ABCs for sustainable leadership

26 Mar 2014

Krav MagaBy Michael Guerriero

“Thwap! Thud! Pshhh!” Are the sounds made while striking the bag made for a beating. The class instructor calls “Attack!”. As I strike the bag, an “attacker” comes at me from the side and clenches her hands around my neck in an all-too-realistic choke hold.  I break the hold, defend against the attacker and turn back to the other partner holding the bag.  It was my first Krav Maga lesson after a testing-ground induction last week.  Krav Maga is a hybrid self defence system developed in Israel in the 1940s.  But it’s also an important reminder to me about how we relate to, manage others, and manage ourselves in our working lives.

We have all encountered the emotionally detached and disengaged colleague; the unimpressed team member who points out what isn’t working. This person is often the change weary co-worker –  the “we’ve done this before” person, the sighing peer or simply, the non-contributor around the board room table. He or she will almost predictably have a set of words they use that put a dampener on the effort of others, or not have a set of words but have the same impact. The sense of lament in their voice when they do speak can be palpable, almost disheartening.

As a leader how can you extend the attributes that enabled you to take on your own leadership role to the seemingly immovable unimpressed and disengaged colleague?  How can you manage your employee to lift their game and renew their spirit?

The answer, I believe, is within.  Are you managing yourself well as a leader?  What behaviours are you modelling to help your peers and employees engage, to lead with full energy? All too often, we see examples of executives and peers running themselves ragged. Twelve hour days, ninety hour weeks are still all the rage in some places, apparently … until it’s not.  The consequence of this slave-to-output mentality is often expressed as burnout, illness, stress or lost relationships. Or perhaps an intense workaholic period is followed by an extremely long absence, which only destabilises and puts at risk all of the previous accomplishments attained.

How can an effective leader possibly be giving others in their line of leadership the enthusiasm to engage in innovation or “yet another change” initiative, if that leader is not managing their own health and themselves well?  We understand the power of balance in our lives, yet why do we so often choose not to maintain it?

My Krav Maga class offered me a helpful reminder of basics (some ABCs, so to speak) that we know, but sometimes lose sight of.  And I think it can help you too.

(A)WARENESS. Krav Maga teaches us to be aware of our surroundings and ready for whatever life throws us.  Are you aware of your behaviour and how it impacts on your health and on others?  Would you know how to recognise a colleague’s stress?  Are you at risk of being out of balance with your personal relationships?

(B)ALANCE.  In all self defence courses, balance is critical.  Also taking the courses themselves are an effective way of balancing a busy schedule with stress-reducing physical exercise.  If you do have a disengaged employee, take a long hard look at yourself.  Are you managing yourself well?  Are you maintaining the balance needed, to be on point and effective in your dealings with others in your organisation?

(C)ONFIDENCE.  Acquiring new skills, designed to protect yourself from harm, has an immediate positive effect on confidence.  As successful leaders, we know the importance of confidence.  However, confidence without balance, can be experienced by others as bullish and off-putting bravado.  A naturally positive confidence has a naturally flow-on effect, which can eventuate change, or sustain the positive aspects of the working relationships with those around us.  This includes the not so positive colleague or disengaged peer.

Sustainable leadership requires the ABCs that enable you to fulfil organisational dreams while looking after your health and personal relationships, it also serves as a protection to others in the organisation to inspire the focus that people need to actively engage and create conditions of innovation.

To learn more about Krav Maga visit the Krav Maga Defence Institute