• Thrive Inc.

Congruent Leadership

We’re continuing on our Beauty of Conflict for Teams season this week, and today we’re talking about congruent and incongruent leadership. You know that leader who looks good, sounds good and says all the right things, but something still feels amiss? It’s likely they’re being incongruent.

We can all be incongruent sometimes – and often, we don’t even realize it. When you’re trying to override your internal world, you’re opting out of your own congruency and it doesn’t work. Showing up congruently will shift the dynamics of your team, even in a virtual world.

Join us this week as we share some examples of congruent leadership and show you the importance of slowing down in order to check in with yourself. We discuss ways you might be displaying incongruences in your life, and why acknowledging how you feel within will enable you to take steps that feel right for you.

If you want to make a difference for either yourself and your career, or your team and your organization, send us an email to sign up for coaching! We can come and do a book club or simply visit with your team! Don’t worry about physical limitations – we work really well virtually, too!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • How to be a congruent leader.

  • Why it takes slowing down and getting in your body to know if you’re being true to yourself.

  • The difference between a congruent and incongruent leader.

  • Why you are not defined by your accomplishments.

  • Some examples of incongruent leadership.

  • A great example of how horses are in tune with congruency.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

Susan: We are starting 2021 with a series based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Teams. We’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team work more effectively especially in this remote and virtual environment. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode and this series with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

CrisMarie: Today we’re continuing on our Beauty of Conflict for Teams season. And we are going to be talking about chapter 12 in The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage. And this chapter is called Horses and Leadership. And really the core is how to be a congruent leader, so Susan why don’t you even define congruent, incongruent, and why it even matters.

Susan: Okay. So first off let’s talk a little bit about incongruent leadership, CrisMarie. So incongruent is that leader who you probably worked for somebody like this before or been around somebody like this before. They look good. They sound good.

CrisMarie: Saying all the right things.

Susan: They’re saying all the right things. But there’s just this sense of like wait a minute, something isn’t quite right. They are talking about how they really want to operate as a team but you’ve never once heard them give anyone else on their team credit.

CrisMarie: Or maybe not ever once but not very frequently.

Susan: Not very frequently, it doesn’t come up. It’s always what they accomplished. And yet you’re hearing this message, what’s really most important to hear at our organization is that it needs teamwork. And you can see that mismatch.

CrisMarie: Yeah. I know that when I have been around an incongruent leader, first you kind of go, “Okay, yeah, it’s going to work.” And then I get disappointed. I worked for somebody for a few years and I’d be like, “He really cares about us, he’s going to move us along. He’s saying all the right things. He wants to be of service.” And then no, it’s just all about him in the end and it’s really discouraging because I bought the story. And then when you find the behavior behind it, that was hard.

Susan: But let’s be clear, we are all incongruent sometimes, it’s not like you just are congruent and there you are. But now, here’s how the horses come into play because horses are these big bio feedback machines. In other words, one thing, they operate to survive, they operate as a herd, so they have learned to pick up the cues that are not just – obviously they’re not talking to each other, there’s no Mister Ed out there.

CrisMarie: No, there’s no words.

Susan: So they are picking up the subtleties of movements or patterns, ears going back.

CrisMarie: These are about the horses?

Susan: Yeah, and then they respond accordingly. They don’t worry about who’s in charge or not, it just passes through their herd and they move. Now, when you start to actually enter into a relationship with a horse the only thing the horse really cares about in the whole arrangement…

CrisMarie: It probably doesn’t care if my hair’s purple, or if I’ve got a nice house, or if I’ve got the promotion, or the title.

Susan: It couldn’t care less about the title.

CrisMarie: Or the purple hair.

Susan: Or the purple hair. But what they do care about is that you’re congruent. And what that means is that first off, in horse language, you need to be in your body because if you’re not embodied, if all you are is a talking head and giving them commands, that horse will do one of two things. It’ll just move away from you like you’ve got to be kidding, or it’ll keep putting its nose in you and butting you, trying to get you to wake-up.

CrisMarie: I think this really reminds me of me of not being in my body because early in my career and in my life I was focused on, I’m going to be successful if I focus on what you want, Susan, or what you want, boss, person, or you want client, and become that. And I was very rarely connected, I didn’t even know what, what do you mean, being in my body? Of course I’m in my body. But I wasn’t grounded. I couldn’t find my feet.

I had to learn that slowing down and getting in my body to even know if I was being congruent or not because I was so convinced that if I do what you want I will be safe. So my locus of control or my sense of safety was outside of me, outside of my physical body, outside of me completely.

Susan: I really like the example, CrisMarie, you’re giving. And two things, I mean I know your story, and some of you who have been listening regularly to our podcast may know your story. But I always say about when you were rowing, and my experience of you when you were rowing is that you went for rowing because of an experience you had where it was magical on the water. You had a sense of working together, what it was like to be a team. And that was just like it propelled you to actually want to find a coach to help you stay in that boat.

And in that case you were actually trying to emulate what somebody wanted. But you were also often inside, I love this rhythm. You were connected to what it meant to you.

CrisMarie: Well, I had seen that made for TV movie and it was a love story. So I was like, “Rowing sounds really good”, because rowing was in the movie. And I had been pretty alone. And so when I got into this whole group of women and we were training together, this felt really fun. And then rowing together, yes, the rhythm, and the teamwork, and the connectedness I just loved.

Susan: And I think at some point in your career you also came up against the challenge sometimes that happens, as consistently winning you started to focus on the way I have to win to be good enough. And then you also had the challenge many of us are facing, many leaders are facing, my outside goals don’t add up then I must not be doing enough and work harder.

