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?
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
Happiness will be elusive as long as a man or a woman builds their self-image or their worth based on what they do and how much money they make. I read an article this weekend in The New York Times Magazine, September 2, 2012, bemoaning the fact that many men are losing their self-worth because their, “macho” jobs are going away and their wives are making more money than they are. Mind you, it’s not that they can’t find work; they just don’t want to do service jobs that they consider, “women’s work” – such as teaching. Here’s a quote from the article which is based upon a soon to be released book, “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women” (OMG, is this what really matters to us?):
“A man needs a strong macho job. He’s not going to be a schoolteacher or a legal secretary or some beauty-shop (slam on male barbers) queen. He’s got to be a man”.
Heaven help us if being a man is truly defined by a job title. How fragile. How sad.
Now here’s the big picture – evolution is striking once again. It’s interesting how we can read about how past civilizations had to evolve and go through growth pains to get to their next level. Now, in present time the current civilizations are being called to raise their consciousness and individuals are being called to use more of our true potential – to empower ourselves. To stop gauging our worth, our value as human beings based upon one gender dominating the other or one race needing to devalue another to feel good about themselves. Here’s the subtitle to the NY Times article:
“Welcome to the New Middle-class Matriarchy”
Seriously? Really? So money still defines who is in “power”? Matriarchy? Why does there need to be any kind of “archy”? I’m not for either patriarchy or matriarchy. My gender should not be what determines my level of contribution to the world. It should not determine my level of choice.
Your true potential is an existing possibility that needs to be cultivated and nurtured. We all have a purpose for being born. You are not a random accident. Yet, many people do not realize that how we see our self is a huge determinant of whether or not we pursue a higher vision for our life. One of the greatest impediments to reaching your true potential is lack of self-compassion.
I say this is a little known secret because I noticed a long time ago that people take pride in saying they are compassionate regarding others, but they almost invariably leave themselves out of the equation! What about you? Aren’t you a person? Why don’t you deserve respect and consideration? Many people allow their inner critic to berate them and in fact, there is this tacit belief running through our culture that humility equals self-deprecation.
In fact, often people assume self-love means narcissism. It does not; narcissism is based in fear, not love. Actually one can be totally insecure and self-loathing and act narcissistic and selfish. Also, narcissists are delusional. Some really may delude themselves into believing that God/Spirit/The Creator made them better than others. That’s their opinion let them have it and move on – just don’t buy into it and you’ll be OK.
In reality, the more self-compassionate you are, the more likely you will be compassionate toward others. Brain research shows that we are constantly assigning meaning to our lives. In other words, we are making the story of our life up as we go. “Reality” is very subjective. When we don’t feel loving about our self, we spend out time – our life – trying to please others or chasing “stuff” or staying busy to avoid our feelings. When we feel good about who we are, recognizing that we are growing human beings and drop the need to pretend that we have it all together, we can take off our mask and come more boldly from our authentic heart.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change” ~Carl Rogers
Compassion, including self-compassion is so powerful that it is being studied within the realm of neuroscience (Brain). Beating yourself up can cause:
Knowing your life purpose makes life more meaningful and fulfilling. It gives you the “Why” to look forward to in your day, in your work and in your life overall. Knowing your true values can point you in the direction of your purpose, they underpin meaning. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the nightmare of the “routine” – Wake up, go to work, come home, eat, take care of “stuff”, go to sleep…repeat. How dull. How painful! Life is meant to be an adventure of growth and learning, not clinging to a mediocre life and then you die. How sad. Thank goodness for the power of choice, the power to change. While change can feel scary and uncomfortable, it is what adds spice to life. Besides, that – it’s unavoidable!
So why do we so often fall into miserable ruts and get stuck, yet are afraid of “change”? A huge part of it is conditioning. Sure, there is the element of “danger” in the unknown, but Mother Nature has given us the tools to cope and innovate. Our brain is amazingly adaptable and it is leads us to “self-fulfilling prophecy”. This is part of the problem – we believe change is scary and hard, so “be it unto you as you believe”. We have trained our brain to focus on what we don’t want and fear…and we sometimes find get it.
Leadership is evolving and it needs to. A one-size-fits-all approach, a “cookie-cutter” approach is no longer working and for good reason. The immense change we are facing is requiring leaders to be authentic and vulnerable – which means “less-fear”, not weak – and in touch with their own individual strengths and gaps. This requires courage, something that I’ve also witnessed in the leadership of Olympic athletes currently in London.
It requires that we go in with eyes wide open to embrace and accept “who and where we are” if we are going to change and grow in a way that is resilient and adaptable. Resiliency and adaptability are principles that underlie true power. “Power over”, a form of intimidation related to “fear”, cannot engage the hearts and minds of team members. Leaders will have to evolve.
Many employees are just mentality checking out, sabotaging the company and the best and brightest will simply leave instead of aligning with a leader who is not centered, confident and clear – with empathy and effectiveness – about him or her self and the value that they bring to the table. In order to stay focused, especially with the noise and distraction that seems to only be increasing, feeling comfortable navigating the criticism and the “lack consciousness” of others is more important than ever. It’s time to learn how to stay on track and forget about the biases of small thinkers.
Leaders can learn some of the most powerful lessons in some of the most unlikely places. Take for example, the 16 year-old Gold Medal champion gymnasts Gabby Douglas and her extraordinary performance at the Olympic games this weekend. Raised by a single mother from Gary Indiana, she exemplifies power, wisdom and self-respect beyond many adults I encounter and read about.
