Is How I Show Up as a Leader as Essential as What I Achieve?
By Thor Olafsson
In the unconscious model of capitalism, we’ve been taught that quantity rules. But as we head towards more consciously capitalist models, the way we approach leadership changes. In this new model we start to ask whether who we are as leaders is as essential as what we actually achieve? And what are the vital components that make up the quality of our leadership?
Thor Olafsson is author of the book BEYOND EGO: THE INNER COMPASS OF CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP. He’s an award-winning leadership coach and consultant with over 20 years of global experience. Click here to sign up to the Beyond Ego newsletter.
Read time: 3 minutes.
Most of us have grown up with the idea that leadership is about getting others to perform tasks. Particularly in the current climate, which places a high value on volume and quantity, traditional methods of measuring leadership success have focused mainly on how effective we are at stimulating our workforce into action. Although motivating our employees to work is an essential part of leadership, in the current leadership climate, there’s a shift that’s taking place which puts the emphasis on how we show up as leaders as the foundation for what we want to achieve. And the impact this has on our approach can be staggering.
It’s over a decade since I started my own journey into the inner workings of conscious leadership. When I first began exploring tools and practices to impact the quality of my own management work, I had no idea how deep this journey would go, and the rabbit holes that it would take me down. The truth is that a lot of leaders, like myself, initially approach their inner work in the same way that they approach any other task: something to be ticked off the list so that we can move on to the next undertaking. What’s become more and more apparent to me as time goes by is that there is no shortcut to the deep work that we need to do if we want to lead others more consciously.
The New Paradigm is Calling Us to Look Within as Leaders
In recent years, there’s been a growing sector of the business leadership community who have been collectively challenging the old ways and calling into question our perception of how we’ve approached management up until now. A number of factors have contributed to this:
Access to information means that there are fewer places to hide – this includes employees on all levels, and especially ineffective managers who are driven by their egos.
Transparency in organizations is increasing – it’s harder to hide ego driven behaviors such as buffering bonuses or hiding mistakes.
There is increased awareness of the fact that leaders need to know themselves well – traits such as being more reflective, less reactive, less impulsive and more conscious have garnered value in leadership communities.
As a result, a growing trend of leadership is emerging, one that calls us inwards, asking us to listen to our own wisdom, rather than relying on the ego patterns that have traditionally been a driving force in management.
The truth is that ego, as a fear driven defense mechanism, is at the core of everything we do, and until we learn to dismantle the patterns that our old approaches were built upon, we will continue leading others from them. Dismantling our old ways is essential because conscious leadership brings values such as compassion, forgiveness and humility to life in the workplace, and this is where we move from the old, mechanical paradigm of just getting things done, into the new paradigm of inspiring others into action while leading with our highest human values at the forefront.
A Humanistic Approach to Leadership
The outcome of operating from these values is that we see a more humane approach to motivating our workforce. Concepts such as “psychological safety,” the “power of vulnerability” and “employee engagement” have come to the forefront in recent years. Amy Edmondson, Brené Brown, and William A. Kahn are among those who have advocated for these approaches. We can also find them in organizations such as The B Team (which was co-founded by Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz). It’s a team who—under the leadership of CEO Halla Tomasdottir—believe that a Plan B is needed for our world; and part of that plan is a more humanistic approach to leadership.
However, the core of this work lies in the fact that if we haven’t brought these concepts to life within ourselves, they can only have a superficial impact on our teams. Instead of ticking boxes or trying to force these concepts onto our current structures, we have to commit to profoundly transforming the way we show up as leaders, so that there is an authenticity to these qualities that is recognizable by our teams.
SUMMARY: The Deep Inner Work is the Key
In summary, these volatile and uncertain times are calling for a more conscious approach to leadership that takes us away from solely focusing on the quantity of our efforts and more into the quality of how we show up. But if we only superficially approach the concepts of compassion and humility in our workplaces, without addressing these elements within ourselves, we will not make the impact we are seeking. We need to be prepared to do the deep inner work so that we are a reflection of those qualities ourselves.
For a more in depth exploration of developing these higher qualities of leadership, you can explore “Beyond Ego: The Inner Compass of Conscious Leadership”.