Leader's Digest #74 (April 2023)

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DIGEST LEADERS APRIL 2023 ISSUE 74 To read, click here leadinstitute.com.my/leaders-digest Scan the QR code for quicker access FITS ALL? ONE SIZE

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DIGEST LEADERS 2 Issue 74 I April 2023
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Competitive Environments: Implications for leadership styles

“The most successful leaders are able to adapt their leadership style to the situation, they become the person their team needs them to be in that moment.”

Truth is, all leadership styles can be good choices, in the right situation. Conversely, none of them work all the time. “Trying to label yourself with a single leadership style feels like ’60s-era thinking. Leadership is much more complicated than that.” said Greg Githens, Strategic Thinking Coach Catalyst and Cadre LLC.

Different leadership styles are required in different and often challenging environments. During times of change, a transformational leadership style is often needed and can be very effective. These transformational leaders are often charismatic and inspire followers to achieve higher goals. They encourage followers to be creative and tackle challenging projects with energy by extolling a shared vision. Career and workplace expert, Lindsay Pollack says that the “one size fits all” style of management was “command and control,” where leaders in top-down organisations hoarded information and meted it out on a need-to-know basis. This autocratic style of leadership was better suited to the workplace of the past. Instead, here are some strategies she thinks currently work well.

1. Be available

2. Ask instead of guessing

3. Customized knowledge sharing

Given the fluid nature of public service today and the increasing frequency of disruption, we are continuously transitioning through stages of change and certainty. Fact is, those in leadership positions will require more than just one type of leadership skill for them to remain relevant and effective.

“ONE SIZE FITS ALL, Great for socks, Bad for beliefs.”

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From the


Source: Image is from canva.com Join

In search of inspiration on International Women’s Day, I refused to let remote work dampen my spirits and made a beeline for the Asia School of Business. It was a full day of events dedicated to tackling the most pressing challenges in achieving workplace gender equity. From thought-provoking discussions to powerful calls to action, the day was brimming with ideas on how we can all #EmbraceEquity and build a more inclusive future for everyone. Gender inequality is a pervasive issue in modern society, and one of the key ways to address it is by promoting gender equality in the workplace.

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#EmbraceEquity Movement: Strategies and Solutions for Tackling Gender Inequity in the Workplace


Even decades into the 21st century, women continue to face an uphill battle in achieving parity with their male counterparts. The persistent gender gap remains a pressing issue that demands urgent and intentional action to create a more equitable and inclusive work environment.

Here are some examples of the challenges faced by women:-

• women are often paid less than men despite doing the same job.

• women face significant challenges in terms of worklife balance. Globally, women spend an average of 4.4 hours per day on unpaid care work, such as childcare and household chores, compared to 1.7 hours for men. This can make it difficult for women to balance work and family responsibilities, leading to a “double burden” of paid and unpaid work. This can often result in women being passed over for promotions or forced to choose between their careers and their families. In fact, a study by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company found that women are 1.5 times more likely than men to cite “managing family responsibilities” as a barrier to advancement. This impacts women’s career trajectories: the same study found that women are 24% less likely than men to have their first promotion to a managerial position and that this gap widens further for women of colour.

• Women face a lack of opportunities for advancement. A Cambridge University study reported that 43% of women aged 28-40 felt that opportunities to progress were not equal between men and women. Despite making up nearly half of the workforce, women hold fewer leadership positions than men. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, women make up only 24% of C-suite executives. This lack of representation at the top can have a detrimental impact on women’s career growth and opportunities.


Given the above, it is essential to embrace equity in the workplace to address these challenges. This means recognising and addressing the systemic barriers that prevent women from succeeding and taking proactive steps to create a more level playing field. Here are a few pointers:-

Equal pay audit. Employers can conduct regular pay audits to ensure employees of different races and genders are paid fairly for their work. This will also encourage pay transparency.

Flex work. Employers can implement work-life balance policies, such as flexible schedules and paid parental leave. Flexible work schedules are becoming increasingly popular in today’s workforce, and for a good reason. They allow employees to have better work-life balance, positively impacting their overall wellbeing and job satisfaction. Flexible work schedules can be especially beneficial for women who are mothers, as it can help them balance their work and family responsibilities more effectively.

According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family[1], flexible work arrangements, such as flexible schedules, telecommuting, and job sharing, are associated with greater job satisfaction, less work-family conflict, and lower levels of stress among working parents, particularly mothers. The study further echoed that women who had the opportunity to utilise flexible work options experienced greater job satisfaction and less conflict between work and family obligations [2] compared to women who didn’t have access to such arrangements.

A research paper published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology[3] discovered that working mothers with flexible work arrangements experienced reduced levels of emotional exhaustion

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This led to higher job satisfaction and a decreased likelihood of quitting their job. A report from McKinsey & Company further corroborated that companies with robust gender diversity initiatives, including flexible work arrangements, were more likely to retain women in senior leadership positions. Those findings can significantly benefit companies, as research shows that gender-diverse companies tend to outperform their less diverse counterparts [3].

