In my transdisciplinary course titled Global Leadership (taught to graduate students across all disciplines at the Claremont Graduate University in California, US), I go out of the way to break with tradition and provide assignments and quizzes related to self-reflection. I believe it is the most easily accessible and most underutilised tool for success. And pandemic or not, I believe it is the secret to having your full professional potential unleashed.
Self-awareness is necessary and vital in becoming a great leader. In fact, we’ve all heard the saying: ‘You must first help yourself before you can help others’. Well, I’m here to tell you it is true! Through self-assessment, an enormous amount of power can be available to you. So as we inch closer to the one-year mark of operating amid global uncertainty, here are four keys to unlocking your potential and creating unlimited opportunity for yourself and for others.
Embrace the challenge
Feeling like you are on a constant and relentless uphill journey means you are on the path to greatness. So, go ahead: identify the challenge and then get moving towards accomplishing those goals – even the big ones. Besides, if things were easy, they wouldn’t be worth it. As you make that hard climb to the top, be aware of the skills, actions and roads you took to get there, as well as those you did not embrace. Through this awareness, you will be less likely to crash down faster than you can climb.
Make every decision count
Being a decision-maker doesn’t have to be complicated. That said, you do have to go ahead and make decisions to be effective in this regard. Start with the simple ones and get them out of the way, right away. This will free up time to meet with your teams (yes, those meetings will most likely be virtual right now) and spend an adequate amount of quality time hashing out the complex ones.
Absolute clarity is rare and there will always be hazy areas. However, my challenge to you is to be aware of the moment you start to feel uncomfortable and then get yourself comfortable – even in that grey zone. This awareness-induced acceptance will, in time, help you become a great decision-maker.
Control what you can (and start with yourself)
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a lot of life is out of our control. Plus, we all know that long-term professional growth must start with yourself.
Are you self-aware when it comes to your own mental and physical wellness? If you don’t hold yourself accountable for your personal wellbeing, who will? Be purposeful about consistently incorporating healthy practices (think healthy eating, regular exercise and meditation). Make it fun and find what fits for you and makes you feel great. I love to play basketball and hike, and try to eat healthy more often than not. It makes a difference, increases your energy levels and makes life at home and the home office easier to manage.
Think good thoughts
Frankly, there are a lot of legitimate reasons to gripe and moan as we carry on amid this global pandemic. But what about the silver linings? Incorporating technology into the daily grind has certainly positively affected the expense side of things. But have you thought about incorporating even more technology into your own process? What about into your personal life?
Another good thing this pandemic has given many of us is time, as those two-hour daily round-trip commutes are long gone! Perhaps this new-found free time allows an opportunity to give back. Be aware of what is meaningful for you and focus on projects that allow for growth and innovation. Whether you become a virtual volunteer or decide to raise funds online for your favourite not-for-profit organisation, helping others always aligns with self-improvement.
The whole concept of self-reflection might feel extremely counterintuitive, especially as you think about halting the hustle to focus on yourself. But the truth is that purposeful moments of inactivity are intelligent. Slowing down can give your mind and body an opportunity to reset (kind of how the world is resetting itself right now).
The standard amount of time before one is expected to be fully functioning in a new role at the office is usually 12 months. But here we are, around 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and I think most of us are still searching for a quick-start guide on how to operate effectively and efficiently in this unprecedented environment.
However, one thing that is clear to me, and backed by cross-industry trends, is that being self-aware of your current situation will help guide you to greatness. The bottom line: consistently increasing your level of self-awareness can give you a competitive advantage on how to tackle this pandemic – and whatever may come next.
Ryan Patel is the Global Business Executive and Board Director, Drucker School of Management. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn