A real change leader is courageous in dealing with personal growth – changing one’s self. Let’s be clear here; personal growth is not about “fixing yourself’. It is about learning and growing to reach more of your true potential. A leader will need to acknowledge her or his fear and keep moving forward anyway…leading the way. This is simple yet not easy – at first. Facing change may not be without doubt or uneasiness, still, the more one comes from a place of confidence and authenticity, the more likely courage will be the response instead of “denial”.
Denial will only lead to failure as you or your company become irrelevant in the new environment. The more we understand how to change our conditioned way of reacting and responding to change, the more we can embrace it as a fact of life and an adventure. We can experience change in a state of presence and with more peace of mind – instead of panic or terror.
Courage doesn’t mean you don’t have fear; it just means that you have enough heart and passion about what you value that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and lead the change necessary. What does this type of change leadership require?
1. Self-Awareness - This type of transformational leadership typically requires greater self-awareness as the leader has to “walk their talk”. It is a waste of time, especially in this time of greater transparency, to talk about change and innovation if the leader his or her self clings to old behaviors and ways of doing things.
2. Confidence – How we perceive ‘who we are’ can be a roadblock to leading change. If we are overly concerned with the opinions of others, ‘looking good’, or appearing invulnerable, we are not likely to have the resiliency and clarity to take risks. Most people do not typically have the, ‘brain awareness’ to recognize that their self-image is not written in stone and is a type of ‘Mind memory” – that can be changed.
3. A Congruent Self-Image – Our emotional brain plays a very important role storing our images of self and ‘how life is’. There is emotion involved in this perception of, ‘who we think we are’. It is through our perceptual filters that we unwittingly wire the storylines (narratives) into our brain of our role as leader, spouse, partner or friend. Did you know that these subjective narratives are literally wired into your brain – and that they can be “updated” and changed? You don’t have to stay stuck.
Be yourself – not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” ―Henry David Thoreau
Leadership, as do people, evolves. Seeing through the eye of the leader has taken on a whole new level of meaning in light of recent advances in cognitive neuroscience. When a leader realizes that how she or he perceives their self, their team members and the organization powerfully matters to outcomes, there is potentially even more motivation to bring clarity to their vision. I was reading an article written by professor Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia University that appeared in the NY Times weekend edition for April 13, 2013, What the Brain Can Tell Us About Art. A noteworthy comment was made regarding creativity:
“…This insight implied that the brain is a crativity machine, which obtains incomplete information from the outside world and completes it.” (Assigns the meaning)
At the end of the article, Dr. Kandel makes an interesting comment:
“All of which goes to show that the real “eye” of the beholder is the brain itself”
Truly. How we see reality is subjective and then we take the actions to prove ourselves, “right”. When a leader sees him or herself with blind spots, they can under perform unnecessarily or even worse, project their low expectations onto those around them and also contribute to a reduction of the effectiveness of their team.
When a leader’s expectations of success are limited, it impacts the performance of the whole team. You underestimate the power of the mind to produce “self-fulfilling prophecy” to your own peril. How do we begin to consciously become the Creative Directors of the performance of our teams and organizations?
Innovation and creativity optimization requires mental agility. When we can flexibly move between and integrate our two hemispheres, we can tap our ‘two brains’. They work best together, collaboratively. We have a right and left-brain for good reason…good reasoning.
When we are too far on the ‘logic’ left-brain side, we only see the trees. If we are too far into the intuitive right-brain side, we focus too much on the whole forest without enough detail. One it not, ‘better’ than the other, though in our changing world, mental agility requires both. For example, there is a common formula for creativity. Here are four steps:
1. Design and frame the problem you want to solve
2. Immerse yourself into the data – examples, specifics, known conclusions
3. Let it all go – relax and let your mind wander and question your conclusions
4. Execution – implementation
Step one is setting the intention. You need to be clear about where you want to go and why. You need to put your intention into context, and hopefully define a clear, ‘why’ – otherwise it is theoretical. Step two is where most people stop and get stuck. They get stuck in the, ‘known world’. They think that just because they see it, know it and it is accepted by the masses as, ‘true’ (data) – that it is all there is. When conclusions are drawn only from this inductive, left-brain way of seeing a problem, innovation is seriously constricted.
Self-awareness helps us to wake up to aspects that are already present within us – we just don’t see it. The blind spots of our society’s conditioning over time can cause us to focus on what is allegedly, ‘wrong with us’. Sure, we all have shortcomings that challenge us to grow.
