Leadership: it's the pinnacle of human achievement, but what is it really? Ask 100 different people and you'll probably get 100 different answers.
The dictionary defines "leadership" as the "action of leading a group of people or an organisation", so it's hardly surprising that traditional approaches to leadership development tend to focus on building knowledge and skills. But this can be like installing new software on an old operating system.
If a person's "Way of Being" (their operating system) is not compatible with being a leader, then accumulating knowledge and skills (software) may not be effective. To extend the analogy, some features of the software could run slowly or even be disabled. At worst, the system might crash.
Thankfully, it is possible to upgrade a person's operating system to be more compatible with leadership. Being: Leadership takes an ontological approach to leadership, which focus on the "Way of Being" - or mindset - of leadership.
Here's how this approach differs from traditional leadership development:
- Focused on being
- Focused on the engagement of followers
- Develops mindset (upgrading operating system)
- Enables adaptability to changing circumstances
- Focused on envisioning and creating a future that does not currently exist
- Available to all, regardless of role
- Focused on doing
- Focused on the authority of the leader
- Teaches knowledge and skills (installing software)
- Tends to be "one size fits all"
- Often based on managing the status quo
- Available to those with positional power
So how does this approach work?
THREE LAYERS OF LEADERSHIP
When we think of leadership, we might think about someone with a vision - like John F Kennedy declaring to the U.S. Congress that they would be putting a man on the moon. Or, for those who have managed teams, we might think about the challenges of managing people with their diverse aspirations, needs and personalities.
Being: Leadership, however, starts from within - with self-leadership. This is because real leadership is based on a deep-seated integrity - as we are with ourselves, so we are with others, and so we are in our impact on that part of the world in which our leadership occurs.
In order to lead others, leaders must be able to lead themselves. That's why Being: Leadership starts from within.
By developing mastery of their "operating system" (in other words, your Way of Being), leaders can become far more flexible and resilient in facing the challenges of leadership.
(In the case of emerging leaders, Being: Leadership also provides support for navigating the tricky transition from individual contributor to leader.)
Taking an ontological approach, Being: Leadership explores leadership across three domains:
- Language: creating greater clarity in how leaders perceive themselves, others and their environment, and the impact of those perceptions on their behaviour and leadership effectiveness
- Moods/Emotions: facilitating enhanced awareness of moods and emotions and how to manage them to support more resourceful behaviour
- Body: developing an awareness of the body (in particular, breathing, posture and muscle tension) to enable greater emotional awareness and inspire new ways of thinking and feeling
Incidentally, the alignment of these three domains with a clear leadership purpose contributes significantly to the development of "leadership presence".
There can be no leaders without followers, so Being: Leadership helps leaders to build authentic and sustainable relationships with their teams and other stakeholders. This includes developing the "language of leadership" as well as a broad and flexible repertoire of leadership conversations.
Being: Leadership enables leaders in the following areas:
- Engaging People: developing an understanding of what really motivates people and how to communicate with them in a way that resonates and engages their hearts and minds
- Influencing People: enabling a more flexible approach to influencing that is based on having more purposeful conversations that generate results
- Developing People: building the skills to give clear and constructive feedback, supported by a culture that encourages and values feedback at all levels and in all directions
To quote Steve Jobs: "We're here to put a dent in the universe."
And as our world (universe) becomes increasingly complex, we need leaders who have a clear vision for the future - and who are also learners. (Yes, learners! That's not a typo.)
While this might sound like a paradox, modern leaders need to be able to anticipate and adapt quickly to changes in their external environment. They also need to be comfortable with uncertainty and have the ability to take bold and creative risks, with the ability to recover quickly when things don't work out as expected. This requires a learning mindset.
Being: Leadership breaks down the barriers to learning to enable leaders to become more open, flexible and resourceful in their approach.