Overall, research suggests that offering flexible work arrangements can have a positive impact on employee wellbeing, job satisfaction, and retention, particularly for women who are mothers. Companies can reap the benefits of a happier, more engaged workforce by creating a culture of inclusivity and support for working parents. Surveys carried out by some of the world’s most influential institutions, including the World Bank, Goldman Sachs, the International Monetary Fund, Ernst & Young, the World Economic Forum, McKinsey & Company, and others, have conspicuously demonstrated that women’s full economic participation leads to greater competitiveness.

Despite numerous positive research and reports, why do organisations continue to lag in taking action?

Women need mentors. Employers need to create mentorship and sponsorship programs that help women progress in their careers and provide them with the support they need to succeed.

Mentoring has assisted women in gaining insight into their personal strengths, capabilities, and work preferences, further identifying areas where they may need to develop or change to succeed in leadership roles. Mentoring also provides opportunities to connect with senior leaders in their field, which is particularly helpful as women move up the leadership pipeline. Mentoring in such instances provides them with guidance and support to help them navigate the challenges and responsibilities of leadership roles.

Women must also keep a positive outlook and understand that their mentors will be more engaged and helpful if they are enthusiastic, frank, and involved in the process.

Women who received mentoring were more likely to have higher salaries and greater job satisfaction than women who did not.

Women can demand their rightful compensation. Women can advocate for themselves by negotiating for fair pay and seeking leadership opportunities. When women advocate for themselves, they remove gender pay gap barriers.

However, research has shown that 20% of women never negotiate salaries. You may wonder why women don’t undertake this exercise. Do they feel uncomfortable? Could this be due to deeply entrenched societal roles of women? In many cultures, girls are taught to prioritise relationships, display concern for other’s wellbeing, and be accommodating from a young age. Research has shown that women see negotiation as a chore and/ or fear that negotiation may come with a fear of being disliked.

Women must step out of this fear of backlash and actively work on their negotiation skills to have positive outcomes. However, knowing precisely what you want and what is important to you is imperative. This strategy and doing all other relevant homework are factors in successful pay negotiations.

Studies have also shown that women perform better if they have had training or experience at the negotiating table. Women tend to achieve more favourable terms when they have spent more time at the bargaining table.

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Men as allies. Many companies make the mistake by focusing on women to fix the gender problem. However, men can become allies by championing women’s rights and actively working to create a more inclusive workplace. To do so, men must be part of the conversation and solution. They need to be roped into supporting policies promoting gender equality - such as equal pay for equal work and family-friendly work arrangements. Men can be allies not only at work but also at home.

Research has shown that the impact of male allies in companies is a critical component of a company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. For example, a study by McKinsey & Company found that companies with more diverse leadership teams had higher financial returns than those with less diverse teams. As Robert Zoellick, former director of the World Bank, said,

For men who are “lagging” or “learning,” organisations should provide unconscious bias training, diversity awareness discussions, or dissemination of basic information.

It’s paramount to understand that supporting women as an ally involves personal actions and bringing about systemic transformations. Male leaders can use their privilege and influence to set and push for policies and practices that promote gender equality. They can also establish accountability (encourage genuine male advocacy and reward them) and act as role models (yes, volunteer to plan the next office function and not dispose of the responsibility to your female colleague). Those actions can be done within their workplaces and, more broadly, in society. The conduct can include advocating for government policies that promote gender equality, such as paid parental leave and affordable childcare. By doing so, they can help to create a more equitable and just society for all.


If you are a man at your workplace, what can you do?

To start, you can have honest conversations. Ask your female colleagues about the challenges they face at work and at home. Listen to their stories and be their advocate. Research suggests that stories embed in our brains 20 times more efficiently than facts and figures. Stories build understanding and increase empathy. You can also recruit more women (to raise the visibility of women leaders), evaluate performance justly and actively promote women, provide constructive criticism like you would with your male colleagues and stop manterrupting! (google it).

You should also challenge or call out any sexist behaviour or language, break ingrained gender stereotypes, correct unconscious biases, stop microaggressions in your organisation and start having respectful working relationships with your female colleagues.

You should also model alternative work-life strategies by detoxifying the flexibilities afforded to work mothers and others who need flexible schedules.

As I exited the IWD celebrations, my heart ached, thinking of the future of girls and women. Whilst I laud the initiatives that have been taken and where we are today, it is certainly not enough! Yes, we have accomplished incredible feats, like building rockets and overcoming complex historical challenges, yet we still struggle with gender inequality issues. Leaders must set a timeline, as women cannot wait for more than a century to close the global gender gap.

