What makes an empowered leader?
“A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.” ~ M.D. Arnold
When you think of an empowered leader what attributes come to mind? What skills and attitudes do you see this person having? What actions do you envision him or her taking?
When I ask my leadership training participants these questions they usually imagine someone who directs or inspires a group of people, often overcoming adversity in the process; a visionary who leads by example and brings the best out of others. Examples include a warrior leading his tribe into battle; the captain of a sports team battling through injuries to lead his team to the championship; a team supervisor or CEO pointing her team to bigger and brighter possibilities; or a politician courageously taking a stand against corruption or environmental damage.
We often think of someone who stands out from the rest, and perhaps literally stands in front of a small or large group. But this is changing. John F. Kennedy was ahead of his time when he famously said the seminal words, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He wasn’t interested in people waiting for a leader to do something for them; rather, he wanted people to look for what needed to be done, to take initiative; essentially, to be leaders.
In the new emerging world, we are all being called to be empowered leaders.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
This new paradigm that Kennedy asserted planted the seeds for revolutionary actions that have shaped today’s collective consciousness, and specifically leadership. We see changes in how organizations are moving towards flatter hierarchical structures where leadership is shared more equally. We see continual growing awareness of global warming, and unified action towards minimizing our carbon footprint. We regularly witness the rise of social activism both in social media and in the courageous actions of so many. Leadership is no longer about the few or elite, the person “over there” who is at the front of the room or at the top of the organization. Now, we are all being asked to be leaders right here and now; to be conscious citizens, aware of who we are and our impact; to expand our awareness to include others, our community and our planet; to not just idly exist as others do things for us, but to be proactive, and to take a level of personal responsibility for what happens in our immediate and extended surroundings.
We are finally recognizing that for communities, organizations and our entire planet to thrive, each of us must be the leader we are waiting for. When we act with integrity, authenticity, and a social conscience, with a desire to bring the best out of others, and with an intention to serve our community and planet, we are what I call empowered leaders.
Empowered leaders require new attributes and practices.
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Individuals who embark on the journey of empowered leadership must adopt new ways of being, thinking, engaging and creating. In my training sessions I regularly see organizations, relationships and individuals transform when, for example, the team members speak courageously and vulnerably; they challenge existing assumptions and ways of operating that limit creativity, self-care and job fulfillment. I witness transformation when directors soften the edges of their personality, and their impulse to control their staff; they loosen their grip on their agendas, and open to the viewpoints of others.
There are many examples of organizations, such as IBM, who are adopting a coaching culture—a relationship model where staff members are treated as naturally capable, creative and resourceful. Instead of only telling others what to do, members practice curiosity, active listening and collaboration with one another—a coach-approach designed to bring out one another’s creativity and potential, and to connect people with ideas. This, combined with a World Café model, has helped IBM supplement their internal training and leadership style to better respond to the increased pace of business, which is part of the new and complex world we live in.
Empowered leaders expand their awareness to include others.
“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” ~ Lao Tzu
When I began my leadership and coaching training, one of the most difficult things I had to learn was how to ask questions. I had not yet fully understood that people have the answers within them, and the innate capacity to know what is best. After seeing me continue to offer more advise than questions, my training supervisor finally said to me, “Vince, who are you to think you know what is best for others? The more you think you know what is best, the less service you can be to them.” His stern words had an immediate impact on me. I was humbled. Slowly, over time, I realized that being a leader means including the inherent the wisdom and resourcefulness held in each person, and seeing everyone as having the power to be leaders in their life right now.
Considering the feelings, needs, desires, concerns, ideas and potential of others requires us to expand our awareness beyond our inner sphere; to take into consideration and care for something bigger than our individual self. This expansion of awareness is a necessary shift in orientation for individuals to become empowered leaders. In this expanded state we are more inclined to look for how we can connect, contribute and inspire than for what we can get and how we can control. It is a maturation from I to WE; an evolution of consciousness that we are increasingly witnessing around the world.
Empowered leaders know they are always at the front of the room; there is always a WE!
