Leadership Article


Intentional Being as a Leader

We show up as leaders in two ways - doing and being. We tend to focus on the doing part of our work. Without a doubt, action is essential for accomplishing our goals. Much of the available literature and research on leadership is focused upon action. There is very little published on the other aspect of leading which is our "beingness" or our internal state of being.

You might be thinking "so what?" I am a leader and that's that. I agree since many of us are seasoned and do things automatically with great efficacy. We know in our bones the correct decisions to make, the way to use our presence; we can easily distinguish which matters are truly important and how to allocate resources in crisis. Since leaders create the culture and influence followers just by their very presence, what we bring in our being is very important. The question I have is: are you aware of what you're bringing within yourself, in your inner state of being? Do you take the time to be aware of yourself, the state that you're in and what impact you have on your followers as well as the organizational culture?

You have probably noticed that your internal state is reflected in your words, attitude and actions. It certainly affects our thinking and decision making. More than that, as a leader it affects those around us who are looking to us to model our actions. Our actions come directly from what we're thinking and feeling. It means the attitude we bring to our actions directs our inner state. We can change the quality of our actions by changing what and how we're thinking and feeling about it, whatever "it" is.

Our inner state always results in action colored by that state whether we like it or not. If we are holding an inner state that is stressed out, then we tend to perceive everything as a problem. On the other hand, if we are calm, we can see problems as just that and can easily identify the requisite resources at our disposal to solve them. This state of being not only affects our ability to respond to our circumstances it also affects the outcomes we get from the actions we take.

Some examples of using our internal state to manage our actions and outcomes is using it to: be more focused on the task at hand, therefore, more effective, have more sense of direction and organization, make better decisions, take strategic action instead of just being in motion, have more time, become more present with others and more easily maintain our balance. To have more control of our inner state we first must be aware of it. This might be easier said than done since we are often geared toward the thinking, which I define as doing, and doing of our work as leaders.

To help achieve this self-awareness it helps to stop and take some time to just be for a few minutes. I can appreciate that you have an overwhelming schedule full of actions that must be taken. Consider how much time you waste doing things that are unnecessary or losing sight of your real objective?

Here is what I discovered. When I spend a little time, like 20 minutes first thing in the morning, just sitting quietly or in a meditation, my mind becomes cleared of the extraneous and distracting thoughts that confuse my direction. I am then able to notice what's going on for me more easily so I can adjust my internal state to meet my schedule for the day. Also, I am able to focus on taking strategic actions that move me toward the outcomes I want in less time. The result is I am intentional with clarity, I get done what I need faster and have more time with less stress. In addition, I am more resourceful when I have to deal with unplanned demands and be more present with others.

Taking the time to be aware of our inner self brings many more benefits to our leadership actions than there is space here to go into. Besides being an effective method for stress management, another important aspect to note is that this internal space is where our creativity and innovation reside. But great ideas cannot surface when we don't pay attention to it. It's in getting quiet and listening to our inner voice for answers, direction and solutions that we can have fuller access to our own wisdom. It's in going slower that we can go faster, intentionally.

Leadership Tip: Be present.
There is no greater waste of time and energy than being somewhere else in your head when someone is talking to you. Not only does it minimize the information you can receive, it minimizes the speaker because they know you're not present. It gives them the message that either you don't care or they are unimportant to you.

Consider the unspoken communication you're conveying in the way that you're listening.

I had a Director tell me that she couldn't understand why people got upset when they came to her office and she didn't look up from her papers to look at them as she listened and spoke to them. Didn't they know how busy she was? After all she had her door open to them, doesn't that count as being receptive? This is definitely a situation when multi-tasking is not only useless but harmful to building trust and relationships.

Though a very smart executive, this person honestly didn't get it that it is imperative to make eye contact and have her full attention on the person speaking to her. A more effective way to deal with interruptions is to hold boundaries and let the person know the amount of time you have or when a better time would be. This builds trust and models effective time management.