I was recently with a client and we were discussing coping methods. Coping methods are ways to deal with challenges that we face as well as ways we can help to reduce troublesome symptoms we are dealing with. There are many traditional coping strategies – breathing techniques, exercise, meditation, walking, art, distraction methods, spending time with others etc. Some of these techniques work well for some people while other techniques just don’t seem to fit. In my experience, the ultimate coping method is always the one that is most in line with the individual. This means that for a coping strategy to be most effective it has to connect with the person’s passion or purpose. What I want to address today is how passion and purpose is connected to leadership.
So what do mental health coping methods have to do with leadership? More than you think. Leadership is in the midst of a shift. This is mostly well known, however, old ways of leading still seem to be prevalent within some organizations. What we are finding through research and effective training programs is that true leadership comes from inspiration, not from authoritarian demands or unapproachable hierarchy that pushes work downstream without consideration of how it impacts others. True leaders are followed by those that are happy to be working for them because they feel inspired to do so. Effective leaders build the next generation of leaders within any system and work in a way that is fueled by purpose and resonance with the mission at hand.
According to research by the Center for Creative Leadership, survey results show that 84% of respondents in organizations see leadership changing in the last 10 years. The focus is shifting from an individual outcomes perspective to that of collaboration, teamwork and longer term objectives.
Another article by HR Magazine emphasizes that leadership is shifting towards less hierarchy and more inclusiveness and understanding of the needs of others. To build an inclusive environment, one needs to lead through effective listening, empathy and to be leading through inspiration rather than demand.
Even in some environments where leadership may looked at as a harsher more demand oriented situation, this is not always the case. For example, I was recently listening to one of Tim Ferriss’s podcast interviews where he interviewed General Stan McChrystal about his experience in the military. One of the questions was regarding what was one of General McChrystal’s pet peeves about how military life is depicted in the media. His answer was great! General McChrystal went on to discuss how even though he knew the stereotypical “hard” leaders in the military, that were cold, demanding and difficult to approach, this type of leader was less common. He went on to report that the most effective leaders, and the majority, led by inspiring their teams and those they were leading.
So the question remains what do coping methods have to do with leadership? Stick with me, we are on the way. Since we know that the most effective leadership methods have to do with inspiring and engaging others rather than cold, hard demands, then the first question is this –
How do we build leaders that inspire?
One answer to this is found in the search for finding ones ideal coping method. To be able to lead through inspiration means leaders have to understand what inspires them. Being inspirational is achieved through truly knowing your own passion and purpose and then pursuing it. Through creating congruence between what we value and how it is being expressed, we can explore our passion and purpose. The days of “do what I say not what I do” are fading away. Understanding what we are passionate about not only gives us an opportunity to be better leaders but also helps us to cope with stress and challenges more effectively. If we combine our contagious passion with our ability to self-regulate, people will be truly inspired.
Finding ones passion and purpose may be complicated. We may have some passions that are present in our professional lives and some that are more active in our non-work life. For instance, an organizational leader may have a passion for sales in the work world but also have a passion for lifting weights in his non-work life. This person may also know that they function at a higher level when they are actively pursuing both passions, in a sales role at work while using weight lifting as their non-work passion. This example of weight lifting may be this person’s coping strategy in dealing with work stress, conflict or anxiety. This person’s pursuit of this coping method not only impacts their ability to function outside of work, but makes them happier and more productive while in their work role.
Understanding what we are passionate about in and outside of work is important – and certainly impactful in both directions. Focusing on our strengths and where we exceed, in addition to tapping into what helps us stay balanced, will create a great expression of our passion and purpose, and allow us to become true leaders.
I’ll leave you with these questions below –
What is your passion or purpose?
How did you discover it?
How do you actively pursue it?