Whether we are at the bus stop, in the bank lineup, or on an airplane, that is our room, and we are in the front leading by example. We have always been at the front of the room in fact—there has always been a WE—but we are only now becoming conscious of this; we are recognizing more clearly our connection to a greater whole that we all share. This realization is the beginning of personal responsibility and empowered leadership.
Everyone we meet or see is our audience. The people waiting next to us at the bus stop and bank line up, the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, and our fellow passengers on the airplane; they are our audience (even the planet, we are now realizing, is our audience). We stand or sit in front of them, and we always, always have an impact whether we know it or not.
Empowered leaders understand they always have an impact.
We have an impact with every word we say, every movement or gesture we share, and every energetic impulse we emit—every thought and feeling. Empowered leaders understand this. For instance, they know that 85% of communication is non-verbal; that we communicate more by our body language and the tonality of our words—by how we are being—than the with words themselves.
“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” ~ Haim G. Ginott
School teachers in my leadership training understand that they teach more by who they are than what they do; that their energy has a tremendous impact on the room. In my own training as a facilitator, it was ingrained in us that if something is awry in the room we are leading, we must first look to ourselves—we must reflect upon what we are bringing, or what we brought, into the room. We adjust our outer world by first adjusting our inner world. This does not mean we don’t correct certain things externally; it simply means that we take personal responsibility by first looking within.
“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We are much more connected than our eyes allow us to perceive; and our impact extends further than we can imagine. Scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto gained worldwide acclaim through his groundbreaking research and discovery that water is deeply connected to our individual and collective consciousness. He conducted numerous experiments demonstrating how water crystals change form depending on their surrounding environment. “The result was that we always observed beautiful crystals after giving good words, playing good music, and showing, playing, or offering pure prayer to water. On the other hand, we observed disfigured crystals in the opposite situation.” Take a moment to see for yourself how the water crystals differ in appearance. When looking at them, keep in mind that our bodies constitute up to 80% water.
Dr. Emoto invites us to seriously consider our subtle level of interconnectivity and relationship, and specifically, who (or how) we are being in the world. If we accept the deeper unseen ways we have an impact, then personal responsibility is redefined and taken to a whole new level. We realize that we can make a positive difference in the smallest of ways, and that we can also create a negative impact by the subtlest of acts.
Everyone can be an empowered leader if they choose.
“Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” ~ Tom Peters
When we consider job roles such as supervisor, mayor or teacher we usually think about the duties they perform—what they do; hence the question, “What do you do for a living?” Leadership, however, is not limited to any particular job or duty because it constitutes the inspiration, gifts, empathy, courage, passion and imagination—the spirit or power—inherent in each of us; it comprises not only what each of us does, but also how we do it. This makes leadership an inside-out function rooted in the innate creative intelligence of our deeper authentic Self. And it makes leaders out of all of us if we choose to actualize our potential. Supervisors, mayors, teachers, bank tellers, stewardesses, entrepreneurs, and single moms can be natural leaders. Leadership can be shared by all if the qualities of empowerment, including awareness of the greater whole, are cultivated, embodied, and imbued in our everyday decision making and relating.
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3 Essential Keys to Leadership ~ A Summary
“Life commences not with birth, but with the awakening of awareness.” ~ Frank Yerby
I want to further preface the 20 Attributes and Practices for Leading in the New World by offering 3 Essential Keys to Leadership. These three keys summarize my basis for empowered leadership, and are implied and interwoven into the 20 points listed further below.
Awareness comprises of three parts: awareness of self, other and the environment or space. If you are self-aware, you are naturally more aware and inclusive of others and the environment; and the 20 attributes and practices are more easily integrated and applied.
Self-awareness is the first attribute listed. Continue reading to receive further understanding on why it is foundational to empowered leadership.
2. Communication Skills
Most of us have never been taught how to communicate, despite it being essential for the fulfillment of our relationships and the success of our life. Communication skills are vital for empowered living and leading. They connect our feelings, thoughts, desires, ideas, concerns etc.—our inner world—with our outer world. They act as a bridge that delivers our authentic self to others.
I have offered a few examples of communication skills in the 20 attributes and practices. If you want more, please visit the Communication category of my blog.
