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How the Values of Recovery Can Transform the Way You Lead

There are many similarities between leadership and recovery. And while it may not be reported in business magazines or notable publications (yet), there are synergies that people in recovery and out of recovery can learn from.

Recovery transforms the past experience of addiction – often bringing to life new skills, gifts and competencies in a person. This is an exciting process, but it’s just as important to balance the principles of recovery along the way.

According to SAMHSA, the working definition of recovery is: “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

These are the 10 principles of recovery:

  • Recovery emerges from hope.
  • Recovery is person-driven.
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways.
  • Recovery is holistic.
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
  • Recovery is supported through relationship and social networks.
  • Recovery is culturally-based and influenced.
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma.
  • Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility.
  • Recovery is based on respect.

As I’ve worked in the addiction recovery industry, I’ve seen these principles in action. And as I’ve simultaneously worked in business, I’ve seen these principles needed. If you have a mentor, you may learn these lessons through coaching over time, but it’s time to call out the many benefits of embracing the relevance of recovery in leadership.

The Intersection of Wisdom and Encouragement

Merging the principles of recovery with the art of leadership can lead to a unique intersection of wisdom and encouragement that can lead to greater success in business. Here’s a list of principles that merge the best of recovery and leadership:

  • Have a vision.
    According to SAMHSA, hope catalyzes recovery. Similarly, as a leader, entrepreneur or professional, you need to have vision to ground you in your work. Having hope and vision will keep you pressing forward, especially on hard days. You’ll need to remember to take it one day at a time – in business and in life – but having a general framework and hope for the future will make you a more effective and inspirational leader. You’ll know where you’re headed and your people will be able to follow you toward that vision.
  • Focus on and empower your people.
    A person-focused approach is central to recovery, especially regarding the principle of caring for others. While it may feel necessary to think about yourself first, great leaders think of their team This is a key principle of leadership, but should already come naturally from recovery. Serving and giving back to others is what keeps leaders growing and keeps your recovery at a healthy pulse. You learn from those who have gone before you and those coming after you. By investing in the lives of others, you’re putting recovery in action and respecting those around you.
  • Leverage mentorship and learn from others.
    As you invest in your people, remember to invest in yourself through mentorship and a commitment to learning. You’ve never learned it all in recovery, and you’ll never know it all in business. Mentoring others is a key element of being a great leader – and someone with mature recovery. But it goes both ways: remember, mentorship and sponsorship are never obsolete. The best professionals have a great mentor. Said by many successful people in both recovery and leadership, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.” Whose shoulders are you standing on? Who are you learning from? Who is mentoring you? Stay humble and committed to learning and urge others to do the same.
  • Embrace community and diversity.
    The recovery community is richly diverse. This same standard of diversity should permeate your business and leadership. Surround yourself with people who come from diverse backgrounds – and especially those who have diverse opinions. In the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, this is said best as “principles before personalities.” You may not agree with everyone you work with – or everyone who works for you. Embrace the differences in your communication styles, perspectives and decisions – remember you’re working toward the same mission. Keep your business mission at the center, and let the differences keep you aware, open-minded and flexible.
  • Stay humble and commit to growth.
    In recovery, you’re never finished. Your journey is always moving forward, you’re always growing and there’s always more to learn. The same is true in leadership. Make an intentional commitment to growing your leadership and to helping others do the same. By understanding where your weaknesses are, admitting them and committing yourself to a career of growth – just like in recovery – you will become an inspirational leader to those you lead. Humble leaders make great learners, and people who learn are richly equipped to grow and inspire others. Leverage this principle of recovery in the way you lead your people – they will be better for it, and so will you.

Let Your Recovery Empower You

Said best by Douglas MacArthur, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

Having the integrity of intent, recovery can empower you to live your best life personally and professionally. Embrace the values that are central to staying sober and thriving in recovery, and those same principles can radically transform the way you live and lead.



Images Courtesy of iStock

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