By Chessy West, CFO, Kevel
When you think of an authentic leader, what qualities come to mind? Perhaps the typical attributes such as being empathetic, driven, motivated and effective. For goal-oriented C-Suite executives, those are the standard building blocks needed for a successful career. Presto! Congratulations! You’ve unlocked the secret recipe of being a leader…or have you?
Throughout one’s profession, many invisible job specifications, from long work hours to non-stop perseverance, culminate to become second nature in your everyday life. While that may fuel leaders of a certain day and age, it’s the kind of robotic behavior that is neither sustainable nor efficient. In fact, 81% of C-Suite leaders admitted improving their wellbeing is more important than advancing their career.
When analyzing the word, ‘wellbeing,’ it’s critical for any leader to seek out what that might mean or consist of for the sake of longevity – be that a change in routine or a change in outlook. Looking back at my own leadership journey, the fundamental practice of prioritizing my wellbeing began when I approached day-to-day life with purpose, balance and genuine wholeness.
It became apparent this method better equipped me, as a leader, to find inner connection and positively affect others. Fast forward to today, here I am sharing my best tips on how emerging leaders of today can also practice finding devotion, purpose and balance in work and life.
Live On Mission
There’s often a gray area or rather, discrepancy between ‘managing’ and ‘leading’ – how do you separate the two? Living on a mission means to live with purpose. The best leaders are not the ones who hold themselves on an elevated platform and bark out orders. On the contrary, the best leaders are the ones who get their eyes off self and get them focused outward and upward.
Instead of narrowly targeting success and achieving what you desire, align yourself daily with strong core values and beliefs to achieve significance. Time is short and life is a vapor. It can last for a while but suddenly vanish away. This mindset compels me to optimize my time by focusing on something greater than myself. Ask yourself these two questions: What do I need to change and how would I like to be remembered? Then see how those answers differ from your current trajectory.
Additionally, put thought into what can be outsourced versus what can only you do. For example, I can’t outsource giving my husband a hug, taking time to play Legos with my son or baking cookies with my daughters. Though I can outsource the laundry, transportation and work projects to someone more junior to give them a chance to grow. Knowing your purpose and mission will make it easier for you to prioritize your time and better discern what to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to.
Humble Yourself. You Don’t Have to be Perfect
Let’s call out ‘perfection’ for what it is and isn’t. Perfection is defined as the action or process of improving something until it is faultless. It’s a cruelly formulated term that projects attainability, when in essence, it’s impossible. Many driven executives struggle to accept that flaws and mistakes are part of being human and often confuse striving for perfection with striving to get better.
The hard truth is perfection doesn’t help you but rather hurts you. It generates unrealistic expectations and anxiety when you’re trying to be everything to everyone and ultimately prevents you from performing at your best. We’re not perfect and that’s okay. What I learned along the leadership journey is that a good leader should pivot to outlets where they can humble themselves and cast away any perfection fears they may have. Whether it’s through faith and prayer or even journaling, remind yourself of your greater purpose and share your struggles with a strong community support system.
To that point, don’t worry about tomorrow when today has enough trouble of its own. Trust that all things will work together for good and even if that means going through hard seasons, there is a greater purpose at hand.
Balance Comes to Those Who Create Margin and Release Control
It’s true what the old adage says – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Leaders have a tendency of being comforted by the belief that they’re in control. It feeds the ego and frankly, our natural tribal instincts. At every level, whether professionally or personally, leadership is never a straightforward lane. Once leaders acknowledge that, they’ll soon acknowledge this – control is an illusion and the art of balance lies in the journey itself.
There will always be an endless debate on how one can achieve balance. As a leader of an organization, the journey for balance starts with creating margin and releasing control to grow on an everyday basis. Force yourself to schedule regular planned times for rest and reflection to avoid burnout. No, it doesn’t have to be a fancy trip. But it is about finding the simplicity in things.
Whether you silence your phone on Sunday, spend time with friends and family, experience nature, avoid chores or play the piano – dedicate a window of alone time to do whatever you would like without any interruptions. It’s a true discipline in every sense.
About the Author
Chessy West is the CFO of Kevel, the largest advertising API software company used by brands to build and launch their custom ad platforms. Prior to Kevel, Chessy was a founding member of United Income, a fintech investment management startup that sold to Capital One. Before that, she was at HelloWallet, a SaaS fintech startup that sold to Morningstar. Chessy holds a Bachelor’s in Commerce from the University of Virginia and an MBA From Georgetown University. Outside the office, you can find Chessy spending time with her husband and three kids.