How To Be a Better Leader By Slowing Down and Simplifying

To Be a Better Leader, Shift Yourself First

Do you want to know how to be a better leader?

If the answer is yes, that’s probably because you’re already really good at what you’re doing. And you’re probably a bit of a perfectionist.

Wanting to improve yourself is great, of course. But unfortunately, we often equate this idea of “being better” with “doing more.”

But ironically, when we try to do too much at once, we often end up getting less done!

Here’s how leveling up your leadership skills might involve slowing down and simplifying instead of doing more.

Slow Down and Simplify

As professionals in the workplace and every area of our lives, we are juggling too much. I’m here to tell you that this is normal — it’s not a flaw. But it doesn’t need to be the norm.

Here are just a few reasons why we think we can (and should) do everything and be everywhere:

In the quest to somehow “be better,” we sometimes push ourselves to the point where we’re doing ourselves and others a disservice.

Fortunately, trends like mindfulness in the workplace are catching on. This, in combination with the recent pandemic, has forced many of us to rethink our schedules, our duties, and what is meaningful.

Taking time to slow down and re-evaluate what is most important does not make you a bad leader. In fact, we think it makes you a better one.

Practice Lowering the Bar

I once took a course with the author, Patti Digh, and she made a comment about doing some of her best work when she “lowered the bar.”

It made me think of the bar I set for myself sometimes and how impossible it is to attain those perfect expectations, like…

I’m publishing a great book every year and getting standing ovations every week across the country, all from the comfort of my perfectly organized office in my completely renovated house! This is where I do all my bookwork on time while making nutritious, organic meals for my family every night. And I never miss a single school performance or volleyball game.

You know these high standards, right? I bet you have them too.

But how can we contribute our best in any of these roles with the bar poised where it is?

What would happen if you lowered the bar just a little? Not on everything, but maybe there are a few items on that list that don’t have to be quite so perfect in your quest.

When it comes to learning how to be a better leader, maybe the focus on “all” is coming at the expense of the “few” items that need your attention.

Self Check-in: Questions for When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Here are a few questions that might be helpful when you find yourself getting pulled in too many directions.

What is real?

How many of the expectations and timelines you are trying to meet are actual, and how many could shift? What if you choose three priorities to focus on and let the bar down on the others for now? You may not want to lose sight of those other priorities altogether, so put them on your “someday” list and take them off your today list.

What is here?

Most of the things we worry about are long past or haven’t even happened yet. Sometimes the question “What is here?” can help you drop into the here and now and focus on what is right in front of you: how to be a better leader

What are my stories?

Why am I trying to be perfect in so many ways at the expense of not achieving what is most important? What stories am I telling myself, and where do these come from? What new stories can I create?

What are some practices that will help me be clear about my priorities?

What can I practice every day that will support me to focus and become clear about my priorities? Is it a short meditation each morning? Or reflective writing? Gratitude? Appreciative inquiry? Going to bed on time so that I’m more clear tomorrow? Or maybe a combination of a few of these short practices.

Define Your Own Version of Success

We all want to contribute our best, but if the bar is too high and we’re pulled in too many directions, we just feel like we’re doing a half-job of everything.

To understand how to be a better leader, lower the bar a little, ask yourself some reflective questions, and build simple practices that support you to succeed.

I love working with leaders to help organizations flourish. Get started by ordering your copy of A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture or booking a consultation.

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:

6 Ways To Be A More Transformational Leader
Let’s Make Work A Healthy Life Experience!
Up The Water Spout Again: 8 Positive Ways To Flourish

This article was updated in 2021. 

Deborah Connors

Deborah Connors teaches leaders to radically shift culture so that people can flourish. She is an engaging speaker, storyteller, author and coach.

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