Leadership and developing emotional intelligence is really ‘personal growth and development’. It’s important to distinguish this as if leaders want to become more empathetic, engaging and inspiring, we need to recognize that we need to change our self first. One reason why this feels so threatening and challenging is that society applies the connotation that personal growth means, ‘fixing your self’. This perception stops most people in their tracks when it comes to embracing personal growth and development. For example, if you were in a group setting and I asked one of the following questions:
1. How many people need to fix themselves so they can become better leaders?
2. How many people need to learn and grow in order to reach more of their true potential?
Now, notice how you feel about raising your hand to number one. How do you feel raising your hand to number two? From an outcome perspective both roads lead to ‘behavioral change’. Which one do you think would be easier to get people to buy into?
Why is this? Why do we resist admitting we need behavioral change?
Real leadership is about having the courage to inspire change and engage the heart of others to take action. Not just action for the sake of action. There also needs to be clarity of ‘why’ you are choosing a given course of action. What are you as a leader doing that is different than you did two years ago to be more effective? The environment has changed in two years, have you course corrected? Or is your rational mind stuck in the past?
Perhaps your left-brain needs to collaborate with your right-brain and create a new vision in your mind’s eye and heart – then engage to lead others toward it. As the adage goes,
‘Vision without actions is a day dream, action without vision is a nightmare’
Most people are living a nightmare and apparently, the worse part of it begins as they wake up in the morning and head to work. Supposedly, the highest rate of heart attacks is at 9:00am on Monday mornings. In case you are wondering why this is, that is the first day back to work. Activity is at an all time high. Productivity apparently is dropping if 80% of the workforce is disengaged. What are ‘we’ afraid of? Why must human beings keep acting with insanity, as Einstein is to have defined it.
‘Doing the same things over and over and expecting different results’.
Autocratic leadership doesn’t work. Even if you can intimidate people into conformity, it is such a near-sighted tactic that resources – profits – are impacted by it. Low energy, poor attitude, and a caustic work environment – can’t ‘leaders’ see that for lack of vision people are ‘perishing’? The old school said that ‘vulnerability’ meant weakness, compassion was for the wimpy and intuition was airy-fairy or ‘a woman’s’.
Yet, even in the face of validation from science about the power and reality of these very powerful human attributes to engage people, many leaders are still aggressively or passive-aggressively opposing embracing the conversation for EQ and personal development. Why? Lack of courage. It takes courage to embrace change and have tough conversations.
Let me be clear; courage is not the same as intimidation. Intimidation, or the bully boss or the poorly communicative culture is a result of lack of courage of those in leadership. I say, have compassion for yourself if you feel overwhelmed by the rapid change and just know that contrary to popular myth, having a high IQ doesn’t mean you know everything.
We have more insight about our brain than we’ve had in recorded human history and it would be courageous of you as a leader to start paying attention to how you can start to retrain your brain to change your perception about compassion, vulnerability and empathy. Intuition is an ingredient for real innovation. Disrespecting it because ‘traditionally’ it has that way is to keep living your past in the present – even when it no longer works.
Leaders, and people in general, are searching for new answers. New answers – innovation – requires an open mind. I hear and read much about innovation. Much is being said about ‘cutting edge’ and ‘embracing change’ and leaders leading…and still many people cling to what they, ‘know’.
How do you ‘know’ something?
Did you know that our brain is remarkable at creating ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’? Also, many of the ‘social norms’ and ways of thinking had to start somewhere in time. Perhaps they served groups and the social structure at one time, but the environment changes. The difference is that now, the environment is changing a lot faster than only a decade ago.
Overwhelm has the potential to keep increasing while at the same time, we are all expected to perform at higher and higher levels. How will we do this if what we already, ‘know’ is all there is? The answer is obvious to me – we need to ‘know’ some new things and that only happens by being willing and then taking action.
For many, being willing is actually the challenge. Our ways of thinking have commonly caused many of us to ‘dumb down’ our Creator given magnificence as human beings. Each and every human being has some gift or talent that is unique in their own unique way of expressing. Each person has a potential that could, not only lead him or her to more achievement, peace, joy and confidence, but it can be used to serve the world and make it a better place.
