Smart Leaders Turn the Lens Inward: 3 Tips for Self-Mastery

by Brian Gast, YPO Certified Forum Facilitator

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. — Victor Frankl

Leaders can be reactive. Reactivity can come in the form of loud anger as well as over-thinking, emotional detachment, criticism, controlling, passive-aggressive behavior or manipulation.

The antidote to reactivity is self-mastery. High self-mastery people are authentic and compassionate, have the capacity to express anger and intensity, and are less subject to distorting what people say.

It takes self-mastery to connect with a wide range of thinking styles and belief systems.

The next time you feel emotionally triggered and are about to be reactive, try the “stop, look and drop process to increase your self-mastery:

Stop: When you feel yourself in reactivity mode (hint: If you can’t laugh at yourself or the situation, or if you are convinced you are entirely right and the other is dead wrong, you’re being reactive) — stop talking, take your finger off the send button and step away from the conversation.

Look: Observe what’s happening when you’re being reactive. Notice what you’re experiencing internally. What are you feeling (anger, hurt, fear, sadness), what’s happening in your body (throat tight, stomach clenched), and what are your opinions and judgments (the distortions of what others are saying)?

Drop: As you slow things down a bit and let a little time pass, breathe and move around, then you can drop into self-inquiry mode and ask yourself, “What’s really bothering me? What am I trying to guard against? What need am I trying to meet?” Talk with a friend, colleague, or coach to help you recognize your motivators and uncover the root causes of your reactivity.

Self-awareness is the key to true freedom. Your reactivity is an invitation to break out of the inherent limitations of old, unconscious beliefs that drive your behavior and step into a much bigger way of living and much more effective way to relate and lead.

Brian Gast is a YPO certified forum facilitator who managed three fast-growth telecommunications companies before becoming an executive coach. He is dedicated to supporting leaders who are committed to growing their executive and personal capacities. Beyond merely helping them be more successful, Gast is equally dedicated to helping leaders live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Every CEO needs somewhere to turn for the insight and perspective only trusted peers can provide. In YPO, the supreme sounding board is forum. Around the world in 3,800 forums, small groups of members – and small groups of their spouses and young adult children – meet in an atmosphere of confidentiality, respect and trust. Most members say forum is their most valued asset, because the maxim holds true: it can be lonely at the top, but it doesn't have to be. YPO members, spouses, management team and YPO certified forum facilitators (CFF) are contributors of the articles below. CFFs are a specialized group of 100 highly skilled professionals with a deep understanding of forum process and protocol. Each CFF has completed a rigorous application, interview and certification process that requires peer recommendations.