These behaviors are not ‘who we are’. They are ‘how we act’. We simply get it confused with our ‘Being’. We ‘do’ things that don’t serve our highest good nor others, yet we can change our behavior. And, we can do it without creating so much self-recrimination and guilt. In fact, it is easier to change our behavior when we cut the story line that ‘something is wrong with us’. This perception creates resistance to behavioral change as we run away from the conversation to change instead of facing it courageously and compassionately head on.
I saw the movie, The Great and Powerful Oz the other day. Oz had big dreams and lots of self-sabotaging behaviors – like lack of integrity, selfishness without regard for others and reactive, non-reflective thinking. Yet, ‘Goodness’ lived within him and given the right inspiration, he did tap into a part of himself that desired to help others and not simply be run by his own greed and fear. Granted, he still needed to develop more honesty by the end of the movie.
This journey of tapping our true potential and living up to our lofty ideas happens in stages. Our habits evolve easier with self-awareness and the desire to tap the courage of our heart. To do this easier, we need to understand how to, ‘optimally operate’ our amazing brain to that we can change with greater ease.
Currently we wire our brain more often than not, to:0
Managing change effectively involves managing mindset. Where your mind is set determines if change is scary and ‘hard’ or exciting and ‘easier’. I don’t want to imply that change will be without discomfort but it doesn’t have to be down right painful.
How you see it – perception – matters. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is a pervasive perception that drive us into our ‘survival brain’. I don’t think there is anything primitive about our amazing brain, yet there are evolutionary levels of engagement that impact our behaviors in everyday life.
I look at the brain in terms of its three evolutionary levels (See image). Level 1 and 2 is in a nutshell all about our survival instinct and our mammalian need for security, love and self-esteem. Neuroscience has shown that ‘perception is reality’ and truly reality is not, ‘objective’.
‘Reality is an illusion; albeit a very persistent one’ ~Albert Einstein
It’s persistent because generally speaking, most people are stuck in Level 1 and 2 mind. It’s this mindset of how we see, ‘survival of the fittest’ that keeps us stuck in Level 1 and 2 mind of our brain. The way to thrive is to connect with your ‘thrival’ brain, which is what I like to call it. This Level 3 area, called the neo-cortex is our ‘executive functioning’ level of brain of self-awareness, higher decision-making, confidence, imagination/innovation, empathy and spiritual purpose and connection.
Level 3 brain can transcend the survival brain fears – FEAR which is ‘Fictitious Evidence Affecting Reality’ – which keeps our storytelling brain stuck on fight/flight/freeze response. It can actually break the loop of deer-in-the-headlight reactions from the Level 1 and 2 brain/mind. This belief in competition at all costs, in order to survive becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Innovation and change go hand in hand. To be successful at either, we must be able to expand the vision for our lives. This requires us to see a different future for ourself or our organization as a leader – now.
As a human being, you already have a built in capacity for imagining a new future, which is a key step to creating the experience, product or service that you desire. We typically have vivid imaginations in childhood. The sad thing is, by first grade we are too often shamed out of this natural capacity to expand our mind and enhance our mind’s eye. Instead we are told to stop ‘daydreaming and to ‘grow up’. Our minds are stuffed with memorization of pieces of information, often not integrated into the context of life.
Hence, our imagination becomes flabby. We lose a sense of purpose. Our dreams die.
In order to change your circumstances, improve your organization and personal performance and create a state of well-being and health, you must first ‘see’ this new vision for your life.
Inner peace is closer than you realize. You don’t have to ‘do’ any thing. In fact it is your tendency to need to, ‘do something’ that is driving peace of mind out of reach. We have been taught to separate our self into pieces. Be one way at home and one way at office. One way at church or temple and one way with our friends.
In fact, the one thing we don’t tend to do is to question – who is the ‘real me’? Is there a ‘real me’ buried under all those ‘shoulds, oughts and have to’s? Yes – and this center, this core self is peaceful – peace filled – by Nature. You will have to slow down and reflect to reconnect with your Self however.
This segmenting of our self is reflected in our ‘divided brain’. Are we left-brain or right-brain? Why not both? We have two hemispheres for a reason. We also don’t tend to trust our own mind and heart. We have allowed the outer world to define us – who we should be, what we can do, what we can have – and we’ve lost our Self, our inner peace in the process of chasing outer ‘stuff’. Enough already.