Leadership does not begin until we want to act like a leader—until we want to be self-aware, take personal responsibility, and learn/practice new communication skills.
Managers/Directors sometimes ask me, “How do I change someone who just doesn’t want to change?” The answer is, you can’t. They have to want to change. They have to want to be a leader. The only thing you can do is invite them to be a leader by how you are being a leader yourself, and by creating an empowered working environment. Focus on what you can control—on the empowering vision you have for yourself, your organization and community. Those who are meant to be a part of it will stay. Those who are not will naturally fall away.
Awareness (of Self, Other and the Environment/Space)
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Empowered Leadership ~ 20 Attributes and Practices for Leading in the New World
“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” ~ Ralph Nader
Below is a list of specific attributes and practices that I see as being vital for empowered leadership in our new emerging world. This list is based on my years of working with countless individuals (executives, managers, consultants, entrepreneurs and more) in training sessions, and in individual and team coaching; my personal research; and the many small and large acts of empowered leadership I have witnessed in my, and other, communities.
You will notice that I omitted many of the obvious attributes/practices such as listening, caring, patience, trust, vision, feedback, delegation, and focusing on strengths. While these and other leadership aspects are implied in the points below, I chose instead to focus on specific attributes/practices that are perhaps not spoken of as often; ones that I see so many teams and individuals struggling with in my leadership training and coaching.
Also, from this point onwards you will notice that I describe leaders not by calling them “empowered leaders”, but simply by stating them as “leaders”. It is my assumption that the essence of a leader is one who is authentically in his or her power, and thus empowered.
20 Attributes and Practices for Leading in the New World:
- Notice their Impact
- Tune In
- Have Courageous Conversations
- Consider All Perspectives
- Balance Initiating and Following
- Open to the New and Unconventional
- Clarify Expectations and Assumptions
- Ensure Understanding
- Design Permissions and Agreements
- Admit Mistakes
- Welcome “Failure”
- Take Initiative
- Follow Through
- Embrace a Holistic Perspective
- Recognize Others
- Empower Others
- Act in Service
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“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” ~ Abraham Maslow
Leadership begins with self-awareness. It is impossible in my opinion to lead effectively unless you take time to know who you are; this includes being aware of your beliefs, fears, judgments, biases, values, desires, ideas and dreams. Having this awareness helps leaders clarify what they truly want; it allows them to make empowering choices, and to understand why they make them; and it helps them avoid making choices that serve no one, including themselves.
Without awareness, individuals unconsciously impose their past and present stories and dramas onto others without any sense of the impact they are having. Awareness is the beginning of personal responsibility for what we carry within. With awareness we shine light on our troubles so we see them more clearly, and so we stop projecting them onto others. Doing this is how we give our power back to ourselves, and thus become empowered.
2. Notice their Impact
Imagine sharing an idea with your team and someone crosses their arms, rolls their eyes and sighs. You suddenly feel discounted, like your thoughts and ideas are of no importance. That person may not be conscious of the impact she is having.
Imagine someone blocking a line up without being aware that he is doing so. He is so lost in thought that he fails to expand his awareness to include the room, and to sense the frustration within it.
Noticing your impact requires you to be alert to your environment, and to sense those within it; it means being personally responsible for your inner world, and for how your words, movements and energy impact your outer world.
Once you are self-aware, you can more easily prevent yourself from having a negative impact on others by self-managing in the moment.
Self-management has two steps:
- Step one is simply noticing a way of being/thinking/behaving that is creating, or could create, an unwanted impact on another person. For example, you notice that you have stopped listening to someone; your attention is primarily on your own drifting thoughts, or your inner dialogue, instead of on the other person. You may be thinking about something innocuous like planning dinner, or your inner dialogue could be hijacked by the harsh voice of your inner critic. Someone is sharing her deepest darkest challenges, and here you are thinking, “Man, she is such a big baby! She needs to get over herself!”
Self-management begins with self-awareness! Until you are self-aware, you cannot make a new choice; you cannot go to step two.
