For me, being a mental health professional and running a busy practice can be two separate, yet equally important, jobs. Along with this dual role comes the inevitable role of being a leader. Leading a team of high performing professionals is something I take seriously, but sometimes feels like a moving target; in an ever-evolving business world the role of a leader can take many different shapes, often within the same day. Interestingly, though, there is a great deal of overlap in the skills and strategies I use in each role.Lately, I have been reading, researching, and receiving mentorship in finding my own authentic, leadership style. Through this journey of self-reflection, I find that I utilize a combination of many styles, but one thing that consistently rings true is the expectation I have for excellence, for not only myself, but those I lead (which, P.S., I’m fortunate enough to have a team that always strives for excellence). It is often difficult to maneuver the right balance, but having encountered many different leaders myself, I feel I’ve developed a good baseline of what works, what motivates people, and what does not.
This being said, what often seems to be lacking in the literature out there is what actually helps leaders be good leaders? I’m not talking about skills, personality traits, education, and other things like these, but what in fact helps an individual develop the resilience, perseverance, and toughness required to absorb all that is being a leader? Here’s what some therapy basics have taught me about good leadership, and helped fill in some of those blanks for me:
Self Care: Here’s one of those terms you’ll hear all therapists use time and time again. It seems so simple, but it is so very important. Engaging in self care doesn’t mean taking hours away from the things that need to get done so you can relax. It can be something as simple as taking ten minutes at the beginning of each day to do something that is just for you, that energizes you, and helps arm you for the day. This also includes making time for good sleep, and good nutrition.
Exercise: This is certainly one where I fall short. I know the research, I’ve seen the results, but it’s hard to do. Too bad. It’s something that needs to become part of every leader’s day. From a physiological and psychological standpoint, it is one of those non-optional things that is going to buffer you against the challenges that arise daily.
Give Thanks: As I’ve talked about before, there are major psychological benefits for showing gratitude. This gratitude should not only be bestowed from leaders onto those they lead, but from the individuals who receive good leadership to the one that is providing it. This isn’t a secret ploy for my OSRC peeps to bring me cupcakes on Monday, but a reminder that good leadership is often hard to find. Leaders are often expected to act, feel, and think a certain way by virtue of the fact that they are in a leadership role, but remember, they are humans too, and as fellow humans, they will garner great benefit, motivation, and joy from receiving gratitude from those they lead.
Focus on the Positives: Along the same vein, focusing on all the good your team does is far more productive than focusing on the one or two things that didn’t go so great. This helps to engender positive feelings and attitudes towards one another and builds an amazing team environment. Also, don’t forget to cut yourself some slack; everyone makes mistakes, and nothing is ever perfect.
Remember, we are all leaders, regardless of our position. This isn’t just a nice-to-say thing here. Leadership does not mean management. Leadership means always putting your best foot forward and leading those around you by example.
Taking the time to reflect on how you lead and adding these simple strategies into your daily routine are sure to have a positive impact. Lastly, if you want to send some cupcakes my way, I will graciously accept.