General Responses & Stressors
Over the past 6 months, I have moved across Canada to start a new career and to begin a new life. As I have already stated in my introduction, I am doing the business side of things for an interior design company. My role entails expanding and growing the business by focusing on marketing initiative to attract quality clients. However, I did not expect that this new adventure would be quite stressful at times since I am essentially “starting over.” Fortunately, I tend to look at the circumstances in my life as challenges that I need to overcome. I love the adventure and watching how things have unravelled, whether that be serendipitous relationships or opportunities that I have encountered. With regards to work, I love being busy and working at a business that provides an environment that allows me to use my creativity.
Handling stressors in a leader’s personal and professional life is key to being an effective leader. If a leader cannot manage stress in his or her personal life, they will be unable to maintain a positive attitude, and this will negatively impact team moral and performance. In addition, stressed out leaders will fail to notice their team’s effectiveness and may be unappreciative of their work. In my experience as a leader, I notice that when I have personal stressors, it impacts my ability to influence and lead others. When I am overwhelmed, I find that it is difficult to be encouraging, appreciative, and have an overall positive attitude.
The personal and professional life of a leader are deeply intertwined; they are not mutual exclusive events. As stated, a leader must be able to properly manage stressors and emotions in their personal life because it will likely be transferred into the professional sphere. Within a professional setting, I believe that I manage stressors fairly well. I work well under pressure when we need to meet challenging deadlines with clients. If I have a large project, I break it down into more manageable tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed. When I experience personal stressors, I also utilize positive habits to manage stress such as working out, journaling, chatting with close friends, and planning ahead. In addition, I also actively try to manage my thought processes because I believe that thoughts are things; they can either empower or disempower us.
Changing or Strengthening Responses
In the personal sphere, I think it would be beneficial to open up more about my emotions and share with others what I am dealing with. I also think I need to continue to work out at the gym to clear my head before facing daily demands. Considering that I have to balance work and school, managing my time more effectively will be key to becoming a better leader. I think I should also seek mentors in various spheres of influence to give me a different perspective while I am in the middle of a stressful event. It would be beneficial to acquire wisdom from someone who has walked a similar path.
In the professional realm, I need to be more strategic with my time. For example, I need to apply the Pareto principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. The premise of this rule is that approximately 80% of results come from 20% effort. For example, 80% of profit comes from 20% of clientele, or 80% of clients comes from 20% of marketing efforts. I need to determine and prioritize what is the most important task that I need to accomplish for this day/week/month/year. Most of the responses stated in the personal sphere, could also be applied to the professional realm including mentorship or coaching, working out, journaling, and strategically planning for future events.
Strengths & Weaknesses of Desired Change
Balancing school and work is going to be challenging this semester, so I have decided to reinforce my strengths and commit to transforming some weak areas. I am going to commit to going to the gym before work, so that I can work on my school afterwards. In addition, going to the gym early in the morning will help me be more productive and efficient with my time. I also need to structure my schedule more effectively to maximize efficiency by using a time management tool called time blocking. Every Sunday before I begin the week, I will sit down and look at my obligations, blocking off necessary time in order to complete tasks. If there is a large task, I will break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Furthermore, I will rank items on my To-do list in order of importance and urgency. One of my strengths is that I would consider myself to be very disciplined and goal-oriented; I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to. This attribute includes implementing positive habits into my life. As a result, I think that these personal goals to manage stressors are practical and I will easily incorporate them into my daily routine.
In the professional setting, I will commit to implementing the Pareto principle into our strategic meetings to create a focal for our business. Further, I will learn to say “no” to additional or unimportant requests. I find that I become stressed because my To-do list is never-ending and there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. I also will follow focusing on the “one thing” that matters most each day, each month, each year. According to Keller & Papasan (2012), to create an extraordinary life there is always one thing that an individual should be focusing on. They suggest using a focusing question such as “What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” (Keller & Papasan, 2012: p.72). However, the only way to do this is if I have clear, SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely) goals. Thankfully, setting short and long term goals has always been one of my strengths. But I think I could generate better results by being more strategic on where I place my focus on a daily basis. Becoming successful and creating massive results ultimately comes down to our daily habits. Therefore, I firmly believe that I have a lot of personal growth with regards to my daily habits to becoming a better strategic leader.
Personal Mission, Vision, & Values
I have completed my list of values before, however, I have revamped them after this exercise. I believe that my personal values dovetail nicely with my professional values. Therefore, I use them interchangeably.
My personal values include, but are not limited to:
- Continuous personal growth
- Uncompromising integrity
- Hearing both sides before judging
- Avoiding gossip
- Maintaining humour
- Acquiring wisdom from others
- Relentless discipline
- Unwavering honesty
- Being sincere but decisive
- Listening trumps speaking
My mission is to live with integrity, and to encourage and empower women to also live extraordinary lives. I wish to create an impact in the lives of others. Whether that is mentoring and empowering women or becoming a philanthropist to create an impact by giving back, I believe my mission is to help women. In order to accomplish this vision for my life, I will need to become a powerfully effective leader. These values will be the backbone for what I want to accomplish because it will ultimately inspire trust in my character. People need to trust their leader and what they stand for. Strong values can be equated to a personal constitution (Covey, 1989: p.115). When a leader must make a tough decision, their values or personal constitution is always something that he or she can fall back on. By being committed to values, character is not compromised. I firmly believe that this falls into all spheres of influence including personal, professional, and collective.
