The complexities of leadership are many. One moment you are a hero, the next you get blindsided by the neediness of someone’s ego. One of the main purposes in starting this blog is to write about the different ways leaders can get tangled up in their own thinking. Also the purpose of this blog and my work is to help you stay grounded and insightful about the ways you get in your own way. Much has been written about the characteristics of leaders. There is only one point in which everyone agrees: Good leadership has willing followers.
To be a good leader is to know yourself and be the kind of person you would want to follow. Sounds easy, well it’s not. Psychological insight is in short supply especially when one needs it the most. How are you when you are being attacked? Do you just want to get even or maybe put that person on your black list? How you are able to handle yourself and not react is a hallmark of wise leadership. In order to do this you must be very, very honest with yourself.
My job is not to tell you the easy things but to respect you and help you see the hard stuff worth knowing. You can learn great rules of management and leadership in many places. It is a rare place that you can find truth about yourself.
We are here to lead and yet we are also here to find that dimension in ourselves that is deeper than thought. Finding this deeper dimension, allows us the freedom to be alive and to be the person that others want to follow. There is a way to know yourself other than the identity that you live by everyday. There is so much more.
Be the leader you would want to follow. To be is the optimal word here. It’s not about doing but about being still, finding enough internal solitude and space to understand yourself in way that you have not allowed before.
“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again saying Here.
No trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wern
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.”
In the many years that I have worked with leaders, one of the central problems that comes up is the the difficulty in understanding that all things change. Most people who lead want to control. Some for control sake and others because they strongly believe that this is the only way to lead. All things change, and if we expect them not to change and get attached to how things “should” be then there is pain and suffering. In some traditions, it is said that the leader follows “the wisdom of uncertainty”. Understanding and learning to stay centered in the midst of change is a wise way to lead and to live.
Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu
In my 20 years of working with top executives and other high performers, I know that IQ is not the reason that most leaders fail in their objectives. Rather it is lack of EQ, Emotional Intelligence. Most leadership experts acknowledge that leaders who are low in Emotional Intelligence often don’t succeed. In fact, current research suggests that great leadership performance is directly proportional to your level of Emotional Intelligence, of which Self Awareness is perhaps the most important ingredient
So what is Self Awareness?
It is simply ‘knowing who you are’ and understanding why you think, feel and behave the way you do.
Why is it so important? Because without it you are doomed to repeat the same old mistakes you made last week/month/year. Without it you can never get out of your own way and breakthrough the internal barriers to your own growth.
The three most skillful ways to increase your self awareness are to 1) learn to be “mindful”. This is a special type of awareness practice which teaches you to recognize not what your are thinking but how your mind works. It teaches you to understand when you are caught in destructive patterns of thought and to be less attached to this thinking. Meditation practices are the best tool to develop mindfulness. 2) To give yourself a powerful, compassionate, wise no excuses type coach/mentor. 3) To surround yourself with a group of peers who will give you honest feedback.
By harnessing the power of self-awareness you will be able to:
Make better decisions – from a place of greater objectivity. Reduce your level of stress. Be able to communicate and collaborate better with the people you work with – clients, boss, peers, suppliers, staff. Communicate more effectively in general – tailoring your message to the deeply held concerns of your listener. Increase your prospects for career advancement – by increasing your level of emotional intelligence
Self-awareness requires honesty and courage. It is not easy to get in touch with what we are thinking and feeling and to face the truth about ourselves. Exploring our inner core is not for the faint hearted. The benefit however, is true freedom and peace of mind.
Self-management and empathy are prerequisites for being able to handle and inspire emotions in other people. Without this leaders will struggle to establish sustainable, authentic relationships.