In this Note, Géraud de Ville de Goyet writes about empathic leadership and the need for self-care.
I have written about Leadership and Management before [#BDGNote6 and #BDGNote9], but it has been almost a year since then and I feel it’s time to revisit this topic with a focus on well-being in this Note.
I find it intriguing how certain moments in life can accelerate our learning process exponentially. In my case, both personal and professional pressures have triggered a period of introspection, prompting me to experiment with new approaches to my work and personal growth.
At the beginning of this year, I started experiencing sleepless nights, bouts of anger, low energy levels, and rapidly rising blood pressure that began to cloud my judgement. It was a perplexing situation for me, and I wondered why it was happening now. The guilt of allowing events to affect me has also left me feeling ashamed, particularly since I’m aware of the difficulties that many people in our local community face.
For instance, we recently ran a ‘Fuel Up’ campaign to assist families who are struggling with the cost of food and energy. I’m fortunate enough not to have to deal with such issues myself. Despite my privileged position, I still find myself feeling the pressure and it made me unwell.
This simple question by my local health practitioner was a wake-up call for me. As she cleared my routine health checks, I realised that my physical health was not the root cause of my malaise. Instead, I was struggling with my mental health. Like a persistent song that refuses to leave your head, I found that I couldn’t control my thoughts. It was as though I was a passive observer of a play unfolding in my mind, without the ability to direct it in one way or another.
I was anxious.
In their book “The New Leaders”, Coleman, Boyatzis and Mckee underscore the significance of emotional intelligence and discuss several leadership types. Some leaders unite people around a common objective, while others use coaching as a tool. Personally, I have always believed that one’s ability to follow their dreams is the most critical predictor of success in any undertaking.
As a leader at BD Giving, I have translated this conviction into a strong emphasis on supporting the needs of the people I work with, caring for their well-being and working with them to achieve their objectives. I see this as fundamental to building shared goals and delivering impactful work.
Put your oxygen mask on first.
In adopting the mindset of caring for the team, I inadvertently overlooked my own needs. I acted as if it was not and it should not be about me, my development or my well-being. But how can I lead others when I’m not thinking clearly? How can I support my team when I require assistance myself?
We all know the safety brief on a plane and understand the importance of putting our oxygen masks on first before helping others. This metaphor applies to our own lives; in adversity, we must take care of ourselves – if not first but as well as others.
I’m incredibly grateful for this discovery. It has allowed me to see certain patterns in a new light, become more attuned to my own emotions, and modify some of my behaviours accordingly. While some of these changes, such as taking breaks from the news cycle or using my earphones less when out and about to be more present in the moment may seem trivial, others required support to help me process what I was experiencing.
These changes have been a potent combination, and I now have a much better state of mind than I had just a few weeks ago.
The Victorian charity model creates a false dichotomy between helpers and those who need help, philanthropists and ‘beneficiaries’.
In reality, anyone can find themselves needing assistance. Recognising this fact and taking appropriate action is a hallmark of the kind of leadership that we at BD Giving strive to embody – one that is empathic and supportive of people’s needs as they work to mobilise talent, experience, and resources to make Barking and Dagenham a better place for all.
BD Giving Notes is a bi-monthly blog aimed at sharing some thoughts on running a social infrastructure charity.
Each post focuses on things we have learnt or done; what’s gone well and what didn’t.