“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
I love reading all of the great blogs here on generalleadership.com. It is like having your own staff of great military leaders to learn from. Just recently, blogs on 6 Foundations of Followership and From Technical Expert to Successful Leader (both great reads) have been published. Have you ever wondered as a reader, how can I do that? How can I act with integrity and seek positive feedback? Can I successfully make the transition from a technical expert to a successful leader when I am operating from a mood of fear or lack belief in myself?
To begin our exploration, let’s start by taking a personal assessment of you as a leader. In this blog, we will explore your ‘ontological foundations’. Ontology is the emerging study of what it means to be human; this kind of thinking is intended to give you the insights needed to become the best leader you can be. We will look at 5 major areas that all combine to form what I call the ‘observer’. Our observer is the general overall lens through which we see the world. All you see and do in these 5 areas make you the observer you are and, of course, inform how you perform as a leader.
Historical Discourse: Historical discourse is a fancy way of describing the path that led you right here. For instance, all of the authors at general leadership.com have a military background; an environment where leadership is both taught and demanded. To successfully navigate a career in the military means that you will wrestle with leadership issues daily, and thanks to mentoring and education, you will be taught the skills to show up as a leader. But, what if you do not have that discourse? What if your personal history does not include the opportunities to lead? We cannot change our histories, but we can become aware of how they shape how we operate daily in our roles. If your history does not include the skills or experiences necessary to be the leader you want to be today, do not worry; the past does not define our future. Reading and thinking about these blogs on generalleadership.com will begin to open up a different future for you as a leader.
Language: Language is the most fundamental tool we, as humans, have. We live in language; we create our futures in language. Yet, most of are blind to the phenomena of language. Whether we are aware of it or not it is our ability as leaders to have effective conversations, make effective requests, and coordinate action through language that determines what happens through our leadership. Like any other skill, we can learn as leaders to use language to create new futures. We can become proficient at making effective requests; we can learn how to make a new future through the declarations we make. If you think about it, we are in language now as you read this, and reading this may open up a new future for you.
Moods and Emotions: We are emotional beings. We often say, I was in a bad mood, or I was in a good mood, but rarely look at that more closely. I define mood as your current orientation toward the future. And emotions as a predisposition to action, caused by an event. Both are at the core of being human. So a mood is triggered by an assessment of the future, and emotions are triggered by events. We all are always in some state of orientation to the future; we are optimistic, fearful, or somewhere in between. As a leader, your emotions determine what is possible for you and for those around you. If you have a strong mood or emotion of resignation towards future possibilities that will create a very different outlook than if you had a mood or emotion of ambition. The challenge of moods and emotions is that many times we do not have them but rather they have us. As a leader, how you deal with your own moods and emotions will have a huge impact on the behavior of those around you. Are the ways you deal with your moods and emotions limiting you? How you deal with them will be the topic of a future post, but for right now start to explore what your moods and emotions are. Are you aware of what is going on?
“Which leader would you rather be? Which character are you currently look more like?”
Body: This may sound obvious but all of us have bodies. The question is how connected are we to our bodies? A mood has a body position that goes with it. Fundamentally, bodies are either expanding or contracting. Think about when you enter into difficult leadership situation. Does your body seem to be tightening and wanting to protect itself? Or does your body feel like it is expanding and becoming bigger than the situation and creating possibilities for all involved? Think of two cartoon characters from the past, Sad Sack is the cartoon character that tended to walk slowly with his head drooped; shoulders slumped, projecting the negative emotions that he was living. Compare him to Superman, his head held high, his chest expansive and facing the challenge coming his way. Which leader would you rather be? Which character are you currently look more like?
Practices: Finally, we are shaped by our practices. We are always practicing. I bet that you are a pretty good tooth brusher, would you agree? Well, how did you get that way? Were you born a proficient tooth brusher? No, since you were born without teeth it is a skill you acquired as you grew and practiced. Leadership is no different. What are you practicing as a leader?
-Are you practicing using language to create possibility and powerful outcomes? Or, are you practicing ineffective requests and incomplete promises?
-What about your moods and emotions? Are you practicing moods that create limitless present and future possibilities, or are you practicing moods and emotions that tie you to past outcomes and a limited future?
-Are you practicing making your body a healthy, vibrant, strong, and open invitation to a powerful conversation? Or does your body shrink and constrict as it faces challenges and leadership situations?
Summing Up Leadership
Put it all together. Some of what we have talked about here may be new to you but I bet if you think back to a place where you showed up as the leader you wanted to be, you had an effective conversation that opened up possibilities. You operated from a mood/emotion that expanded possibilities for the future. You also felt, in your body, authenticity, wholeness and aliveness as a leader. You likely felt like Superman or Superwoman as you faced your challenge. This is what is possible when we start to explore leadership from a deeper level.
Let’s continue the dialogue here at generalleadership.com about how you can show up differently as a leader. We are here to help you become the leader you want to be, so lets start practicing. Let’s start creating the future you want to create.