- Once you notice your way of being, thinking or behaving, you are ready to move to step two of self-management—making an adjustment. If you notice yourself not listening, or firing mental critiques at the other person, you adjust by consciously choosing to bring your attention back to the other person. It may be helpful to also take a deep breath, especially if there is a strong emotional charge attached to your thoughts.
This is one simple example of self-management (there are many more). You, of course, could go a step further and self-reflect on why you were having negative thoughts so that you lower the likelihood of having them again.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung
A self-reflective leader takes time to look for how she can grow from any situation. She creates from internal conflicts and external challenges by mining for the hidden jewels they hold—the personal learning that will empower her more.
For instance, if she finds herself having a lot of judgment about a particular person, is in ongoing conflict, or is overwhelmed with stress, she takes time to reflect upon what her role in that situation is, and the learning opportunity. She inquires, “What could be causing me to think these thoughts / feel these feelings / choose these behaviors in respect to this person / situation?”
Leaders accept that it is never just about the other person; they know that they always play a part in every drama. This mindset, along with their self-reflection, keeps them out of a victim role. Instead of reactively pointing their finger at the other person, organization or situation, they proactively turn it inwards and take personal responsibility for what is happening in every experience, both within and without.
5. Tune In
“The best leaders are readers of people. They have the intuitive ability to understand others by discerning how they feel and recognizing what they sense.” ~ John C. Maxwell
As leaders become self-aware and self-reflective their intuition strengthens, and they more readily sense the subtleties of others and the environment. For instance, a leader may attune to someone’s mixed messages. The individual may be saying one thing but meaning another. With appropriate communication skills the leader can then articulate what he is not saying, or assist him to express it himself.
Attunement can be particularly helpful during team meetings. The energy of the group may be low, scattered or anxious. Instead of driving the meeting agenda forward, the leader may act on his intuition by pausing the meeting, and making comments or suggestions to address the energy or unspoken needs. Doing so can help prevent a small elephant from potentially turning into a large one.
6. Have Courageous Conversations
“Courage has nothing to do with being fearless; it’s about being willing to experience fear, even dread, to do what we must, without guarantee of outcome.” ~ Vanna Bonta
Leaders say what needs to be said. They speak the hard truth, and shine light on the elephant in the room. They are willing to let things get messy and uncertain in order to reach a new level of honesty and productivity.
Leaders know that it is not their job to make people happy or comfortable. It is not their job to steer a steady ship into the sunset. Rather, leaders navigate stormy seas by having the courage to address the shadows that we carry with us, but refuse to look at. This often means boldly saying what others are afraid to say, and what they do not want to hear.
In my experience, those individuals / teams that take the most risks to be vulnerable and transparent, to speak to those edgy bits, are the ones that leap the furthest. Courage is certainly needed, and sometimes safety. Sometimes it is the need to overcome pain and struggle that provides the necessary catalyst—the negative consequences of not speaking up begin to significantly outweigh any perceived consequences of being forthright.
7. Consider All Perspectives
“Any meaningful consensus comes out of mutual respect. We find equality with others by recognizing that there are many ways of looking at any situation and we have only one of them. Listening to others, respecting their ideas and experiences, helps to open us to a wider spectrum of reality. It enables us to open up the doors of our conceptual prison and see things from a new perspective.” ~Paul Ferrini
In the practice of Deep Democracy, a central idea is that change in any organization and relationship system can only come about when all voices are heard and included. Every member of a system has a part to play; each has some wisdom, some purpose in any change process. Someone’s impractical and unused idea may be the catalyst for an unexpected brilliant idea that takes the team to the next level. Another person’s resistance may be the perspective necessary to reroute the team towards greater clarity and productivity.
This does not mean that every idea is implemented. That is often not even possible. It simply means that everyone’s voice is validated, and recognized as important and necessary in group processing. It is my experience that being genuinely acknowledged and appreciated for one’s contribution is more important than having that contribution implemented.
8. Balance Initiating and Following
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” ~ Winston Churchill
Leadership is not just about initiating, but also following. The old model of leadership was very unilateral and more about initiating plans and ideas for others to implement. But organization and relationship systems in the new world are moving towards collaborative, or bilateral models of engagement. This means that leaders must not just excel at imparting information, but also receiving it as well; they must not only think about their own agendas, but also reflect on those of their team.
