When I lived in Kamloops, my friend’s wife opened a gym with a boxing/weight training theme. There were ten stations and ten punching bags. A bell would ring every minute, and you’d change stations. It was a great way to build strength and get your heart rate up. Over time, she added exercise balls and balance boards to the routine.
I’m not a fan of exercise balls. They expose the weakness of my core muscles. Eventually, my core strength and balance improved to the point that I could do squats while standing on the ball. It’s become my ‘glory days’ moment when I’m chatting with friends who are in great shape.
In the same way that your physical core muscles impact what your body can do, your Leadership Core determines how well you’re able to lead and with what capacity. Your core values, guiding principles and broad leadership experience make up your leadership core.
A strong leadership core brings multiple benefits to your day-to-day leadership. Here are my top three:
- A strong leadership core provides you with stability and inner strength. Leading is always challenging, and it’s especially challenging right now. Leading from your core makes you a better and ‘safer’ leader in the sense that you’re able to maintain your balance during the storm. If your leadership core is weak, your leadership will become knee-jerk instead of intentional and principled.
- It protects you from making poor decisions. It’s been a long and exhausting 16 months of innovating and pivoting. Most leaders I know are tired. Without a strong leadership core, tired leaders start to react and become impatient and reactive. Impatient and reactive leaders make terrible decisions. Filter your responses through your values/principles grid, especially when you’re tired!
- It keeps you ‘on the ball.’ My first attempts to stand on the ball were comical, even after months of core work. I’d fall one way and then the other. I had to hold on to a piece of gym equipment, and then one day, it happened. I found and felt my centre. As soon as that happened, I stopped wobbling and grasping for something to help me stand. My core had become strong enough to help me stay on the ball. It was an exciting and satisfying day, but not nearly as gratifying as being able to stay ‘on the ball’ as a leader through a global pandemic.
At least once a year, I go through a values identification exercise. It helps me clarify where I’m at and how I’m doing with leading from my core. If it’s been a while since you’ve done an identification exercise, there are some excellent (and free) tools online to help you do one. If it’s been a while and the results seem ‘off,’ do a couple to see if they match up.
After you’ve identified your values, reflect on how you’ve been leading. If you’ve drifted, make the necessary adjustments to get you back on track!
Stay ‘on the ball!’ You’ve got this!
— Tim Schindel