There is a single quality that separates truly great leaders from average leaders.
That difference? The ability to be conscious and real.
In today’s world of hacking, subterfuge, lying, stealing and cheating, being REAL™ is not merely a good strategy; it’s the best strategy for leading organizations. REAL conscious leadership is forged in the heart and soul.
When leaders lead from the heart and soul, they create transformational cultures with inspired and engaged employees and co-workers. This leads to improved organizational performance.
We are motivated by extrinsic and intrinsic factors.
Extrinsic factors such as the workplace environment and higher wages play a large role in employee motivation. However, when extrinsic factors are met, then intrinsic factors play an important role in employee performance.
Intrinsic factors such as inspiration, meaningful work, employee growth and development provide the distinguishing factors between employees and teams who perform at peak levels and those who don’t.
REAL leaders develop and inspire others so they perform their best.
They create safe environments, where fear is minimized, openness is encouraged and transparency prevails. They help people grow by showing them how to transcend personal limitations, biases, judgements, habits, and beliefs. REAL leaders are servant leaders who develop leaders rather than followers.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
–John Quincy Adams
Summum bonum is a Latin expression that means, ‘for the highest good.’
REAL leaders live and breathe Summum bonum. Their focus is laser-sharp on what is best for all involved: shareholders, the organization, co-workers, employees, families and communities at large. When employees feel as part of the team, and that management has their backs, they are motivated to do more.
Billie was the head of a customer service operating center.
She had 5,000 people reporting to her.
Prior to leading this customer service center, she headed up a non-profit organization. Billie believed in people. She believed that with the right motivation, people would be inspired to perform.
She was also competitive. She wanted her team to be the best in the business. Because she believed in leading for the highest good for everyone involved, she spent time with her people challenging, developing, and helping them grow personally and professionally.
If you wanted to succeed on her team, you had to align and collaborate.
I worked with Billie for three years. I watched her develop a team of medium-and-high potentials into a high-performing team. As a result, she and her leadership team reduced expenses year-on-year and lowered attrition, while measurably increasing customer and employee satisfaction. They went from good to great.
A good leader is someone who has a powerful influence on others.
They know how to get things done. They drive the organizational vision and mission forward. They create strategies, plans and objectives. REAL leaders achieve this and more.
They have lasting influence because they demonstrate deep respect and genuine care for others. Conscious leaders create the passion and glue that holds teams together to create high performance. What becomes evident with REAL leaders is their personal character.
While they understand that performance is important, they recognize that in order to achieve high performance they have to support their people. These leaders aren’t driven by their egos; they are selfless.
To become a selfless and Real leader means we undertake a personal journey of deep, inner transformation.
This is not an easy process – it can take a lifetime. We move from fear-driven, ego-centric leadership behaviors to selfless, Summum bonum behavior. Sometimes, this journey of realization and discovery is painful.
It takes courage and grit for us to face our limitations and move beyond them. However, as we move through our journey of self-transformation, we transcend our fears and find inner strength, peace and joy.
One of my favorite books is “The Velveteen Rabbit”
In this story by Margery Williams Bianco, the Skin Horse counsels the Rabbit on what it means to become REAL.
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit
Like the Rabbit, the journey starts with curiosity and a deep desire to become real.
We are the programmers of our thoughts, beliefs, emotional reactions, and habits. Through the conceptualization, discovery and application of quantum physics and epigenetics, we now know that our thoughts, beliefs and emotional reactions are physically programmed in the neural networks of our brain.
Who we are is not what we think, do, or even say. What we think, say and do are often based on habitual ways of thinking and believing that lead us to react rather than create. These neural networks become the programmed foundation of our reactive behaviors.
“The latest research supports the notion that we have the natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone… Because you can make thought more real than anything else, you can change who you are from brain cell to gene, given the right understanding.”
–Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being the Yourself
We are the master programmers.
What we think of as being ourselves is part of our programmed selves.
We say things like, “I’m just emotional” or “I’m blunt, people have to get over it.” These types of self-definitions are just that — definitions we created. If we have a pattern of behavior that is no longer useful, we can change it. Period.
We are the master programmers of how we act and respond to anything that happens to us. Being REAL means we change from our reactive mindsets and behaviors and become the conscious creators of our behaviors and, therefore, our lives.
It means we transcend the limitations of a programmed past — our “small self”— and become who we really are beyond our programming – “our Self”. We change who we “think we are” and become who we truly are.
When we neglect the fact that we created the programs, beliefs, and thoughts, it becomes more difficult to change.
If we aren’t the creators of the conditions in our lives, then who is? If we are not the creator of our habits, behaviors, beliefs, and perspectives, then who is? We can either take responsibility and accountability for how we have created our lives, or we can be the victims of our circumstances.
Realizing that we are the master programmers of our lives can be a tough pill to swallow. This is especially true when the circumstances of our lives are particularly tough. However, the moment we accept complete responsibility for how we have created our lives and what is happening in our lives, freedom begins.
I had a particularly difficult childhood.
We lived in poverty, and there was physical, sexual and emotional abuse. I didn’t create the circumstances that I was born in, but how I dealt with the circumstances I was born into is my creation. The beliefs, behaviors and how I hold my memories, I created.
I would never wish for anyone to go through what I did. There were times, without a doubt, that I was angry because of what happened.
I was fearful of being poor again.
But if I didn’t come to terms with what happened and find inner peace, I would have led a life of anger and fear-driven constriction instead of inner-strength and joy.
Becoming a REAL leader means we face ourselves and understand that we are the master programmers of our behaviors thoughts and beliefs. We take responsibility for our actions and reactions. Then, we let go and transform ourselves. Like the Skin Horse says, the journey takes awhile.
“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”―Roy T. Bennett The Light in the Heart
REAL leadership is about expansion.
To achieve this, we must be internally inspired, creative, innovative, and motivated. When we transcend our limitations, we enter the space of limitlessness where true inspiration can occur.
Shuniya, which means ‘to let go,’ is the state of “no-thingness” or the “zero state.” In Shuniya, we move beyond our programmed thinking, our habitual behavioral patterns and move into transcendent consciousness. We shift from a definition of personality and ego into expansiveness.
We let go of our self-limiting definitions; we become conscious and real.
We transcend mental and emotional conditioning and belief systems, and enter a state of creative inspiration. When we move into this state of consciousness we begin to recreate our lives, become more proactive and at choice.
Shuniya starts with quieting the mind and coming to the still point within. Meditation and mindfulness are two key practices to help you achieve Shuniya. Practicing Shuniya, or letting go, in leadership can have a powerful impact on engagement, culture and results.