First, what IS a leadership filter?
It’s how you personally filter and process information so you are passing on the right content and tone of your message to your constituents. Are you passing on stress, confusion, or clarity?
I had several conversations with clients this week about this very point. When you are on your email late at night mulling over some upset – do you fire off emails to your team or do you sit with it, filter and digest the issue? It’s about responding versus reacting.
When you react, you are being triggered by something and may come across emotional – tense or stressed. When you respond, you have paused and thought through multiple scenarios and carefully crafted your point of view or request.
A filter is not necessarily about how intelligent you are. It’s mostly about how you are managing your stress and triggers. Are you throwing up your “stuff” on everyone or communicating in a clear way? The first is charged and has a lot of negativity in it. Everyone is triggered by something. The more triggered you are, the more likely it is related to something that was either a traumatic or upsetting event that happened in the past and is no longer relevant, or a worry or anxiety you have about the future. In most instances a strong trigger is related to something that happened when you were a child and felt helpless. Your brain doesn’t always realize you are an independent, strong adult now and it can regress and act from that place.
The more time and workload pressure you are under, the more susceptible you are to throwing stuff to others unfiltered. I call this acting in your back-up style. This is where you literally want to make sure you breathe, pause and compose. By the very nature of it you may not be able to. This is where your amygdala gets “hijacked” The amygdala is a structure located in the temporal lobes of the limbic brain and has the role of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. When it gets triggered, I use the word “hijacked” because that is what looks it like – someone took your rational brain and your emotions are off and running.
What is the danger of this behavior? You are expressing (usually) negative emotions and passing the buck by generating stress for your constituents – direct reports, peers, maybe even boss – versus filtering and tempering the message and emotions so it can be received better. In other words, your reaction starts a chain of reactions or escalates things. When you filter, you also shape the message in ways that your constituents can either best digest it or act upon it. It’s not just a “pass through” of information.
So, a filter is not just editing what you say but how you say it. The tone is the most important thing people usually react to. Make sure it is music (a clear, less-charged request) and not noise (panic).
Reflection question: How do you manage your emotions when the stakes are high and the pressure is on?
At Sage Leadership Strategies, this is what we do well – hold the space for leaders to understand their patterns and enhance their approach for greater impact. If you know you can get better results with your constituents but just need some additional support to sort things through, please call us for a complimentary discovery session: 203-730-2103.
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