Does leadership really have a gender? Is leadership really, male or female? As a female, am I stuck with certain behaviors just because I’m female? I think not. Can we start moving our conversations on leadership BEYOND gender? Many people incorrectly believe that leadership style is determined biologically by one’s gender, as exemplified by business conversations in the media on Male Leadership versus Female Leadership comparisons.
Where is your mindset? Where is your Mind set? Our mind can have a set point. Carol Dweck, a Stanford researcher has a book called, Mindset, that addresses research involving behavior and one’s flexibility in one’s willingness to grow and change. She called the willingness to consider new ideas and growth as a growth mindset and a mindset that knows it all, and avoids change as a fixed mindset.
I’m happy to see the change in conversation happening. Not many years ago, before I even heard of Carol Dweck, when trying to use the word mindset people looked confused and it felt like I was speaking a foreign language. The fact that it’s become a common word in online and offline conversations speaks to our culture’s evolution in thinking. We still have other paradigms that need shifting of course, as growth and evolution is a continuous process. Just starting to recognize that change is constant is a big step in the right direction.
Those who continue to deny that change is happening and fight against it, will continue to struggle as trying to stop life’s evolutionary process is really an exercise in futility and will wear you down. History is full of examples of how people fought ideas like the following when their times were evolving, ideas that we now take for granted:
1. The earth is not flat
2. The earth is not the center of our universe/galaxy
3. Airplanes can fly
4. Cars can replace horses and buggies
5. Cell phone can not only exist but also can work without wires
Notice number five. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen the arrival of the cell phone and have watched them evolve. Do you realize that if a person from just a hundred years ago suddenly showed up now how totally shocked they would be to see our social progress? These outer changes are merely a reflection of our inner mindset changes and shifts.
Our outer world does not just suddenly appear. Someone somewhere had to think differently.
To perform at our best, we will need to get a grip on understanding ourselves and how our brain optimally works. How you perceive the world will drive your actions. It is your actions that determines your outcomes, not just what you think matters. Our left-brain loves taking action and manipulating the external world. It loves getting results. Our right-brain loves connection to others; it loves interconnections and relationships.
If you think getting results is all that matters without regard to people, your day of reckoning is rapidly approaching. You are due for a rude awakening. To be fair, if all you do is socialize and never get anything done, you are not likely to go very far in life also in terms of achievement. The lesson here is conscious balance in your own authentic way. Start to pay attention to where you place your intention.
We can learn to be more social if it is important to us. We can learn to focus and be more results oriented if we are not getting where we want to go. Sure, in a team setting, you can have complementary people to offset your weak areas; yet, this is only true to a degree, depending on what the issue is. Besides, you can’t take those people home with you every day. I assume you have a life outside of the office.
John Zenger and Joseph Folkman did a study on leadership effectiveness.
Leadership and the workplace are evolving rapidly. Daily life in general is moving faster than ever and how we experience it is contingent upon how we view ourselves relative to our environment. We can view ourselves as helpless victims of circumstances or as capable human beings able to learn, grow and adapt successfully to our challenges. Our inner self-image has never been more important, especially as leaders.
It’s not often addressed, yet how we see our self is reflected in our chosen leadership styles, our choice of clothing and even they way in which we communicate and connect to others. Self-esteem or how we esteem ourselves affects confidence and decision-making. Sometimes we overcompensate by being pushy and aggressive and sometimes we shrink back into our shells.
An interesting fact is that, neuroscience reveals what I figured out a while ago – that our level of self-esteem and confidence is changeable and evolves according to our own self-perception.
To the degree that you make time to reflect on where you are, you can move yourself from a victim mindset of, that’s just the way I am, to a victor’s mindset of taking the reins of your life and personality into your own hands.
You have more control than you probably realize.
In the meantime here’s some perspectives on self-esteem – how you esteem your self, the who you think you are, versus confidence – the ability to do, to take action, to engage. Self-esteem highlights your inner feelings regarding worth of your self, confidence expresses your ability to accomplish or do something. As a leader, these two factors can influence your performance and ability to lead. As a human being, it impacts your relationships on every level. Here are five ways that self-esteem and confidence can show up within the context of life:
Truth is, it takes courage to change your mind. Particularly when we live in a culture that expects us to have all the answers and make no mistakes. We hold ourselves to an impossible standard and then we wonder why change is so difficult. Many if not most people, are standing like deer in the headlights when it comes to making changes in their behaviors that are no longer serving them. Why?
