourselves—especially in times of unsteadiness.

The Invitation: Personal Mastery

Leadership is more necessary than ever and it starts with self. Good leaders are defined by not only what they do and how they do it, but also by a belief that inspires them and a cause that drives them: they help people find the power to do what matters to them and show others how to reach their full potential.

The already VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world that we live in has developed an additional layer of complexity in the pandemic. It is a temporary situation that will create an everlasting impact on us, our relationships, our organizations, our economy, our environment. And we have no means of knowing what that new world will look like!

The ‘ask’ has become bigger than ever for our leaders. I don’t ascribe to any particular style of leadership—always, for me, the situation defines what that leadership should look like. However, what will serve us as leaders across all situations will be to develop our competencies of creativity, relating, authenticity, self-awareness and systems awareness. It’s also being aware of our  self-limiting, reactive tendencies and behaviors: the inner beliefs and assumptions that limit effectiveness, authentic expression and empowering leadership. A leadership assessment is one way to help us uncover our blind spots and illuminate the stories we tell about ourselves—as well as highlight the innate gifts we bring to leadership.

Ritu is an Executive Coach and Leadership Capacity Builder based in North Carolina. She graduated from the Professional Coaching Course in 2015.


Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash
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