We all have it. You know, that inner voice that talks to us. Funnily enough, it’s usually in your own dulcet tones and as often as it helps you, don’t you find it can also hinder you too?
I’d like to share with you with what my inner voice has been saying to me recently, or rather, the conversations we’ve been having. I do realise the psychologists (and maybe even psychiatrists amongst you) might be getting a tad worried at this point, but bear with me, I’m trying to be prosaic. (Note to self – very proud of the fact I spelt psychologist and psychiatrist without needing to resort to spell-check; well done).
My inner voice keeps talking to me about ‘leadership’. You see, I’m fascinated by the concept of leadership. I love observing inspiring leaders and I’m constantly looking for and thinking of ways in which leadership qualities can be harnessed in others as well as myself. I think it’s also fair to say most of us don’t mind (or even enjoy) working for good leaders/managers. If they’re great leaders, however, then truly stunning things can happen, in my view.
Of course, most of us, when thinking of or talking about leaders tend to think of people at the heads of organisations, countries, political parties, groups we belong to etc… But what about us? What about YOU? Do you ever consider yourself to be a leader or to hold leadership qualities? Does the thought of being a leader give you a sense of excitement or does it send you running for the hills? What do you think are great leadership qualities anyway?
My observation is that in today’s ever changing economy and working environment, we all have to demonstrate leadership abilities at one time or another. That’s not to say we always have to be the one to lead from the front, chair meetings, give orders, supervise people or to be accountable even. In fact, quite the opposite really. For me, a great leader is somebody who very naturally and with good grace, stands back and lets the talent of the people around them shine through. A great leader also trusts in the people around them and believes in their gifts and strengths.
I don’t think leaders need to ‘set rules’ or tell or show people what to do. There’s no need for them to ‘control’ and yet still there are many organisations in our modern world run like hierarchical, low-trust machines, where people are seen as ‘things’ or ‘assets’ to control.
One skill for a great leader, I think, is to know what questions to ask so that people naturally feel inspired to do what they’re good at. As Dr. Stephen R Covey. said in “The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness”, “Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs”. What does he mean by ‘voice’?
Ever heard of the ‘whole person’ paradigm? The ‘whole person’ paradigm is a very elegant concept, best shown visually. The basic notion is that to perform well, we all need to have four inter-linked facets of our being in balance; body, mind, heart and spirit. Have a look at the diagram below:
Mind; What are your strengths or talents? How is your mind stimulated? To be effective at what you do, you need to be doing something which stimulates your mind. Body; What physical needs are you serving? We all need to put food on the table right but what else do you consider essential to your physical well-being and that of your loved ones? Heart; What are you passionate about? What are your values? Spirit; What purpose or meaning are you serving? What do you consider to be the ‘right thing to do’ when it comes to your assignments? We all, ideally, need to have all of these four facets of our being in balance, tapped into and stimulated. Good leaders know how to do this, not only for others, but for themselves too.
Dr. Covey further suggests that of all the four facets mentioned above, spirit is the highest to aspire too.
Take two examples from history; Hitler and Gandhi. Both men had passion, talent and needs to service but they both had very different mindsets when it came to conscience!
People doing work which taps into their ‘whole’ being are naturally motivated and committed to give of their discretionary effort, what the HR people call ‘high staff engagement’. You only get this with high-trust cultures and such organisations need great leaders. I firmly believe though, that individuals can live by this paradigm for themselves. Imagine an organisation full of ‘whole people’ dealing with ‘whole people’. Think what it could achieve! Or what about ‘whole organisations’ dealing with ‘whole organisations’ around the world!!!
So what about you and moreover the leader in you?
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m increasingly finding that my inner voice is frequently pushing me to seize opportunities and to take on leadership roles in whatever circumstance I find myself, usually at work, but not always. More often than not, this is about supporting others to ‘find their voice’, being there for them, asking them the right sorts of questions so that their own natural gifts and talents are freely given. If this doesn’t sound like you then I would challenge you (nicely of course) to think again. I believe there is a ‘leader’ in every single one of us. We don’t always have to be heading up organisations or groups, but we are all capable of being human to one another and really, I think that’s all leadership is about.
To finish this post, here are a couple of images which I think elegantly convey what leadership means to me, both personally and as part of a team, and neither of these images suggest to me ‘being at the helm’. Do you think the people at the top of these colourful blocks have found their ‘voice’?
Take care and until next time.