An area that I will need to abandon for future development is procrastination. I waste a lot of time getting lost in the endless scrolling on both Facebook and Instagram. It would be beneficial to have a strategy in place as to not procrastinate on these highly addictive websites that were created to capture our attention. Again, this falls under my time management. If I abandoned procrastination, I would be less stressed and ultimately, a better leader. In addition, I would like to care less about what people think of me. I am frequently concerned about how others perceive me and I believe this is a great hindrance in my life. There will always be people that do not agree with a leader’s beliefs and how he or she does things.
According to Hughes et al. (2014), “strategic drivers are those relatively few determinants of sustainable competitive advantage” (p.26). Strategic drivers are the areas that will have the highest return on investment. It is important to clarify strategic drivers in a personal and professional setting to understand what an individual or organization should focus on. Action goes where attention flows; therefore, an individual must focus on his or her strengths that will have the biggest impact on the intended result. Once again, evidence of the Pareto principle can be seen here; 80% of results come from 20% of what an individual focuses on. My goal will be to organize around priorities: to be highly effective and intentional with my time and focus.
In addition, Hughes et al. (2014) also argue that strategic leadership is a continuous learning process whereby an individual will need to consistently evaluate beliefs and opinions based on new information gathered (p.21). In my personal and professional life, I believe that another one of my strategic drivers is my social competence. I consider myself to be emotionally intelligent because I consider myself to be conscientious, sensitive, and empathetic to the emotions of others. I understand the importance of caring and connecting with others as a leader to reinforce trust. However, when dealing with people it is a constant process because leaders must evaluate different perspectives and beliefs. This is an example where my values of acquiring wisdom from others” and “listening trumps speaking” are incredibly important because the ego can often get in the way when strong-held beliefs are challenged. People smarts is a process because communication, compassion, and conflict management can always be improved.
Personal & Professional Culture
I want to develop a strong personal and professional culture from my mission, vision, values, and drivers. I believe that they can be effective in my current professional setting because we are currently working to create a charity for women. We found a need in the market and the ability to fill it, but I think we will need strong leadership capabilities in order to carry this out within the community. Not only will having a strong character build the organization but also having powerful time management tools in place to prioritize important tasks. In order to create a powerful professional culture that serves my mission and vision, I will need to have both the character (values) and strategy to become successful.
In the personal setting, I believe that these values can enhance and strengthen every interpersonal relationship that I have. As leaders, we have the ability to have an impact on everyone in our sphere of influence through every interaction. I think by keeping these principles in mind, we can strengthen our character and forge better relationships. As Samuel Johnson once said, “There can be no friendship without confidence, and no confidence without integrity” (Covey, 1989: p.195). I firmly believe that having these values as my foundation, will prove itself to be a moral compass and lead the way for successful relationships with my future husband, future kids, and future followers.
Old schools of thought are difficult to eradicate and eliminate completely. As stated earlier, strategic leadership is a process. After deliberation, there is still evidence of old economy thinking in my leadership such as favoring past successful tactics and applying it to the present (Ungerer et al. 2016). I find that this is my default way of thinking. However, in our contemporary competitive market, this old way of thinking does not leave room for innovation and creative thinking. What has worked in the past may not be sustainable in our rapidly changing world. For example, I tend to fall back on past marketing initiative that have been, in my mind, “fail proof.” A couple of these techniques included flyers and radio advertisements. These strategies were problematic because consumers are no longer responding to traditional mediums of marketing. Likely as a result of the attention economy, consumers are experiencing excessive distractions clamouring for their attention. Advertisements lacking creativity simply do not stick out of the noise. In the broad context, businesses must shift thinking into the new economy that values innovation, creativity, futuristic thinking, and openness to new ideas (Ungerer et al. 2016). In my own experience, I need to stop relying on proven methods, and begin focusing on creative uses of social media to promote the business.
During change, in a personal or professional setting, it tends to be a stressful time for people as the future is uncertain. Being an effective leader means being an individual that followers can look to in times of uncertainty. I found it fascinating that studies showed that leaders found human emotions to be “neither helpful nor needed” to implementing a new strategy, resulting in 75% of change efforts to fail (Hughes et al. 2014: p. 32). Humans are emotional. Organizations need humans to operate. Therefore, organizations have a strong emotional component that cannot be neglected. Organizations need to be intentional about leadership strategy to manage employee emotions as well as a business strategy. This is why emotional intelligence has recently emerged as a trait of effective leaders (Northouse, 2018: p. 28). Upon a careful personal assessment, I believe that it will be crucial to be able to handle my emotions in order to effectively manage other people’s emotions as well as conflict resolution. Although emotional intelligence is one of my strategic drivers, I believe that there is room for further personal development.
I learnt that similar to a business strategy, a personal strategy to achieving superior performance comes down to a pattern of choices (Hughes et al. 2014: p.31). It should reflect the strategic drivers that differentiate your personal brand from others. One must leverage strengths to their advantage. I am very focused on my daily habits because I have read in many books that we are the product of little choices in the form of our daily habits. In addition, I learnt that organizations have an equally strong human component as they do a business side. The leadership strategy is crucial in order to carry out the business strategy (Hughes et al. 2014: p. 32). Another one of my strengths is that I am very relational with people. I am able to connect and communicate with people very easily and this chapter indicated that emotional intelligence is an important aspect of leadership strategy. Therefore, I can utilize these strengths and implement them into the leadership strategy for my organization.
Covey, S. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Hughes, R., Beatty, K., & Dinwoodie, D. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader: Your role in your organization’s enduring success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Keller, G. & Papasan, J. (2012). The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Austin, TX: Bard Press.
Northouse, P. G. (2018). Leadership: theory and practice (Eighth ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Ungerer, M., Ungerer, G., & Herholdt, J. (2016). Navigating strategic possibilities. Randburg: KR Publishing.