In today’s episode, we interview Lexy Thompson, author of the recently released book, The Power of a Graceful Leader. In the book, Lexy shares strategies to break through the ceiling that many leaders don’t want to face to reach higher levels of engagement and success. This ceiling involves deep, introspective work that demands a different mindset. Lexy lays out three common barriers that must be overcome to align who we are with how we lead.
In this episode, Lexy lays out three common barriers that must be overcome to align who we are with how we lead. She uncovers the secrets of gratitude practice, the alignment of values with future goals, and several applicable tips for moving into “graceful leadership.”
Components of Graceful Leadership
After decades of working with executives, Lexy has identified three barriers leaders face that feel like a leadership ceiling. These barriers she defines as flow, integration and alignment. When leaders can make it through these three barriers, they can achieve a leadership style Lexy calls Graceful Leadership.
The first leadership ceiling leaders need to get to is called flow. When a leader is in flow, they’ve deployed a team that’s capable of innovating and problem solving. This allows the leader to spend time removing barriers and finding opportunities. Leading from this place of flow is a vulnerable place to be because it almost seems like the leader really isn’t needed anymore! Many leaders actually avoid leading from this state of flow because they want to feel needed by their teams. In the flow state, you’re there as a bumper in a bowling alley.
Getting to the Next Level of Leadership
Another reason why leaders reach a leadership ceiling has to do with alignment. If you’re wondering about getting to the next level as a leader, questions you should ask yourself are, “What makes you think you’re not where you need to be?” and “Where is the place you think you should be?” This is a conversation that looks into alignment.
Leaders should look at their five and ten year goals not only from a revenue-based perspective but also from how they want to feel if they have accomplished those goals. When you look at your goals through this perspective, you’ll see if your goals are aligning with your values. It’s common to create goals that do not align with who you are or what you want. For example, you might think in the future that you want to expand your company to four offices across the country. Then later you realize that you don’t want to be traveling to those four offices all of the time and take time away from your family.
Four Reasons Why Leaders Aren’t Willing to Do the Work to Get to The Next Level
Many leaders reach a leadership ceiling and tend to stop where they are at for four common reasons.
Doing the Work is Inconvenient
Doing the work it requires to get to the next level is inconvenient. It’s a new thing for which we have to make space, schedule time, and prioritize.
Doing the Inner Work is Painful
It requires a lot of courage to look deep down inside yourself and be willing to align yourself. You’d rather be “fine,” and not face the pain you’ve experienced in the past to create alignment. But this painful work is part of the process. It’s part of becoming a more authentic leader.
Doing the Inner Work is …Work
Dealing with feelings, emotions, unexposed past pains and traumas is too much work. It’s too much work to deal with your own feelings, let alone the feelings of all the people in the company you lead. It’s less work to not do the work, so leaders just simply avoid it all together.
Diving Deeper can be Risky
Leaders worry in this litigious society that asking certain questions to others could carry huge risk. It’s hard to know your people without feeling cautious about asking them what we now consider intimate questions. You want to show you care but not overstep a boundary.
Four Leadership Tips for 2021
- Start a Gratitude Practice
A Gratitude Practice is one of the ultimate hacks for leaders to get and stay in alignment. Leaders can practice gratitude in a way that fits their unique needs and personality. Gratitude journaling is an entry point into a gratitude practice. It’s certainly not the only one, but it’s effective. Some leaders prefer journals, some leaders prefer a gratitude walk, and other leaders prefer verbally sharing their gratitude.
The way you practice gratitude is not important. What is important is simply that you practice it.
Leaders need a gratitude practice to get into the mindset required to be a Graceful Leader.
Benefits of A Gratitude Practice on a Team
If one person shares something that they are grateful about to the company, it exposes a possibility that has worked for them to other places inside the company. This allows leaders in other departments to notice it and see the possibility of something working similarly on their own team. When we worked in the office, cross-functional teams or other stakeholders could have missed this conversation all together, but they are in more conversations like that now in the remote environment.
- Use the Skills of Curiosity to Discover the Real Truth
Leaders need to dive deeper into their curiosity in 2021. Leaders should dive into their curiosity when they feel like they have resistance to an internal or external conversation. When this happens they should pause and ask themselves, “Hmm, I’m curious about why this is happening?” Then leaders should pause for a minute to give themselves more time to look, and then listen, before they act.
A lot of things that we thought we knew in the business structure are no longer true. Many “rules” have been shattered over the past year and there’s even a possibility that many were never true in the first place. We had these rules cloaked very well inside a system that we believed them to be true. The real truth is sitting there waiting for a leader who’s brave enough to really make the inquiry and then gently and kindly move into it.
- Be Gentle with Yourself & Be Willing to Look Within
Leaders need to be still inside themselves more often than they’re willing to be. This can be uncomfortable, but the foundation and connection between self-awareness, mindfulness and leadership success is undeniable.
Use opportunities like hiring a coach, beginning a meditation practice, sitting out in nature, or whatever it takes to help you get to that place of mindfulness that is required to look within.
- Listen to Your Intuition Before You Act
Intuition is one of the most important things a leader can choose to listen to or mute. As leaders begin to make decisions regarding bringing staff back into the workplace to work in person, it’s important to not assume your intuition is everybody’s truth. Leaders need to remember not to assume that everyone wants to go back to the office. They should seek everyone’s feedback before making final decisions.
About Lexy Thompson
Alexsys Thompson wrote the book The Power of a Graceful Leader, as a testament to her own leadership journey, as well as the journey of hundreds of other leaders. For Alexsys, the tipping point came when she established her gratitude practice and spent a decade refining it. Today, developing a gratitude practice is a key element of her work as a board-certified executive coach. Alexsys also serves as adjunct staff for The Center for Creative Leadership and is a member of the Forbes Coaching Council. She authored The Trybal Gratitude Journals, curated a collection of short stories called Gratitude 540, and is building a retreat center in Vermont that will be a “safe space for souls to show up.”