Our mentoring program has started me thinking on what my work philosophy is and how this influences my leadership style. I have never really thought too much about it, but now I realize that my work philosophy has actually evolved over the years. At the core, I strive for excellence, grounded by the highest standards of professional ethics. This is my mantra which drives me to continuously develop my craft. Particularly during the early years of my career, I was ambitious, aggressive, and disciplined. As a result, I had little tolerance for mediocrity. These have served me well as I quickly climbed up the corporate ladder. However, as I took on a leadership role and my responsibilities grew, I realized that what have served me so well in the past may very well lead me to an early burn out, as well as those around me as they try to cope with my demands.
Practicing yoga helps me realize that life is all about finding balance and this same philosophy can be applied at work. But this can be hard to do. In asana practice, for example, one tends to favor poses which comes very naturally. Thus, for someone who is naturally strong, the tendency is to focus on strength training and active sequences. Strong arm balances may be the poses of choice. However, too much repetition and contraction of the muscles can lead to tightness, wear and tear; and ultimately, injury.
Conversely, for the naturally “bendy” people, poses of choice are those that highlight their uber flexibility like the splits and deep back bends such as full wheel. However, for super flexible people, the tendency is to hyper extend, and if the muscles are not strong enough to support the joints, this will lead to stress on the joints, and ultimately, injury. Thus, it is important to incorporate one’s practice with asanas that will balance your body. More strength training for flexible people, more stretching for the strong.
Personally, I love strength sequences because they provide stability and focus in my practice. On the other hand, sequences that work on opening my hips, hamstrings, back, and shoulders create space and release stress – making me so happy and relaxed. Strength brings stability, flexibility creates space. Combine them both, and we have balance.
Being a strong leader means being able to set direction, provide guidance, make difficult decisions, and instill discipline. At the extreme, however,this can mean being autocratic and its rigidity can break down the organization.
A flexible leader listens to ideas, is open to criticism, and empowers his people. However, allowing full democracy may lead to a slow decision-making process which may not be optimal, particularly during times of crisis.
I believe that there is no “right” or “wrong” leadership style. The key is finding a balance that works best for you, your peers, your subordinates, and your organization. And it takes practice. In yoga, constant practice allows one to be able to be more mindful about the needs of the body and mind. For instance, my daily practice allows me to constantly listen to my body, which has increased my self-awareness. Thus, when I went through rapid successions of strong sequences, I could actually feel my muscles stiffen and tighten. True enough, the next day, I was sore all over. My body was signalling me to then practice gentle poses that would stretch my tired muscles to release the stress. Similarly, constant practice of listening to yourself and those around you will help you hone your leadership skills. With more awareness, you can focus on areas that need improvement to balance your leadership style.
Personally, my leadership style naturally leans towards being proactive, aggressive, decisive, and focused on results. Thus, I know I need to practice on the softer skills to balance these yang/active/strong traits – listening to others, empowering my staff, and being more contemplative. Hopefully, with mindfulness and constant practice, I can be a true leader who inspires others to fulfill our vision of being a world-class banking supervisor.
Tales of a Central Banker. Leadership series.