I read a Chicago Sun-Times Sports page article today entitled, “Douglas’ Hairstyle in the Cross Hairs”. Yep, this young lady who had won two gold medals in three days and helped the U.S. women win the team event was being talked about in social media about her hair. Yikes! What a sad commentary on the state of people’s mindsets. Her response speaks to her resiliency, adaptability, confidence and clarity. I can see why, despite her background environmental challenges, she is such a champion and such a leader. In her words:
“I’m like, ‘I just made history, and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short; it doesn’t matter about (my) hair.”… “Nothing is going to change”, she says. “I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it”. (You go girl!).
Now that’s the truth. Who cares about her hair? How irrelevant. Herein lies some of the most deadly problems in our culture and society; without a vision the people perish.
True potential is a challenge to uncover if you are out of touch with what is the most misrepresented and misunderstood aspects of being human – feelings. HeartMath research findings indicate that feelings (heart) are 5,000 more magnetic energy than that of thought (brain). When the mind and heart are coherent, or “on the same page”, a person is in a higher state of well-being and creativity. So, what is the passageway to more joy, meaning and worth?
Simple as that.
Simply yes, however, since the western world in particular, has built up so much resistance to feeling/emotion, it is not easy for most people to access anything but the more “negative” of feelings – the ones that repress our joy, worth and meaning. How ironic. We have created a society that disrespects the very part of ourselves that will bring us what so many are killing themselves over with excessive “doing” and “hard work”. The issue is we have a “perception” that causes us to increase exactly what we don’t want – negative, fear-based emotion and its subsequent feelings. We become attached to “wanting” to feel happy all the time (happy is not the same as joy actually, it’s situational) or to frantically avoiding feeling sad. The great number of people are also disconnected from their heart in a way that is unhealthy. Feelings are not bad or good except thinking (judgment) make it so.
“Remember that there is nothing stable in human affairs; therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity, or undue depression in adversity” ~Socrates, 469-399 B.C.
Our culture and social institutions historically and from what I’ve observed with eyes wide-open produce:
1. Reduction in joy (Focus on lack, fear and competition)
2. Reduction in self-worth (“Who you are” is equated with “What you do or have” and that apparently is “never enough”)
3. Reduction in meaning (The focus has/had been only on “shareholder value” in business instead of a higher purpose in work for the individual).
Reaching true potential is easier said than done. We’ve conditioned our brain and mind to trust outside of our self. Once I garnered the courage to color outside of the boundaries of what I was “informed” from those around me to be “true”, I really began to grow. Here’s the catch: I had to learn to trust myself. It’s amazing for me now to notice just how much we are willing to let “science” or others dictate to us what works for us and what doesn’t. Actually, there is much trial and error going on, even in science. And then there is perception, meaning, one authority says “X” and one will say “Y” about the same outcome.
So who to believe? I would believe my own experience before I would research – and of course, research has its place. It does help the logical mind to process and put tangible structure to the concept. The lesson is to allow space for “both”, instead of either/or, black or white. We can better own our power though if we are willing to:
1. Rest and renew our minds
2. Reconnect with our heart to uncover our core values – and recognize that we evolve
3. Reflect on new ideas, does it fit our current model? Does our model need to evolve? Does it align with our values? Do our values still support and expand our genius, joy, and inner peace?
After all, science can’t even define or explain gravity – it still affects our daily lives. Just because you can’t explain it intellectually doesn’t mean you will not hit the ground hard if you jump off of a tall building. Currently, most people are simply doing what the late psychologist William James said:
“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
The mindset “not good enough” or “not enough” is blamed on our brain as if it is “the brain’s” fault. There’s a great reason why you want to take responsibility for this and not once again blame it on something you think you cannot control. The reason is you are not likely to change what you believe you can’t control. You can change your brain, your “perception” of HOW you see life.
“Who do you think you are?” is a phrase often used to attempt to “put someone” in their place. What place? Who’s to say that we have “a place”? Who’s to say you are “not good enough”? Who gets to make all of these definitions regarding what we can do, be or have?
Think about it, you may just be giving your power away to someone who is really insecure and simply hiding out behind the mask of “authority” – whatever that means. Our brain is wired by our thoughts, feelings and actions. Here are three truths you need to ponder if you want to create a mindset for success and stop sabotaging your own business and life success:
1. YOU are not your thoughts
2. What you DO is not “who” your ARE
3. Your “Mental Me” self-image is flexible/changeable.
Number one, your thoughts are passing energy currents in your brain/mind that can ramble on and can even be just something you heard someone else say – about you. Your thought is not the gospel truth. The question is, will you accept it as true? There’s the True Self and then there is “who you think you are” – very different concepts.
Team building is too often looked upon as “some things” to do, instead of “some ones” to become. Teams are composed of people not parts, like a machine. In fact, it is time to stop treating your body and life as “parts”, somehow separated into bits and pieces. If we only use our left-brain mental constructs, this is how we tend to focus. For example, traditionally we see teams in terms of:
• Dollars and cents measures (“bottom line”)
While these aspects are important, they need to be attained from the perspective of a foundation that can is sustainable. They should only come after reflecting on the components that will engage the mind and heart of the people who will determine if, how or when the “bottom line” manifests. Only focusing on numbers is like focusing on the trees and being blind to the context of the overall forest. It is very short-sighted (as in “myopic”). It’s time that corporations have their vision corrected.
Collaborative leaders need to consider such factors as:
• Clarifying values, purpose and mission in a way that engages the heart to integrate between employees and the company
• How “blind spots” disrupts trust, creates fear of conflict and insecurities that block vulnerability and human connection
• The power of passion and meaning to fuel attention to results and ways to develop the mindset of the individual team members
Here are three steps that leaders can bring to the table as they are developing and inspiring their teams: