When I was a young leader I found out that one of my teams called me ‘the smiling shark’. I wanted to be liked. Yet I was also committed to getting the best outcomes for my project teams and for their clients. Trying to manage these conflicting desires was almost intolerably stressful for me.
To my amazement, the day I eventually lost my temper with one of my teams moved us all forward in ways I couldn’t have imagined. By letting go and telling them what it was like from my position in the organisation, I stopped trying to be a heroine and created a more honest relationship. With the best of intentions I had been trying to conform to my role by leaving some of myself outside the door. This direct experience was a wonderful foundation for my work with senior leaders later in my consulting career.
Now I know that true leaders are present: both with themselves and also with their staff. Beyond the formal authority of our role is the natural authority we carry when we are aligned with ourselves. This allows us to share a vision and maintain a centre in the midst of complexity and chaos. The trick is to find time to discover this natural authority when it may fall within the ‘normal’ view of successful leadership traits.
In both the business world and leadership training market there is a call to courage for leaders who are encouraged to engage with ‘fierce conversations’ and ‘warrior leadership’. These approaches have honourable aims but it is just one perspective. But whatever our approach as leaders we know that what we do and how we are is always far more powerful than what we say.
Some of my work is specifically with women leaders. Why offer women only leadership development? Because Women’s leadership vision is needed. And specifically, because some women are pioneers of heart-based or spirit-led leadership.
Heart based leadership is only valuable when we are willing to tell the truth about ourselves, and about the other. And when we speak clearly about the present, how the past has contributed to this present and how the future can be shaped from the present.
This type of leadership requires being willing for us to do some feeling. When we feel deeply enough we can feel the whole field around us. We can then respond to situations facing us with guidance or heart-knowing which greatly contributes to the pragmatic decisions we c need to make. Sometimes women can find it valuable to explore this approach in the company of other women. Together we can learn skills and perspectives that amplify this type of leadership capacity.
The first step is our intention to lead with integrity. Then we can be the centre of a more harmonious field. This can be an intensely personal journey to finding a personal leadership vision. Working with other women can avoid some of the situational aloneness that I experienced as a young woman leader. As you explore your natural rhythm, together we recognise and support each other to excel in our unique ways.
The first of my new women leadership programmes will be running from on Wednesdays between February 5 to March 7 10.00-12.30 at the Wee Retreat. Visit the Events page and or sign up to the newsletter to be kept informed of the new offerings on their way in 2020.