Leadership hunger games

It’s hard to lead when you are fighting for survival.

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Anneka is in survival mode, leading her team through another restructure.  ‘This one feels more brutal than the last, I feel like I’m in the 3rd Hunger Games,  The stakes are high, it’s survival of the fittest. The players are around the globe. I never know what I’m going to wake up to’.

Anneka is exhausted, she is feeling under threat and is fearful of and for others. She knows jobs and livelihood are at risk and feels like she is in an arena, she feels vulnerable and anxious about going into work each morning. This is compounded by insomnia negatively spiralling into her home life.

She felt like she was battling enemies, enemies that were once friends adding in a heavy emotional complexity. Í’m looking at the behaviours of my colleagues and I feel sick’, on my guard and wondering how I will make it out of here intact. I wish I could just leave, but I can’t. I won’t leave my team. My partner is supportive but is tired of listening to me complaining.

Change is a part of our lives and depending on the moment of time for us, how we are feeling, the experience can feel like a rollercoaster without an end in sight.   

Below is the framework we used to help Anneka get through the trickier moments which shifted her perspective taking her to a more constructive place.


Acknowledge what is happening on a human level and how this is impacting you. This can feel counter-intuitive, however, your act of courage and vulnerability will be the nourishment that can create a pivot in awareness and behaviours. Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability is a terrific resource to help you through wobbly moments.

This helped Anneka reframe enemies to people.


Get curious about others.  What is it like for them? Understandably Anneka was in fight or flight mode igniting heightened emotions and reactions.  In a 2012 Psychology Today article titled – Feel Attacked? Leon F Saltzer provides this sage advice that offers another perspective.

“Before this person pushed my button, which one of their buttons might I (however inadvertently) have pushed? What makes this self-query so powerful is that it instantaneously enables you to detach from your internal distress and refocus your attention on what’s going on outside yourself’  

Igniting curiosity will create space for perspective, compassion and creativity.


Change can be tough, physically and emotionally. It can also be exciting,  presenting opportunities for growth.

Our experiences are shared, however, not always in the same moment in time. If you are in flight, feeling fearful,  overwhelmed and exhausted the first place to direct some compassion is towards yourself. What do you need to do to get through? What support do you need? What decisions need to be made to ensure you care for your health and wellbeing?

If you are gearing up for a fight, take a step back, find a safe place to gain some perspective. Ask yourself: What am I fighting for? It may not be what you think it is. A session with a coach, counsellor or psychologist can be helpful.  If deeper issues are surfacing a session with a psychologist is the most appropriate level of support.


I worked with Anneka to set firm boundaries as part of her self care. We looked at what was creating most friction, and no surprises, it was where her values were feeling compromised. ‘A light bulb moment for me was when we looked deeper than the situation I was either avoiding or attacking. It made sense that it was about values and feeling out of integrity with who I am.  This created a powerful shift, I was able to link this to our corporate values and behaviours making conversations less personal taking the heat out of the trickier situations”.

‘The best boundaries I set was with myself, no emails during my family times.


Reflection, acts of kindness and compassion provide a critical foundation.  Plus getting into action. For Anneka, connecting with courage and having the conversation with her colleagues about the impact of their behaviours was a key action.  ‘The conversation I was avoiding most was with my boss.  I was so disappointed with the behaviours I was seeing, a stark contrast from the past. I had to move on from my disappointment and judgement.

The first step is always to check in with self, what’s happening for you? What’s the impact of this?  

Do this with compassion, care and curiosity. Broaden your awareness of what is occurring for others.  

Remember, you are not alone, reach out to others and have the conversations that matter.

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