Leading | from Within
To develop leaders, we need clarity on what we mean by leader, on what defines a leader. It is a question that has been studied for decades, but not well answered. Leadership is a set of qualities and characteristics formed within each of us and practiced in group and organizational settings. So what are these qualities and characteristics?
An ideal leader is well balanced, with personal awareness, people skills, and a love for learning. Good leaders have knowledge and practice across diverse fields of knowledge, science and business. These qualities are framed in confidence, humility, and ethics. At Mindshift, our coaching process takes leaders through stages of development based on qualities and characteristics of leadership. We help leaders see themselves and their organizations differently. To see ourselves and our world differently takes a willingness to look again, to see each person, each issue, and each moment freshly, and to challenge our own assumptions about virtually everything.
In Zen, this way of seeing things is referred to as "beginner's mind", seeing the world with fresh eyes and seeing people in the moment rather than seeing their old stories. Like the path of Zen, developing leadership qualities is a practice, something you do every day of your life, mindfully paying attention to your thoughts and behaviors and how they affect you and others. To practice Zen is to live each moment with beginner’s mind, innocent and open, curious, seeing just what is there. To practice leadership is no different. If your mind is clear, it is always ready and open to anything. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's, few" ― Shunryu Suzuki. The reasoning in this statement is simple: once we see ourselves as an expert, we’ve closed our mind to new information. We are no longer tuned in, listening, observing, for what we may learn.
Another way of understanding leadership is to ask: what do leaders do? Leaders create a vision of the future, set direction, and influence people to join them. To influence someone, we first establish trust and respect, and develop a rapport. We convice them to join us based on a variety of reasons. Influencing people is the opposite of ordering people to do something based on authority. Influencing people is the art of persuasion.
Coaching helps leaders develop the right tools for the right moment, both foundational and visionary. In coaching—as with any learning process—results are shaped by intention, the design of learning, what you move toward, what you see, and what you're willing to do differently. When we are unwilling to do something different, to see from a new perspective, to become someone different, how can we expect different results? Change begins within. Doing something different begins with seeing things from a new perspective. Part of this change is learning to look again at what we thought we knew.
As former MIT professor and foundational thought leader Edgar Schein said about organizations: leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin [Article]. An organization is a reflection of the values and beliefs of its leadership and its members. We know that the degree of congruency between the values and beliefs of an organization's leaders and of its members, correlates with the power of an organization’s culture. The more they differ, the more cultural dissonance and the less productivity. Our leadership programs include learning about organizational culture.
Our leadership services include the following areas, as well as customized learning:
- executive coaching
- communicating effectively
- increasing emotional intelligence
- understanding and shaping culture
- developing leadership qualities
- developing your personal brand
- developing self awareness
- mindfulness practice
- developing teams
- developing a systems thinking pespective
- understanding learning organizations