In my leadership development training, participants achieve more balance between initiating and following by stretching into the uncomfortable or unfamiliar territory of the opposite of what they tend to default to. This is done in three steps:
- Individuals first determine if their default behavior is to be a space filler or space avoider (initiator or follower)—are they more inclined to speak or listen, contribute ideas or hold back, take control or allow control.
- Then, through various activities, they explore and embody the opposite of what they are used to being/doing in order to expand their leadership capacity.
- Finally, we explore where it would serve them to lead from the opposite more, and how greater balance in their leadership style would serve others.
Simply by modelling a healthy balance of initiating and following, leaders invite others to be aware of their levels of contribution. And by making their own balance a priority, leaders are more likely to notice when others are imbalanced, and guide them to adjust.
9. Open to the New and Unconventional
“Leaders must encourage their organizations to dance to forms of music yet to be heard.” ~ Warren Bennis
It is clear that our world is moving faster than ever, and that includes best practices. Organizations that fail to adapt to new models and ideas will be stuck in old outdated systems that increasingly fail to work.
Adaptation requires leaders to be flexible in their mindset, open to uncertainty, and willing to try the new and unconventional. Doing something simply because it is what has always been done is not enough of a reason to continue, and yet this is what so many individuals do.
Connecting to your childlike heart, your intuition, your desire to play, explore, create and get messy is important for those wanting to open to the new and unconventional. A child is not interested in what has always been done; rather she wants to dance in unlimited possibilities.
10. Clarify Expectations and Assumptions
“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
So much conflict in organization and relationship systems happens because expectations are unclear from the onset. This may be because supervisors are not clear themselves on what the expectations are; it could be because they do not have the language skills to be clear when delivering the expectations; or it may be because they do not have the confidence, assertiveness or even desire to give conviction to their voice.
Unclear expectations lead to assumptions, and unchecked assumptions lead to gossip and a toxic work environment. An empowered leader mitigates this possibility by being clear about his expectations in the first place. But if assumptions do happen to boil over, he goes out of his way to clarify them by stating his assumptions to others and asking if they are true (“Here is my assumption… Is it the truth?”). Or he asks others what their assumptions are and then tells them if their perspectives are true (“What is your assumption about that?… Here’s what is true for me, and let me know what you think…”). The leader knows that delaying this clarification only builds more distrust and separation.
11. Ensure Understanding
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” ~ Rollo May
A tuned in leader senses when what she is saying is not “landing”—fully being received by the other person. The other person may say that he understands, but the leader knows intuitively that really he doesn’t. She senses the mixed messages. This is when the leader asks the other person, “Is there is anything you do not understand?” She also tells him not to be afraid to ask for clarification both now and in the future.
The leader also models this by asking for clarification when she doesn’t understand what the other is saying. For instance, she may say, “Can I see if I understand you correctly?”
By creating a safe space to state when clarification is needed, and ensuring understanding, the leader helps to mitigate the possibility of assumptions building in the future.
12. Design Permissions and Agreements
Building on the last skill, leaders benefit from stating clearly at the beginning of every relationship that it is okay to ask for help; it is okay to say that you don’t know; and it is okay to say that you require more information. And it behooves the leader to continue reminding others of these permissions so that they feel free and safe to be human without fear of repercussions.
A leader can go beyond this by making it a co-active discussion—by finding out what other people’s needs are. She may ask a team member, “What would help to make your work experience safe / easy / enjoyable / productive / stress free?” She would then tell him what her needs are. Then together they would design agreements based on the answers.
Many leaders will create a list, or contract, and even have everyone sign it as a way of declaring their commitment to the agreements. Regularly revisiting the agreements with their team is also common practice in order to see: how everyone is applying them; if there needs to be any changes or new additions to the agreements; and whether certain agreements need to be considered in regards to addressing challenges or conflicts.
