Leading with Calm-Assertiveness and Self-awareness is mindful leadership.

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

The Key to balance starts with ourselves. Self-leadership is the source of mindful leadership and this comes through self-development.

Professional development IS personal development

Often we expect or select the strong charismatic person to be the leader in a group. While these are great traits, could it mean that we a prone to overlooking those who are perceived ‘quieter’ when selecting or recognising leadership? What do ‘quieter’ ones need to be recognised (if anything) or what do ‘louder’ ones need to be aware of? Or is it the leader’s leaders that need to increase their awareness?

It’s natural to turn to those who are openly confident and assertive in decision making; it makes us feel calm and confident and it also makes it easy for us to step back and relax while someone else does the thinking. Yet it’s worthwhile to remember that each person has their own way or style and opinion, made up of their own experiences that has developed into their own fundamental character. Therefore, we shouldn’t blindly oblige a certain type of leadership or have a favoured style within the workplace.  Leadership comes in various forms and a team of leaders can benefit highly from a combination of differing styles for a holistic and multifaceted team.

For a company to thrive it needs to be continuously creative, and a company is made up of teams, teams are made up from individuals.  For individual’s creativity to flow, and therefore flourish, they need the space to grow. This means not just the focusing on the positive achievements when it comes to learning and development but also making room for the perceived mistakes, which we know are the key to learning in the first place.

There are no right or wrong approaches as such with leadership styles – unless someone is intentionally hurting or sabotaging, but

balance is the key in every sense and an ability to manage our emotions or behaviours without suppressing them.

This is true in our personal community too; there is no right or wrong in our opinions, the way we choose to live, how we act, or our character. It is simply just how we see our world based on our understanding of it. An organisation is simply another community that we live and play a role in.

With the Insights Discovery (a tool some companies use for psychometrics and training – based on the Jungian philosophy) describes that there are four main categories of styles (represented using colours) that we each tend to fall under with varying compositions in each of us. They suggest that we lead from a dominant colour or energy which has attributes a main persona such as inspirational, direct, detail orientated or nurturing etc. Out of these we all possess variations and different weightage of these colours combinations in our character. If we are able to be flexible we can mindfully pull on certain colours when we need the support of that part of our personality for a situation or individual.

Insights shows us that a team (including a leadership team) working with a variety of colours together is a good option for the overall best results; each bringing something extremely valuable.  While the proactive energy is often seen in the leadership role due to their action orientation that’s not to say that their opposite type with their nurturing and calmness is not a leader. Nor the inspirational individual or the detail orientated people. After all, when we look at a leader such as Gandhi we can see his leadership style was dominant with a calm people-centred energy.

We often box people and roles through character association and this is helpful for us to begin to understand others and ourselves quickly when required for communication. But of course we are more complex and a total combination of many things; our childhood, our school, the country we were born into, society norms at the time, our experiences of perceived ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and as a result we are all very unique.  But as Insights suggests, we tend to lead with a certain style.

Potentially when something or someone is in the limelight we may notice it/them more whether it be a person or an event. It doesn’t mean it’s more common, or the right way, but potentially with our natural tendency to look up to ‘presence’ it could be subconsciously accepted as ‘the norm’ or right regardless of the quality of the actual leadership, individual or event. This can also be seen sometimes when we select people for talent management. Could it be that if you are in the main eye and are ‘seen’ then is there a possibility that you have a higher chance of being selected, promoted or rewarded? What are the implications of this?

Neither of these opposite types should be labelled negative, but awareness should be given to signs of excess in any of the styles e.g. if the confident or more extraverted types become extreme; self-centred, argumentative or overly ambitious with a selfish motive, or the quieter more introverted types become isolated, internally resentful or shy away from more public requirements that could impact their career.

There are great values in all types and drawing this out and recognising it can help keep a balance. A deep thinking individual with great insight, gently leading and encouraging from the back to help others around them become leaders in their own right. They often provide opportunities for their team to shine and develop their self-leadership, ultimately benefiting the whole company, in a less direct way. Again this is not to say those ‘louder’ personalities with charisma, motivation and openness do not also offer up these opportunities but they might already be recognised for doing so.

