Real Leaders

Waking Up a Leader: 5 Relationships You Must Manage For Success

There are five key relationships that require your attention if you want to thrive as a leader: time, money, the self, friendships, and the unknown. How you manage these relationships dictates your well-being. Leaders make decisions that impact the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of other people. That’s a huge responsibility.

Learning to manage these five key relationships from a place of trust instead of fear will decrease your stress and anxiety, improve your well-being, and enable you to make the best decisions for yourself and your team.

No matter where you are on the leadership spectrum, you can wake up to a new way of leading. Mindfulness is not reserved for the chosen few. It’s a skill you can learn and practice daily. Doing so will transform the way you relate to your thoughts, emotions, coworkers, and the difficulties of life. When you stay present, you can see what’s happening, talk to yourself about how you’re relating, and bring yourself back to the facts.

You have the power to choose how you respond. You can manage your relationships with time, money, the self, friendships, and the unknown from a place of trust. As a result, you will lead more effectively and with less suffering for yourself and others.

1. Time

We go after the short-term solution rather than what is most beneficial in the long run. Author and educator Stephen Covey talks about this idea and how we spend time on things that seem urgent (e.g., answering the phone when we’re in the middle of a conversation, responding to a text while we are driving with our kids in the car), but are mostly unimportant. Instead, he suggests that we focus on what is most important: building relationships, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep. When we are constricted around the idea of time, everything seems important and urgent. The first step is to take responsibility for your relationship with time. This is a choice. Moment by moment, you need to pay attention to how you’re relating to time.

2. Money

Valuing our time in relation to money is tricky. It’s easier to measure the value of $10,000 than an extra 30 or 60 minutes. However, when we realize that how we use our time impacts our well-being, we can more easily see the value of paying for a service that will free time for stargazing or mountain climbing or whatever gives us joy and positive emotion.

Many leaders come to me bewildered by the stark reality that they have worked many years to earn a lot of money only to find themselves no happier, and, oftentimes, less happy than they have ever been. Gratefulness is one of the keys to unhooking yourself from a fear-based relationship to money. Be grateful for the resources you have right now because right now is all there is. Focus on what you have available in the present, not what you’re missing or what you think you won’t have in the future. When we’re not grateful, it seems like nothing will meet our needs. Everything is a black hole, so we keep striving for more.

3. The Self

We all see ourselves a certain way and are reluctant to change, even when that way creates a lot of suffering for ourselves and others. It takes great courage, an ability to pay attention, and a willingness to let go to begin to choose something different. This is the moment of waking up. 

Gaining a flexible sense of self starts with paying attention. First, we need to notice when we slip into thinking the self is permanent. Notice when you start focusing on my project, my team, and my money. Notice when you start to justify yourself or feel judged by others. Both are evidence of trying to prop up or defend something you believe is inherently, constantly, permanently you.

Second, we need to pay attention to where we get
caught in the world of shoulds: life should be different, this shouldn’t be happening to me, and so on. One way to show generosity is by using our strengths to support others. 

Strengths can be seen
as the gifts we’ve been given, like a sense of humor or the ability to edit grammar and writing. Choose to be generous with these gifts and use them
to benefit others.

4. Friendships

We sometimes view people as being a glass we can see through. We think we know everything about them. There’s nothing new for us to know about their personality or capabilities. In other words, we view them as static, unchanging things. We tell ourselves that “Tim is like that” or “Stacey is like this.” We don’t see how they are always changing right in front of us. If we view people as static objects, we won’t be curious to know more.

A key part of friendship is curiosity, and curiosity is linked to appreciation and caring. It drives us to see the uniqueness and nuance in the most mundane things. If you’ve worked with someone for a while, you might think you’ve reached the end of what you can know about her. Not true. You’ve simply stopped being curious and appreciative.

5. The Unknown

Sometimes, it’s good to think about the future. We need to plan, use a calendar, set goals, and so on. However, in thinking about the future, we tend to think we can control all the causes and conditions that make an outcome possible. Thinking this way brings a false sense of security and more anxiety. We cannot control all of the causes and conditions that make our lives function well. 

We cannot control the future. Finding pleasure in the unknown is an adventure that makes us human. It’s enjoying the mystery that is life rather than trying to solve the mysteries of life. The key idea is not getting caught up in the past, beating yourself up, ruminating, and so on. Let the past inform the present and the future so that you can act more skillfully.

This is an abridged script from Dr. Daphne Scott’s new book Waking Up a Leader: Five Relationships of Success.

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