Monday, January 28, 2013

Who are you being, when being a leader?

Before I commenced the role of CEO, I took the time to go on a retreat to consider what it might mean to be in such a privilege leadership position. I say privileged because I think in this role you have the opportunity to create and develop the type of organisation you believe will achieve the organisation’s mission and objectives. So I came to consider on the retreat, “who are you being, when being a leader?” and I took the time to get in touch with my own inner teacher. What emerged for me was: strength and compassion; work with people as human beings; the workplace is a community; create and build a sustainable organisation; seek to understand before you make decisions and create lots of opportunity to hear and truly listen to people’s stories. Have confidence in yourself, develop trust and act with integrity, honesty and openness.
The one ‘inner teaching’ that really struck me was “work with people as human beings”. Why did my inner teacher make the distinction between people and human beings? What emerged for me is that when people are seen as human beings there is shift in how I observe, listen and react. My physiology is more relaxed, my eyes are softer, I am more attune to the persons emotions and mood, I notice their body and how they are and I am deeply interested in them as a human being, their complexity, frailties, inherent gifts, passions, interests and family. They are not ‘human resources’ but ‘human beings’.
I think one of the major problems in the workplace is you can forget that people are human beings, not ‘human resources’, you forget their fundamental right to be seen as legitimate and when you treat people as human beings that are equal to you, the workplace flourishes. So how do you ensure that you always treat the other as a legitimate human being, rather than a human resource? I think this starts with observing your ‘way of being’ and recognising when to ‘shift your way of being’ to be at your most resourceful best.
Knowing yourself, your strengths and development needs is critical to being an effective leader, and much of this has to do with understanding your ‘way of being’ in various situations. Understanding your ‘way of being’ starts with observations. These observations can be about your language, moods and emotions and your physiology. In this conversation I am going to discuss language.
Language is made up of your speaking and listening. Listening is both hearing and your interpretations. This means listening to the language that you are using about yourself and others (both your private and public listening and speaking). What we create is first created in language, and the language of a leader can create possibilities or close off opportunities. Factors that can affect our listening and meaning making include our gender, age, position in society or the workplace, personality, family and cultural background. It can also be affected by the mood we are in.
Language creates reality, so if you enter into a conversation with a staff member as a human resource as opposed to a human being, your ‘way of being’ might not achieve the best results both for the person and the tasks. So I invite you to start observing yourself by listening to what you are saying about yourself and others. Notice if the person you are working with is a human resource or a human being. Take the time to listen and hear their story. As I mentioned at the start of the article, I found the retreat very useful in helping me to find my own path as a leader. In fact, I think they're so valuable that my business partners Anne Courtney, Kathryn Choules and I run regular wellness retreats for women. You can find out more about them here.

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