Being a Leader is an Inside Job: The Importance of Self-Care

Being a Leader is an Inside Job: The Importance of Self-Care

Written by Deb Asbill
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dilallo session 1I had the opportunity this afternoon to attend a session led by Frank A. DiLallo, presented at the Leadership Weekend Experience at the Music for All Summer Symposium, presented by Yamaha.

It was a session right up my personal alley – with emphasis on compassion for self and others, and mindfulness as a component of self-care. I have served in various leadership roles, starting in my high school band as first chair flute and drum major of my high school band, and over my 30 years with Music for All. I also have a personal meditation and mindfulness practice, which, along with a regular meditative yoga practice, has shaped how I approach my work, and how I interact with my staff, coworkers, and those we serve. Students were given tips and techniques to add mindfulness to their leadership toolbox.

The central concept throughout Frank’s session was the self-care is critical for leadership. The session explored how stress impacts performance and ways to reduce stress.

Frank asked the student leaders “Why does it matter? What does stress have to do with leadership?” It appeared that every student raised their hand at the opening of the session when asked who regularly feels stress, and there was no shortage of answers offered to “what does stress have to do with leadership:”

“You can’t help others if you’re stressed out.”
“When you’re stressed out you’re more focused on yourself and block out other people.”
“You can’t think straight and it’s harder to make good decisions.”
“It’s contagious.”

That last one is key. Negativity can be contagious. So can positivity. As Frank said: “Be a positive contagion. Just like a stone tossed into a pond will have a ripple effect that will eventually spread out across the entire surface of the water, so can your attitude affect everyone around you. Be a positive ‘stone.’ Create a ripple of positivity.”

Frank offered these keywords to describe qualities of leadership, or “PAVIC:”

Passion
Attitude
Vision
Ideas (also Integrity, Inspiration, Influence – “I” words offered by the student leaders in attendance)
Compassion

Leadership starts inside us. Everything we encounter is an opportunity to grow. We must first take care of ourselves and make sure we have balance to be in a position to effectively lead.

Self-care and self-compassion make for a more effective leader. Frank offered great tips for students to cultivate the internal balance necessary for leadership. Those tips included checking in on your stress level, on your breath, and on your balance.

“Attitude is everything” and students took away ideas for creating a personal affirmation statement, and how to check in on their environment and relationships – do your environment and relationships make you feel loved, supported, and celebrated? If not, you can choose to make changes so that you do.

“Take time” was another tip that resonated deeply with me and is a key concept in mindfulness practice. Frank offered tangible ways to be present and “anchor” your experiences, to take time and honor that time.

The session concluded with a visualization meditation practice, led by Frank. Students were invited to take a comfortable seat or position, and then to check in with and relax each part of their body. (Check out the photo above: they’re not napping in class, they are deep in “visualization” mode!)

The meditation ended with a visualization of a “place of awe” that Frank had invited students to think of at the beginning of the session, and then to anchor the experience of that moment and feeling.

I am grateful that Fran Kick, our leadership programs coordinator, has asked Frank DiLallo to share these practices with our students over the past 12 MFA summer camps. I believe wholeheartedly that mindfulness practice, and compassion for self and others, makes for strong leaders.

In his book, It Worked For Me, Colin Powell, the former U.S. Joint Military Chief of Staff and Secretary of State,says that kindness is not just about being nice, it is about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect. Powell once told a senior staff meeting, “You can never err by treating everyone in the building with respect, thoughtfulness and a kind word.” Powell says that being kind doesn’t mean being soft or a pushover.

Some mistake a show of force for leadership. Leading with compassion and kindness in a world of extraverted, charismatic leaders can be seen as being “soft” or as weakness. In reality, those characteristics are strengths. Treating others with respect, kindness, and compassion results in greater enthusiasm, productivity, and motivation to push the limits.

Cultivating balance in your own life, and compassion for self and others, is key to being a leader that empowers others, and that can sustain your personal leadership role. 

About the Presenter
Frank A. DiLallo holds a B.A. degree in sociology and a graduate degree in counseling. He is licensed in Ohio as a Professional Counselor, Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor and is a certified Prevention Specialist II. Frank has been employed with the Diocese of Toledo for over 25 years and is currently a Schools Consultant for 75 schools, pre-K-12. He has published several pieces that addresses bullying of boys and girls in “inspiring, meaningful, and sustainable ways.” He is the author of an audio CD, The Peace Project, filled with relaxation techniques, meditations, and music composed by Grammy nominated artist Tim Story. For more visit peacebewithyou.world and like Frank on Facebook/peacebewithyouworld. 

Continue to follow Music for All Summer Symposium coverage at http://www.musicforall.org/what-we-do/summer-camp/2015-symposium-coverage!

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