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Successful leadership in 2022 looks different than it did five years ago. The pandemic brought changes that reverberated through every workplace, forcing the role of leaders to evolve.
Many leaders, even those long in their jobs, find themselves struggling to be the great performers they want to be. One resource leaders turn to for help in leveling up their performance is workplace professionals in their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Typically known as a resource for employees struggling with personal and mental health issues, the core mission for EAPs is to improve workplace performance — and the best place to create impact is with management.
Top-tier EAPs provide a deep well of resources and expertise to enhance leader and manager skills. They tailor these services to dovetail with the employer’s needs and initiatives. When working with your EAP, you have access to a combination of consultation, coaching and education to drive success in performance.
As EAPs work with customers on improving organizational well-being, they focus heavily on the skills of its leaders and the key drivers of great performance. One key driver that improves skill and performance capacity is to recognize stellar leadership isn’t something that’s done alone. The best leaders practice “we” leadership. In short, “we” leadership is leading with your strengths in concert with others who support your best overall performance.
“We” leadership can be broken down into three main components.
Lead with Your Strengths
- Each of us has different strengths. You may be a good networker or problem solver. Maybe you’re the person everyone comes to for sage advice. Maybe you excel at researching, selling or presenting in front of a crowd. Find your strengths and figure out how best to use them in the context of your work. Using your natural gifts will lead to your best possible performance.
- Do not copy someone else’s strengths. Some people choose a leader they admire and seek to emulate that person’s style. That won’t work for you if you have different gifts. You may end up working really hard without good results.
Work in Concert with Others
- If you focus on taking advantage of your strengths, you will surely have some gaps. A way to develop the overall skill-base is to surround yourself with people who have different skills than you. This is one of the great gifts of diversity. If you are a big picture thinker and strategist, find someone who’s good with details to plan with you. If you are a researcher and writer, you can work with a networker and presenter to balance your introvert skills with some extrovert skills. Trying to do it all is exhausting and isn’t as good as finding people with complementary skills. The “we” approach lets everyone shine.
- Working with others who have different skills can also help you learn and grow in those areas. An easy way to learn is by watching and doing. Leading with others will give you this valuable practice.
Determine Who Supports Your Best Overall Performance
The pandemic has taught us the lesson that
none of us can keep pushing indefinitely without support. There are many who
say it’s lonely at the top, but in fact, it’s really better when there’s a
crowd. As a leader, consider who you will bring into your “we” team. Here are
some areas to focus on:
- Mental: Leadership is a heavy mental game. Leaders have to think about winning, strategizing, supporting and balancing. Thinking is a strong part of every day. Consider having support for your mental work. Do you have someone with whom you can brainstorm? Do you have a sounding board who will tell you if you’re off base? How about someone to read and edit your writing or review your presentations? Is there someone you can turn to share in your celebration when you’re really excited about your new idea or a problem you’ve solved? These are important to keep you strong and fresh for the work ahead.
- Physical: How is your physical health? If you are like many leaders, work is coming at you all the time. It can be hard to pull away when there’s so much more to do. You may put tending to your diet, exercise and sleep as second to keep up with work demands. Designating a buddy or coach to help you prioritize, plan and execute good self-care is immensely important to your overall performance. Sleep, exercise and healthy food power up your skills across the board. Having someone to exercise with you and to hold you accountable (and make it fun) help you resist the temptation to work until exhaustion.
- Emotional: One often missed aspects of a strong leader is emotional stamina. The highs and lows of leading can be trying and draining. Leaders who have emotional support, in the form of a friend group, a spouse, colleagues or a counselor tend to remain even and effective. Like putting gas in the car, supporting our emotional needs is important to keeping us moving forward.
- Spiritual: During the pandemic, many leaders had to step back and look at their own core values and beliefs to find stability and capability to continue leading. No matter our situation, we can expand the scope of our vision to include something bigger than ourselves and our work. What is really important to you? Who are you at your core? So many times, considering our spiritual beliefs and values is done best in conversation or practice with others who connect on this deep level with us.
Great leadership is the best predictor of organizational success and the most effective lever for impacting employee well-being and engagement. Top-tier EAPs, with expertise in workplace behavioral health and leadership skill are great partners for your organization as you plan forward for the challenges of 2022.
Take advantage of your EAP’s resources and services to train and support leaders and employees at all levels of the organization.
About the Author
Maria Lund is president and COO of First Sun EAP, a national provider of employee assistance program services in South Carolina.