Kiran Tuljaram is an Editor with Leaderonomics. She is a trained lawyer and spent a number of years in banking. Post her role as a Legal Manager at a bank, she founded and ran a couple of businesses, including starting her own fashion accessories label. She is a mum to three teenage girls. Her varied experience in banking, being a mum, an employee, occasional social worker and managing director in her business gives her great insights and perspective into how crucial leadership in organisations are.

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Gender equality is the right thing to do. And it is also smart economics.
Good leaders don’t just talk; they take action and get results.



When I first stepped into a leadership role, back in my 20’s, I was determined to adapt my style to best suit those I led. In fact, my company trained us how to do it, so I was engaged, on board and equipped to do it. When my first leadership 360 came around, I recall rubbing my hands in glee, so sure that I had nailed ‘one size does not fit all’ leadership. Well, it was a disaster. The worst results I’ve ever had in anything (including my Chemistry O-Level, which was pretty bad).

A complete leadership fail. They absolutely hated it, and felt that because I treated everyone differently, I was inconsistent, and even untrustworthy. Devastating. My adaptable leadership had killed my authenticity.

So, in my next leadership gig I took the opposite tack –this is me, take it or leave it. That didn’t work either – I could feel the friction right away. Turns out that was too authentic, and not adaptable enough.

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Source: Photo by Sora Shimazaki on pexels.com
Source: Image is from freepik.com by @freepik.


Fast forward 20 years and we are in a workplace dominated by millennial preferences, and on top of that we are in a post-pandemic world where personal values have never played a stronger role in the workplace. And this means that leaders need to get this right more than they have ever needed to.

What is the right approach?

There is no one answer to the question ‘how to manage’. If there was, leadership experts from me to Marshall Goldsmith would be out of work! But surely, I hear you ask, there is a rule of thumb, or a general principle that you can follow that IS a one size fits all?

If I was to call out one specific thing that ‘fits all’, it’s judgment. Leaders who have great judgment can be both their authentic selves AND adapt to those around them, all without any dissonance because they’ve judged it right. They’re being authentic yet adaptable.

But how do you do that?


Psychologist Kurt Lewin branded four leadership styles from 1939 – autocratic, democratic, laissez faire and transformational. In my opinion, these are the most compelling leadership styles that you can adopt as the circumstance demands.

Democratic leaders enjoy having others participate in the decision-making process, which is both creative and morale-boosting. They tend to be strong communicators and are easily approachable.

However, when this is overused, the leader can slow down or dumb down the decisions that are made, and can be seen as overly consultative.

Laissez Faire leaders are great delegators, running faster-paced functions and empowering their teams. But if your team is not skilled or not clear on purpose, then this style will overwhelm them and result in paralysis or costly mistakes.

Transformational leadership is based on absolute clarity to vision and goals, and two-way communication to ensure the commitment remains high. However, it can also result in burnout as this relentless futurefocus can be unrealistic.

So, we have to use our judgment when determining what style to use – deliberately – in what situation, and underneath that style, we have to be true to ourselves – to our own values and boundaries.

That’s where the Substance comes in. You need to know your values and boundaries as a person and as a leader – and many leaders don’t know this, they’ve never been helped to explore it.

This means getting to understand your personal values and your intrinsic value - what you stand for, what you’re good for, and what you don’t put up with. It means having boundaries for others to respect, and that means having a healthy dose of self-respect. Many leaders that I work with are unsupported when it comes to doing the deeper, internal work that is required to really understand and be confident about who you are as a leader, and to get clear on why others should trust you, follow you and listen to you.

Adapting my style before I had a handle on my substance was the mistake I made twenty years ago, and in today’s workplace, that mistake would have been even more costly.

Autocratic leaders often have attractive qualities such as decisiveness, self-confidence, and a steadfast eye on the prize – but used in the wrong situation, that can come across as micro-managing and disempowering.

Rebecca Houghton, author of ‘Impact: 10 Ways to Level up your Leadership’, is a Leadership and Talent Expert and founder of BoldHR. Rebecca builds B-Suite leaders with C-Suite impact by working at a strategic, team and individual level. For more information about Rebecca can help your team visit www.boldhr.com.au

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Kurt Lewin was known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organisational, and applied psychology. (Image is taken from Practical Psychology) REBECCA HOUGHTON

Numbing Diminishes Our Motivation And Creativity

One of the most insidious traps that we can fall into these days is numbing—escaping from our thoughts and feelings by doing other things. When we do this, we’re taking the edge off feelings that cause us pain or discomfort. We’re anesthetising difficult emotions. The problem is compounded by the fact that many families and cultures teach people, either explicitly or implicitly, to suppress their feelings.

We can numb not only with things like alcohol, drugs, or smoking but also with binge-watching shows or doomscrolling social media. Our numbing might be excessive work and busyness or constant emailing and texting.

that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.

– Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Are We Numbing Our Lives Away?

Our numbing can entail shopping, gambling, eating, or sex—or even with excessive exercising or cleaning. Some of these, like exercise, can be healthy in moderation but become problematic when done excessively.

