As a fellow woman leader, I am excited to connect with you all through this blog and share some of the leadership skills that have become essential to me in my work as a gymnastics coach: awareness, interest, and optimism.
Reflect for a moment on your experiences with various leaders - these could be employers, managers, teachers, counselors, parents, coaches, you name it. Who comes to mind? Did you like them or dislike them? Were they aware of how they affected others and thoughtful with their words and actions, or were they unaware and reactive? Did they take interest in you and your strengths and weaknesses, or were they distracted and concerned only with their agenda? Did they affirm you and your ability to succeed, or did they doubt your abilities and settle for mediocre effort?
As leaders, we have the power to increase the confidence and success of those we lead by cultivating awareness, interest and optimism into our daily lives. Let’s break these skills down.
When we are aware of ourselves and how we impact others, we can make thoughtful and effective decisions that motivate others. So consider your habits and how you react in situations. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Be aware of your body language and tone and what they are communicating. Notice how your words and actions come across to other people. Watch yourself from the observer point of view and determine whether you are showing up as the leader you want to be.
When we make the effort to get to know those we lead, we are not only gaining helpful information to better motivate them, but we are communicating value and developing trust. As a side note: Feeling valued goes a long way in earning the respect and affection of others - which is one of the most effective tools of leadership. Studies have shown that when a person likes and respects another, there is a high chance they will want to please them by being compliant and doing their best, and will give more weight to their opinion. So continue listening to those you lead. Ask clarifying questions to understand their perspective, and care about their concerns, priorities, opinions and growth.
When we believe in those we lead, we strengthen their motivation and confidence for success. Conversely, when they feel overlooked by us, or their abilities doubted, we weaken their motivation and confidence for success. Sports psychologist, Ali Arnol, speaks of optimism saying that nowhere is it more important than in leadership. She says that “highly effective leaders… have the gift of being able to convince others that they have the ability to achieve levels of performance beyond those they thought possible.”
Let us remember with gratitude all the leaders we have had that have been aware and interested enough to get to know us and have been optimistic enough to believe in our abilities, and let these leaders serve as examples and inspiration to us as leaders to pass the baton of confidence and success forward.