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Leadership is learned
Want to inspire your
peers and colleagues? Distinct
characteristics of good
leaders teach lessons that will
help you grow — perso
rsonally and professionally.
— President John F. Kennedy
Trait: Willingness to learn.
The best leaders constantly seek out ways to expand their knowledge, whether it’s through higher education, attending seminars and workshops or self-study.
Lesson: Become a lifelong learner.
Keep a to-learn list with skills you want to develop and concepts you want to master. Schedule time for learning. Read or listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Also, network and learn from leaders in and outside of your industry.
— Hilary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee
Trait: Optimism. The best leaders have an optimistic outlook, even in the face of challenges. That positive attitude inspires and motivates others.
Lesson: Maintain a sense of positivity in all you do.
When you face a bump in the road or failure, don’t wallow in negativity. Look at it as a learning experience and forge ahead with the belief that things will get better.
— Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company
Great leaders exude confidence. People are reluctant to follow someone who seems unsure.
Lesson: Believe in yourself and your abilities.
Know that you and the skills you possess are valuable. Speak positively to and about yourself. Use nonverbal communication, such as making eye contact and standing tall, to convey selfassurance. When you appear confident, others are more likely to believe in you and follow your lead.
— Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of
People with top-notch leadership skills are confident decisionmakers. They understand that they must assess information, make a decision and follow it through. Spending too much time waffling between choices or, worse, not deciding at all, can negatively impact a company.
Lesson: Strengthen your decision-making skills.
Practice making more decisions, big and small. Take time to think things through but don’t brood over your options or second-guess yourself. Sometimes your decisions won’t be the best, but that’s OK. Make accountability part of your decisiveness. Take responsibility for what happens and learn from any mistakes.
NEW YEAR, NEW OPPORT UNITIES
Take the lessons from a difficult year and grow financially, professionally and spiritually. By Joseph Guinto
Photo-illustration by J.R. Arebalo
by J.R. Arebalo
ur home lives, careers and finances have all been upended by the pandemic and the economic downturn. Those challenges are not likely to go away soon. Still, as this year winds down, we can work toward a new normal — one that can be more professionally rewarding, more financially secure and more spiritually enlightened. Here are six habits to adopt now in hopes of creating a better 2021.
Improve your financial security. ONE:
Build up your retirement and emergency funds. Reassess your savings plan, based on what you have, and, importantly, what you have not spent money on during the pandemic. “The current times make people realize that it’s possible to cut significant spending on a lot of things, such as restaurant dine-ins and takeouts and luxury goods,” says Ian Wright, the CEO and Founder of Bequests, a retirement information site. “Funnel the money you’ve been saving into your retirement savings or into building your emergency funds,” Wright says.
Make a habit of paying down debt. “Consolidate your debts so you’re not paying interest on multiple loans, and make more than the minimum payment whenever possible,” says Zach Reece, the chief operating officer of Colony Roofers in Atlanta. “Then, when emergencies arise, you will be in good standing and have a good credit score to either up your card limits or get loans more easily.”
Advance your career.
ONE: Start each day with the hardest stuff. Alex Azoury, the founder and CEO of Home Grounds — a company that helps amateurs brew coffee from home like baristas in the shop — always begins his day tackling the toughest, most unpleasant tasks first and then moves on to tasks he enjoys. “That not only checks those unpleasant tasks off my to-do list in a satisfying way, but it makes me more a person of my word,” Azoury says. “It proves I will show up and do something I have to do, even if I don’t want to.”
Work is hard, especially now. But make a habit of being as positive as you can as often as possible. “Bitterness, resentment and constant complaining hinder growth,” says Ian Kelly, vice president of operations for NuLeaf Naturals, which makes hemp wellness products. “Choose instead to be solutions oriented, open to feedback, optimistic and supportive of others.”
ONE: Express gratitude each night to a higher power. Whether that’s God or some other type of universal life force or just something that’s beyond your own self, recognize and give thanks for the good that flows from that power. “By directly thanking the source of the good things in our lives, we are more connected with that source and increase that connection,” says Keith Felty, a happiness expert who wrote the book, “America, the Happy.”