As a leader of leaders, it’s important to have a balanced viewpoint and scan from a bird’s eye view across the board of personalities and skills as well as what is strategically relevant or required at the time, and not be tempted to overlook those with a quiet inner confidence when selecting leadership and team members. A understanding of learning and development at senior levels is also required for the knowhow on supporting personal development of any the extreme sides of great leaders in guiding and supporting personal style to reduce any negative impact on themselves, their teams or the wider organisation.

I mention balance again because we are all capable of extremes within our own personality and we are not striving to be perfect so it is a key word to keep in mind in many areas of our lives and it should also be applied to how this is tackled; we shouldn’t aim to change ourselves completely to fit in but there is an element of development on a personal level when behaviour is extreme.

It might be an idea to keep in mind that sometimes excessively louder individuals may often be forgiven for their aggression or personal ambition because they often are admired for their driven mindset and achievement. High achievers using this style can create short term great success, celebrated by the company, but longer term it can be detrimental to the company overall. It takes a very mindful senior leader to recognise these varieties in their leadership teams, and how to balance this while developing those individuals for the wider perspective. Therefore it goes without saying that these senior leaders would have had to either gone through, or going through, some deeper personal development of their own to achieve a high sense of self-leadership and awareness which is required to be able to scan the landscape and filter this positive example down throughout the company.

When we look at opposite personalities there will always be some element of friction whether in the form of subtle lack of collaboration, passive-aggressive behaviour or even straight forward aggression or antagonistic behaviour, all of which negatively impact and create a domino effect in the company.  From working in leadership development I was observing that strong emotional reactions coms from personal perception but working with psychology in client therapeutic work, I have come to understand and cement that further. I have observed that this is largely due to an element of mainly subconscious discomfort, pattern or an underlying fear which essentially comes from a simple lack of understanding of others, and of the self. Much fear comes from the unknown.

I remember reading a book by Caesar Milan, a professional dog trainer about how to lead a pack of dogs. I was a new manager at the time and as I was always fascinated by psychology and behaviour, in whatever shape or form, I was intrigued when I had learned of him rollerblading along with his pack of about 15 dogs off-lead, and how he had learned the behaviour of the dogs by observing their subtle body language. His training style was not typical of what we see in dog training, he led by example and trained through his actions. This was because he grew up with semi-wild dogs as his main entertainment and learned how the pack leader looked after the member’s needs individually and as a group, and how they worked together. He learned through observation the calm-assertive body language of the leader and found that this helped a troubled member calm down.

He adopted this to his own pack when he became an adult and took this role as his profession. He could see when he moved away to an urban area that many dogs had psychological issues. Whenever there was a traumatised dog that needed support he would introduce it to his pack. The newbie dogs initially exuded fear in the form of aggression or timidness (this can be seen in humans as the extreme opposites highlighted above i.e. the excessive ‘loud’ extroverts or the introverting ‘quieter’ individuals). He would let them enter the yard where his dogs lived and the dogs would eventually encourage and welcoming the new addition, showing them it’s ok and how to behave. The new dog would follow suit and sure enough they were all happy. Calmness returned.

We act in negative or excessive behaviour when we are fearful. When we can identify that, explore it and move forward from intense emotions, we can start to think, feel, and act differently for the wider good and not just from a personal perspective. We can move to an energy of ‘calm-assertiveness’- a nice balance of the strengths of two opposite types.

The above is why I believe personal and professional development are intertwined and it’s important to consider them both in learning and development.

How can we lead others if we are not able to lead ourselves?

Thus this comes from a deeper understanding of ourselves….It’s about providing experiences, a space to take a risk, to make a mistake and learn from it and allowing for that mistake. Most of our skills come from experiences as per the 70:20:10 model, where 70% is based on experiences. We recognise this when we reflect, learn, feedback this (the 20%). Only 10% is formal learning. These experiences whether at work or out of work are essentially personal experiences; working with our character, our flaws and our strengths, raising our self-awareness and therefore our self-leadership. This is also what I define as Mindful Leadership.