Whether it is leadership performance at the office or within your social service or your home, we all need to grow and evolve in order to uncover the gold that is already within us. It’s time to stop, ‘Looking for love in all the wrong place’ and find it within so that we can bring it out to shine to the world. I believe it is arrogant and crude to consider our self as ‘defective’ or broken.
Humility is accepting and loving our self with compassion, cultivating our purpose and gifts, not beating our self up. Instead of seeing our limitations as something shameful or ugly, we can retrain our brain – literally – to see with new ‘mind’s eyes’. You see perception is changeable and it creates your ‘reality’.0
Personal power and a sense of purpose is at the foundation of real productivity. Having a sense of purpose that is compelling for you fuels personal power and passion. Personal power is not about ‘power over’ others. It is not even about always ‘being in control’ over the environment. Haven’t you noticed? We cannot always control the environment or what happens to us – we surely cannot really control other people.
The key to true personal power is mastering your own thoughts and feelings, the two ingredients for your life experience. What we think and feel determines our actions. It is not about ‘time management’. It is about ‘Self-Management’. True self-mastery will require you to get clear about what is purposeful for you. Doing so will allow you to make a real impact instead of simply burning out.
A strong sense of self-worth and confidence is required to create a Purpose Filter, as you will have to speak up and explicitly communicate when asked to do something that is not relevant to how you need to authentically show up in life.
Answering the heart’s need to know ‘Why’ fuels Passion and purpose. Passion increases your energy, focus and ease in accomplishing your tasks. ‘Why’ do you want to be on that Board ‘Why’ do you have that long ‘to do’ list? How will you accomplish the tasks on that list most effectively? What will it do for your family, friends and community? How will it positively impact the world? Having a purpose that is important to you makes work less like work, and more enjoyable.
Let me be clear – productivity is NOT synonymous with ‘activity’. As a whole, people are more busy and stressed than ever. And, more skill, innovation and ‘productivity’ are being expected now than ever. How are you going to get it all done? In fact, the more helpless and overwhelmed one feels, the less focused, empowered or clear she or he is, the less likely the end result goal will be reached in a form of excellence if at all. How are we going to do all this?
Where to begin? While it is important to do a “Brain dump” onto paper all that you are carrying in your head (holding it there is not a good idea for your personal power or your vitality), you need to then determine what to do with it all.
I have a Purpose Filter. It is about being strong and courageous enough to get off the hamster wheel of others and decide where you want to go and what is important for you. Once you have a Purpose Filter, you can run your ‘to do’ list through it and get rid of what is not relevant. Ask your self, what should be delegated and then begin to reflect on a plan to sort and accomplish tasks over time – with maneuverability built in.
In addition to tactical steps, you need to consider the importance of retraining your brain – your old habits are likely to be keeping you stuck. Personal growth is important for true personal power and living on purpose. While this can be a layered process for some people, here are some tips that are both tactical and build personal power from the inside out:0
Having a neuroscience background and having owned and operated a surgical and medical practice for many years prepared me for the new next level expression of my life purpose – to restore vision. It’s obvious how an eye surgeon restores vision. Then there’s expanding the vision for one’s life – that’s where my gift is focused now. Helping people to be themselves ‘Magnificently’ by closing the gap between their own intellect and heart is the new vision I have. Each and everyone of us is unique and can make our own unique impact – if we learn to get out of our own way.
I needed to be able to diagnose brain tumors and neurologic disease everyday I went to the office. At the same time I needed to hone my leadership skills if I wanted to have engaged, happy employees and deliver excellent customer service. Little did I realize years ago, just how visionary my intentions were to combine the two. While I obviously had the intellect to become an eye surgeon, over the years, decisions I made during my journey had caused me to close my heart down, except when working directly with my patients. From my teen years forward, I began a decent into the valley of over valuing the intellect part of my mind and disowning the emotional aspects of my mind.