Increasingly, we’re seeing what I call “power-numbing” engaging in several numbing behaviours at the same time, such as drinking, texting, and scrolling while binge-watching. (My friend Renae Jacob calls it “multivicing.”)

The point isn’t that we have to stop doing all these things. Some can be done in moderation or even often. The key is choosing which behaviours serve us and not letting ourselves unconsciously numb swaths of our life away. The point isn’t to deprive ourselves of pleasures but rather to stop escaping from our lives.

A key consideration is the severity of the behaviour in question. Our numbing behaviours can range from mild or moderate to severe, and at the further end of that spectrum lies addiction.

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Source: Vector image is from freepik.com by @freepik
...one of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy... We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea

Addiction and Numbing

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, researcher Brene Brown describes addiction as “chronically and compulsively numbing and taking the edge off of feelings.”

According to researchers, having an addiction disorder entails losing our ability to choose freely whether to stop or continue a behaviour. An addiction leads to adverse consequences when we engage in it, such as problems with our life or work roles, financial loss, emotional trauma, dangerous situations, or bodily injury or impairment. Meanwhile, when we stop the behaviour abruptly, it often leads to irritability, anxiety, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, or depression.

In essence, addiction is an attempt to use shortcuts to feeling good, but it doesn’t work. Many factors can fuel addictions, including trauma, addictive medications, genetic disposition, sexual and gender stresses, and related disorders that coincide with the addiction.

Unfortunately, addictions are common, and they can lead to other addictions as well. According to the Addiction Center, nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only 10% of them receive treatment.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports the following about addiction in the U.S.:

• Of the nearly 140 million people 12 and older who drink alcohol, more than 20% of them suffer from alcohol abuse or addiction

• 25.4% of all users of illicit drugs suffer from drug dependency or addiction

• Drug abuse and addiction cost more than $700 billion annually in healthcare expenses, crimerelated costs, and lost workplace productivity

• About half of individuals with a diagnosed mental illness will also struggle with substance abuse at some point in their lives, and vice versa

...statistics dictate that there are very few people who haven’t been affected by addiction. I believe we all numb our feelings. We may not do it compulsively or chronically, which is addiction, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t numb our sense of vulnerability.

The problem isn’t confined to substance abuse. Technology is also a big culprit these days, with giant tech companies creating addictive products and bigdata algorithms adept at capturing our attention and rewiring our brains. Think of how quickly we’ve handed over huge chunks of our days—and thus our lives—to devices and screens.

When it comes to smartphones, according to Zippia Research in 2022:

• The average American spends 5 hours and 24 minutes on their mobile device daily

• Americans check their phones 96 times per day, on average (once every ten minutes)

• 47% of people believe they’re addicted to their phones

• 71% of people admit to checking their phone within the first ten minutes of waking up

Imagine walking into a control room with a bunch of people hunched over a desk with little dials, and that that control room will shape the thoughts and feelings of a billion people. This might sound like science fiction, but this actually exists right now, today... Right now it’s as if all of our technology is basically only asking our lizard brain what’s the best way to impulsively get you to do the next tiniest thing with your time, instead of asking: in your life, what would be time well spent for you?

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According to recent research on binge-watching:

• 73% of Americans admit to binge-watching video content

• The average binge lasts three hours and eight minutes

• 90% of millennials and members of Generation Z binge-watch

• 70% of Americans aged between 30 and 44 often binge-watch TV shows or films

• 26% of those aged 18 to 29 binge-watch TV every day

Why We Numb

Numbing behaviours are essentially avoidance mechanisms. There are many factors behind our numbing impulses. Here are 12 common factors:

1. pain

2. anxiety

3. disconnection from others—and its related feelings of loneliness and isolation

4. feelings of unworthiness

5. discomfort with uncertainty

6. stress caused by competing demands on our time

7. feelings of emptiness

8. the hurt from feeling unseen

9. disappointment at ourselves for not being able to handle everything perfectly

10. the sense that we’re living a life in which we’re not true to ourselves

11. trauma

12. abuse

Beneath the discomfort that we’re escaping are fears— fears of failing or struggling or looking bad or feeling unworthy.

We can also have urges to numb if we have a deadening job that’s boring, monotonous, and lacking opportunities for autonomy and initiative—or if our work lacks purpose, connection, or opportunities for development and recognition.

The Problem with Numbing

Numbing is a short-term defence mechanism that can end up making things worse for us. It can lead to financial and health problems as well as fights with loved ones or broken relationships (sometimes because we lash out at others when our pain finally surfaces after being repressed).

When we numb, we may feel flat, both physically and emotionally, and become distant or detached from others, perhaps preferring isolation, which can lead to loneliness and despair. We may lose interest in activities we used to enjoy and stop being present in our own lives. Numbing can also diminish our motivation and creativity.

An unintended side effect of our numbing is that it works in both directions. Numbing difficult emotions such as pain and sorrow also numbs our experiences of happiness and joy.

We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light.

Also, we may need more and more of the numbing behaviour to feel good, setting us up for trouble down the road.

We may not notice that there are also indirect “opportunity costs” of our numbing behaviours—the value of what we could have been doing if we weren’t numbing. Instead of working excessively or bingewatching, what if we were connecting more with loved ones, reading a great book, learning a new language or musical instrument, getting our hands dirty with gardening, visiting new places, gazing at the stars, or reveling in the richness of being alive?

When we numb, we walk away from ourselves.

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What to Do About It

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to reduce our numbing behaviors and mitigate their impacts. Here are many useful approaches:

Recognise that our bodies are trying to speak to us through our emotions. Our emotions can serve an important role as signals or warnings, but only if we pay attention to the. But numbing deprives us of the chance to do so.

Realise that we started numbing for a reason—and reflect to discover what that reason was. Are we feeling overwhelmed at work, or conflicted between our home and work roles, or powerless to help someone we care about?

Notice our numbing behaviours. Be curious about what thoughts and feelings lead to an urge to numb: Why? Where is it coming from? What are we trying to avoid? What lesson or insight might it hold for us?

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown recommends asking if the numbing behavior (e.g., drinking, overworking, etc.) stops us from being emotionally honest, feeling like we’re enough, setting boundaries, and connecting with others. Consider whether we’re using it to escape from our lives.

Name the feelings that cause us to want to numb (e.g., overwhelm, shame, loneliness, despair). Sometimes getting clarity and understanding can open the door not only to relief but also to important insights and hope for improvement.

Take time to feel what we’re feeling—what author Andrea Owen calls “controlled emoting”—and accept our feelings as worthy. Learn how to feel our feelings instead of numbing or dismissing them. Accept ourselves fully without judging ourselves and thinking we’re bad when we have certain thoughts.

Sit with our pain, leaning into it. Connect with it and acknowledge it instead of fleeing it. Though many of us were taught to avoid or suppress emotional pain,

that only makes things worse. Our pain is there for a reason, and we can handle it better when we allow ourselves to feel and process it and then, eventually, to let it go as it moves through us.

Talk about our feelings with a trusted friend or trained counselor or therapist. Choose one who can listen attentively and empathetically without trying to fix us. (See the end of this article for a list of support resources.)

Trust that we’ll be okay. Recall all we’ve experienced and overcome in the past.

Take a break from our go-to numbing behaviours, such as social media or streaming shows.

Leo Babauta, founder of Zen Habits, recommends setting a “practice container” to address numbing with the following steps:

1. Decide on a practice period for addressing our numbing (e.g., a weekend).

2. Define our limits, the things we’re not allowed to do during the practice period (e.g., no video games or social media).

3. Identify the triggers that cause us to start numbing.

4. Choose what we’ll allow. Create small containers for things we need to do but within prescribed limits (e.g., doing emails in batches, three times a day of twenty minutes each, only during weekdays).

5. Define our practice—the things we’ll do when we’re feeling numbing urges. For example, it can be pausing to noticing what we’re feeling, giving ourselves a minute to experience those emotions, and being open toward those feelings.

6. Commit to others. Share our practice container plan with trusted friends and ask them to help us with it and hold us accountable.

7. Report daily. Report on our activities and progress to our trusted friends, and ask them to check on us if we’ve gone radio silent.

(Source: Leo Babauta, “Refraining from Letting Ourselves Numb Out,” Zen Habits)

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Choose to do something productive instead of numbing. Go for a walk to clear our head or try journaling. Choose something we enjoy and that adds value to our lives.

Recognise that the addiction wants us to isolate from others. That’s the worst thing we can do. Numbing behaviours tend to thrive in secrecy, so we must bring them to light.

Pray for help in facing and healing our pain, particularly with chronic numbing behaviours or addictions that feel overwhelming. (For those struggling with addiction, consider support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous—and see more below— and their guiding principles such as the 12 Steps.)

Serve others, even in small ways. Contributing to others can take us out of a wallowing self-focus and give us a chance to feel good about helping people, even via small acts of support or kindness.


As humans, we all feel pain and discomfort, so it’s understandable that we’re tempted to escape it via numbing. We need to learn, though, that too much numbing makes things worse, not better.

Avoiding gets us nowhere.

Anesthetising is a temporary salve.

Escaping doesn’t help at all.

Better instead to turn and face the discomfort, listen to what it’s telling us, and do something about it—ideally, with help from others. Going it alone isn’t wise, so we need to get better at asking for help and letting people experience the satisfaction of helping us.

The alternative to numbing is experiencing life more fully and addressing the inevitable challenges we face head-on.