As a leader, it’s about having an inner quiet confidence to allow your team to take this risks and give opportunities for people to grow, and moreover, allowing yourself to make mistakes. Growing is not just about a functional understanding and procedural technicalities required for the physical day to day job, but the very human element of emotion which impacts people’s motivation, well-being, ability to get on with others/ collaborate, adapt to change and much more….which of course can impact positively or negatively on the wider company.

Leadership is like teaching and teaching needs to allow for mistakes, and this applies to all leaders too, not only team members. Mistakes may cause a short-term issue to your department to some extent, it may even make you feel you ‘look bad’ as a leader. However if you are quietly confident and can visualise the outcome that is salvageable then this can be an opportunity to coach, mentor and support the learning and development of that member (or a growth opportunity for yourself) which in the long term is much more valuable, on many levels. A quiet inner confidence is about seeing this longer term value and therefore riding the waves of your team member’s individual growth and wider team’s evolution, as well as how it looks from the outside.

When I run retreats the first day is always an interesting one; each person comes along with their own expectations, beliefs, values and experiences. Each person is out of their comfort zone and seeing where they ‘fit’, which is absolutely natural. As the leader of a group it takes courage and trust to know that any uncomfortable feelings towards one another (and sometimes to you) will subside, and it takes maturity and compassion to allow those emotions to come out either directly to you as complaints or as catharsis in some cases, or even negative talk, blame or worse. Then choose the right time and method to strategically bring that group together as a team and as individuals.

It’s natural to want to either fix everything immediately for fear of a bad opinion or gossip, or to even want to run away in circumstances that are out of your comfort zone, even in a leadership position. But if you can work through this pain you will gain results because when you are leading from a place of self-awareness and greater good of all then there is no other underlying motive and you will help to dissolve their fear, and people will see and admire that, and follow it.

This is what I discovered on my latest retreat in Spain. As a group leader it’s important not to try to control or ‘manage’ these situations or feel responsible for other people’s’ reactions. All you can do is sort out practical issues where possible and the other areas to allow them to talk and work through but by making them aware you are available and supportive where possible. You cannot take responsibility for everything, everyone, or every emotion. You have a responsibility to get the job done, and to have a clear vision always in mind to guide you and your team, but the ‘how’ can be very different from leader to leader, from group to group, from season to season, and the impact on the organisation as a whole can have also very different results.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable by being calm-assertive means not panicking over results and controlling everything. This builds strength, mindfulness, self-awareness, confidence and trust in yourself. To some, this leadership could even appear weak but this perspective is potentially coming from a lack of awareness of the bigger picture, lack of experience, ego or fear.

Look at dog pack mentality. Just because these individuals are calm and assertive, leading the pack encouragingly from the back doesn’t mean they don’t have ‘bite’ and the strength to stand up, but business should hopefully not get to that stage. There maybe flickers where required but calm-assertive leaders will simply exude the energy that followers admire and respect, not to mention learn from and are loyal to, until the natural time to move up or move on with the proud support of their leader. This is the opposite of shouting, dictatorship, creating unhealthy competition or coming from a place of egoistic ambition, or a more subtle form of emotional manipulation such as pulling on team members weak points to try to motivate others, or lack of support at all.

To achieve a calm-assertive leadership it all comes through understanding yourself first, developing areas of emotions that might need balancing. It’s deciding which parts might need working on and which parts simply you would like to accept about yourself. Instead of beating yourself up, always remind yourself of your strengths and reward yourself for your progress. Taking a decision to grow and be open is not an easy one. Ultimately it’s shifting from a place where thoughts, emotions, behaviours and actions based on fear to one of more acceptance, trust and calmness about situations, and essentially – openness. This is self-leadership, and this comes first.

How is your self-leadership going?

If you are interested in more of the above in the form of a retreat (Personalised Leadership, Insights, or Personal Wellness Retreats) as well as workshops and talks, NLP/ Insights coaching or consultancy you can get in touch on nicola@inspireandrewire.com

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© Inspire and Rewire 2017