- On August 8, 2017
I wasn’t playing tennis; I was swinging around big cargo ropes in Crossfit class. I lived with the annoying pain that centered on the outside of my elbow and radiated through my right arm for three months, hoping it would get better. My inability to do simple things like grasp the handle of a coffee mug or hold a jar, or more importantly work on the computer for extended periods, was definitely impacting my productivity and quality of life.
The doc put me in Physical Therapy and I found Nirvana! Within two sessions I noticed a positive shift in my pain level and within a month 80% improvement.
The process of Physical Therapy reminds me of good leadership.
1. Tiny changes have huge impact.
Most of the exercises I had to do where not big muscle movements. They required subtle shifts–a flex of arm here, a tilt of head there—yet had tremendous outcome on regaining my mobility.
Same with leadership. Tiny changes—taking a few extra seconds to deeply listen instead of respond, appreciating a co-worker for something positive—radiate out. Feeling recognized and valued is the foundation of building trust, essential for leadership. It doesn’t take much—it doesn’t need a big party or official recognition ceremony—just a subtle shift in how you connect with others.
2. Healing involves the whole system, not just one part.
In PT, we didn’t just work on the elbow where the main pain was. There were also exercises to strengthen my neck, back, and shoulders, plus my core. Treating the injury as part of a system instead of a standalone problem reinforced the positive momentum and created support for the vulnerable part.
Leadership is not an ‘alone’ sport. A leader—whether in an official role or an informal one–has an impact on the whole system. The ‘system’ could be your team, your organization, your family, or your network of friends. To get really strong, you work on bringing everyone else up not just yourself.
3. It takes frequent attention to retain what you gain.
Within a few PT visits my arm was free of the chronic pain I had for months. But we didn’t stop there. We worked on more flexibility, mobility, extension, and whole body wellness to refine the target point healing and also build up the rest of the body to support it.
As a result, I have reduced pain in my neck (another chronic pain point from Army days), increased arm strength, and improved shoulder mobility. If I stop the exercises and stretching for a few days, my progress stalls and I experience tightness again.
Of all the aspects of leadership, trust is the hardest to build and the easiest to break—and the most essential to being effective. Developing trust is not a one-time shot. “Ok, I kept my cool in that meeting. Now I can go back to how I really am.”
Being an authentic leader that inspires confidence of the people around you requires frequent attention to your own self- awareness and self-management as well as managing your impact on your relationships.
What tiny shifts have you experienced that had a huge impact on your own leadership effectiveness?
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