13. Admit Mistakes
“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” ~ Salvador Dalí
Great leaders give others permission to be human by modelling being human themselves. One way they do this is by admitting when they have made a mistake. It can be hard for a leader to do this. She may have a belief that admitting a mistake—being too human—will be perceived as weakness, and that she will lose respect. This is an old outdated belief that gets in the way of creating trust, openness, and productivity in the work environment.
Organization and relationship systems that thrive will be those that allow the human being to co-exist with the professional. By admitting mistakes, leaders model humility, and invite others to do the same.
14. Welcome “Failure”
“The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success.” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda
Leaders model “failure”, make it okay, and thus encourage it. I put quotes around the word “failure” because failure, when looked upon with some objectivity, is simply an outcome that is different from what was intended. When we view it this way, we remove the stigma and judgment around the word/situation, and avail ourselves to the tremendous opportunities for learning and growth that it offers.
It has been said that those who succeed the most are those who have failed the most times. They lead by doing their best, and try over and over again despite the outcomes. Leaders make failure okay by seeing it as part of the creative process, as part of the messiness of life. They know that you learn more through failure than when everything is running as planned; and they support others to find the learning in the failure, and encourage them to redirect themselves with their new learning in hand.
15. Take Initiative
When individuals expand their awareness to include their surroundings, they are better able to spot what is and is not happening, and what needs to get done. People do not take initiative in part because they collapse most of their awareness into their own mental sphere—they are more fixated on their own thoughts, stresses, goals and tasks than on what’s around them. They may also not take initiative because they are not clear on the scope of their duties; are afraid to step over into someone else’s business; are afraid that they won’t do something correctly, or look bad doing it; and they may simply not have the desire or will.
Leaders can overcome these blocks by ensuring that expectations are clear from the onset, and by revisiting them with others regularly. They can also design permissions, for instance, by communicating that it is okay to state if you are unclear about what you can take initiative on. Encouraging and educating individuals to expand their awareness—to be conscious of their surroundings—can also help them to notice what needs to get done and to take initiative.
16. Follow Through
“Commitment is an act, not a word.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
Leaders follow through on their word. If they say they are going to do something, they do it, and in the time frame they agreed to. If they think that there is a chance they will forget to follow through, they find a way not to forget; for instance, they may add a task to their task manager, or a sticky note to their desk.
Leaders also communicate if they cannot fulfill their agreement on time, or if they cannot follow through at all. Perhaps they have had a change of mind, or time prevents them from doing what they said they would do. If this is the case, it is their responsibility to clearly communicate this as soon as possible, as well as the reason for not doing what was agreed.
17. Embrace a Holistic Perspective
Leaders hold a holistic perspective on human needs. They understand that there are more important things in life than getting the job done. A staff member may have a sick mother, struggle with anxiety, or have dreams beyond their job. A leader views the staff member’s job as simply being one part of her life, and understands that all parts affect each other. They therefore hold space for and validate all concerns, needs and desires. They do so knowing that if they do not, then the unaddressed challenges in the staff member’s personal life will increasingly haunt her at work.
An executive director from one of my sessions encouraged a team member to leave work everyday by no later than 2:30pm. The employee felt guilty at the thought of leaving her team early, but she really wanted to be home with her children. Knowing where her team member’s heart was, the executive director chose to support her to practice self-care and family-care. This decision served to strengthen the relationship between the two of them.
Leaders walk a fine line balancing their own need for the staff member to fulfill the job requirements, and the staff member’s need to practice self-care and follow her heart. They walk this line knowing that we cannot separate personal from professional. All systems are holistic. One part of our lives affects the others. And we are human feeling-beings, not human machine-doings.
18. Recognize Others
“Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.” ~ Ralph Marston
Leaders know the power of recognizing others for who they are and what they do. One simple acknowledgement can do so much to motivate others, bring a smile to their face, and encourage them to bring more of themselves to the workplace.
It’s not hard to offer an acknowledgment. It just requires that we pay attention to what is going on; spot value in the contributions others are making; find that part of ourselves that cares about what we are noticing, and communicate our feelings.
It is much easier to look for things that others are doing wrong. By making a conscious effort to seek things that people are doing right, to find the goodness in each person, we inspire others and give them a sense of belonging.
