Career satisfaction,  Happiness,  Leadership,  Success Strategy

Reconnect With Self – A Leadership Lesson from CBS’s Madam Secretary

In an episode of CBS’s Madam Secretary (Meaning of Life, May 13th, 2018), there is a side story where Russell Jackson was prescribed by his doctor to find a relaxing activity because of his heart condition. His intern Stevie was to find something not too “touchy-feely” exercise for him. Stevie was going for all the well-researched activities like yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, etc., none of which land well with Russell. Stevie’s Dad, Henry McCord, came to rescue. He told Stevie, “All these practices are a warm-up for the big question, the Spiritual journey. All his life Russel avoided it. He might drive himself to an early grave, trying to avoid it.” Eventually, Russell had a meeting with Henry regarding this when Henry helps him reconnect with himself.

Russel and Henry Conversation (Photo- Screenshot from the Madam Secretary show)

Henry: “Has there any non-work-related activities that you have been completely absorbed?”

Russel: “When I was a kid, I used to make model airplanes.”

H: “Why don’t you do make them anymore?”

R: “Because I am a grown man with a job!”

Eventually, Henry convinced him to give it a try. Russel rediscovered his passion for making model airplanes and, in turn, saves his marriage and his health. Not all of us have a job like Russel Jackson, being the President’s chief of staff; however, as the leaders in our domain, we all have a job that imposes stress. My clients often bring those topics during our coaching sessions. I found it very useful for these leaders to incorporate a non-work-related activity or two that “completely absorb” them.

One of my executive coaching clients, Mark, was feeling unenthusiastic about his work and life. Through our conversation, he realized he could add his passion for woodwork to get in touch with his sense of excitement and passion. A few months later, he reached out to me, saying it resulted in a much higher quality of life for him (Are you Driving with an Emotional Flat Tire?).

In this article, the value of hobbies, Joyce E. A. Russell, the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland, wrote:

“Hobbies provide an outlet from daily stressors that can keep us from getting burned out in our jobs. They also provide numerous health benefits from lower blood pressure to better physical function, and higher positive psychological states, and less memory loss. Further, hobbies may actually, improve our work performance if they improve our decision-making skills, creativity, and confidence.”

Leaders like Steve Jobs used to take walks to help spark his creativity. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Taking a walk may lead to more creativity than sitting.”

I have found that walking in nature and Zumba are the most effective self-care activities for me. I get the most creative ideas during those times. I started taking Improv class recently and found this engages other parts of my brain and gives me a more holistic experience.

As I mentioned in this article: “When you integrate such self-care, joy-giving activities in your life, you are having those good set of tires in your car. Since the resilient tires support your engine, you are now ready to embrace all sorts of an off-road adventure. Can you imagine how that would look like at work and other areas of your life!”

In today’s VUCA world, professionals at every level must show up at their best, be creative in everyday situations. It is more important than ever to find something outside of our regular work that could “completely absorbs us” so that we are more capable of maximizing our true potential.


Another good read: What Makes Some People More Resilient Than Others

The article was originally published on Feb 2019
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