This article is motivated by an awareness of the severe pressures on leaders in general and probably on the bulk of readers of this column. Whether we like it or not, pressure on leaders will continue in future and in many cases tend to increase as time goes by. Most of us face daily demands that at times threaten to smother us. On occasion some of us may feel tempted to take drastic action that may not be beneficial to us or to others around us.
Our heritage of steel
It is necessary to be reminded of our rich heritage of character, experiences and values that are our most precious possession. Daily pressures of life threaten to cause us to let go of our heritage and slip into the grey world of frustration and low self-esteem. A while ago we wrote an article in this column on ‘Leaders of steel’. The article was based on on-going research of successful pit-face leaders who are confident and capable of moving barriers to potential and excellence around them. These leaders portray a heritage of steel that motivate, direct and provide effective supporting structure to hundreds of people that work for them.
The expression ‘Don’t give away your steel’ is a friendly yet serious reminder for all our readers to be aware of those things that tempt them to give away their steel.
In each of us resides a heritage of steel that can withstand any pressure as we believe in what and whom we are. Many of us believe in a divine heritage of goodness, character and potential. Our steel is closely connected to our self-belief and our value system.
What is our steel?
Each of us possesses an extremely involved and unique blend of attributes that may constitute our own individual steel:
- Our sense and instinct of our essential goodness, an essence within us that desires to be good and to oppose the negative and the evil in life.
- The need for humility. An essential element of our steel is that we cannot rely on our mortal self only. We need to depend on universal values and spiritual realities that are available for all to embrace if we choose to do so.
- Our belief in universal values of honesty, accountability, safety, achievement and our connection with others around us. These are some of the values of one of our customers but they are universal and applicable to all who are true to their inborn instincts to be achievers of worthwhile causes.
- Our sense of respect for the dignity and potential of others around us, especially those who report to us. This sense of steel is boosted by respect for the offices that drive our seniors, our self and others around us.
- Our steel is also found in our respect for the greater context of all things and our desire to always study the overall relevancy of situations we find our self in. This is the steel of seeking context, understanding, knowledge and wisdom.
- Our passion for the cause we are involved in is a major element of our steel.
- Our steel is also our respect for the need for discipline and fair treatment of all we are involved with, the need to draw boundaries of acceptable conduct and if others step over these lines they too must be disciplined for the safety, dignity and achievement of others around them.
Our steel is bound closely to our self-respect that nobody has the right to subvert.
One of our customers, Dawie Pieterse of Harmony Gold interprets the statement ‘Don’t let go of your steel’ as meaning ‘don’t let go of your backbone!’ This is a valid deduction. The principles mentioned above give us some understanding of what constitutes our ‘backbone’ or steel.
Times of great pressure
In times of fatigue and great pressure we are tempted to lose our cool or feel down in the dumps. On these occasions a sense of our steel accompanied by the determination ‘not to give it away’ may mean the difference to making it or not making it.
We may have different senses of what our steel is, and when we go to the trouble of finding out we will find where our most valuable possessions really lie.
What takes away our steel?
It is true that nothing or nobody can take away our steel without our permission!
- We give away our steel often by the language we speak. Negative expressions and emotions are often synonymous with giving away our steel.
- Anger is a major contributor to losing our steel. A major danger of anger is that by its very nature it lumps all perceptions together in one big emotion of harsh judgment. In the process of allowing our self to be swept away in anger we stand in real danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Anger simply does not care about the full picture or the bigger context or about values and sensitivities. It simply judges and condemns. As an emotion it is often attractive to many of us because of its apparent simplicity and clarity. That is until the full picture evolves or the full consequences of our anger also unfolds. Then we perceive it as an ugly and irresponsible emotion. Anger is our mortal enemy. Anger will take away our steel while at the same time deceiving us into thinking we are in control. Anger in this respect should not be confused with the steel of passion for our cause.
- Feeling threatened can take away our steel. A perception of severe pressure, no matter what kind of pressure, tends to make us feel threatened in our inner core. This is not a pleasant feeling and often leads to anger, overreaction or despondency. I see on a daily basis how people tend to give away their steel when feeling threatened in some way. Feeling threatened and the blame game are close pals.
Leaders, don’t take away the steel of other people! Our daily language has cascading effects for good and bad, sometimes for years into the future. It is cruel to take away the steel of other people. It may hurt and damage relationships, and may destroy confidence and courage.
Our inner steel is our greatest possession. Don’t allow anything or anybody to take it away from us.
Summary principles in article:
- Empathy with severe pressure that leaders experience
- Our most valuable possession is our inner steel
- Defining inner steel
- We cannot lose our steel without our permission
- What tempts us into giving away our steel?
- Don’t take away the steel of others!
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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.