While I was quite good at repressing my feelings, I began about 20 years ago to recognize the ‘repression’ was really ‘denial’. If you are alive, you have a heart and you have feelings. Heart is associated with feelings, the right-brain – and Wisdom. Yet this wisdom is made conscious to our ‘ego’ through the portal of our intellect if we are to communicate it to others. It was when I began to listen to the Wisdom of my heart that I began the search for how to integrate my intellect with the heart – The Ultimate Power Couple.
Initially, because it was during the 1990’s that I made my decision to recover from denying my feelings, I didn’t have any science to support me. The science and business community derided anything that had to do with intuition or feelings. Admittedly, I was terrified of feeling anything, really.
Mindset is like a thermostat. Where your mind is set, like a thermostat. The setting holds the “temperature” – temperament as in mindset – in place. Mindset settings have two basic ingredients – Thoughts and Feelings. “Belief” is formed from emotionalized thought that has an “assigned” meaning. Brain research shows that we are assigning the meaning to what happens to us – it is not “objective” in general. Your perception of life is different from mine.
Mindset is not about the “Intellect” alone. In fact, it is emotion/feelings that act as the glue that seals in a “belief. Over the past week or so, I had a series of conversations or I’ve heard others talk about the heart and the importance of the role of the heart in guiding our choices. On a few of these occasions I heard, “The heart is always right, so I should/you should listen to your heart and how you feel”. Of course, I’ve also heard, “Ignore your feelings, leave them at home – logic and the rational mind is all that matters”….as in forget the “touchy feely” stuff. Both are extremes – let me explain.
Well, I’ve been thinking about this over the years and as I’ve become more conscious of how to consciously engage my “Neo-cortex”, feelings, intuition and my “Still Small Voice” – The source of the Wise Heart more…and at the same time retrain my brain’s perception about old cellular feelings, I’ve come to experience the difference between the, “(Wise) Heart” and “Feelings”.
This is subtle but very important. After the 150th time of reacting to my “feelings” that said to do something…and finding the choice to be less than stellar later, I slowed down enough to pay attention to something very important. There is a difference between “Heart” that is intuitive and comes from a place of clarity, spirit and “Knowing” – and “feelings”.
To be clear – I’m making a distinction here between, “Heart” and feelings.0
Leadership and personal development can be most effectively integrated into corporate and entrepreneurial training programs when approached through the gateway of neuroscience and brain research. It is our amazing brain that allows us to engage conscious reasoning, choice and to imagine possibilities beyond what already exists. It allows us to access the field of infinite genius and creativity. I can say, what is apparent is that this new millennium ushered in a new awareness of the brain and mind.
We have learned more within this new millennium about our brain and nervous system than we have in recorded human history before this time – all within a 12-year period. I have been able to apply my training in neuroscience as an eye surgeon and business owner now to helping business leaders and their team better access their, “Mind’s Eye” and reach more of their true potential. This allows us to expand the vision for our life and eliminate more effectively our “blind spots”. Most people are not aware of this quiet revolution going on right in our midst.
Decades ago, even as a child, I had an insight that stood out for me that has been prophetic. Even as a child in Bible class, one of my favorite scriptures was from Romans 12:2. It goes like this:
“Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed, by the renewing of your mind”.
I find it so interesting that science is now substantiating ancient wisdom and proverbs. In order to rise above what is not working well in the world around us, we must renew our mind – another way of saying change our mind or “retrain our mind”. That verse has stuck with me over the years and apparently, my intuitive insight was indeed prophetic. Renewing my mind has allowed me to transcend much of the negative thinking that I grew up with and that is so ubiquitous in our world at large.
Transcending – ending the trance of negativity that many of us are under – is the most effective path to leadership development and personal growth. Limiting beliefs about our identity or what we can do, be or have can be changed at the level of our heart and mind – when we know how. Even when we “fake it”, we are not as effective as we would be if we muster up the courage to renew our mind.
I’ve noticed leadership and personal development being associated with Maslow Hierarchy of Needs as a framework in online and offline conversations these days. Maslow was obviously a thought leader, especially ahead of his time. I see an interesting twist however that deviates from the typical line of thinking.