Reflection Questions

1. To what extent are you numbing with screens, work, substances, or other escapes from your thoughts and feelings?

2. What’s driving those behaviours?

3. How will you start to break the cycle?

Tools for You

• Traps Test (Common Traps of Living) to help you identify what’s getting in the way of your happiness and quality of life

• Quality of Life Assessment to help you discover your strongest areas and the areas that need work and then act accordingly

• Personal Values Exercise to help you clarify what’s most important to you

This article was also published on Gregg Vanourek’s LinkedIn

Gregg Vanourek is an executive, changemaker, and awardwinning author who trains, teaches, and speaks on leadership, entrepreneurship, and life and work design. He runs Gregg Vanourek LLC, a training venture focused on leading self, leading others, and leading change. Gregg is co-author of three books, including Triple Crown Leadership (a winner of the International Book Awards) and LIFE Entrepreneurs (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose and passion).

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Why A Successful Presentation Is All In Your Mind


No matter how established you are, the thought of standing at the front of the room to speak to your colleagues or clients is enough to drive even the most hardened professional to reconsider their life choices. The fear, the nervousness, the excitement. What if something goes wrong? What if it goes right!

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Source: Digital art is from DALL.E #dalle


Having taught presentation skills to the corporate market for the last 20 years, one of the most common questions people come up with is, how do they get their mindset right so they can handle the stress and lead the room.

The first fear that most people have is based around knowledge. This is expressed as something like, ‘I’m alright with public speaking as long as I know the topic’. My internal reply to that is always, ‘Well derFred! If I didn’t know what I was going to speak about then I’d be nervous too!’. If you don’t know your topic, you’re going to be nervous. If you don’t know your topic you should be nervous. If you don’t know your topic - please don’t speak.

When you consider how rare silence is in our world today, this 2,500 year old advice is pretty good.

The second comment people make is that they are OK once they get started, but the first few minutes kill them. This kind of makes sense. People imagine all sorts of things that could go wrong only to find that most of them don’t. As the fifteenth century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote,

As fun as quoting Confucius and Montaigne clearly is, there are other ways to get your head right for a big presentation. The secret to getting your mindset sorted for your next presentation lies not in your head, but in your body.

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It was Confucius who said,
“Only speak if you are going to improve on the silence already in the room.”
“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.”
Confucius: Revered philosopher I Image from DALL.E #dalle Portrait of Montaigne, 1570s I Image by Wikipedia


Regardless of your attitude to presenting, every time you think of it, there will be a physical sensation in your body. The secret to having a great mindset around presenting is how you react to the sensations.

Those who don’t like presenting react to the sensations by labelling them as butterflies, nervousness, anxiety or something similar. They use this to generate stories such as why they will stuff up, why they are not good enough or something else. Those who like presenting, label the sensations as something like excitement, energising or similar. They then tell themselves a story about why they are good at presenting.

Contrary to what pop psychology will tell you, having a good mindset is not about trying to reshape the story you tell yourself from not liking it to liking it. This is simply replacing one made up story with another.

Having spent 20 years training presentation skills around Australia and the world I have seen that the best way to react to those energetic sensations - be they undesirable or desirable - is to not react - simply observe. Just observe the sensation and experience them in your body. When you pay close attention to the sensations a remarkable thing happens - they fade. When they fade, they won’t affect you.

The beauty of this technique is that, in addition to being effective, it can also be used in advance if you are worried about giving a presentation to make sure everything will go smoothly.


The process of not reacting is about observing and nothing else. Unfortunately, most of us make this harder than it should be. Below are the simple steps to help you not react.

1. At any time before presenting (perhaps hours or days before - or just as you are about to go on stage) think of your presentation. This might be what is needed to prepare, to know what it will be like standing up at the front of the room speaking to the audience.

2. Notice any sensations you feel in your body. Pay close attention to them.

3. Apply the 6 Don’t’s - don’t label them (I’m feeling nervous); don’t justify them (it is a big presentation, I should be nervous); don’t explain them (I’ve always been a nervous speaker); don’t suppress them (feel the fear and do it anyway); don’t own them (I always feel nervous when I present); and finally don’t fight it - just let it come up. Just experience the sensations as they happen.

4. Stay with the sensations until they subside.


There are no right or wrong sensations that you should experience when you come to present. What you are experiencing at this time is simply a culmination of all you have experienced about presenting. When you simply observe the sensations, you can feel them dissipate and eventually disappear. When they disappear, they won’t be there to bother you again. This then creates a mastered mindset that can enable you to deliver a great presentation.

DIGEST LEADERS 17 Issue 74 I April 2023
DARREN FLEMING Darren Fleming is an expert on mastering your mindset. He is a speaker, trainer and mentor to senior leaders wanting to master their mindset. His latest book Mindset Mastery - Do Less. Achieve More is out now.


Pandas, polar bears, marine turtles and jaguars are a few of the animals that are solitary creatures.

Humans are quite the opposite. We need interaction and connection. Evolutionary biologists have examined how we have evolved in small networks, which involved cooperation and conflict.