TWO: A daily habit of mindful meditation might help to lift, or at least redistribute some of the mental weight that the pandemic and uncertain economy have had on us all. “For a society wholly dependent on technology, this brief disconnect is a moment of silent comfort,” says David Foley, the founder and CEO of Unify Cosmos, a site offering meditation guides. “Sometimes, the simpler things hold the most importance in life. Sit in a quiet room for 10 or 20 minutes. Let thoughts pass you by, and practice being in the moment.”
KEEP FAMILY TIME
As life gets back to normal sometime in 2021, the close family ties many have created over the long lockdown period may come undone. They don’t have to. Experts advise families prioritize hanging onto new traditions like these:
• Cooking together regularly
• Doing puzzles weekly
• Taking a daily walk or bike ride
• Doing the small things constantly like holding hands and hugging
a freelance writer and editor in Washington, D.C., has made a habit of calling his mother more often this year.
BACK TO BASICS
OLD-FASHIONED HOBBIES HAVE MADE A DRAMATIC RETURN AMID THE NEW LOCKDOWN LIFESTYLE. BY HALEY SHAPLEY. ILLUSTRATION BY J.R. AREBALO
BY J.R. AREBALO
When stay-at-home orders began, the pace of American life slowed, but one thing rose: a whole lot of bread loaves. Social media was filled with photos of the wonders that can result when flour, yeast and water are mixed in the right combination. Plus, a plethora of back-tobasics activities filled our time.
“When people are under stress, they look to their surroundings to identify sources of comfort and coping,” said Stephanie J. Wong, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist. “Activities of leisure and relaxation that are easily accessible, like baking a tasty loaf of bread, fuel motivation to work toward a goal and provide purpose and a connection to something other than yourself.”
New outlook on time
Strategic programs manager Erin Beacham was one of those who hopped on the bread bandwagon. Although she’d grown up baking, she’d always been scared of yeast — but with a wideopen calendar, she figured now was the time to give it another go. In her pre-coronavirus life, proofing bread for 18 hours would’ve been tough to manage with her schedule. Now, that was no longer a concern.
“Before the pandemic, I had a lot of plans up in the air; there was always something in play,” she said. “As soon as the pandemic started, everything just dropped. It was that feeling of music stopping and you didn’t realize it was going on, and all of a sudden it was really quiet.”
Beacham also started cooking more elaborate recipes and dedicated herself to training to run a Boston Marathon- qualifying time. Both gave her something to look forward to. “Routine and structure help me get through the day,” she said. “Now that the pandemic’s here and it feels like I’m just floating through it, untethered to other people and other things going on, it’s nice to have that structure and routine as part of daily life.”
Planting seeds of hope
Baking isn’t the only old-fashioned hobby that Americans took up during hours off. Suddenly, pursuits such as gardening, knitting and other practical, hands-on hobbies came into vogue. Jim Chen, who works in investment management, learned to use a sewing machine and began growing a variety of plants on his patio.
Without having his usual experiences like meeting up with friends and going out to dinner to inject variety into the day, Chen found that caring for his plants — and experimenting with which conditions worked best for them — provided a way to see progress in a time when it felt like nothing was moving forward.
“With these plants, you start with a seedling, and they grow a little bigger as you take care of them. It was a nice marker of the passage of time during this period,” he said. “I’d move the plants several times a day to optimize the sun exposure, which helped break up the day a little bit and gave me a reason to stay more active throughout the day.”
In times of uncertainty, a simpler, self-sufficient life is appealing — there is great value in learning the basic skills that can sustain us and save money. Tactile hobbies also provide a grounding element that’s not only calming but can make you feel more useful and connected to the world around you. With news headlines that can feel out of control, there’s comfort in knowing that seedlings will still sprout, stitches will still create a finished product and bread will still rise.
is the author of