As the hierarchical theory goes, as one has his or her food, shelter and basic physiologic needs met and can then grow through the levels of safety, social and esteem development, the person would then grow into “self-actualization” or more self-awareness and true potential. In theory, this would be nice, but if growth were really this linear, all of the wealthy millionaires and billionaires would be enlightened and self-actualized – hardly the case. I’m not picking on this group by any means, as lack of self-awareness is ubiquitous, in fact the vast majority of humanity is not very self-aware.
As neuroscience points out, 95% of what runs most people’s lives are out of their awareness – yes, 95%, that is not a typo. If having physical needs met and advanced educational degrees was all that is needed to develop security, social and esteem needs and go on to self-actualize, the United States in particular, should be the most enlightened, self-aware culture on the planet. Yet, Gallup and others show that 70-80% of employees are disengaged, half of all adults are obese which means, unhealthy, and depression and stress is seriously high.
Why is this occurring in the wealthiest country in history and what about the security, social and esteem challenges in spite of met survival needs? First, the theory of the importance of these areas of security, social and esteem needs are ancient, as they didn’t begin with Maslow. There is an ancient Eastern system, known as the “Chakra” system which points out that the first three levels of chakra development as being these three very things – security, social, esteem – not a new idea.
Leadership development when valued in the organizational culture can mean more business, more employee engagement and more fulfillment at work. Another word for leadership development is “personal development”. Leadership development done “on purpose” can lead to teams that have a sense of purpose. This is the heart of ownership and alignment – humanity’s search for meaning.
Many people are now looking for their own personal purpose and how to apply it at the office. They desire more autonomy and self-mastery. They want to be “seen” as more than a cog on a wheel that increases shareholder value. Organizations that wake up and realize that people can make or break “shareholder value” and that people are the real asset of the company have a much greater chance to thrive now and in the future.
In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped
to deal with a world that no longer exists.
When leaders realize that leadership development is really personal and professional development at work, the purpose of work itself can evolve. The workplace is the perfect place to grow and develop our unique gifts and talents. Growth is typically challenging. When we grow inside we bring meaning to work instead of trying to extract meaning from work all the while ignoring our need to evolve on a personal level. Haven’t you noticed that it is at the office that we spend the most productive hours of our life? We are surrounded by a variety of cultural perspectives and personalities that can reflect to us our blind spots that we need to deal with in order to empower our self.
Mindful leadership is an idea whose time is here…now. Now is the present moment and unless you can be self-aware enough to listen to what is present to you, here, now – you are not showing up as a mindful leader. Mindfulness takes practice, particularly in our hyperactive culture, which is full of fear, distraction and “never enougheness”. Granted, it is highly unlikely that you live every moment of your life mindfully, but for most people even if they could do it for a few moments or minutes at a time, they are ahead of the game. Actually, this is serious business.
Collaborative leadership – which is not consensus in my book, by the way – requires a leader that can “see” people as individuals instead of prejudging them based on their social group. That by the way includes gender, both male and female. No two people are identical so when we buy into social stereotypes, we are not practicing mindful leadership.
Mindful leaders can be more empathetic because they are present enough to notice the state of mind of others. It should be noted here, that this is tough to do if you are not even in touch with your own state of mind. What I mean by this is that many if not most – probably the vast majority – people are so out to touch with their feelings and unwilling to deal with their own “blind spots” that they at best struggle with seeing others where they truly are. If you don’t deal with your stuck areas, you will not have clarity of “vision in your mind’s eye”. This leads to all sorts of “projections” and assumptions, which only hinder team relationships.
You see, leadership development is really “personal growth at work” – can you see the double meaning here? To be an artful, inspiring leader, you must first walk your talk and to do this, you must grow your self mentally, spiritually and emotionally – first. This takes courage. I know from experience that it is easier to hide behind arrogance and “power over others”, than to be vulnerable. Vulnerability requires fearlessness…less fear. By the way, vulnerability is more about admitting that you are human as we all are so there is always a need to learn and it is a willingness to be your “authentic self” and not a blind copy of “traditional leadership”. This takes strength of character.
Growth does not mean that you are defective at all, there’s nothing to “fix”. A willingness to embrace growth just shows that you are wise and confident enough to realize that regardless of your IQ, background or education – you don’t know everything and have not reached your “true potential”. How can I say this?