Today we dispatched the September edition of our Leadership That Works Newsletter, a curated digest of the best leadership ideas to explore right now, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s best leadership ideas: distrust mistrust, dispel distraction, reattach to work, and more. As always, we’re sharing the articles from our newsletter here in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. If you like what you see, you can sign up to receive our newsletter here.
A Primer on Empathy
“Empathy is a superpower” writes Gustavo Razzetti in this informative Liberationist post. “Empathy is more than a soft-skill — it’s a meta-skill. It amplifies other skills making us more powerful,” continues Razzetti as he explains that empathy is crucial to leadership because it helps us build relationships, listen better, resolve conflict, build trust, and more. To help leaders develop and nurture their ability to empathize, this comprehensive primer includes an exploration of what empathy means, 5 tools for showing it, 9 ways to develop it, and a link to a quiz to test yourself on your empathizing skills.
Learning Is a State of Mind
At any moment, your brain is either “growing or it’s deteriorating” writes Niklas Göke in this smart Medium post. As the sheer volume of information and the pace of advancement accelerates rapidly each year, knowledge in any given field now has a “half-life” compared to 10 or 20 years ago. In a world where the facts you acquire could become obsolete without warning, the skillset needed to keep our brains nimble is the “skill of learning itself.” Rather than merely seeking knowledge, we need a state of mind that is focused on intelligence: the ability to learn selectively, not cumulatively. Göke says, “it’s receptiveness that counts . . . if your mind is always open, you’re always learning.” Learn more in the full post here.
**For more on learning, explore our post on the growth mindset.
Ever write something on your to-do list only to chronically move it to the next day’s list, and the next, in seeming perpetuity? You’re not alone. Part of the problem, according to author Nir Eyal in this fascinating interview with Gretchen Rubin, is the pervasive belief in the “myth of the to-do list,” which says that if you simply put things on your list, they will get done. This myth ignores the very real stumbling block of distraction. “Living the life we want requires more than knowing what we need to do.” says Eyal. The key to overcoming distraction is not as simple as cutting out digital interferences like smart phone notifications or video games, it requires an understanding of internal triggers as well and overcoming “learned helplessness.” Learn more here.
Are You a ‘Dark Horse’?
What do Michael Crichton, Charles Darwin, and Phil Knight have in common? They followed seemingly circuitous paths to fulfillment and success, eschewing a singular focus on a rigid goal in favor of a “winding path of self-exploration” explains David Epstein in this QuietRev excerpt from his book, Range. When Harvard’s “Mind, Brain, and Education” program sought to study labyrinthine career trajectories like Darwin’s, they found every person they studied thought they were an anomaly, even though many high-fliers in their fields reached their apex in a similarly zig-zaggy fashion–leading researchers to name the study “The Dark Horse Project.” Dark horses follow unlikely paths but find careers that match with their evolving interests and skills–which is ideal because, as Epstein writes, “our work preferences and our life preferences do not stay the same, because we do not stay the same.” Wondering if you’re a dark horse? Learn more about it here.
**For more on matching your career with your passions, explore our post on loving your leadership work.
Reattach to Work
Much of the popular advice around work/life balance and career fulfillment involves a ritual of “detaching” from work in the off-hours. This has benefits but can make it difficult to get back into “work mode” the next day. A new study covered in this Greater Good Magazine article suggests that the key to a better work experience is taking time each morning to reflect on the upcoming day– to “reattach”–to work. Analysis of participants in the study showed that a morning reattachment ritual led to a “cascade of positive experiences” throughout the day and demonstrably boosted engagement in tasks. Want to try it for yourself? Find step-by-step instructions for reattaching here.
Many leaders err on the side of caution when it comes to trusting other people,” and that skepticism, “morphs into a default presumption of mistrust” writes Elizabeth Doty in this strategy+business piece on trust. Defaulting to mistrust is unwise and even “dangerous” writes Doty because it can hinder your ability to listen to others and activate change, and can damage relationships irreparably. Besides, it’s simply misguided as, “people are more trustworthy than you think.” While some skepticism can be advantageous, it is worth investigating whether your default has become mistrust. Use the self-assessment questions here to diagnose your trustingness and work to change your default from corrosive mistrust to productive trust.
Enjoyed these links? Check out our recent link roundups from August, July, and June.
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(Photo by Robert Wiedemann on Unsplash)