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Are You Taking the Time to Truly Be a Leader

When it comes to leading yourself and others, are you? Your solution may be just a breath away.

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BY Anese Cavanaugh - 19 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I had a call with a client last week. We'd had a gap in time together due to travel and business, and well... life... and we'd set up a deep dive to bring us back together, reground some of our work, and see what was what.

My client was a bit scattered. It reminded me of when we'd first started work together. Through that work and practices she'd learned to be the calm in the storm. But today was different. Her energy was strong, busy, and contagious. I asked her about it. "What's happening right now?"

She went into a laundry list of how "busy" she'd been, how much she had to do, all the drama on the team, her core relationship drama, all of it. List list list... All external stuff, that she had little control over, that was now here in the room with us. The assumptions and stories were big, they'd taken on a life of their own. And she was stressed. Not present.

I asked how her practice was going (her leadership practice of IEP integration), was she still rebooting, setting intentions, taking care of herself, and working the model (which we'd dug into deeply before our break)?

"Oh, no, I just haven't had time. I've been soooo 'busy'."

There are a few statements I consider the death of power and credibility in dialogue.

"I'm. So. Busy." Is one of them.

This excuse used to frustrate me, now it excites me. Why? Because changing the thinking and language is a quick power taker backer. If you want it.

There is a story that gets scripted in our minds -- I believe it's partially habit, partially cultural norms, and partially just a lack of awareness. It becomes so distracting and believable it can trap us in our heads and convince our bodies -- which react physiologically with panic, contraction, and overwhelm -- thus growing the story more every time it is told.

None of the work I do with clients takes extra time; making a healthier choice in food or self-care; taking a second to breathe and choose their response; deciding to show up present and alive in a room vs unconscious and energy sucking; truly listening vs. checking out; being intentional about what they want vs. being dragged about by others' agendas, you get the idea. These things don't take extra time, they do take awareness, intention, a commitment to choice, and maybe a bit of extra time to proactively set oneself up for success (which ironically saves lots of time, and even more importantly, TONS of energy).

What's more, I've found it doesn't matter how much "work" we do, on our leadership skills, communication, or prowess in general -- if our intentions, energy, and presence aren't in alignment and supporting us, and we're singing "busy" -- any fixes from this state are likely bandaids. Extra fun? Once you bandaid one fix, another one inevitably pops up, until you are deep in the game of Whack-A-Mole Leadership.

I get it, sometimes "band-aiding" is necessary work. AND... Our highest leverage, most sustainable, powerful move is to come back to presence, to be still, to ditch the story of "busy", to get back into our own "space", and to decide what to do -- and who to BE -- from there.

I've found that little good happens in abdication, blaming busy, or hoping for it all to slow down. But... lots of good happens in presence, ownership, taking a breath, and choosing my own way of being and the experience I'd like to create in each moment.

Busy? Overwhelmed? You don't have to be. You just have to choose.

"But I'm so busy...."

Can you see yourself in this?

Normally I would give you a list of 5 things to do here, a formula to get out of the cycle of busy and Whack-A-Mole leadership, but I'm not. You don't need anything else to DO today. It's Monday after all. (Yum.) So I will give you this instead*...

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or busy or simply "off" -- just check in. Breathe. Be in your body right NOW. Breathe some more. And BE. And from here, the next best move will reveal itself.

Still stuck? Consider these 3 Qs:

  • How much of my "busy" is the habit of internal dialogue I've created, or just a lack of awareness that I can now choose to shift?
  • How much of my "busy" is a badge of honor that makes me feel important?
  • How much of my "busy" simply needs to be redesigned for?

Good stuff.

To your breath. // axc

*Note: If you're craving more on "busy" and what to do, check out Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization That Thrives

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