Often I am asked to come in and assist leaders in transforming their organizations. “We want to be efficient or Agile or better,” they tell me. I get the passion, I really do. But what I often see with the passion is a certain lack of direction or support and, often, a lack of awareness, particularly of how these impassioned leaders come across to others (e.g., do they actually come across as leaders?). This lack of awareness creates an opportunity to improve the organization’s ability to achieve business Agility through vision, communication, and specific implementation. Above all, there is an opportunity to improve leadership awareness.
The process starts with examining who you are as a leader. That’s because how you do anything is how you do everything. In other words, you are cause in the matter of your own life.
Think about this: How people perceive you in any given moment gives you a clue of the future you are creating with them. You are responsible for the future you are living into. The question is: how full is your future with ghosts of your past and the past of your organization? As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure your future enterprise is not haunted by the demons of yesterday and today.
In this post and the subsequent two parts, collectively called “The Zen of Agile Leadership”, I am exploring what it means to be as a leader, what kind of person you have to be in order to successfully guide any organization, let alone guide an organization attempting to create change. Leaders want change but often aren’t willing to change themselves to achieve the desired outcome. The thing is, you have to BE the change you want to see—we’ve all heard that before, right? Well, it’s right.
Now let’s take this one step further. It’s not about change; it’s about transforming who you are as a leader in order to create a new future for you AND your organization. In other words, who you are now is shaping the future you will be living into.
This series will discuss how to get your present and past out of your future. I’ll dive into three different relationship paradigms of “Being Cause in the Matter With…”:
- Your own life: Who you are to yourself as an individual and a leader
- Others: Who you are with others in general
- Systems: Who you are when you create and deal with systems, in particular teams and your organization as a whole
Being cause in the matter means not hiding behind excuses because there are no excuses. There’s no whining, no considerations, and no playing the victim either. It means owning that the life you have is exactly the life you want. The organization you lead is exactly the organization you want. If the life you want is not what you are living, then what are you doing to change it? When you assume the responsibility of cause in the matter, “nothing” is not an acceptable answer. As a leader, you must either be steering the organization you want to lead ever onward or taking steps, however painful or difficult, to create the future organization you want to be leading moment by moment.
Exhale and start…
Episode 1: Being Cause in the Matter With Your Own Life
We will start with who you are with … well … you. You as a leader. If you as a leader are not cultivating your own awareness. You might ask, “Awareness of what?” You as a leader and human are responsible to create the awareness you want to impress upon others, of how others perceive you, and in particular whether they believe in your leadership capabilities.
Are you aware of your impact on others? Is it the desired impact? Do you perceive yourself as a coach when others see you as a micromanager? Do you think of yourself as a leader and yet your followers doubt your surefootedness? If your awareness of yourself as a leader and that of others do not align, you are not going to successfully lead others or your organization(s).
What you have now is of your own creation. Your position, your career, your life, your organization: it’s all you. In other words, you as a leader are cause in the matter of it all. This includes how others see you. Start with looking in the mirror as to who you are being and the impact you have on others. Do you believe in yourself as “the change”? Can you say of yourself “I am the change”? To have transformation, you have to be transformation.
Life has to occur to you as you are the clearing for transformation to occur. You might be asking “Whoa, what is this?” But humor me: The “clearing” is where the ego goes away and the ego called you ceases to exist. In this way, you create a space where the desired outcome can naturally occur.
Now say to yourself, “There is no ego, I don’t exist, I am a clearing where this transformation can occur, in the same way that there was a clearing in me in the moment before I came to life. Life naturally occurred in the clearing in me. I will thus create a clearing in the world, in my organization, in the individuals around me so that a transformation can naturally occur in it as well.”
Think of it this way, giving value away continuously, telling people in words and actions, “I’m valuable, I’m knowledgeable, I’m capable of leading, follow me”–that can be exhausting. You can provide a service, true, but you can also be of service to others, ready and willing to help when the time is right. You can act as a fountain of “value” that people draw from of their own volition.
First your transformation, then others, then your organization. You, as leader, have the privilege to create the future through being the clearing for transformation to occur.
How do you transform your organization by transforming yourself?
Start with your core beliefs. Deepak Chopra proposes that all of humanity has four core beliefs that we forget as we transform from child to adult: Love, Worthiness, Security, and Wholeness. As we progress through life, we begin to have considerations and speak in terms of “as long as”:
“I will be kind to my employees, as long as they do what I tell them to do.”
As long as you are limiting yourself with “as long as”, you will have no access to your true power as a change agent.
Remember: How you do anything is how you do everything.
How do you show love? Before you get all wigged out with me using the word “love”, just chill for a second and think about it. People know when you are not being your core self. It shows up when you disregard, talk down, belittle, berate, disrespect. It is completely inauthentic. As a leader, creating a “loving, worthy, secure and whole” reality means you create kindness, appreciation, tolerance, forgiveness, respect and a lightness of being. You create this and you create the clearing in your life for those qualities to occur all around you. ALL around you. That is what it means to be completely authentic.
You must be authentic in order to have authenticity–and transformations are about changing a person or organizations authenticity into something else, a new authenticity. You have to be what you want to see naturally occur. If you expect certain behavior or ways of thinking, determine whether you are behaving or thinking in commensurate ways. Otherwise, how will others around you know what you mean?
To facilitate your exploration, I propose a process with three components: Introspection, Actualization and Verification.
Consider pausing at regular times and even intervals to notice what is occurring in every interaction you have. Take regular breaks that you purposely put on your calendar, where you sit with what you are noticing and try to draw conclusions about where you fall on the spectrum of authenticity. Are you being authentic? Are you being the thing that you want others to perceive you as being? Are you being what you expect others to be? Consider journaling what you notice about yourself and others and your organization in these moments and from this period of reflection create a future of possibility.
Consider purposely creating your day, every day. Declare who you are that day or moment and then live into that declaration. We hear of self-fulfilling prophecies; well, they don’t all have to be bad. Announce to yourself and to others what your goals for the day are, whether it means striving to be more authentic or to enact more positive change. It might look like this: “Today I am the clearing where team leadership can occur naturally”, or “Today I am the clearing where unity can occur naturally.” Create whatever is present for you in that moment. And then live it in every interaction.
Lastly, consider asking those closest to you about how you occur to them, how they perceive you. This could be questions such as: “What can you rely on me for?” “What can you not rely on me for?” “How are you left feeling after we have a meeting together (respected, heard, understood…)?” “What are you hearing or noticing about me?”
When you take on being responsible for who your are and how you are cause in the matter of your own life, you get access to your true core power as a leader.
I leave you now to reflect on how you are being cause in the matter of you.
In Episode 2, I write about how you can access who you are with others and create a future that involves connectedness and wholeness so that you as a change agent can create partnerships for change.