In order to see change in your life, you have to make changes in your way of thinking and feeling – first. The fact is, who you think you are, what you think you can do, be or have is a story.
Our brain forms, autobiographical memory – the story or narrative of who we think we are. The good news is that thanks to neuroplasticity – the ability of our brain to rewire and change itself literally – we can change our story on demand the more self-aware we become. The bad news is, if you don’t have the courage to trust yourself, listen to your own heart and feel the need to be validated by the so-called experts, you may live and die with the greatest parts of yourself locked deep inside, never to be shared with the rest of us. Now that’s unfortunate.
I had an interesting conversation with someone recently whom I greatly admire. He’s a person of integrity and he speaks his truth, which I admire. I’ve asked him to always tell me his truth, and don’t worry about how I’ll take it. I like honesty and I can learn by listening and becoming self-aware of my blind spots. In a nutshell, because he, like probably most people, didn’t realize that an eye surgeon (an M.D. medical eye physician) has professional training in the brain and nervous system in order to do their job, he made an erroneous assumption, that I’ve come to realize is not unique to him. I took note; perhaps I need to be more explicit. The upside of this is that it made it loud and clear how important perception is, so perhaps I can help some people to get out of their own way by educating them on the fact that neuroscience is a part of my training as an eye surgeon as it relates to the message I share. I’d say most people have been conditioned to believe that nearly everything we do has to have validation by an institution.
This need for institutional validation is the point I want to focus on in this article and why we need to change our story about this constant need for external validation. There is some value to this, yet we have taken it to ridiculous proportions in many cases.
We can learn how to make our memories work for us, instead of constantly against ourselves. Your memory of your experiences of this past year will have a powerful impact on your productivity and performance in the future. In fact, your reaction to many of your experiences this year are directly impacted by your past memories, even from decades previous.
I’ve come across articles that share the mechanistic process of how dopamine is involved in the memory making process because of it’s physiological impact on the hippocampus, the memory bank of the brain. While this is interesting information, what is left out is that fact that memory is not mindless. Memory is not objective linear process; it is subjective based upon your level of self-awareness to impact it. If you do not understand the power of perception to form your experience and actions, you will continue to believe that your brain just, made you do it. We have choice, but only to the degree that we are aware of how we are creating the mental models and narratives that determine our sense of self-image and abilities and lead to the choices we make.
For example, let’s say you found yourself in an unpleasant life situation. Let’s say you have a business idea that you worked really hard on to launch. You used a great deal of resources and you did, the best that you could. Yet, things didn’t turn out as ideally as you had hoped. If you are not self-aware and you are conditioned to equate failure and disappointment with bad, it is likely that you will feel this as a threat to you sense of self-worth which in turn will trigger your self-defensive, fight, flight freeze response. Once the emotional perception of fear is triggered and your amygdala flips on with profoundly rapid speed a series of neurotransmitters get triggered, including dopamine that you commonly hear about. Your memory in the way that you structured it gets glued into your memory bank (cellular memory, really) that this is a bad experience to be avoided for safety’s sake and you will file it away that risk and entrepreneurship is bad. You will assume that this is the way life is. You will take it for granted that you are right. Eventually, this belief gets recorded in cellular memory goes unconscious and filters future opportunities. BUT WAIT !.!
Love is not often thought of as power, especially in business. Usually there is a conversation about power and then there’s love. After listening to a very impactful video on RSA by Adam Kahane, Power and Love, I had an insight. In this video, once again there was power and then there was love. A couple of days before viewing this video I had a discussion with a Twitter friend on power versus force, the title of a book by Dr. David Hawkins. I have been making a distinction between power and force, as if love is power and that other power was really force.
After watching this video, I would now say this !that which we call power should really be preceded with the word, will. It’s really will power, for it is certainly not the only power – love is a power also. Will power plays an important role in self-determination and human potential, yet, as the video points out, it can become destructive when it is not integrated with the power of love.
