"What's the most important quality in a leader?"
In a recent Him For Her dinner I attended, this was one of the ice breaker questions our host asked us to use when introducing ourselves to the other guests at the table.
The answers were widely varied: curiosity, valuing people who are different from them, authenticity, long term thinkers, being gifted with making things simple...
But what really is the most important quality in a leader?
How about kindness. When did we all forget about kindness? When did we stop valuing kindness?
I would argue that kindness is one of the most undervalued leadership qualities in our world today.
When did we decide kindness was not an essential trait of a great leader? When did we stop being kind as leaders? I'll tell you when...
When we rewarded leaders for their great results and consistently overlooked their unkind behavior. When we decided kindness was a synonym for pushover, weakness, inefficiency, and softness. When we decided we were too busy to be kind. We have a business to run after all, so what has kindness got to do with any of it?
Kind people don't get shit done. Mean people, who rule with fear and have a Game of Thrones style management (as Adam Neumann of WeWork was described recently in an article in Fast Company) are the ones who really drive results. And results are what shareholders value.
So we devalue kindness.
The question is, can women even afford to be a kind leader? I walk the line, the careful dance of being too nice or too witchy. Of being too trusting or too controlling. Of being too compassionate and being the ice queen/dragon lady/the Devil wearing Prada. (Disclaimer: I don't actually own any Prada clothing, but it does have a nice ring to it.)
The question I would instead ask is, how can we afford not to be kind?
In case you didn't get the memo, people don't stay at a job for the endless supply of KIND Bars, free caffeine, and access to weekly discounted massages. The vast majority of people stay to work for kind people.
I can lead with kindness. I can be tough and fair. I can have high standards and expectations for my team and those around me.
And I don't have to kick people when they are down. I don't have to make feel people worse than they already do about the mistakes they have made. I don't have to use foul language, threaten, or manipulate. I don't have to rule with fear. I don't have to be unkind to drive results. I just don't. And it's not how I want to lead. I will not be an unkind leader.
We all have our moments. I am not always the kindest version of myself all the time. That's just not possible—I am human after all. But I do try to think about how I can lead with more kindness, compassion, and generosity. How can I show up as a kinder leader?
Kindness comes in all different forms. It's the free smile, the free hello, and the free wave. It's treating people with generosity, empathy, and care. It's about asking people how they are doing and taking a few minutes to actually listen to the response before walking off. It's about bringing humanity back to our workspaces and workplaces.
So please don't mistake my kindness for weakness.
Being kind is my greatest strength—our collective greatest strength—in leadership. This is how we should all want to lead to create a real impact for ourselves and our organizations.
And in the words of Maya Angelou, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget about how you made them feel."
With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.