Leadership Soulology™: Why leading with wisdom and heart matters
Soulology is the study of our own humanity and soul. Leadership Soulology™is bringing our humanity, heart, wisdom, and soul into our everyday life as people and leaders.
With so much divisiveness and polarity today, it is important that business leaders set the stage and focus on humanity and heart in the workplace.
Some might think that leading from the heart and soul has no place in business. Yet, leadership effectiveness and how people are treated is the heart and soul of any business. Given the civil unrest, social injustice, inequality, and the difficulties of everyday COVID life, we need compassion and humanity,
Business as Usual or Unusual?
I’ve noticed that some businesses are expecting “business as usual”. They are trying to achieve the same level of goals and objectives they had pre-COVID. Yet we all know, this is a very unusual year. In organizations who has turned a blind eye and not adjusted expectations, we find that stress and fears high, and empathy and compassion is low. The behavior of individuals and teams is that they are trying to get by and survive which ultimately leads to lower performance.
I’ve also noticed other businesses that understand that the world has changed, and have become more agile and caring while revising their goals and objectives. In these organizations, employee engagement, gratitude, and thankfulness are high. We find that the behavior of individuals and teams is that they rework more collaboratively, in alignment, and support one another ensuring high performance. Many of these organizations are reaching and exceeding their adjusted goals.
Bottom-line Impact of Heart-Based Leadership
Using our REAL Leadership Methodology™ I worked with an executive, Mike, who was described as:
Caring and compassionate.
As I interviewed and listened to Mike’s direct reports and staff, they all said the same thing, “they would go the extra mile for him.”And, they went the extra mile. The entire team gave their all.
Why? Because he led with wisdom and heart. In terms of bottom-line results, his team cut costs, lowered attrition, improved employee satisfaction and engagement, and increased client delight.
Do You Want More Proof?
When we lead with heart, we create community, inspire others, and engender followership. In a survey of 332,860 bosses, peers, and subordinates, outlined in the Harvard Business Review’s article, The Skills Leaders Need at Every Level July 30, 2014, identified the top two qualities that all leaders need at every level:
The ability to inspire and motivate others at 38%.
Displays high integrity and honesty at 37%.
5-Ways to Lead from the Heart
1. Build a sense of community and belonging–Heart-based Leadership It’s all about connection. During a time of masks and social distancing, it is important to continually build a sense of community, connection, team, and belonging. In the early days of COVID19, with virtual huddles, coffee meetings, and virtual happy hours. Almost 8-months into the pandemic, it takes more than a virtual happy hour to build a sense of community. Create heart-to-heart moments.
As a leader, you need to create the time and space for virtual, face-to-face time, but now, some of the time should be dedicated on being there for one another. It’s important to talk about personal struggle, stress, and fatigue–without judgment. When we hear each other’s stories, that’s when we connect with each other emotionally, psychologically, and with our hearts.
2. Be vulnerable and create psychological safety–REAL Leadership To create psychological safety, it’s all about sharing stories that create connections. It’s a balancing act between being open and vulnerable about your own trials and tribulations and sending a strong and positive message. For people to connect at a heart-level means being seen, really seen, warts and all. As leaders, we need to create a safe zone to provide vulnerability and empathy moments. Sometimes it’s these small moments that make the difference.
As leaders, when we provide a safe zone, we must step into the space first. One thing a leader can do to relate is sharing their own stories of stress and fatigue. When we share stories about our failings and learnings and give other’s the space to do the same, we create psychological safety. Sharing honestly what’s in your heart is where authenticity begins and ends.
