Self-love for managers: the secret ingredient for leadership that is authentic and easy
Leadership without self-love and consideration of one's own needs is like sailing without sails.
We do not need a new leadership. What we need are spaces in which the aspects of self-love such as needs, empathy and vulnerability for the self find a place in leadership, so that leadership work becomes authentic and easy.
The next leadership thing again. Servant leadership. Before that, it was empathic leadership, leadership 2.0, leadership 4.0, new work leadership, agile leadership, and so on.
If you’re like me, these buzzwords don’t pick you up anymore. Quite the opposite. What sounds and is promised like the holy grail of leadership ends up being old wine in new bottles. We don’t need new leadership! The one we have and know is good, the only thing that is lacking is consistent implementation.
There is no doubt that leadership has changed dramatically in recent years and decades. Tasks are becoming more complex, challenges more complicated, markets faster, circumstances more uncertain, and customers more demanding. In short, welcome to the Vuca world.
But no matter what label we attach to leadership, in the end it’s all about one thing:
The first task of leadership is to organize cooperation. – Reinhard K. Sprenger
It’s always about people. Your employees, your customers, your suppliers. And about you. No surprise, but the easier you can lead yourself, the easier your leadership will be. Good leadership always starts with good self-leadership.
Self-Leadership. The self in leadership.
Let’s do a quick experiment on self-leadership:
- When was the last time you were proud of yourself?
- When was the last time you thanked yourself?
- When was the last time you did something good for yourself?
Today? Yesterday? Or has it been a while since the last time?
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
As a leader, you carry a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. Most of the time you have little or no time, you rush from meeting to meeting, you have to take the rap. You encounter resistance and obstacles. You have to perform, have control, be present, decide.
Family and private life are almost always neglected. And your health even more so. And when is your turn?
When in everyday life do you pay attention to yourself? When in your everyday life do you consciously perceive yourself? When in your everyday life do you thank yourself? When are you proud of yourself? How do you lead yourself in the daily doing of your business?
When you lead people, one of your central tasks is to organize the cooperation of your employees. To promote their talents and potentials. Putting people in positions where they can develop and give their best. And to express appreciation to your teams and employees for their performance and success. To be grateful.
Tell me how this is possible if you don’t recognize and fulfill this for yourself? How is authentic appreciation possible if you don’t feel it for yourself?
“Your Self” in Leadership
A fundamental aspect of self-leadership is self-love. Sounds esoteric and abstract. It’s a concept that has not yet become widely established in Germany. Especially not for men and certainly not for male leaders.
For too long we have focused on numbers. People have been referred to as human resources. Human resources like machines, the same every day, measurable every day. We can now measure everything and have forgotten how to feel.
In addition, we have so many societal rules and regulations about how men in particular have to behave in our world that I personally am dreading it. The only way to climb the career ladder is often with elbows and violations of values. Don’t show any weaknesses. Don’t make any mistakes. An Indian knows no pain…
Have you ever asked yourself whether you really wanted all this?
And now the modern business world also wants us to believe that we need a “new leadership” again. Currently in high demand: servant leadership, and the empathic leadership style that touts empathy like apples on the market, purchased in passing.
Are you kidding me?
First you had to stand your ground, fight your way up with elbows, toughness and power, and now you are supposed to show your soft side. Show feelings? Be empathetic? Now, when you have trained yourself all these years most successfully from these qualities? Now an Indian is supposed to know or even feel pain?
The empathy bullshit
Self-love goes hand in hand with empathy. And authentic empathy comes when we allow ourselves to develop it for ourselves first. When we allow ourselves all feelings and emotions, acknowledge our traumas and hurts, and develop compassion for our self.
Empathy does not arise without being aware of our own vulnerability. The feelings and emotions of our counterpart always touch a part within ourselves. We are social beings who, thanks to mirror neurons, are able to empathize with the emotions of the other. If we are allowed to, there is room for it and we feel safe. Only when I have developed compassion for myself can I authentically express it to others.
In doing so, vulnerability offers two options: Losing face or developing strength. If organization calls for servant and/or empathic leadership, then we need to create spaces where self-love and vulnerability find room. Where need fulfillment and vulnerability is allowed to take its place without negative consequences or repercussions.
I would like to take up the cudgels for all the emotions and vulnerabilities of leaders who believe they must always be strong, know everything and be in control at all times. Self-love starts right here and can be learned. Self-love can be saying “I don’t know yet, but we will figure it out.”
What does love mean here?
Self-love is, at its core, the conscious awareness of yourself in the moment. Self-love is also the recognition and satisfaction of your needs. It is gratitude for yourself and your daily work. This can also be expressed in sports, healthy eating, taking breaks, saying no and setting boundaries.
This is not about romantic love, which we know from Hollywood movies. Self-love begins with the appreciation and recognition of your self. Seeing what is, accepting what is.
Self-love is also being aware of our strengths and weaknesses, imprints and traumas. And that we are aware of how these express themselves in everyday life through our actions.
A universal assumption about love is that it does us good and makes us feel good. And good feelings occur when our needs are met. Acknowledge that you are the most important person to you in your life. Allowing yourself to be your greatest love. Actively living self-love also creates a space in which we become aware that we can say goodbye to the addiction to harmony and constantly saying yes.
Self-love is need fulfillment is self-love.
Brief digression on needs: Needs refer to a broad class of goals. In contrast to motive and values, the concept of needs is associated with the assumption that needs are only triggered by a relative deficiency. Needs thus become relevant to experience and behavior when they are violated or in deficit. (Source: Wikipedia)
Parts of our human needs are similar: water, sleep, sexuality, health, food, physical integrity, family, and community. And parts are quite individualized: Career success, status, power, luxury, meaning, spirituality.
Needs are not negotiable
Self-love begins with awareness of your needs:
- What are your needs? What is important to you every day?
- When did you last deal with your needs?
- How can you integrate the fulfillment of your needs into your everyday life?
If the 3 questions are too abstract, try these 5 questions:
- What’s the best way to relax?
- How do you recharge your batteries?
- What do you need to feel good and healthy?
- What do you need to do your job to the best of your ability?
- How much community do you need to feel seen and valued?
And the demand of employees for more appreciation by their manager almost always addresses the symptom of one and the same cause. Often, the person in leadership feels no appreciation for him or herself. You can only give to others what you allow yourself.
When your employees ask for “more appreciation” in the future, ask yourself first:
- Where do I show myself appreciation?
- Where can I show myself more appreciation?
In the second step, ask your employees how they would notice that they are being appreciated. Because your employees’ perceived lack of appreciation is also closely linked to their own needs and self-love. By sharing the different needs, you can work out solutions together.
How well your employees feel, how well they perform, how successful you are and how much your customers enjoy working with you all depend to a large extent on your self-love for yourself.
Everyone is free to define for themselves what self-love means. The term may imply many things, but love is always a subjectively felt emotion.
Everyone loves in their own way.