Go Ice Skating, Become a Better Leader

Last Updated Apr 27, 2009 1:24 PM EDT

Yes, times are tough. We know this. And it's especially hard on organizational leaders, who are being asked to pull their companies through crisis after crisis and somehow keep their teams motivated and productive in the face of layoffs, uncertainty, and a generally crappy economic climate.

But when the going gets tough, the tough go...ice skating?

Yes, says Celia Irvine, ice skating. Taking up the sport was one of the leadership tools that helped her navigate a time of significant change at her company. How did it do that?

"This activity--like yoga or raising orchids--requires total concentration. When you're moving fast on a hard, cold surface wearing razor blades on your feet, you tend to pay attention to what's around you. The payoff is that, like Zen, you forget about everything. Afterward I always felt more focused and relaxed. And that well-being rubbed off on my colleagues, family and friends. I knew I had to stay on an even keel to keep up my end for everyone."
The key for leaders right now, she says, is to embody three important traits: empathy, trust, and collaboration. Anything you can do to make yourself more relaxed, more authentic, and more "in the moment" can help you deliver these qualities for your team.

So find yourself a Zen activity -- whether it's meditation, ice skating, raking a Zen garden or my personal favorite, surfing -- and watch the benefits spill over at work, even when you're in crisis mode.

What activities can you recommend that make you a better leader? Share your ideas in the comments section.

(image by Olivier Bruchez via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.