In the video he defines power as the drive of everything to realize itself – growth/self determination. He then defines love as the drive toward the unity of the separated – the underlying unity is fractured and love seeks to unite. I would also argue that love also is a part of the drive of everything to realize itself in that love is also involved in the begetting of life and growth.
There is also another point I would add. Love is power. There’s not power and then there’s love.
Self-determination requires will power. Maintaining unification and a life supporting system (integrity, wholeness) requires, love power. In fact, when love power takes hold, it can be a force that is powerful beyond measure. When it is balanced with will power it can be more powerful than will power alone, once this integrative will/love power takes hold. For the remainder of this post, I will refer to power as (will) power in some sentences as love is also a power as well.
He goes on to explain in the video how (will) power and love can both be degenerative or generative when lived to the extreme pole, one without the other. He used the example of the traditional husband and wife relationship:
Productivity and performance is more likely to be higher when you are energized. Feeling stressed and sluggish reduces focus and makes work hard. Have you considered that the reason why success takes ‘hard work’ is because you are plowing through so much resistance? Resistance is created when:
1. You don’t like your work
2. You are feeling stressed and pressured
3. You are worried about your job
4. You are afraid of change or new challenges
5. You are just plain !tired and drained
Did you know that sitting at the computer for hours at a time is a health hazard? It contributes to a stiff neck, knots in your back and shoulders and it is highly likely that your breathing is very shallow under these conditions. Shallow breathing is stimulating your stress response and it not allowing healthy oxygenation of your blood – this is certainly not going to help you to think clearly. A brain that is poorly oxygenated and stressed will not only reduce your performance – it will reduce your memory. None of this will contribute to your happiness, to say the least.
Understanding optimism is important to elevating your performance. Finally, the power of feelings and emotions are beginning to be openly discussed within the context of science, business and leadership. Historically, the term, touchy feely has been used to dismiss important aspects of ourselves that we were not comfortable dealing with. We perform at our best when we approach performance from a holistic perspective.
We human beings are an eco-system. We are not just a mind in a body. We have spiritual and emotional aspects to ourselves also. Optimism points to the important role that feelings play alongside our intellect in making decisions that influence our future performance – in all areas of our life. Optimism is an attitude that chooses to look for the good in situations, with positive feeling. So how do I define optimism as it relates to performance?
Optimism is not about denial of current reality; it’s about the resiliency to rise to life’s challenges with faith, hope and courage.
Often when I hear the discussion of optimism there is a connotation of ignoring the facts. There is an implication that one is looking through, rose colored glasses. There is a type of cynicism or stigma that if one is optimistic, they must have their head in the sand. No, I disagree. I’m an optimist and I know that this attitude has elevated my performance over the years and it is not because I pretend that there are not roadblocks or challenges.
Quite the contrary; optimism allows me to look right at the scary issues, stand my ground with composure and stay open to insightful solutions to overcome them. We need to stop facing reality as the pessimists do. I assess the situation that I am currently in and I address what needs to be immediately addressed but I divert my intention and attention to solving the problem, not continuing to face it and talk about it. That is where negative attitudes and pessimists fall down in performance; they need to stop facing reality so much and focus on finding new solutions. Besides, as Einstein said,
Creating time at first sounds ridiculous – until you understand how we co-create our reality. Of course when speaking of linear time, there are only 24 hours to a day and everyone receives equal amounts. Yet if you keep talking about how fast, time flies and do not realize that you are the pilot that has great influence over how you experience time, you will unconsciously keep your foot on the accelerator without awareness of how to slow it down. Our perception, how we see time impacts our experience of time.
Hint: A part of the problem is that you keep focusing on and talking about how fast time flies – it becomes your reality.
Then there’s the added challenge that many people talk about having too much to do and not enough time. So is it that you have too much to do or is it that you literally need more than 24 hours to your day !will you ever get more than 24 hours to your day? Can you see how talking about not enough time is deadly to ever being able to feel the sensation and joy of completion? Where are you going to get more time? I could go on and on with a variety of scenarios of how we unwittingly are stressing ourselves out and sabotaging our true potential, productivity and peace of mind due to our conversations with our self and others !but I won’t.
Let’s address how to create more time with the brain in mind within the context of these two examples.