What is Leadership?
Is leadership a title, a role or a position?
Yes leadership does often involve a role and title, and, it is so much more than that. Thinking leadership is just a role or title is like thinking acting is simply reading a script.
When actors just read a script, their performance doesn’t connect to us as the audience. The actor comes across as inauthentic, flat, and not very believable. Good acting involves taking a script, stepping into a role, and embodying that character from the inside out. When the actor truly believes they are that person in that situation, their performance comes to life, is authentic, and we respond.
The same is true with leadership. A title or a job description, let’s say President of the United States, is not going to be enough to make the man or woman filling that position great. However, a man or woman who is authentic and embodies that role or any other has the potential of taking that position to the next level.
So if leadership is not a role – what is it?
Well at thrive!, we believe leadership has much more to do with embodiment than it does with titles or positions given to the person from the outside. In other words, leadership really comes from the inside out.
It’s about being solidly located inside yourself; meaning, you know what you think, feel and want, while being willing and able to influence and be influenced by those people around you and the circumstances you are in.
As a leader, you need to master the movement along two key axes:
The ME – navigating the space within yourself.
The WE – navigating the space between you and others.
Let’s start with The ME, the space within you. Often people don’t give this much thought.
When we start to coach business leaders, we often find that many are trying so hard to perform well, get the task done, and do a good job, that they are not paying attention to what is driving them, what they are thinking (their assumptions about the situation), and how they are really feeling other than being “fine.”
Without being aware of what is actually happening inside, a leader may keep repeating the same patterns, running into the same blind spots, and unable to break through an upper limit of their own success, effectiveness or influence.
The key ingredient for becoming more aware of what is happening inside of you is Vulnerability. Vulnerability is not about being weak. Rather, it is the willingness to expose oneself to danger, and to identify and reveal what you really think, feel and want.
Rather than assuming what you should say, do, feel and want based on the situation or the people around you, being vulnerable is the process of pausing and inquiring:
What am I actually thinking or assuming about this situation?
How do I really feel?
If I am honest with myself, what do truly I want?
Rather than obediently marching toward accomplishing your goal, we suggest you pause and take a breath and check inside. When you do inquire within, you often discover something that was hidden even from your own awareness.
When you discover what is really going on, you have the opportunity to bring it into the light of day – to be more real both with yourself and with others in the situation. When you choose to be more real, you are more congruent, authentic, and those around you feel the difference and respond. Just like we do as audience members watching an authentic actor.
The WE is about the space between you and another. The key in navigating this space is curiosity.
Our definition of curiosity is having judgments, AND being open and interested in a different perspective. Also to:
Consider that there is more than one reality, or one answer.
Stop fighting for your ‘right’ way.
Toss out your ‘brilliance’ and let it get mixed up, twisted and turned to allow for revision by others.
It is not always easy, especially for leaders who may think they have the ‘right’ idea, should have the ‘right’ idea, or often do what others think is the ‘right’ idea.
There is a lot of tension that comes up inside and between you and others when you each start sharing more fully what you truly think, feel and want!
It’s risky, and some people will like your ideas or your storyline, some will not. Some of your ideas will be seen as brilliant and some as duds.
There will be times when it will seem very hard to imagine that your story is not the ‘truth’ – I mean – the ‘real’ truth.
However as much as our stories are a statement of our brilliance and creativity, those same stories also can cause our greatest suffering. When we believe our stories, and are not willing to consider other perspectives, possibilities or truths, we get quite stuck!!! Like, really stuck!
A leader’s job is to have a great story – one that is inspiring and compelling. That does take confidence and a willingness to stand forward and give direction. It also requires the ability to reconsider, to expand, and include the dreams and storyline of others.
Bringing The ME & WE Together
An influential leader is someone who has the ability to bring The ME & The WE together. This means that they know their own inner space and will reveal their position with vulnerability while being curious and open to others.
This type of embodied leadership can happen at home, at work, within communities and out anywhere in the world.
It is so much more than just a title. And, when it is done well, it can and does change the world!
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.