Father’s Day Gift – 8 Leadership Tips For My Kids & Grandkids

Father Child Leader Blog“We are one after all, you and I. Together we suffer; together exist, and forever will recreate one another.”    – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Of the scores of books and thousands of quotes I have absorbed as a student of transformational leadership these last thirty years, not one contains a speck more wisdom than this opening quotation from de Chardin. This Father’s Day, as a gift to my children and grandchildren, I would like to share eight simple reflections on the dignity, humility, responsibility and deep sense of honor that go along with the role of “leader”:

1. Embrace Humility and Vulnerability…Solomon’s greatest leadership trait was not the wisdom with which he was gifted by God, but the humility he displayed in asking for it, instead of seeking great wealth and power. The most endearing identifying characteristic of authentic conscious leaders is the propensity to put others first; to bathe in reflected light; and to open themselves up to the possibility of making mistakes by placing faith and trust in others. From childhood we are taught to share. Great leaders confidently share four essential things with their teams: Vision, Information, Ownership and Recognition. The only thing they keep to themselves is the blame if things go awry.

2. Don’t write people off for flaws you perceive in them…If you do you will soon find yourself alone in the middle of a room with no one or nothing to keep you company but your own flaws. The great theologian and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “We are one after all, you and I. Together we suffer; together exist, and forever will recreate one another.” Understand this – an unavoidable consequence of our shared humanity is our flawed nature. Transformation and growth are possible for everyone, even the seemingly incorrigible. The leader’s job is to facilitate the transformation.

3. Get to know yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it feels…Spend time in introspection and reflective practices. Become aware of your strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. Understand your hot buttons and make conscious effort to mute them. Step outside yourself and observe your interactions with others, then learn from the things that cause the most awkwardness and difficulty. Own your defects; no one else can own them for you.

4. Practice forgiveness as a habit, rather than an occasional act of condescension…If you learn nothing else in life, learn that carrying anger and vengeance around in your heart is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die. Get over yourself; extend the hand; reconcile and give freely the gift of forgiveness to others. In doing so you will discover you have given the gift to yourself as well.

5. Seek higher consciousness…There is a better version of each of us waiting to be unveiled – physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. The battle to subdue ego is the greatest challenge an aspiring leader faces. Robert Greenleaf said, “Ego can’t sleep. It micro-manages. It disempowers. It reduces our capability. It excels in control.” The quest for higher self begins with first steps of intention and purpose and culminates in a deep appreciation for connectedness and collective intelligence. There is a reason you were put on this earth; take time for meditative discernment and allow your better self to take shape in your mind and emerge in your words and deeds.

6. Discover your gifts and share them profusely…We enter this plane of existence imbued by spirit with an abundance of gifts. It is intended that we share these gifts to depletion before we return to spirit. Use reflective and meditative time to discern your gifts and offer them to the world with generosity and joy. The world will respond with gratitude and reciprocation.

7. Welcome change and make it you partner…Einstein famously said, “It is not the strongest or most intelligent that survive, but the most adaptable to change”. Instead of hiding from change and hoping it will go away, visionary leaders learn to surf the waves of change with enthusiasm and agility. Great leaders maintain a clear-eyed focus on the long game and learn to practice “strategic improvisation”, as they leverage changing facts and circumstances to propel them closer to achievement of the vision.

8. Seek first to serve…The New Testament tells us more than once, “If you wish to lead, you must be the servant of the rest”. The modern term, “Servant Leadership”, was coined by the great business philosopher, Robert K. Greenleaf, in The Servant as Leader, an essay first published in 1970. Greenleaf writes, “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first… the difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant – first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.” To lead with a heart for service requires the Humility referred to in Tip #1, at the very beginning of this article. Putting others first is hard work but necessary work, in the personal transformation to conscious leadership.

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Conscious Leaders Are Fallible Humans Too – Give Them A Break When They Fail

Oxy PicI have been away; figuratively, not literally…

I wrote my last leadership blog over two months ago, just days before I had surgery to take pressure off my spinal cord. I resisted surgery as long as I could but the unrelenting pain, aggravated by standing and walking, continued to worsen by the day. It appeared inevitable I would soon end up in a wheelchair.

To deal with the pain in the weeks leading up to surgery my doctors put me on Oxycodone. Then they doubled the dosage and added morphine and Valium to address the post-surgical pain. In all I was taking narcotic pain-killers for over three months. And guess what happened? Despite warnings and a clear understanding of what might happen, I became dependent. I grew emotionally and intellectually lazy, and the avoidance of pain became my highest priority. I got lulled into a pattern of addictive behavior because, in those discrete moments of decision making, it was simply easier to give in to the bad habit of pain avoidance than to make the conscious effort to be mindful and intentional about the longer term good.

The happy ending came as a result of the tender and compassionate outreach of a spouse, a very dear colleague and my adult children. With gentleness and love they reminded me that I was not really the depressed, ill-tempered person they were now dealing with. They affirmed the good in me and lovingly facilitated a successful return to my journey of intention, purpose and mindfulness.

So what does this have to do with leadership?

In my work with leaders over the last three decades I have dealt with more than my share of the myopically self-absorbed; one especially egregious example very recently – but that’s another story for another blog. Fortunately I have also known a handful of self-aware, other-centered leaders who make it their “Purpose” to help make the people, and the small patch of world around them, better. In an American workplace where 7 of 8 workers believe they work for a company that does not care about them “as a person”, these stellar examples of mindfulness and compassion are the rare exceptions. They role model how leadership ought to be. I have found this “Conscious” leader generally holds these five fundamental beliefs about people, and the workplace:

  1. The overwhelming majority of people in the workplace are fundamentally good; want to do a good job, and want to improve.
  2. Everyone is really good at something and everyone has value as a person.
  3. The greatest motivator for people in the workplace is believing what you do makes a difference, i.e. “Meaningful Work”.
  4. Discretionary effort may neither be commanded nor compelled, but must be inspired.
  5. People, Purpose and Profit are NOT mutually exclusive business choices.

But like the rest of us they are also human…

They go through bad patches in their lives, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Like you and I they are susceptible to bouts of thoughtless behavior. Like their less-mindful peers they can also fall prey to the pain of increasing Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) of the 21st century work environment. They can snap out a sharp reply, fail to acknowledge effort and accomplishment or descend into self-centeredness and authoritarian patterns. They can become emotionally and intellectually lazy and lulled into discrete moments of poor decision making. They too can fall into the bad habit of short-term pain avoidance, temporarily losing sight of the longer term good. Does that make them bad leaders?

The answer is, “No, it makes them human”…

And if one of these otherwise exceptional human leaders works for you, with you, or happens to be your boss – and happens to go through a rough patch – consider compassionate outreach instead of anger and spite. Gently remind them of the good person they are 99% of the time. Affirm their positive intent and their inspirational influence in the workplace.

They’ve simply “been away”…

They haven’t suddenly turned self-centered and cold; they’ve simply “been away”. Lovingly coax them back to their journey of intention and mindfulness.  Everyone will benefit.

Awakening to Giftedness

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

We transition from spirit to physical existence fully imbued with a generous and purposeful bounty of gifts. Our purpose as physical beings is threefold:  1. To awaken and remember the gifts with which we have been entrusted, 2. To animate, share and bless each other with our gifts in the moment(s) for which they were purposed by Spirit, and, 3. To receive and accept with love and gratitude the gifts shared with us by others.  The challenge for anyone wishing to deepen personal relationships, or aspiring to develop as an enlightened, mindful leader is to side-step ego, embrace self-awareness and fully animate the call to share his or her unique giftedness in the workplace and in the world. [Read more…]