As a student of human behavior and motivation I have researched one topic more than any other - How Leaders Motivate Themselves. I'm am fascinated by what differentiates great leaders when they are faced with what seems like insurmountable odds and how they overcome them; often alone. Let's face it, sometimes, many times, leadership is not a team sport. There is no pow-wow, motivational rally or heart-to-heart for the leader when times get tough. Instead most leaders are left alone, face in a mirror working their way through difficult situations on their own. I know this both by observation and experience.
Why is that?
As a leader I believe we need to tread lightly when focusing on the 'why' of a situation. It's useful to examine how a situation came about, what factors may have attributed to it, etc. but getting sucked into 'why' can be as deadly as walking into quicksand and just about as productive. Yet in this instance I feel it is important to remind all of us that the one drawback of leadership is that most of the time others see leaders as so capable they don't need any help. Let's bust that myth right now and make a mental note to keep an eye on our leader friends for signs of struggle and come alongside them in support when needed. It's a lonely and dangerous place for even the most capable leaders when they are faced with personal and professional challenges alone so be aware that your leader friends are people too and in need of companionship and support and make an effort to be there for them in their times of need.
Ok Let's get Back on Track:
So how does it happen, this mystery of self motivation and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps and moving forward? I believe it happens the same way it happens when leaders motivate others, but this time the conversation is with yourself. I love the proverbial picture of the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other because I believe that we have two voices that speak to us; one that speaks defeat and one that speaks encouragement. The two things that leaders do best are to speak out encouraging and motivating words with conviction and strength and weed out and dispose of things that can bog you down in nonsense. So when a leader finds herself in that dark place, alone, nose-to-nose with the mirror she says to herself all the things that she would say to anyone else she was trying to motivate. Things like, "you can do this" or "you were made for this" or "if anyone can figure this thing out you can." She also talks sense into herself by asking those how and why questions, stepping back and examining that problem from the perspective of a capable and qualified problem solver. She may say, "this is not your forte, but you know what? I know exactly whose forte it is - I'm going to sit down with that person soon and discuss this." Essentially she steps outside herself and handles her own stuff just like she would handle like anyone elses.
Now at this point you may be saying to yourself - that's it???? I thought there was going to be something profound here! Well folks that is it and yes it is quite profound. How easy it is to have a pity party when you find yourself solo - who would even know? How easy is it to get angry, blame others or quit when you are alone? How many people do we see do that every day?! How easy is it to run to something to mask our fear, bury ourselves in something that gives us comfort and hide from big scary problems? People do that all the time! But to stand companionless and wrestle with giants - to speak faith and encouragement, strength and wisdom to yourself when it's so much easier to run away scared is HUGE! Sisters (and brothers) if you can lead yourself when it's just you, your demons and some big problems in a room - you can lead people, you can lead.
In The End
Think back with me and remember the times you have done just that and in the end you overcame. There is no better place to be - no other times I have had more confidence in my abilities than when I have struggled alone and came out on top. Those are the times that my inner little girl steps aside with a big sloppy grin on her face and says to herself "WOW! You SO rock lady!" And those are the stones I bring with me when I face down new giants - that's my arsenal and some powerful stuff it is.
So yes it can be a hard knock life, especially when you run in front of the pack. But to have survived blow after blow, time after time, makes us stronger and builds our confidence in ways circumstances can never hinder.
It's Your Turn:
What are your thoughts on my perspective here? Is there something you do when you face your toughest challenges that you would like to share with others? Today I want to offer you encouragement, Leader to Leader. If you are struggling I believe you are the best person for the job to handle whatever it is you are facing and if you persevere in the end you will find your reward - even if it's nothing more than being tougher than you were when you started :) Peace friends!
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