Being a strong and decisive leader takes confidence and clarity. Ignore this leadership skill at your peril!
How many times have you already checked your phone today? If you’re anything like the average person, you’re probably touching your phone close to 2000 times in 24 hours, according to recent studies. So what on earth has that got to do with being a strong and decisive leader?
Well, here’s the thing … as a leader (or aspiring leader) you need to be better than average. Why? Because leaders need to make tough decisions with confidence and clarity that move their business, project or team forward in a meaningful way. And that kind of conviction arises from your ability to think independently about hard things, alone. But in the age of input and speed, our solitude is under threat from a cacophony of voices, information and opinion as well as our tendency to over-value connectedness and constant availability.
If you want to improve the strength of your leadership, you need to get good at disconnecting and being alone.
Meet Sue – a client of mine who’s great at what she does but was recently struggling to find a solid, confident and authentic direction when it came to growing her already thriving service-based business. A constant refrain I heard from Sue was, “they say I should do this”. So, who were ‘they’? ‘They’ were a collection friends, family and various gurus in digital media. Sue was feeling increasingly paralysed and agitated when it came to making decisions.
The truth was, Sue had already spent years running her business well. But amidst the noise she wasn’t spending enough time tuning into what she knew to be true for herself. She’d lost the art of discernment. I’m not saying we should never seek outside help. What I am saying is that if we neglect our solitude we are under threat of getting lost amidst guidance and advice, instead of it supporting, complimenting and evolving what we already know. When this happens it can undermine our ability to lead with conviction, confidence and forward momentum.
As leaders, we must prioritise quality time alone. And extravert leaders that includes you! This doesn’t mean you’re supposed to live like a monk. But it does mean that you understand the importance of making space to allow for a certain depth of thinking.
In their book, Leadership and Solitude, authors Michael S Erwin and Raymond Kethledge emphasise that the most successful leaders don’t confuse good leadership with availability.
“Hand held devices and other media leave us awash with the thoughts of others,” they warn. “We are losing solitude without even realising it.”
Strong leadership requires you to bring your mind and soul together with clear-eyed conviction, which you can only do when you focus on your thoughts without distraction, they say.
So what can you do to turn down the noise and cultivate your inner life for the benefit of your leadership?
#1. Find space for uninterrupted deep thinking time on your schedule, either at work or home
A 30-minute walk daily should do the trick. Or maybe 60 -90 minutes with your office door shut every Friday will give you most bang for your buck.
#2. Be clear on what people can expect from you
Being a leader isn’t about answering emails the fastest. It’s about being discerning with your time and mental energy. Don’t set up (or perpetuate) expectations that are going to come back to bite you down the track.
#3. Drop the FOMO
You don’t have to BE seen at everything to have a strong presence.
#4. Trust your inner voice and guidance
You know more than you think. You just need to listen more carefully.
#5. Blocks of deep work
Along with deep thinking, it’s important to prioritise blocks of Deep Work (as described in the book of the same name by Cal Newport). Watch your focus and don’t succumb to the lure and myth of multi-tasking.
Independent thinkers who lead well trust themselves because they KNOW themselves. Time alone is never time wasted if you want to truly make your mark.
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