What underpins cooperation is the concept of social exchange, whereby one person does another person a favour or provides a benefit, and it is expected that this action will be returned in some way. In academic circles, this is known as the norm of reciprocity. This norm emphasises the criticality and obligation of helping those who have helped you, with reciprocal behaviour considered fundamental to how we function socially and morally.

The relevance of reciprocity continues to this day across society and the workplace. If you’ve read Dr Robert Cialdini’s classic book on influence you’ll know that one of the fundamental elements of having influence is practising reciprocity.

With reciprocity, there are usually two parties. The person being helped or given the favour (the beneficiary or taker) and the person offering the help or favour (the benefactor or giver). The benefits are not one-sided because while we often think about the benefit of receiving, there are many benefits to giving and helping.

You’ll know that helping others makes you feel good. Your brain releases the happy and mood-boosting chemicals and neurotransmitters of dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. With the mood bump, you feel good about yourself.

So much so, that Wharton University’s, Adam Grant and Jane Dutton from the University of Michigan discovered it can lead you to continue being generous with your time, resources and money. They found that reflecting on times when you helped others encourages you to undertake more prosocial behaviour because you identify yourself as a person who is a “...capable, caring contributor”. Their conclusion was that while reflecting on times when you were the recipient of benefits can make you happier, it is reflecting on times when you were the giver of benefits that increases your prosocial focus.

However, being helpful doesn’t operate on a continuous cycle. Indeed, in the workplace, how a person helps, who they help, and the frequency of that help varies.

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Source: Image by Htc Erl from Pixabay Source: Photo Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Why? Because helping can also be tiring and on occasions, exhausting. As Professor Gabriel, from The University of Arizona, and colleagues found helping people at work can, in turn, lead you to help others less and increase behaviours that focus on helping yourself.

Similarly, Klodiana Lanaj from the University of Florida and colleagues, also found that responding to requests for help depletes your energy and ability to regulate your behaviour and control your impulses. However, that energy is replenished when you see that the helping provided a “...positive and visible difference in co-workers’ daily lives”. But, like everything, that replenishment isn’t limitless. Their research found there are diminishing returns from perceived prosocial impact, which means the more someone helps, the weaker the positive association between helping and prosocial behaviour.

In this way, the person helping reaches a point of overload where it no longer feels good. Instead, it feels exhausting and unrewarding. Of course, it feels even more exhausting if you feel like your helpfulness isn’t appreciated.

What’s interesting is that the level of appreciation a person receives from helping can depend on whether they were asked to help or proactively offered the help.

Hun Whee Lee from Ohio State University and colleagues examined the difference. They found that reactive helping (where you help after being asked for the help) is more likely to result in gratitude from the recipient than proactive helping (where you help without being asked). Receiving gratitude for the helpfulness results in the helper feeling good, which had a subsequent positive impact on prosocial behaviour and work engagement.

Workplaces won’t function if people aren’t helpful. However, the nature and form that the helping takes are important to consider.

As a leader, ask yourself:

• Am I creating a team culture where helpfulness is seen as a positive characteristic?

• Are the expectations on helping equally shared or am I expecting some team members to help more than others?

• Am I noticing if my team members are suffering from helpfulness fatigue?

• How am I best recognising and appreciating the team members who are helpful?

• What am I doing to ensure that asking for help isn’t seen as a negative (for example, a sign the person isn’t coping or up to the job)?

As a team member, ask yourself:

• Is the help I am offering my colleagues relevant and wanted?

• In offering this help, am I genuinely seeking to support my colleague?

• Am I willing to ask for help when I need it, rather than seeing it as a sign of inadequacy or weakness?

• Am I grateful for the help my colleagues offer?

• How am I best displaying my gratitude?

As Dr Martin Luther King said, “Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others”. Being helpful and expressing gratitude when you are helped go hand in hand. So who can you help next and who can you show your thanks to?

Republished with courtesy from michellegibbings. com


Michelle Gibbings is a workplace expert and the award-winning author of three books. Her latest book is ‘Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one’. www.michellegibbings.com.

DIGEST LEADERS 19 Issue 74 I April 2023

Does The Generation Gap Really Cause Disconnect In The Workplace?


According to the OECD, the workforce is becoming increasingly age diverse. Factors such as population ageing, social progress and changing work-life patterns have resulted in people delaying retirement and staying in work for longer. As with any significant demographic change, greater age diversity will inevitably have an impact on workplace cultures and environments. But what does this look like, and how can organisations manage this shift?


Unprecedented levels of labour market volatility have been present across all industries in recent years. For instance, in September 2021, job vacancies in the UK topped one million for the first time.

Recent rises in inflation rates have further impacted recruitment, with ‘real wages’ set to fall to the lowest rate since 2006. Organisations have certainly become habituated to a more regular frequency of personnel change, a phenomenon that coexists with rising age diversity in the workforce.