CrisMarie: Yes, I had to keep at Washington since we were winning, had to keep winning. And you described it quite well. When I did lose, I lost twice, and it was devastating, like oh my God, who I am doesn’t exist because I didn’t produce the results. Because who I was, was I was defining it as all my accomplishments.

Susan: Yes, which in some respects is a tremendous example of incongruence.

CrisMarie: Break that down more, Susan, tell me, was I being incongruent? I want to know.

Susan: Because you lost twice over a college career of four years, six years in nationals, so altogether, twice.

CrisMarie: Six years, yeah.

Susan: Six years. So losing two times out of how many races, probably 200 or more, right?

CrisMarie: Something.

Susan: So there’s something that there’s a mismatch there and yet you’re…

CrisMarie: No, probably 60 races I would say.

Susan: Okay. Well, big races, but you had all those [crosstalk].

CrisMarie: Yeah, I lost more than that.

Susan: Okay, but still, 60 races, two out of 60. And you considered that…

CrisMarie: I was devastated.

Susan: Devastated, like oh my God. And then in my opinion you pulled back and said, “Oh God, I must be a loser”, at times.

CrisMarie: Yeah, I definitely imploded and thought I was the problem, I was at fault and felt shame and didn’t really know because I hadn’t learned how to win and lose.

Susan: And I think if you had had a little more congruence you would have been able to say, “Well, okay, I have lost a couple times, I have won a number of times. So you’d start to get, it’s not really about the win loss. But you could start to maybe bring it back to and I’ve seen you do this in your talking, coming back to when were you actually consistent and which teams were you on where there was you knew inside and out that you guys were talking to each other, you were working together.

CrisMarie: It sounds a little bit like you’re talking about perspective, having perspective versus congruence. So I am…

Susan: Well, a perspective is one part of congruence. To be able to see something from a way that isn’t just skewed, totally skewed. But to say, “Well, wait a minute I could see this is all good or all bad. But if I actually have some perspective I began to see, no, there is actually a whole bigger context to what is possible.” So I’m just saying that’s one piece of it.

CrisMarie: No. And that’s a pretty important piece because I think in my desire to achieve a goal I get a very narrow focus. And I also think the measure of what is okay is defined outside of me. If you are happy I get your approval. And so there is a narrow focus, there is this what do I need to do to please you? An outside focus, and in all of that I am sacrificing me, the inside.

Susan: Yes. And that’s one example of incongruence.

CrisMarie: That’s interesting.

Susan: And it’s so interesting because we do a lot of leadership development. And leaders these days more and more gratefully, leaders are trying to focus on how to build better relationships. EQ has gotten some press. And the only trouble is sometimes they don’t realize the magnification of their own internal situation. So they’re busy trying to make sure you’re doing okay. I need to do all the things so that my people, yeah.

CrisMarie: Oh gosh, this is happening in Covid all the time. I need to make sure my people are doing okay.

Susan: And they’re internal, what they don’t realize is that internally they may be going, “I don’t have a clue how to run this virtual meeting. There’s no frigging way we’re going to accomplish what we’re supposed to accomplish.” So that inner dialog, if they don’t pay some attention to it and they just operate totally focused on I’ve just got to get the team together, we’ve got to do team building, we’ve got to [inaudible].

They don’t realize that they are broadcasting a message that is actually still being broadcast, it’s not a clean message, it’s not clear, it’s not congruent. But people are probably picking up, oh my God, she is a mess.

CrisMarie: Well, something is going on.

Susan: What is going on?

CrisMarie: Imagine if a horse was in the room which nobody’s in the room, but a horse would be like, “I am walking away from that team.”

Susan: Yes. I’ll tell you, so let’s bring this back to the horses. So why this became so profound for me and why I pursued my efforts to become an Equus coach and a master facilitator in that world is because I went to a workshop once probably about 10 years ago now.

CrisMarie: Let’s be clear, I dragged her to the workshop.

Susan: Yes, she did. And I got leadership, and horses, and I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But I went.

CrisMarie: That was a decade ago.

Susan: I know. And there we were, we were in Arizona. So you have to picture this, there’s 14 of us, the workshop’s starting. We’re invited, Koelle who is the woman who is running the workshop. As we’re sitting around what is kind of a round pen or arena where the horses are going to be coming in. And she’s telling us what we’re going to be asked to do because she’s like, “I’m going to ask you to come out here and develop a relationship with this horse.” Is sort of the opportunity, I think she did demo.

CrisMarie: She did.

Susan: She did. I know she did because I’ve seen her enough of her work now to know, but at the time I don’t remember a damn thing she did. But anyway what happened, so then she does the infamous question that we all do, “Would someone like to go first?” And one thing that drives me nuts at workshops is when no one volunteers. So it was silent, crickets. So I said, “Okay, I’ll go.” And I jump up and I walked down and while I’m getting myself down there they bring in this horse.

And as I get close to where I need to walk into this arena area, this round pen area all I hear is this horse kicking and running these rapid circles. And I’m like…

CrisMarie: And whinnying, it was making all sorts of noise. I was there.

Susan: Yeah. Inside my head I’m going, what the hell have I done? What have I signed up for? This is insane. I didn’t know. And Koelle asked me, “Are you okay with this?” And I like any good person would do said, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

CrisMarie: And the incongruent person.

Susan: Incongruent person said, “I’m fine.” I did though say, “Maybe will walk me out there.” Well, I didn’t say why I wanted her to walk me out there. I just said, “Maybe you could walk me out there.” And so she walked me out there and then she said, “Are you good?” And I was like, “I’m good.” No. Internally I was screaming. And the horse in the meantime was even…