3. Express empathy, compassion, and caring–Empathic Leadership June 2018, Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister was quoted as saying, “the hardest thing about leadership is learning to ignore the loudest voices.” To be truly effective, you need to understand what is happening within your teams and listen between the lines. Learn to listen to what people aren’t saying as well as what they are saying. When we listen to this way, we get the honest feelings of what people are thinking versus the high-level truthful, bullet points. When we get bullet point answers we don’t really know the depth of the impact of what is really happening. When we listen between the lines, we gain the pulse of the organization. With this baseline, we can be empathic, compassionate, and caring because people recognize that you truly understand not just what they are saying but how they are feeling. Sometimes the loudest voices don’t give the fuller and deeper story.
4. Be humble, and make decisions for the greater good–Selfless leadership As part of our REAL Culture Methodology™, I recently facilitate dan executive coaching session with my client, Jake. Jake and I were discussing how to resolve a performance issue with one of his direct reports. His direct report was arrogant, self-centered, high-performing, demeaning, and pushy.
During our conversation, Jake mentioned that one of the things he admired the most about his boss, Kevin, was his humility. Jake went onto describe Kevin as humble, caring, a true team-builder, wise, and honest very similar to Mike. Because of Kevin’s leadership style and brand, his folks go the extra mile and perform.
Jake wanted to emulate Kevin’s leadership style and directly address and confront the performance issue he has on his team. Because of Kevin’s style, in 2020, the entire team improved their client satisfaction by 20%. That’s a significant bottom-line improvement.
Jake realized that his direct report was detracting from the team’s performance. Jake learned to address the issue in a humble and caring way, while honestly and directly confronting his direct report. This is the recipe for developing others, improving teamwork, and having measurable impact.
Transform My Culture. 5. Practice mindfulness – Mindful Leadership Why are people like Kevin and Mike so successful leading with heart and producing results? It’s because they have high resilience and practice mindful techniques to reduce stress. Generally speaking, we derail our leadership effectiveness because of stress. Under stress, our “bad” behavior comes out. We break trust, lower collaboration, adversely impact team cohesion and reduce ours and our team’s ability to perform.
Three Techniques for Mindful Leadership
a. Meditation and mindfulness lead to resilience. When we meditate we lower our stress levels and we become less susceptible to stress. Mindfulness practice #1: Long deep breathing. Generally speaking, during the normal course of the day, we will breathe between 12-16 breaths per minute. To activate your parasympathetic nervous system/relaxation response slow your breath down to 4-7 breaths per minute. The easiest way to do this is breathing counting. Turn on a timer for 5 minutes. Breathe in using a slow of 7 and breathe out to a slow count of 7. Do this for 5 minutes. Your mind and body will naturally slow down and become relaxed.
b. Mindfulness practice #2: Body Awareness Meditation – Sitting in Stillness. Do this for 5-minutes and work-up to 10-minutes. Find a place where you can sit comfortably for 5-minutes without moving. Turn on the 5-minute timer. Do long deep breathing. Pay attention to how your body feels the entire time. Focus only on body comfort. As soon as you move to adjust your position or as soon as you feel the urge to move – DON’T. Take that split second and notice your thoughts and the emotions that coincide with your thoughts. After many years of teaching meditation, what causes discomfort in the body, is the discomfort of thoughts in the mind and emotions that go with those thoughts. Breathe out the discomfort of the thoughts and emotions and stay in your original seated position. Many people find this meditative practice hard to do.
c. Mindfulness practice #3: Watch Your Mind, Return to Silence. This is a two-part exercise. Start with 5-minutes. Do long, deep breathing. Then just allow your mind to wander. Act as an observer or a witness. Notice what thoughts your mind is having. Notice the emotions that go with the thoughts. Notice the thoughts and how your thoughts change and why your thoughts change. During the second 5-minutes, allow your thoughts to wander but this time, each time your mind starts to wander, focus on the in and out of your breath until the only thing you are seeing, sensing, and feeling is the flow of your breath. Do this until your mind is quiet. Then notice when and how thought and emotion come, then go back to focused long-deep breathing.
Why practice mindful meditation?
In a study:
Reduce stress-induced derailment behaviors.
Reduce body pain.
Decrease fatigue and increase energy.
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