Are you too attached?


“The goal of leadership seems simple: to get people to do what they need to do to support the mission and the team” – Jock Willink in Leadership Strategy and Tactics

The ability to DETACH is described as the power of being able to distance yourself from the chaos and mayhem going on around you, take a step back and see what is actually happening.

Detachment can be a problem if you lose touch with the important people and opportunities facing your team, but don’t let this potential keep you from practicing the better use of this tactic. A leader who can detach is a leader who can see things the rest of the team cannot. By taking a step back, breathing deeply, and looking around, you can ensure that your next decision isn’t made reactively with limited intelligence.

The capacity to process and execute in chaos is complemented by the ability to detach from the granular immediate details and see the bigger picture. So how do we practice detachment?

Step 1 – Be Aware: Incline yourself to check the focus of your eyes as well as the pace of your breath and heart. Be aware of your bio-reactions in the midst of your work.

Step 2 – Step Back: Literally take a step backward.

Step 3 – Deep Breath:  Take a deep diaphragmatic breath, hold for 2 seconds and release. When you release your breath, open your hands (if possible) to physically signify the opening of your perspective.

Step 4 – Look around: Take your eyes upward, then left, then right. As you complete this practice of detaching, think about the other applications of these strategies.

An example from my own life:

I recently found myself in a high-stakes meeting with multiple leaders who could solve significant problems for some of my close family members. The trauma that brought me into the conversation was real and intense; as I sat talking with these leaders, my brother lay in his ICU bed without promise of another hour – let alone another day. The only way I could entertain objectivity was to use a detached state of mind. Before going into the meeting, I remember declaring my purpose – I want to build a bridge so help can get to my brother’s family during their time of need. In the brief moments before my meeting I wrote these words on a sheet of paper, and in multiple moments throughout the conversation I used those words to detach – to remind myself of the bigger picture and make the best decisions for my brother’s family.

Strategic pauses and stillness are practices that we cover in our LeadFORWARD yearlong transformational leadership program. For more information about LeadFORWARD and Emergent executive and professional coaching contact us here.

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  1. Mark Fuller on May 25, 2022 at 9:24 am

    Jeremiah, welcome to the Emergent team. I found this very helpful in another way; approaching coaching whether family or colleagues with “detached involvement”. Your illustration was very helpful.

    • Jeremiah on May 26, 2022 at 11:38 am

      Mark, thank you for your time and insight on this post. Your “detached involvement” with colleagues and family members is a great add. It’s especially important when the stakes are high and differing opinions lead to strong emotions. For me, it’s much easier to write about than it is to practice!

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