As the labour market becomes more flexible, some data has pointed to a divergence in activity between younger and older generations. Figures from LinkedIn show that members of Gen Z are switching jobs at a staggering 134 per cent higher rate than before the pandemic, compared to 24 per cent more for millennials. While this data certainly highlights a divergence in habits between the two groups, this does not necessarily mean they are at odds with each other.

DIGEST LEADERS 20 Issue 72 I February 2023
Source: Image is from freepik.com by @gstudioimagen

Simultaneously, recent insights from CoachHub’s digital coaching platform reveal that, as an average, employees in every age group globally are making conflict management the top priority in their coaching sessions. Other topics such as communication, emotional regulation and resilience are part of the top five topics across every age group. Although the different generations may have different habits in their working lives, there are a lot of similarities in the challenges they are facing.


Organisations should celebrate the value of diversity within their workforce, rather than focusing on generational difference as a divide or gap. Positioning age diversity as a gap between generations may risk harming the workforce’s collective development, when, in reality, the two groups are likely to benefit from working together towards some of their shared goals. When companies encourage their managers to lead with the benefits of diversity in mind, both the business and the people within it can grow together as a result.

For instance, age diversity can result in stronger onthe-job learning, as older workers can impart their career expertise while younger workers can offer new skills. Encouraging collaboration between generations can even go as far as impacting the business’ bottom line, with almost half (43 per cent) of businesses with diverse management teams reporting higher profits. Generational variance certainly isn’t something to be feared – it’s something to be celebrated.


Some of the best practices of multi-generational management include:

Adapting communication methods to avoid difficulties in understanding each other. Managers need to create open channels of communication where employees can connect with each other and raise any concerns. It is especially important in an age-diverse workforce to encourage collaboration and relationship building between those of different ages, as this can alleviate potential conflict and promote knowledge sharing.

Treating every employee as an individual, and not making assumptions about them. This may seem basic, but it can be easy to do so unconsciously when it comes to age, with assumptions such as older people having fewer digital skills being so commonplace. Managers should judge each individual’s skills and weaknesses based upon who they are as a person, rather than an assumption based upon their age.

Creating a team spirit by mobilising the team towards a common goal through cohesion and collective intelligence. Managers should always remember that regardless of seniority or experience, every colleague is ultimately working towards the same goal. Achieving this goal will always happen more effectively and quickly when everyone works together as a team.

Regularly engaging in personal development while encouraging the development of the wider team. Managers can consider engaging in a digital coaching programme, which will allow them to target the specific areas of their management style that they want to develop. When combined with regular learning and other development activities, managers will be in good stead to manage diverse teams, regardless of their demographic.

Ultimately, managing a multi-generational team is all about nurturing intergenerational relationships and ensuring that everyone has the tools they personally need to thrive. The workforce is definitely becoming more age diverse, but this doesn’t mean that there has to be a gap or conflict between different generations. When organisations celebrate the value of diversity within their workforce they enjoy faster growth, greater collaboration, and a quicker route to their objectives.

DIGEST LEADERS 21 Issue 72 I February 2023
This article is republished courtesy of People Management JULIANE STERZL Juliane Sterzl is senior vice president for EMEA at CoachHub.

Book Review

Through this book, Russell E. Palmer offers a unique look at what often seems like a cliched topic – Leadership. Based on his diverse experience, Palmer talks about the idea of a suitable leadership model for each situation and observes that depending on the organisational style, a different leadership style is more appropriate.

Ultimately, he says, leadership boils down to inspiration. The ability to help organisations weather stormy seas and mould their culture to change with changing times is the ultimate test of your ability to lead. Understanding and applying principles is not enough. The leadership approach needs to change with the context of the situation. Palmer notes that one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to fail to understand that what works in the leader’s own organisation can be very wrong in other contexts that may be a part of the leader’s wider responsibilities. He tells stories about how he has seen leaders who were brilliant in shaping their own organisations fail utterly when they found themselves in leadership roles in very different organisations. Why that happens will be the theme as he described a number of different leadership contexts and explored the special challenges facing their leaders. Each context requires a different approach to leadership.

Leadership is never a coincidence. Palmer stresses that it is built on character and performance standards to which everyone is held accountable.

DIGEST LEADERS 22 Issue 74 I April 2023
DIANA MARIE Diana Marie is a team member at the Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service attached with Corporate Affairs who found love in reading and writing whilst discovering inspiration in Leadership that Makes a Difference.
DIGEST LEADERS 23 Issue 74 I April 2023
Building Leaders to Make a Difference to our Society and State leadershipinstitute_scs SCSleadershipinstitute Leadership_scs LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE OF SARAWAK CIVIL SERVICE KM20, JALAN KUCHING SERIAN,SEMENGGOK, 93250 KUCHING, SARAWAK. 082-625166 info@leadinstitute.com.my 082-625766 www.leadinstitute.com.my
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