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Intentional Leadership A Problem-Oriented Leadership Learning Opportunity 1. Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA January 25, 2013 Discussion Draft. 1 This presentation will produce some energizing discomfort when you realize you are responsible

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Intentional leadership a problem oriented leadership learning opportunity 1

Intentional LeadershipA Problem-Oriented Leadership Learning Opportunity1

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

January 25, 2013 Discussion Draft

1This presentation will produce some energizing discomfort when you realize you are responsible

for most of the paralyzing discomfort in your professional life.


What is the problem 1 2

What is the problem?1,2

We are to blame for most of the stress in our professional lives because we are leading impulsively instead of intentionally.

1I have never had a leader tell me, “I’m stressed and it’s my fault.”

2But it almost always is.


Why is this important

Why is this important?

  • Most leaders would agree that leadership is stressful.

  • And most would say their job is to blame.

  • It’s just not true.

  • And so long as we delude ourselves, we will not manage the stress in our professional lives very effectively.

  • Here is a new perspective on the professional stress problem.

  • You can decrease your stress by leading intentionally.

  • Just control your mind.

  • It’s that simple—and hard.1

  • This presentation will answer the following questions:

    • How can you recognize you are leading impulsively?

    • Why will most leaders never get it?

    • What circumstances predispose you to lead impulsively?

    • Why are you inclined to lead impulsively?

    • Why do you fall into these traps?

    • If you aspire to be an intentional leader, what must you change?

  • This is not easy, simple, quick or fun.

  • But even modest progress will render you more successful and less stressed.

1Let me begin with a typical story a colleague told me about a physician leader trashing me.


How can you recognize that you are leading impulsively

How can you recognize that you are leading impulsively?

  • When you are angry

  • When you are hurt

  • When you are ruminating

  • When you are venting

  • When you are worrying

  • When you are crying

  • When you are being defensive

  • When you are avoiding

  • When you are not consulting your colleagues

  • When you are dreading

  • When you are reacting impulsively

  • When you are feeling or doing anything unpleasant that you are blaming on someone else1

1You would not be doing any of these things intentionally, right?

2And all of these unpleasant emotions and behaviors are subjecting you to avoidable stress.

3This presentation will show you how to minimize that stress.


Why will most leaders never get this

Why will most leaders never get this?

  • They believe they are “normal” and perfectly entitled to feel the way they do.

  • They believe someone or something made them feel that way.

  • They believe they have no control over their feelings.

  • Their role models have reacted in the same ways.

  • They believe that their bad feelings and associated actions motivate others to do better.

  • They believe that since they are bigwigs people are not supposed to make them unhappy.

  • They have little or no mental self-discipline.

  • They believe that being miserable is just they way they are.

  • No one has ever pointed out that that way we feel and react is our responsibility; if someone has, they don’t believe it.

  • They are just not smart enough to figure this out.

  • They are in a rut and have no desire to get out.1

1Most leaders prefer to tolerate the level of stress with which they have become “comfortable” instead

of experiencing the discomfort of decreasing the stress in their professional lives. Go figure.


Why are you inclined to lead impulsively 1

Why are you inclined to lead impulsively?1

  • Some emotional trigger occurs in the workplace.

  • Your beliefs, perceptions and sensitivities process it.

  • As a result, you experiences certain feelings.

  • Because of these feelings, you feel certain preconscious urges.

  • In response to these urges, you automatically behave in predictable ways.

  • These behaviors produce unpleasant or unhelpful consequences.

  • This result produces feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and you to blame others.

  • This frustrating cascade reinforces your beliefs, perceptions and sensitivities and prepares you for the next leadership failure.

  • Most fearful leaders never figure this cascade out, suspect they can change it, or possess the interest or self-discipline to do so.

1Anatomical, neurochemical, electrical and molecular processes notwithstanding, this cascade reflects

our current understanding of how the impulsive leader’s mind works.


Why do you fall into these traps

Why do you fall into these traps?

  • You are partially hardwired to react defensively.

  • You have seen others react instinctively your whole life.

  • Your family members and role models have reacted instinctively.

  • Bigwigs throw temper tantrums frequently and are lionized for it; you have accepted such behavior as acceptable.

  • Since you are behaving and stressing just like everyone else, you think you are doing the best you can.

  • You have succeeded so far in spite of your stress-inducing impulses and unintentional behavior.

  • Because you are driven by your instincts; behaving in any other way may never have occurred to you until now.1

1When a person you don’t admire, one who does not share your goals and who does not have your best

interests at heart criticizes you, why would you allow that to upset you?


If you aspire to become an intentional leader what must you change

If you aspire to become an intentional leader, what must you change?

  • You must question your beliefs.

  • You must modify your perceptions.

  • You must modulate your sensitivities.

  • Your must manage your feelings.

  • You must resist your urges.

  • You must change your behavior.

  • You must learn from the consequences of your actions.

  • You must recognize that leaders only become more intentional and less impulsive over time and with sustained effort.1,2

1This process is not “natural,” and few leaders will be sufficiently motivated to change.

2And one can only hope to become more intentional and less impulsive.


How can you question your beliefs

How can you question your beliefs?

