As we discussed in my previous post, leadership is a process that doesn’t change during chaotic times like we are facing now. The process you lead with today should be the exact process you led with 1 month ago when we were all fat and happy watching our 401k’s grow.
Great leadership demands a common Leadership Language that is spoken among teams, organizations, and families. My method, The Process, Art, and Science of Leadership, provides the necessary framework for a common Leadership Language. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that implementing this method will be easy. Positive change takes time, unfortunately. This is why we cannot wait for a convenient time to begin implementation, because there is no convenient time. The chaos we are facing isn’t showing signs of slowing so that you can get your leadership ducks in a row. The best time to act is now. In the meantime, there are things you can focus on and understand until the process takes hold, which it will.
First, remember that you cannot control your external environment: but you can influence it. I’ve spent the past week holding roundtable discussions with my current clients on Leading Through Chaos. One of the questions I’ve fielded is how to deal with the extreme negative reactions and behaviors some people are exhibiting though this crisis: for example, people are actually spitting on our Asian brothers and sisters in the street because “they brought the COVID-19 virus here.” The answer to this, and any other negative, disruptive, or just plain abhorrent behavior we encounter, is the same and it’s found inside the elements of my leadership method.
You will either meet negative energy or you won’t. It’s your choice and it comes down to recognizing your emotions (Emotional Awareness and Recognition) and deciding how you want to behave (Guidelines for Behavior). Will you understand that you are angry at people’s emotionally charged and random behavior and counter that negative energy with the elevated emotions of patience, understanding, empathy, love or anything that is the opposite of the destructive behavior you are witnessing or experiencing? Remember, this has nothing to do with what the other person is doing. It has everything to do with what you are doing.
So, you are watching the news and you see the reporting on some repugnant behavior, and it makes you angry. What do you do? Do you simply act on your anger without recognizing it and scream, “Assholes!” at the television? Are you now any better than the person on the screen you are watching? I hate to break it to you, but you are not. And this is the way you are influencing your environment.
Recognize the emotion you are feeling and imagine the world will see your reaction and then decide how you want to behave. How would a leader behave? Leaders don’t match negative behavior. Leaders recognize their emotions and decide on our behaviors based on context and needs. Leaders act to influence their environment.
Another question I hear often asks why people perpetuate such negative behaviors? That is a big question with a lot of layers, but in many instances, the answer is simple: because they are addicted to it. When we experience emotions, our brain releases a chemical to our body relative to that emotion. We literally think something, feel something (the chemical release to our body), and then engage in a behavior (the physical response to the chemical release). Over time we become neurochemically addicted to our emotions, so we unconsciously find any way to express them. Unfortunately for many people, so many emotions they feel are related to the negative emotions of hate, fear, worthlessness, hopelessness, and anxiety. The good news is that this addiction to negative emotions can be reversed. More on that later. But for now, it’s important as a leader to understand why people perpetuate such negative behavior: it’s because they are addicted to it.
For your part as a leader, the same holds true for positive behavior. Make your organization, team, and family addicted to the positive emotions of love, understanding, abundance, worthiness, calm, and patience and begin to influence what is in your control to influence.
Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.