Ironically, we can have the outer experience and enjoy it more when we show up whole. When we allow our authenticity to come through, drawing on our whole self, our whole mind, our spirit and our physical body, we come to life integrated. The path to inner peace is to stop living in pieces and to start living with purpose.
‘The purpose of life is a life with purpose’
Leadership development is another area of personal and professional growth that is not surprisingly, undergoing change. What we historically attribute to leadership style is no longer working as we move further and further away from a, ‘One size fits all’ workplace to a more collaborative culture of innovation. Historically, the ‘command-control’ leader who intimidated people into motivation was the macho style that was ‘traditional’.
Stereotypically, this is thought of ‘male leadership’, though I’ve been in the past and have known some pretty bossy women also. Then there’s the so-called ‘female leadership’ style that is supposedly not strategic, is overly inclusive to a fault and expected to be the caregiver personality – the ‘Mother Hen’.
Actually, the truth is, some women are empathetic, some are bossy and then there’s everything in between. For men, I can say the same though both genders tend to unconsciously hold themselves into socially conditioned patterns – in certain conditions. It’s not so much as, the way, ‘we are’ as it is ‘the way we think we are’.
Considering that we are now in the 21st century and technology can replace ‘assembly line’ jobs, why wouldn’t leaders need to also change the way we do things? Why do we continue to expect people to ‘act a certain way’ based on gender? The work place is very diverse – generationally, culturally and perceptually. I say perceptually, in that there are differences in what is expected out of a job – performance, behaviors, values and relationships, for example.
The older generation – the ‘Boomers and The Matures’ are trenched in the tradition of ‘either/or’ – either work your life away or you are ‘lazy’. It’s the old ‘hard work’ ethic. Many of the ‘Millennials’ are seeking more work/life balance, more personal development and more autonomy and upward mobility based on ability and not politics. Of course, there are variations of expectations across generational lines as well. In order for leaders to adapt to change more rapidly and with more ease, we will need to look for some real innovative solutions – like changing how we think so we can have better people-leadership skill
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself” Leo Tolstoy
Personal growth is a challenge for many people because we over identify our sense of self with our behavior. While behavior may illustrate ‘how you think’ or ‘how you see’ life at this moment, really our attitudes and beliefs can and do change over time. Yet, it’s because of this narrow way of ‘seeing our self’ that we resist personal growth and development.
The inference of society is generally that personal growth means you need ‘fixing’. Paradoxically, this resistance keeps us stuck where we are. Really we are all always only growing and reaching our true potential – we don’t need, ‘fixing’.
We think that if we fight our habits, will power our self through them or focus on ‘the problem’ hard enough that we will somehow, ‘overcome’ it. Actually, this is a big distraction. You are focusing on ‘what is’, and feeling bad about it instead of focusing on where you’d rather be, with a sense of hope and gratitude.
Your brain is working by focus of attention – you are sending a signal of, ‘I want that’ when you focus on something. So, do you want more of the same, or do you want to expand the vision for your life? Can you see what you want to experience, what you want to be, do or have in your mind’s eye – now?
See the change that you want to be in the world – Now.
Does this sound slightly familiar? Perhaps you are thinking about what Gandhi once said:
‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’
We, human beings, love stories. One of the all time favorite theme is, ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Adventure stories and the lessons from ‘fairy tales’ were, and still are, at the top of my list of favorite movies, books and conversations. This is why movies like, ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ and even more contemporary movie settings in the ‘adventure’ genre are so popular. Too often we only live vicariously through the movies and lives of others. We see this journey in others yet remain blind to our own personal hero or ‘shero’ journey.
A facet of ‘self-awareness’ is recognizing that we are all on this journey. Our lives are an adventure of self-discovery, other-discovery and life-on-earth discovery. This includes the work that we do in the world. Do you perceive your work as a ‘hardship’ or a place to uncover your true potential? Do you see it as stressful, or simply a challenge to expand your vision for your life? How you perceive your self and your experience will determine how you respond to it – to your life.
We are all a hero on a journey and our journey defines our message. Take notes along the way so that you can then share your lessons.
I see a lot of unhappiness coming across the airways. I hear messages about what’s wrong with ‘us’. There are an awful lot of people at the office and generally, scrambling to ‘fix’ themselves in some way, shape or form. Here’s a novel thought – ever think about the fact that you are simply on a ‘Hero/Shero Journey?’