5 March 2015

The big leadership pitfall: constantly sacrificing yourself

Persistence and perseverance are criteria for the selection of managers, but the pressure of the organization and the will-power and perseverance of the manager himself can be so great that he easily finds himself in a negative spiral of working too much and too hard and taking too little rest. You accept the pain and the inconvenience of the effort required to lead and go on and on . You suppress warning signals: “They simply can’t do without me.” Or: “If I don’t do it, who will take the responsibility?” You keep on sacrificing yourself and this is ultimately at the expense of your own health or the personal relationships with your partner and friends.

If you could detect the danger of stress earlier, you would do yourself a big service. I have noticed that regularly exercising mindfulness sharpens my perception and enables me to react to stress signals sooner and to take appropriate action. Mindfulness also had a much wider effect on my attitude to work: I could pay attention and focus better in my conversations with other people, both at the office and at home. Since then, I have noticed that the quality of my work and the pleasure I have in it has increased and that my attention, when put under pressure, can be more easily redirected. It thus proved possible to escape from the cage of stress and sacrifice, but to do that I had to give up my conviction that I was indispensable. I had also to curb my excessive self-confidence that I could handle anything. Surprisingly enough, when I did this, my resilience turned out to be greater than I had imagined.