As I write this article flying 35000 feet above the ground, completing a leadership keynote for a CEO conference event in India, I recollect one of the common elements I’ve found most executives lack. And that element is self-mastery.
My work is all about coaching high-profile CEOs and leaders. I understand that a CEO’s stress reaches unprecedented and uncharted levels compared to any other individual in the organization. But lack of self-mastery is the number one cause of CEOs failing to lead with impact.
Let’s take a look at some of my CEO clients.
Sanjay, a high-achieving leader at a technology company who graduated from an Ivy League university, was recently promoted to the CEO role. Despite his achievements and obvious aptitude, Sanjay worries that he needs to be more knowledgeable to lead the organization effectively. This constant self-sabotaging has led to stress, because of which he is facing insomnia.
Then there’s Maria. An accomplished CEO in an advertising firm in Las Vegas. Maria’s life now is all about traveling in a private jet, being alone most of the time, and having to deliver results to the shareholders. These days there is so much tension in her body, causing her to get irritated at the slightest issue and make irrational decisions, not to mention some unethical behaviors she’s been accused of.
Chris is the Managing Director of a well-known firm headquartered in India. Chris handles the company’s North American operation out of its Dallas office. Before transitioning into this role, Chris was known as an anti-fragile leader, extremely popular amongst his people. These days however he is rude to his people, is less charismatic, and gets angry on the slightest issues. His stress has led to high blood pressure problems in him.
What’s going on here? Why are high-potential leaders not able to deliver outstanding results?
Because they manage a big industry and giant corporations but cannot manage their mind. Lack of self-mastery is the silent killer of top-performing CEOs
Self-mastery is the lifelong pursuit of working on yourself and taking complete control of your state of mind, so you win your day.
A lack of self-mastery is the ultimate distraction. It causes stress, tires your brain, and prevents you from applying 100% of your mental energy to whatever task.
The CEO’s job is as difficult as it is crucial. The high standards and general expectations of directors, shareholders, customers, and employees create an environment of relentless scrutiny in which one move can dramatically make or derail an accomplished career.
According to The American Institute of Stress, 80% of employees today experience stress at their job. CEOs and company leaders suffer the most, with most reporting feeling regularly overworked, exhausted, and anxious.
Stress sets in and becomes uncontrollable when you lack self-mastery. Not surprisingly, research shows that 35% and 55% of all CEOs are replaced within five years-a costly proposition for any organization,
Coaching some high-profile CEOs and executives, I learned it’s not about what they do. It’s always about how they do it. Every CEO has to make some critical changes and decisions on their takeover, or else Wall Street is unforgivable.
Every CEO is also well aware of what needs to be done. The problem comes in how they do it.
The rules of the game are changing. How you play, your game is essential. Stress can cloud the thinking of even the best leaders, causing them to ruin their reputations and game.
Science shows us that when we make goals and decisions, we activate the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. When we experience stress, the amygdala region of the brain gets impacted, and if we don’t know how to manage this area, we begin to lose control of our thinking and behavior.
Most CEOs are not in control of themselves because they don’t train their brain for the same.
I tell executives that if they want to respond to people and situations more calmly and want to be in control of themselves.
I teach executives a technique called self-optimization, which, when practiced throughout the day, can allow you to control yourself in the worst of the situation. The self-optimization process has three parts, and the first part begins in the morning.
The first 20-30 min of your morning helps you to spike your cortisol in the morning so you can be alert and energized, and eventually, as you apply this tech throughout the day- your body will produce the melatonin at night that makes you sleep well.
And once you know how to manage your energy -u can be as productive as you want.
Begin applying these five steps to start your journey toward self-mastery.
Step 1: As soon as you wake up, be grateful for three things in your life-both professional and personal
Step 2: Step 3: Exercise and Meditate
Step 3: Read or hear something inspirational or spiritual
Step 4: Think of your deep-ended purpose and three things you want to achieve at work.
Step 5: Choose the state of mind you want to operate in today (calm, stressed, anxious, cheerful)
Being in control of yourself and your responses requires training of the brain.
The morning segment of the self-optimization technique is essential because when you wake up in the morning, your brain is operating at 10.5 wave cycles per sec; that’s when your subconscious mind is most impressionable. Whatever you read or hear in those first 20 minutes will affect your day. And most of us read work emails, chats, or the news first thing in the morning. We begin our day with anxiety and stress, impacting our meetings, decisions, and overall thinking and behavior.
So take a look at your morning routine -that is where self-mastery begins. And the more you control yourself, the better you perform at work.
Written by Payal Nanjiani.
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