Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do.” As a leadership coach, I am always curious about what my clients are practicing. The challenge is to realize that although we have all been practicing something, some of those “practices” aren’t getting the results we are looking for now.
Consider James. When we began working together, he had the belief that leadership meant walking into a room with certainty and deliberation. His mindset was that he was the “knower” or “possessor of the truth. He practiced this daily, believing his confident, aggressive “take charge” attitude would get things done. His body was leaning forward; his vocal tone strong and aggressive. His “warrior” manner was at one point necessary. In fact, it is one of the qualities that helped him build a thriving business. Unfortunately, reliance on that alone had become a liability.
Although leaders must have the vision firmly in their mind, (and they must communicate that to the rest of the organization), leadership isn’t about having all the answers….
In fact, a leader that relies upon having all the answers will not have an engaged team of followers.
Through our work together James has begun to practice new ways of engagement; with himself and with others. Through learning about the influence of his body, moods, emotions and language, he has discovered that what he had been practicing up till now was no longer serving him at this stage of the company’s growth. He is learning new ways of experiencing his own posture, sensation in his body, mood and affect. As he does, shifts are happening!
I would rather see a leader who is able to ask the right questions than having the “knower” attitude. Asking questions in a spirit of curiosity offers the possibility for co-creation. You care about something and I care about something. Where do our cares overlap? What am I willing to put at stake to advance our mutual care?
Leadership isn’t about using force to get people to do things, or about using the power of your office to make them cower; true leadership resides in the influence you have, and this comes from what you practice.
Your physical presence, stature, vocal tone all create the way you can engage with others. Consider the following:
Are you aware that your body posture, moods and emotions enter the room with you, if not before?
Are you aware that your “default” body position and energy are communicating way more than the words you are using?
Do you know how your manner of engagement in language either limits or expands your leadership effectiveness?
What do you practice to demonstrate your presence?
Do you practice being curious?
Do you practice listening without attachment to having the answer?
Do you practice being triggered by events and people throughout your day, feeling bounced around or are you able to hold your own center?
My intention is to create conscious leaders who engage with their teams and each other in these practices. Small shifts off the field add up to big impact in the game.