A client recently asked me for tips on how to talk to people in his life who are caught up in high levels of anxiety, fear, and panic. “When my wife is freaking out over what she hears on the news, I can calm her down to some extent, but how I keep her from getting anxious about it again?”
This is a great question because the answer brings us to what I believe is one of the greatest challenges we face as leaders: we must be the leaders of our own lives first.
Let’s begin with the premise that we are not only leaders of our teams at work, we are also leaders in our families. And at the core of leadership lies our personal responsibility to be leaders in our own lives. If you want to help and guide others, start with how you are guiding yourself.
Following these four steps to leading others may help you navigate through cultures at work and family dynamics at home. Notice, model, listen, share.
1: Notice how you are leading yourself.
Start at the core—start with you. Notice first how you are leading yourself through the stressful time our world is facing. You say you are navigating it relatively well. What is working for you? Just notice. Do you limit your intake of daily news? Do you take time to breathe, sit, meditate, and plug into your highest self with no distractions? How about exercise? Practicing patience and kindness toward yourself and others? How are you successfully showing up right now as the leader of your own life?
2. Model the behavior you want to encourage.
Mission critical leadership attribute: model the behavior you want to see in others. If you truly take personal responsibility as a leader, take every measure to do what you say and say what you do. If your advice to someone else is to turn off the news, slow down, and take 10 quiet breaths before starting a new task, make sure you are doing that too.
3. Listen and act as witness for others.
Listen to them. Don’t try to fix. Don’t fuel the fire by agreeing or jumping in with your stories of fear or worry. Just listen! It takes strength to hold space for others while they process their emotions. Good leaders learn how to hold space for others. Don’t take on their fears—listen, notice what’s coming up for you, and wait.
4. Share what works for you.
Do not tell people what to do or how they should feel. When they are finished talking or venting, just say, “thank you,” or “I hear you.” Now practice the art of sharing what works for you—keep it short.
Navigating uncertainty is something we as leaders face regularly. Right now, our entire world is facing uncertainty of unparalleled magnitude. Taking extra care and paying attention to our inner emotional landscapes and leading ourselves moment-to-moment with patience and attention is critical. People will respond most powerfully when we model self-care and regulation. Taking care of you IS taking care of your people.