19. Empower Others
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The role of a leader is not just to get others to do their job well, but to also encourage them to grow into their potential and stand in their power. The traditional view of the workplace only held room for one of these agendas: getting the job done. But leaders in the new world see both agendas as vital for the health and productivity of an organization.
For instance, in one of my training sessions it became clear that the executive director was very good at, and tired of, being the Go-To-Person. So during the session when the front door buzzer went off and she jumped up to go answer it, a team member stopped her and kindly told her to stay put. He took care of it for her. The role, and its perceived duty of answering the door, was shared, which allowed the executive director to rest in a new role that comprised of trust, letting go and relaxation. She felt empowered because for a moment she was no longer trapped in, defined by, and resentful of the role of Go-To-Person.
Another example is Google’s “20% Time” program which supports employees to spend 20 percent of their time on creative side projects. It is responsible for products such as Gmail and AdSense. As Google said in their 2004 IPO letter, “This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”
We empower others by supporting them to see a pattern they may be blind to; leading them towards greater self-awareness so that they can adjust their impact for the good of all; acknowledging and calling forth their potential; and engaging the creative and powerful human being instead of just focusing on the job duties.
20. Act in Service
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
We now live in a global community. We’ve come to realize that the choices someone makes in Asia often affect someone in North America, and vice versa. Leaders of the new world understand the responsibility that comes with this awareness. They do not see their job and the organization they work for as separate from their community and the world. Therefore, they want to make choices in their professional and personal lives that serve others in a positive way. Selling products and services that harm the environment, support the cruelty of animals, or fill individuals with harmful toxins is difficult for them to do. Their conscience is strong because their awareness has expanded. Any choice that does not serve the greater whole feels out of integrity. Their job fulfillment and dedication is therefore directly linked to the organization’s vision, and specifically, how it serves to leave a positive legacy for our children and grandchildren.
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Leadership happens in the ordinary.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa
By expanding our awareness, and practicing new beliefs, attitudes and actions, we can be a leader everywhere we go. The gifts of empowerment are not limited to certain arenas such as our workplace; rather they are shared and felt in the ordinary moments of life.
We are considerate in how we help organize a party for our spouse; sensitive in how we support a friend in her time of need; aware in remembering to give the book we borrowed back to our neighbour. We are curious, playful and attentive when engaging the checkout clerk, bus driver and homeless person; and open and courageous in sharing our vulnerabilities and dreams with our family, friends and team.
We take risks to follow our passions, to do what we love. Perhaps we feel we can make more of a positive impact in the world by leaving our secure job to start a flower shop, or by volunteering in Laos for six months. We lead by the little choices we make; by how we take care of ourselves and follow our heart, and by how we model this to others.
Begin one step at a time.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~ Lao Tzu
These 20 attributes and practices may seem like an overwhelming list of things to be and do. And you may be wondering if it is realistic to embody and practice them all on a regular basis. With time and practice you can. By committing to your inner work and leadership development you can slowly integrate them into your overall way of being, relating and decision-making. You can demonstrate them in such a way that you empower others without even knowing it.
Begin by focusing on one or two attributes/practices that you would like to grow into more. Take regular baby steps towards demonstrating them in different areas of your life. You may also want to share this article with your team/community, and discuss what attributes/practices you currently excel at individually and collectively, and which ones need further development. Receiving extra support in the form of Life/Executive/Team Coaching, or Leadership Development Training, will also serve to expedite your path towards empowered leadership.
Now is the time!
We need leaders now more than ever before. Humanity and the planet are waiting patiently for the leader in you to shine, and for each of us to help usher in a new and empowered world. I hope this e-book has served to spark your power, and inspired you to be the leader you were born to be.
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Spirit at Play Coaching ~ Private individual and team coaching via phone or Skype to help you become an Empowered Leader
It’s Time to Be the Leader You Are Waiting For
2 Questions to Transform Conflict into Empowerment
Releasing the Need to Be the Responsible One
Is it the Truth ~ Question Your Beliefs and Expand Possibilities
5 Steps to Creating Healthy Workplace Relationships
The 5 Needs of Employees