Dr. Sam Adeyemi offers insights to business executives and C-suite professionals on creating positivity as a team leader.
Today’s guest post is by Dr. Sam Adeyemi, author of Dear Leader: Your Flagship Guide to Successful Leadership (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
Here is something not every leader is ready to hear: You are the most powerful force behind the positivity in your workplace. If that positivity were the heavens, then you would be Atlas — or, at least one of his arms. So how do you cultivate positivity and find a healthy outlet for any dissatisfaction? You can start with these four step-by-step tactics for becoming a more inspiring and empathetic leader.
1. Look within yourself.
One of the most popular quotes from Carl Jung, noted Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, speaks to this exact issue: “Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes.” You can find this quote all over social media and cataloged on websites promising a list of quotes that will “change your life.” And, while its surface-level message of finding peace within yourself understandably resonates with many, there is even more going on here than this small excerpt betrays to the reader.
Jung was describing a war between the Self and the collective noise of your outside reality. Any growth you hope to facilitate starts with you, which means you can’t hope to succeed until you know yourself and recognize your own opportunities for growth. Your ability to manage sources of negative energy and uplift your team in the workplace begins and ends with your own inner strength. You must be willing to take an honest look at yourself as a leader, then grow accordingly.
Unfortunately, our natural reaction is to avoid problems and circumvent confrontation whenever possible — especially when we are confronting ourselves. After all, difficult conversations are difficult for a reason. They often force us into awkward perspectives or unflattering looks at our own actions. Still, these internal conversations are essential to preparing yourself to improve morale and sustain productivity among others.
2. Work at the roots.
There is a type of bamboo tree grown in China that takes five years to reach maturity. What’s most astonishing, however, is that the plant remains hidden underground for the first four years of its life. For over 1,400 days, the tree is watered and fertilized at its roots with no real signs of progress for its caretakers. Then, in just over a month, it erupts from the ground with almost frightening urgency and grows up to 90 feet tall.
The “roots” of something are its foundational center — what feeds and supports its existence. Alongside the heart, there is no better metaphor for the “core” or the lifeblood of a team. Yet these roots are not easy to access. Much like the roots of the natural world, they are buried underground and operate according to their own schedule.
When a successful leader is approaching a problem within their team, they must discover the root of the issue that’s causing the problem and only then actively work to provide a solution. Was there adequate direction and communication from the beginning? Were the expectations clear and concise? When and where did productivity break down? Once this line of questioning begins, the best leaders find an opportunity to empower other team members to offer solutions.
3. Don’t absorb negativity — redirect it.
You probably already know that magnets can either attract or repel each other. Depending on which “poles” of the magnet you are trying to push together, they might snap toward each other in an instant, or you might find it virtually impossible to connect them directly. In the world of magnetism, opposite poles attract each other while identical poles repel each other. Simple, right?
However, there is no magnet for attracting or repelling the sources of negative energy among your workforce — it’s just not that simple. And, even if it were, those sources of negativity would change on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis. For successful and empathetic leaders, maintaining positivity in the workplace begins with identifying the negative energy itself, then discerning what might repel that energy or even turn it positive. Dissatisfaction within your team is a perpetual drain on morale that will never go away on its own, which means your only recourse is to neutralize that negativity or transform it into positive action.
4. Embrace empathy and sincerity.
In Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the wise and stoic Atticus Finch offers up plenty of advice to his young daughter, Scout. One of my favorites is that you cannot truly understand a person until you “climb into [their] skin and walk around in it.” This adage is repeated in countless forms, the most popular being to “walk a mile in a person’s shoes.” That said, I think the version we get from Mr. Finch is more poignant than all the rest. It is not enough to slip on someone’s shoes — we must think holistically. It is not enough to walk for a mile — we must walk until we achieve understanding.
Empathy is essential for any leader that hopes to understand and inspire their team members. Empathy is about caring and curiosity, which makes it the perfect jumping-off point for gaining traction within your team. Your empathy and sincerity are your first lines of defense against negative energy, helping alert you the moment any dark clouds descend on the workspace. The most successful leaders use this empathy to direct their personal touchpoints, keeping the skies sunny whenever possible.
Start Small. Start Positive.
As a leader, you have an immense (and sometimes daunting) power to cultivate or suffocate the positivity within your workforce. The entire process starts with you — with self-examination — and ends with a team that understands its own limitations and demands empathy for everyone.
Atlanta-based Dr. Sam Adeyemi (SAY: Ah Day yeh me) is founder and executive director of Daystar Leadership Academy (DLA). More than 45,000 alumni have graduated from DLA programs, and more than 3 million CEOs and high performing individuals follow him on top social media sites. Dr. Sam’s new book is Dear Leader: Your Flagship Guide to Successful Leadership. He holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Virginia’s Regent University, and is a member of the International Leadership Association. He and his wife, Nike (say Nee keh) have three children and founded Daystar Christian Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. Learn more at SamAdeyemi.com.
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