“We are shaped by practices and shape ourselves through practices.”
What are you practicing as a leader? Leadership, like any endeavor is a skill that can be learned and honed through practice. Just scan any online bookseller and you will find thousands of books on leadership. Most are about how leaders act: i.e. they act with integrity; they create an atmosphere of trust. Few are the books are written about how leaders should be, and what to practice as a leader. In our continuing exploration of, What does it mean to be a leader? we want to first explore the concept of the practice of leadership. Specifically, what are you practicing as a leader?
Name something you are good at. Are you good at golf? Running? Woodworking? Playing a musical instrument? Whatever you are good at, I am betting that you have been practicing that endeavor. The more you have thought about the skill and practiced it the more competent you have become. What about leadership, are there skills you can practice to become a more effective and competent leader? The answer is a resounding, yes, and we are going to explore them in this and future blogs. Let’s look at some of the things we can practice as a leader.
Language – Language is the most fundamental human tool. We are in language now, opening up a future that may not have existed before you read these words. So what are you practicing in language?
Are you making effective requests and offers? Are the conversations you have with your team creating powerful actions that are rooted in a common vision and values? Do you open spaces that allow your team to explore possibilities and the coordination of action?
Or, are you creating and leading conversations that cause confusion and frustrations in your team? Do you waste valuable information and ideas that your team is afraid to offer because you are very good at squelching anyone who questions your authority and ego as a leader?
Moods and Emotions – Humans are emotional beings. We are always experiencing a mood or an emotion. Apathy is a mood and emotion. Happiness is a mood and emotion, as are resentment, resignation, ambition and joy. So as a leader are you practicing moods and emotions which:
Expand Possibilities: Are moods and emotions such as joy, happiness, ambition, possibility and gratitude accessible to you every day? Do those around you play off of these moods and emotions and share your enthusiasm and sense of possibility? Do those around you get better because you bring out the best in them?
Or, Contract Possibilities: Do you live in moods and emotions such as resignation, resentment, frustration, anger and unhappiness? When you show up do those around you want to seek shelter from your wrath and your negativity? Do they withhold information and their skills because they perceive you are negative and not someone they want to follow?
Body – The body is the vessel that takes us where we want to go. It also both reflects and creates the moods and emotions that we live in. The outward appearance, shape, and dynamic of a leader’s body can give us confidence that much is possible, or, the opposite.
Are you are practicing with a body that shows up as an offer of openness, possibility, inclusiveness and a can-do attitude, so that people see you as approachable, caring, relaxed, and able to handle conversations that may be difficult but necessary?
Or, a body that is tight, constricted, and uncomfortable in most situations? Do people feel the tension in your body as they have conversations with you? Do they feel you are not approachable because they sense you are ready to erupt at the drop of a hat or a misspoken word?
Whatever you are practicing as a leader is what you are currently good at. If you want to have more open conversations, then you must start practicing exhibiting a body that allows moods and emotions such as caring and possibility to be received. You must start practicing having conversations with your team and those around you in which their cares and concerns are allowed to be part of the back and forth.
Even if you have not yet been projecting positive, powerful moods, and emotions through language and your body, the great news is you can start to practice today, right now. You are what you practice. Let’s start practicing something powerful, and become leaders who practice what they preach.