The potential for positive impact that leaders have on our world is almost limitless. Building leaders that can take effective and grounded action in the service of a better world is a worthy cause in my reckoning. Practice is essential for any endeavor in which we wish to succeed. I have found the following practices to be foundational in developing Integral Leadership capabilities:
Clarify and commit to a vision: Know what juices you, what is worth running full speed across the finish line for. ‘For the sake of what’ do you get up and go to work every day? Some of us have a vision for the world, a future that we believe in and that is worth committing our life’s energy to achieving. It’s possible we won’t see our vision manifest during our lifetime but we heartily commit because we believe in it. We may or may not see this vision come true but it is what fuels us. Others have a very clear sense of a product or service they want to bring to fruition or an organization they want to create. Either way, a vision provides an orientation to life, an organizing principle, yet often leaders find it difficult to articulate a vision. Our great fortune in the West provides us with many options and opportunities. Be choosy. Align your energy and attention with your vision and values. Practice: Create visions, or outcomes for large and small projects: a vision for a conversation, a vision for a product that can change lives, a vision for your remodeled kitchen. Do this every day with the small stuff and you will build the muscle to articulate your grander visions.
Build the body of a leader – We would do well as leaders to turn our attention toward developing an embodied leadership presence to complement our intellectual prowess. Through our bodies we generate and communicate moods, take a stand for what we believe in, take grounded action and lead and build relationships with others. We have the required equipment on board 24/7 to create a grounded and centered presence that responds effectively to crisis, inspires trust and attracts followers. Practice: A key practice in developing an embodied presence is working with the breath. Breathe into the physiological center of your body (a fist distance below your navel) and shift your attention and energy from the upper to the lower half of your body. Release tension in your jaws and shoulders and increase overall awareness. The result will be a relaxed yet present presence. (Refer to the last volume of Integral Leader Review for more on embodied leadership)
Find freedom in structure: Create structures that support your vision, values and goals. Structures channel our energy toward the results we want. Here are a few:
Weekly Focusing Practice: Prepare and plan for your week. List actions that move you toward your vision, support your values and result in the fulfillment of commitments you have made to others and to yourself. Block the appropriate time to make good on your promises.
Accountability Structures: Join a group of leaders committed to keeping each other accountable on important tasks, ask people who care about you and your success to give you feedback on your effectiveness, request that your assistant keep time on your calendar for important activities (even if it’s an appointment with yourself to prepare for a meeting); commit to sending a log of your practices to a coach or mentor.
Take perspective without attachment: Learn from your actions and thoughts. Make it a practice to turn the camera on yourself and view the film with an intent to learn. Practice: Take time after significant actions to reflect on the following questions: What did I want to have happen? What actually happened? How did my mood and assumptions affect the outcome? What did I learn? What will I do differently next time? You can lead your team through this same exercise after an implementation or any interaction. The military calls this an After Action Review. Conduct these activities in the spirit of curiosity and learning rather than blame and judging.
Experience Joy: Feel the full spectrum of life. Your ability to connect with and respond effectively to others is directly correlated with your ability to feel your own joy and pain. Encourage all emotions to flow through every ounce of your body. Practice: Notice your emotions throughout the day. Identify what you feel. Increase your ability to feel that emotion and let it do its work on you, bringing you more fully alive and able to recognize and respond to others’ emotions.
Businesses, with their economic and political power and their potent assembly of intellect and energy are shaping our world. Leading these entities is not for the weak at heart. We are calling forth leaders who are willing to fight for their vision, lead with an embodied presence, focus and channel their energies, learn through perspective taking and feel the full range on the emotional continuum.
LeeAnn Mallory is a Principal Consultant at Stagen Leadership, a Dallas-based consulting firm focused on helping mid-market make the move from scrambling to scale. Stagen provides a framework for expanding leader perspective, achieving executive alignment, building high-performance teams, and driving breakthrough innovation LeeAnn has coached executives and facilitated transformational leadership conferences for over 12 years and employs a results-based, integral approach She received her Integral Coach certification through New Ventures West and her Somatic Coach certification through Strozzi Institute. http://www.stagen.com