When we think about the term „leader“ we usually imagine a CEO of the big company, the dean of the university or even the head of the country. But the truth is that the leader is anyone who is in the position to influence another person. We could say that leaders help others to do the right things. There is even a saying that „Leaders are people who do the right thing while managers are people who do things right“ (Professor Warren G. Bennis).
Leaders set direction and build an inspiring vision.
Leadership is about creating an inspiring vision of the future, motivating and inspiring people to engage with that vision and managing the delivery of the vision, often by building and strengthening the team that will reach the goal. But before you can effectively lead another person, you need to develop self-leadership.
Integral parts of self-leadership are conscious awareness, emotional intelligence, accountability, (self)compassion, optimism and many more.
Many operations of the mind take place below the level of conscious awareness. The conscious mind contains all the thoughts, feelings, cognitions, and memories we acknowledge, while the unconscious consists of deeper mental processes not available to the conscious mind. Much of human motivation takes shape beyond conscious awareness. Before we focus on influencing others, we need to develop a skill of influencing ourselves. This can be achieved with regular practice and self-discipline where we pay attention to internal processes. It is about becoming aware of our thoughts, words and actions.
Leaders are expected to motivate others so they need to understand their own "WHY“ when it comes to the vision of the project. In order to achieve that, they have to dig deeper into their inner world, into their intimate understanding of „Who am I?“, „Why am I here?“, „What is the purpose of my job?“ and „How my work adds value to the society/company/team project?“ First, it’s you who need to understand and contemplate on this and then there comes the part of engaging people. And people do not follow just because they are being said. People need to understand how their work adds value to bigger goals. The more they are aware of that, the more engaged they are.
All of this requires introspection, being aware of our core values and being able to stick to them no matter of all temporary obstacles we face. Jon Stewart explained this with a quote: "If you don’t stick to your values when you are being tested, they are not values. They are hobbies“.
Some people believe that leadership is about the power you have. One of the greatest leaders in our history, Martin Luther King Jr defined power as the ability to achieve purpose and effect change. Being a conscious leader means being aware of the way how power is used and for what. It is about making the members of our team stable and aware of themselves. Just because we tend to be happy and optimistic, that does not mean we should always feel only pleasant emotions. Awareness means being able to capture all our emotions, understand their role, accept them and regulate them in order not to become a slave of our feelings and moods.
Next thing is to let go of the illusion that we have the power to control everything.
Being optimistic means doing what we can, per our capacity, believe in positive outcome but accept the result when it is not what we wished for.
Shaping our team towards positivity means we need to develop stable people who accept themselves and may see their strengths and weaknesses in a realistic way without criticism and judgement. People shall get the opportunity for learning and development without nurturing competitive spirit or fear of failing. As soon as you turn to learn to consequences, learning shuts down because people become defensive. They care about evaluation, the score, the grade, and they focus on that rather than on the opportunity to learn and grow. In Google they did a survey and gave feedback to managers how their people evaluate them but without consequences. That is exactly why managers were willing to improve themselves. Giving people the opportunity to fail and learn is the biggest gift you can give them.
The last but not the least important thing is that awareness is not something you can achieve and maintain without returning to yourself every day and practising your role of witness to everything your mind creates.
We think that knowledge is half of a battle but it’s not. It’s not enough knowing what practice can make as more conscious and aware, it is important that you apply that into your daily routine.
Author: Sanja Stankovic
Sanja is a Sociologist with a career in Human Resources. Her hobby is empowering people through many humanitarian actions that she's conducting with her volunteer team from the ACT Foundation. In the business environment, she strives to raise awareness of people on the importance of mindfulness, well-being and kindness. She believes in the power of personal responsibility as well as the possibility of changing environment by providing personal examples.