Another year has passed and many of us are staring down the gauntlet of 2023 wondering how to deal with yet another year of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Many of us have fared well in 2022, others not so well, regardless, we can all sense that 2023 will continue to demand more of us as leaders and as human beings if we are to support, engage and inspire those around us and those we lead.
On new year’s day, I watched a very insightful Netflix documentary featuring Jonah Hill and his therapist Phil Stutz called Stutz. The documentary showcased the importance of therapy and the tools needed for the mental health challenges we face. It also showcased moments of vulnerability between two men which is important in a world of stoic men. It was when Stutz outlined his 3 key aspects of reality: pain, uncertainty, and constant work that it immediately translated to how we need to hold these aspects continuously for ourselves and those around us, including in the work environment.
The issues and challenges which present themselves in therapy are no different from those that are presented at work. After all, we are all human beings, naturally bringing human problems to the workplace. As a leader, being able to work through these realities ourselves, all the while supporting others to manage theirs, is a key differentiator between being a good leader and being an inspirational and modern one.
Although it is not a leader’s role to take on the role of therapist, 2023 will be an important year to take on the role of a human being. The more human we can be with others, the more likely we are to inspire others towards their potential.
Here are some tips for evolving leaders who need to work through these key realities:
There is no escape from pain. Those that try and escape it generally find themselves destabilized by it whether that is emotionally or physically through illness and disease. Pain will always be part of our human existence, and the more workplaces become communities and families, the more pain that people will bring to work. Pain is a great teacher, and when we can recognize this, we can approach pain with grace and kindness, and explore ways through it and lessons learned from it.
As a leader, we can learn to identify pain in others first and foremost by identifying it in ourselves. The extent to which we help ourselves will determine how well we can help others. Therefore it’s important for a leader to demonstrate moments of vulnerability and be willing to notice and show empathy for people’s pain. This can look like asking very simple questions such as are you ok? Or, is there any support you might need from me right now? If you’re sensing pain in someone else, you may even like to share your own story of personal pain. There is no need to overshare or overindulge, but just a simple anecdote of when you struggled or were challenged with something may just be enough for that person to feel seen and validated. When we are able to identify the pain in others as similar or the same as the pain in ourselves, there is no greater bridge for building a safe and solid emotional connection. Emotional connection is the precursor to thriving environments which will build a sustainable culture in the long run. Work through pain and you will always access potential.
Everyone has a different tolerance for uncertainty. Many people thrive in uncertainty while for others it can be emotionally and mentally destabilizing. Two of the most important qualities to effectively lead through uncertainty are compassion and having a sense of vision. A compassionate leader will consider the person and what their needs are. While a leader with vision will help others see the longer term and provide the motivation and direction to keep moving forwards. By asking questions like, what is most important for you/us right now? And what is within your/our control that you can take action? Let’s remind ourselves of the North Star and where we are going and why? These questions and conversations can really help people get clarity to move through uncertainty. A compassionate leader will also offer reassurance and help others recognize that uncertainty is part of the path and it builds a culture of patience, courage, resilience, and determination.
Being an inspirational leader during times of uncertainty also requires creativity and integrity. In fact, A 60-country survey of 1,500 CEOs by IBM and public leaders were asked which were the most important leadership qualities. Where creativity was ranked first at 60%, 52% indicated that integrity was the second most important leadership quality. Doing the right thing, always, and being creative to see new possibilities and solutions are core ingredients to inspirational leadership.
We may often confuse constant work with putting time, effort, and energy into our daily work routine. But constant work is not only a mental and intellectual effort, it is also deeply emotional and spiritual. If we are not prepared to work on ourselves to access our potential, then as leaders we cannot expect to inspire others to access theirs. Constant inner work is the perennial factor to the continued momentum we need to cultivate and build a ‘constant’ state of inspirational leadership. As a leader, you are expected to be inspirational, especially during times of deep global pain and grave uncertainty. If you expect to be inspirational without doing the work, then consider it may be time to let go of your privilege as a leader and hand it over to someone willing to endure the battle and do the real hard and constant work that is needed to be truly inspiring.
It is undoubtedly so that 2023 requires inspirational leadership if we are to evolve and move forward in our organizations, build thriving cultures and consequently inspire our communities and families. Being truly inspiring requires you to show more and say less. Inspiration comes through our actions, mindsets, and behaviors and we can’t teach or tell others to be inspiring, we can only show them and lead them well.
How will you work through the top 3 realities of 2023 and show up as an inspirational leader?
Ana Reed is the CEO and Founder of Newmanity, a global executive coaching and leadership consultancy. Ana is an award winning entrepreneur, thought leader, Forbes Council Member and ICF, PCC Accredited Coach. Using a transformative human-centered methodology, her company Newmanity enables leaders and organizations to realize their full ambition and maximize their human capital. To receive insider access to Newmanity’s exclusive content, email [email protected].