I remember the day of December 4th, 2002 when something inside of me as a leader had changed. Just three months earlier, I had mustered the courage to submit my resignation letter to my immediate boss.
I loved making a difference in the life of people in the mid-size advertising firm I was in, the pay was great, and I had established great work relations. But, I was resigning. The problem was my boss. No doubt she was great when it came to articulating the ad content and the technical aspect of work. However, when it came to people management, she was a boss you would not want to work. Due to this, there were frictions daily among us, and finally, after a year, I decided to resign. Due to the quality of my work, my resignation was declined by the top management and the company helped me get into a new role in another department. Things ironed out well for me and I was again on my way to success in the company. December 4th, 2002, just before we were gearing up for the holiday season, the CEO of the company took the time to meet the people individually for 5 minutes. I was excited and had planned how I wanted to thank him for getting me into this new role. When it was my turn to meet with the CEO, I thanked him for helping me move ahead in the company. However, his response to this was something that changed my thinking forever. The 65-year-old CEO looked straight into my eyes and said, ‘Payal, I haven’t helped you to move ahead. You will always remain stuck and dependent.’ He continued, ‘every company undeniably will have problems, challenges, negativity, politics, bad work relations, or frictions with the boss. And we all have four options in our work-life to deal with these situations.
Option 1: Stay quiet, ignore what’s happening and continue with your work
Option 2: Quit. Find a new company and a new boss.
Option 3: Adjust to the boss way and feel miserable within yourself
Option 4: Raise your leadership level, and take control.
Everything depends on the option we choose.’ At that moment, fresh in my career life, I did not understand the deeper meaning of what he had implied by this, but it had inevitably hit me to the core. Later, as I navigated the corporate politics, blame game, the work pressure is when I understood the deeper meaning of all the options and how every person in any organization must be aware of which option they apply in their work-life. Let me talk to you about it here.
My speaking and coaching work takes me places and gives me the opportunity to meet executives and leaders across the globe. Most of the executives appear to have it all together from the outside and yet fall short when it concerns their ability to influence their team and drive results. It is said that a significant and challenging part of leadership is managing people. Having worked with thousands of leaders globally, I have come to understand that the most challenging part of leadership is not people management but managing our thoughts and feelings as “how we want them to be.” To be a real leader, to bring about massive changes in your results, you’ve got to keep the remote control of your emotions with you. The problem is we have given the remote control of our life to everyone around us to make us feel happy or sad, successful or failure, victim or master. Everything and anything at work disturbs us so quickly, be it the results, people's behaviors or circumstances. Within moments our mood and feel changes. We may not realize how we allow people to control our actions, behaviors, and thoughts. Work on its own is never stressful. It is our inability to manage our emotions that cause stress. The problem to be solved in today’s corporates and business world is about how to become more innovative while still maintaining a sense of control over the self. Anytime that you choose options 1, 2 and 3 it means you have given away power to others to decide how you should feel and respond to circumstances and challenges. You start to make yourself dependent on the boss, teams, economy and everything to help you succeed. Real leaders are able to invoke the power within them to decide how they choose to feel and act every single day irrespective of people's behaviors and circumstances. You have the power to create your experiences and environment at your workplace
Refuse to be dependent. Refuse to be a remote-controlled leader. External circumstances are never entirely in our control, but your inner situation is in your control. What is needed is a new YOU. You take yourself everywhere with you.
A version of this article first appeared on People's Matters Magazine.
Payal Nanjiani is one of the world’s few Indian-American globally acclaimed motivational leadership speaker, executive, and success coach, and author. She is the founder and CEO of Success Is Within Leadership, a coaching & training company. She is well-known for cutting through the complexity of leadership in today’s fast-changing environment to uncover the core problems and devise real-world solutions. She is also active in promoting women in leadership around the world.