“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence” Sheryl Sandberg, former COO Facebook
“You have to learn how to stand before you learn how to move”. (A Qigong teacher in the book “Still moving”)
Time to talk about leadership and true presence.
Leadership comes in many forms: leading teams, groups, kitchens, companies, classes, countries… And I would like to add leading yourself. In one way or another, we all have a leader inside ourselves. And it’s that personal leadership that has the potential to really solve our problems.
Because we definitely are in a big leadership crisis. You only have to look at the newspaper headlines: very low trust in institutions and politicians, very low trust in big companies and their leaders, and indeed too many examples of poor and unsustainable decision making, fraud and egotistic behavior of leaders all over the world. The collective lack of leadership to really act on and take responsibility for climate change is evident, and potentially devastating.
In the meanwhile, every year billions of dollars are spent worldwide on leadership programmes. Leaders probably never in history had more education, training and (financial) rewards than today. Nonetheless, 53% of managers say they are burned out in some way (Edelman data and intelligence, 2022). Just one example of international research that shows how the worldwide burnout epidemic also effects -in this case a segment of- our leadership.
Having seen a lot of the dynamics (and failures) of leadership in my own life and having been an advisor to CEO’s and political leaders, for me it is clear what true leadership can be: being authentic, brave, clear and sometimes vulnerable. Being a coaching leader who really listens to the people around you. Staying humble. Creating an environment for your organization or team that is driven by values, openness and taking initiative. Making it flexible and agile enough to adapt in this turbulent world.
We probably all know someone who more or less lives up to that description, but we know a lot more leaders that don’t even come close. They simply manage.
In this this often stressful world of ongoing emails, social media and disruptive change, it is surely not easy to lead. But our leaders simply have to step up their game. And they can. I believe that every (potential) leader can cultivate the qualities and skills to become a true leader. To become more effective, powerful and stress reslilient. To truly lead with presence and by example.
Not by going outwards, by focusing on bigger profits, quick fixes or more media coverage. No, the answer lies in going inwards. But we are simply not conditioned to do that. So work is required.
To go inwards means: first examine your own personal (or collective) vision, home in on your values and beliefs, on what fuels your inner strength. To work on letting go of the limiting conditioning and negative believes or trauma that hold you back from being your true self and really using your inner strength to strive in life -privately and profesionally. To really act rather than react. To move out of your head and into your body and emotional state. Using your EQ more than your IQ. Yes, to become more aware and mindful so you can really connect with (your) people. To lead with true presence, not the ego. The modern leader has more to gain from a meditation cushion or Qigong lesson than from the next elite business course. This may seem soft or vulnerable, but being vulnerable can be really powerful.
This is not only my personal vision, it is backed by a lot of recent scientific studies you also find in inspiring books like Dare to lead by Brene Brown, Helping people change by Boyatzis et al. or Still moving, how to lead mindful change by Deborah Roland. I used to work in politics and government and of course the way to change things there, is to implement policies and laws. Policies are still important, don’t get me wrong, but I have come to realize that for change to really happen at the speed and scale we need, we have to make progress at the individual level of our leadership and all the professionals that have the potential to lead. Every individual step fuels the (r)evolution we need. The awakening of full human potential. Big words, I know. But I think it is true, and possible. This is why I coach. I believe that coaching can be one effective way of helping people realize their full potential. If we all learn to live to our full potential, as a whole we will simply perform better.
It is not easy (this coach knows), it potentially involves work on the mental, physical (dietary), emotional and spiritual level. But it is really rewarding and fun. Step by step it makes you thrive as a professional and leader. And the world a better place.
With holistic coaching at Development is Qi I want to contribute by helping leaders and professionals on this path and organizations to build that culture. Please feel free to connect and give feedback!
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