Introspection is a Leadership Superpower
Stress and anxiety are palpable everywhere. Exceptional leaders will recognize this as an opportunity to practice and model introspection, a leadership superpower. This is the opposite of taking the stance “don’t be emotional at work”! People experience emotions all day, everyday and research indicates 70% of decisions are driven by emotion, not logic. While emotions are running high right now, self-awareness, skillful observation, and active listening is required when leading with introspection.
The key is to recognize emotions and take hold of them instead of letting them take hold of us. When we are stressed, anxious, fearful, angry – our amygdala gets hijacked and all logic goes out the window. We become incapable of problem-solving, thinking linearly, finding the root cause or being creative. People who have become overwhelmed or triggered either become very reactive – like losing their temper – or they shut down. Neither is productive.
Introspection results in better outcomes
Practicing introspection means we identify for ourselves, or to others, what emotion we are experiencing, process it, and decide what to do with it. During a crisis, it is important to model this for others, especially if you lead a team or organization. It is a strength, not a weakness, to know when you need support. Your team, peers and clients will respect you for being able to say “I’m concerned… I need your help…” They will be much more likely to rally around you and do what needs to be done. Think about it – wouldn’t you rather hear that kind of honesty vs. someone losing their shit in a meeting? It is a sign of trust to be able to tell someone they disappointed you or made you angry.
Introspective people see their own biases and assumptions and make an active effort to push past them. This is critical during a crisis. No one person has all the answers or all the best ideas. An introspective leader can identify the pang they may feel when someone comes up with an idea that is better than theirs, and move past the blow to the ego to realize the best idea is what is most important.
Introspection leads to action
This is a fearful time. Anyone who says they are not experiencing any fear right now is a big fat liar. What many people don’t understand is that by merely acknowledging we are afraid we start to master the fear. When we stuff down emotions they cause havoc. Avoidance accomplishes nothing and often results in the problem only getting bigger. Once we name what we are experiencing we can then start to confront it and problem-solve what to do about it.
Your people need to see, not just hear, that it’s ok to be feeling overwhelmed or anxious or stressed. When you allow people to name what they are experiencing and explain its impact, it helps diffuse it. Then you can help them identify what they need to be able to move past it.
Mastering and leading with introspection is the first step to learning true empathy. Once we become cognizant of why we do things, it enables us to be open to why others might be reacting a certain way.
Stay tuned for Superpower # 3 – Empathy.