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Self-leadership with Associate Professor Jonathan Boymal
[RMIT ORGANISATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MANAGER ERIN FREEMAN AND RMIT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JONATHON BOYMAN ARE SHOWN IN A SPLIT SCREEN VIDEO CALL. THEY ARE BOTH SEATED]
[ERIN FREEMAN SPEAKS DIRECTLY TO CAMERA]
So, Jonathan, thank you so much for joining me today. I'm really pleased to have you on board and chatting to me about self-leadership.
It's a real pleasure.
I was wondering if we could jump straight into it and if you could describe to me what you feel self-leadership is?
Sure. You know, I always reflect on one of my favourite books which is Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. And, you know, how do you make sense of a world that's, you know, completely, completely upended. And the things that he focused on was, you know, the work we offer, right. Helping others. The love that we can give and the ability to display courage. And I think, you know, all of those-- all of those factors are incredibly important. You know, the need not only to be empathetic with others, but also to be empathetic with oneself. I think is incredibly important. And to be gentle with oneself at this time.
But in terms of, you know, of the broader leadership story, I think the question is-- and I think this is something that we are all learning, you know, what is required of me at this moment? How can I best serve those around me? And you can look at that in terms of, you know, concentric circles, right. So, you have those who are closest to you and you may hear some background noise in this house, right. I've got my two children, my wife with me. So, how do I deal with my children, right, in a way of loving kinder.
Jonathan, my children are also here at home and juggling responding to their needs, also to my partner's needs but then being present for the people I'm working with, I'm finding a challenge, a juggle and a challenge. How are you finding that or what are you doing around that?
Absolutely, it is a challenge. And the notion that our normal routines are upended. We don't have those spaces for ourselves that we may have had in the past. But whenever you fly in an aeroplane, and I know we haven't done that for a while. You know, you are told to put on your lifejacket first, right, before you then take care of those who you are with. And it's a duty that you have to yourself, to take care of yourself first. To be mindful of what's going on in your own world, what you are feeling, the sensations in your body, what is that telling you. Because if you are unable to take care of yourself, you're going to find it extremely difficult to really intentionally support those around you.
And I think intentionality is a big part of this. I think what's particularly important is that we intentionally focus on our well-being. And this notion of intentionality, in fact, has been lost as a learning and teaching leader. I found myself thrusted into an online world. And a lot of people are singing the praises of this experience. And in many respects, there are a number of positive aspects to it, don't get me wrong. But we've gone about this without intention.
So, in the same way you can only get the best learning and teaching experience online if you do so intentionally. It's the same when it comes to your own well-being. You need to intentionally focus on your own well-being. Being mindful of where you focus your attention. Obviously, there are many things going on at the moment. You can get lost in an echo chamber of social media. And anxiety is catchy, right. You took a look at what everyone is writing, and it can have an effect on you.
So, there is this big role for intentionality, right. Where do I focus my intention? And when I go outside and it's autumn at the moment, the leaves are changing colour. And I make sure that when I go outside, I take a look at the colours of the leaves. That is something that I choose to focus my attention on.
There's two things I'd love to pick up there. I find I'm incredibly privileged to have a garden, I love gardening. And I've been spending some time where I can out in the garden and trying to take breaks. I found yesterday I literally sat at my desk from I think about 8 in the morning until 6 at night. My husband took the kids for the day. And again, I'm so privileged that I'm in a position that that could happen. But the time I find at home is very different to time at work where you lose track of time and just basic things like eating or stopping. I'm finding that more challenging at the moment too.
Yes, as am I. And people will ask, how was your weekend? And I actually find that a very difficult question to answer. Because of the lack of boundaries, in so many respects at the moment, I'm finding it very hard to identify a period of time that I can call a weekend.
But you mentioned gardening, and I think what I found is I've taken the opportunity to reconnect with some interests that I may have had in the past. So, for example, I was working on a jigsaw puzzle with my daughter. I haven't done a jigsaw puzzle for more than 30 years. But it was a wonderful experience. And again, working in the garden. This sense of, you know, going with the flow, being in the zone. Really focusing your attention on something. Whether that be a jigsaw or a mindful colouring in book, or a garden. I think it's incredibly important. Because we don't have a lot of control over the external environment.
So, it's important that we actually try to have some influence over the internal world. And I think before we can have an impact on the external environment, we do need to be mindful of our own internal world.
So, you know, we're living this very interesting life where we are facing a crisis and we are attempting to lead during that crisis. But the crisis is not only-- it's not only in the organisation, right. But we have that personal experience of crisis. And I think it's very important then to, you know, tune into how you're doing during this time of crisis as a precursor to, okay, now let's see how we can manage the external world that is also going through crisis.
But I think that's such an excellent point, that it's such a challenge for our leaders to be able to hold a space for their people and to be able to show that empathy and care for the people, whilst they are also grappling with partners losing their jobs, children not being able to study or go to school. You know, that massive disruption that is whirling around at home. And also, then holding the space and sort of sense making for their people. It is an extraordinary challenge I think we have to recognise and kind of acknowledge that we won't be able to be everything to everyone and we won't be able to do it all at once. And we do need to take care of ourselves and make that a priority. Because in doing that, we can then make other people a priority and our service to other people a priority as well.
We are all adjusting to profound changes. And when you think about other momentous events in your life, both good and bad, it takes time to adjust. And you are learning about yourself. You're learning about what you're capable of, what's expected of you. And this is one of those times. So, it is incredibly important to be mindful of that.
But there are opportunities. I don't know if you've ever seen-- there was a 2011 movie called Perfect Sense and it starred Ewan McGregor and Eva Green. And it's about a pandemic. It's a really interesting movie. But one of the [inaudible] *0:09:11.9 progresses, and it progressively takes away people's senses. One of the final scenes, one of the main actors talks about a shared flinching of the brain's temporal lobe. And this sense of people being able to connect to a shared experience in a way that they may have not been before. And I loved that phrase even then, a shared flinching of the brain's temporal lobe. And I think that's particularly appropriate now. That we are sharing an experience. And this provides us with an opportunity to connect with people in a way that we have not done before.
So, you know, obviously I engage a lot remotely, right, via Teams and I'm talking to people. But we have a shared set of assumptions now in a way that we may not have had before. And that provides a really nice foundation then to extend the conversation.
I was, um-- yes, I agree. I was talking to a colleague who is an associate professor for a social sciences research lab. And she was telling me that she is seeing just an extraordinary amount of collegiality at the moment. That people are checking in on each other to see if they need help with technology, that resources are being shared more freely. And that discussions are becoming more open and more sort of regular. Is that what you are experiencing as well?
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that points to, you know, again the notion of intentionality. That people are deliberately extending themselves to see, you know, how their colleagues are, how their friends are. And that is something that is quite wonderful.
Mm-mm, we might leave it at that then. Good spot to stop. Thank you so much Jonathan, I really appreciate it.
Such a pleasure Erin, it was great talking with you.