1Here are some of the mistaken beliefs—cognitive distortions—that control impulsive leaders.


How can you modify your perceptions

How can you modify your perceptions?

  • Begin by admitting that you have preconceived notions and that these perceptions filter everything coming in and going out of your mind.

  • Then, admit your perceptions may be misperceptions.1,2

  • Figure out what your perceptions are by examining what upsets you and how you behave when you are aroused.

  • Write your perceptions down so you can view them more objectively.

  • Be brutally honest with yourself about whether the facts support your perceptions.

  • Force yourself to consider a different perspective.

  • Test your modified perspectives with colleagues who are open to new perspectives themselves.

  • With your perspectives out in the open, invite people to challenge them.

  • Be patient and persistent with yourself.

  • These changes take time.

1People commonly believe that stress is bad and that it is killing us.

2The truth is, the lack of stress is killing us.


How can you modulate your sensitivities

How can you modulate your sensitivities?

1Your sensitivities are directly related to the source of your self-esteem.

2If your self-esteem is based mostly on what others think, you will be very sensitive.


How can you manage your feelings 1

How can you manage your feelings?1

  • Identify and accept them.

  • Remind yourself that they are just feelings.

  • Quarantine them.

  • Take feelings seriously, but not too seriously.

  • View every unpleasant feeling as an opportunity to learn something.

  • Consider that you are feeling badly because you let your needs get the better of you or you did something wrong.

  • Give them time; they will change.

  • Prevent emotional contagion; practice good brainwashing techniques.2

  • Learn what not to do by observing others’ arousal.

  • Share your feelings sparingly—and only for the right reasons—after you have defanged them.

1Re-read Chapter 2 in “A Portable Mentor for Organizational Leaders.”

2“Just because you feel that way does not mean I have to feel that way too!”


How can you resist your urges

How can you resist your urges?

  • Recognize that this is a critical leadership competency—and a skill that is sorely lacking in typical leaders.

  • Identify your urges immediately—before you act on them.

  • Announce to your colleagues that you “feel an urge.”1

  • The most common urge is to talk about how you feel.

  • The next most common urge is to succumb to emotional contagion and go along with whatever the leader is feeling.

  • Create a mental (or written) checklist of what the exceptional leader does when she experiences an urge.

  • Complete this pre-flight checklist before taking off.

  • Ask your colleagues to audit your checklist completion.

1Humor is an effective pause button when leaders become aroused.


How can you change your behavior

How can you change your behavior?

  • Identify your impulsive behavioral patterns.

  • Ask for help from your colleagues; they will see your impulsive patterns more clearly than you will.

  • Be sure to consider your mental behavioral patterns—such as rumination—too.

  • Identify behaviors that would be more effective.

  • Interrupt your behavioral cascade as soon as you recognize it.

  • Strive to hit the pause button before the automatic behavioral cascade begins.

  • Replace your impulsive behavior with intentional behavior no matter how you feel.1,2

  • Over time, your intentional behaviors will reinforce themselves.

  • And you will have become a more intentional leader.

1When you are initially engaged in becoming more intentional, you simply cannot trust your feelings.

2This is intensely uncomfortable for those who have succeeded as impulsive leaders.


How can you learn from the consequences of your behavior

How can you learn from the consequences of your behavior?

  • Identify what the consequences of your behavior were.

  • Calculate the ROI on the mental energy you invested in becoming aroused and venting and worrying and ruminating.

  • (Hint: The ROI is zero.)

  • Assess the damage you did to others by emoting all over the place.

  • Ask yourself how the intentional leader would have handled the same situation.

  • Ask the fellow leaders you most admire how your behavior impacted them.

  • Ask your colleagues to describe what leadership behavior would have been more helpful.1,2,3

1I have a certain reputation for confronting others.

2A colleague sent an emotional email, then apologized.

3Confrontation would have been counterproductive.


What are some suggested next steps

What are some suggested next steps?

  • Make an informed decision about whether you really want to become a more intentional—and less impulsive—leader.

  • Decide whether you will pay the price.1,2

  • Begin keeping a careful “Leadership-Moments-of-Truth” journal.

    • What happened?

    • How did I feel?

    • What beliefs and perceptions inclined me to feel that way?

    • How were those beliefs and perceptions flawed?

    • What did I want to do?

    • What did I do?

    • What might I have done instead?

  • Practice for the rest of your life.

1Only a few leaders will invest the time and energy to become more intentional.

2Most will conclude that being an impulsive leader is working just fine for them.


Where can you learn more

Where can you learn more?

  • Join the discussion about practical approaches to more effective leadership on the SOMC Leadership Blog.

  • Read Expectations for SOMC Leaders carefully.

  • Learn more about Southern Ohio Medical Center here.

  • Review and download this presentation and related presentations and white papers here.

  • Read Results That Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top to review some leadership strategies that successful health care executives have embraced.

  • Learn more about how to confront others effectively by reading A Portable Mentor for Organizational Leaders.

  • Review practical techniques for conducting crucial conversations in Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.

  • Consider adding the practical and comprehensive Successful Manager’s Handbook to your personal library.


Are there other questions

Are there other questions?

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