The world is changing fast and old hierarchies are breaking down. As the world becomes more digital, AI is increasing its foothold and organisations are becoming flatter. The companies that thrive will be those that ignite the power of human-centred workplaces, encouraging all employees to take responsibility for driving the business forward, and creating leaders at every level of the organisation.
So, what does it mean to have leaders at every level of the organisation? When I think about what a leader should look like, it’s someone who’s self-aware, self-empowered, proactive, creative and willing to take decisions, to stand up for what they believe in, and uphold the values of the organisation. I call this self-leadership.
Self-leaders are employees who, even when not in a recognised position of power or influence, can still stand in their own power and influence others by the ways they think and act, the mindset they embody. Imagine how you could turbo-charge organisational growth if you had people like that embedded throughout your business.
There are four key elements to Self-Leadership
- Identity (knowing who I am)
- Mental fitness (cultivating mental and emotional wellbeing)
- Intuition (the ability to harness the integrated intelligence of both body and mind)
- Quality of presence (embodying my natural authority and wisdom)
Allowing people to show up as their whole selves at work is a key factor in successful self-leadership. If we’re blocking part of our experience or knowledge, because it’s ‘personal’ rather than ‘professional’; if we’re only looking after our wellbeing at home and not at work; if we’re only expressing part of who we are, then it’s impossible for us to step fully into and embrace our self-leadership potential.
So, what does it look like to develop the skills, mindset and behaviour of self-leadership?
Identity (knowing who I am)
This is about self-awareness, having a deep understanding of what’s important to me, what makes my life meaningful, my motivations, strengths and weaknesses, and how these all come together to create my authentic self. It’s also about being clear on my triggers, habitual patterns and the ways in which I self-sabotage.
Identity is also about having clarity on what I want my legacy to be. So often, legacy is deemed something that only the C-Suite should be worried about, but think about the impact I could make by being clear on my desired legacy from early on in my career. Then I could design my whole career journey towards creating that legacy, bringing meaning and significance to every part of the journey.
When I work with my clients on Identity, I love to use tools such as the Enneagram to gain deep insights into personality preferences and how they influence thinking and behaviour in the workplace. We then build on the insights gained with embodiment tools that drive real insight into what’s actually going on, increasing the ability to benefit from the information and insights that are held in the body as well as in the brain.
Our embodiment is the way we move, think and hold ourselves. It has a significant impact on our experience of the world and how we come across to others. By learning to tune into our habitual embodiment, and to shift it when needed, stepping up as a leader becomes so much easier. Being much more aware of ourselves and the impact we’re having on others around us, helps us meet unexpected challenges and the demands of working within ambiguity much more easily.
Mental fitness (cultivating mental and emotional wellbeing)
A focus on mental fitness helps us be more flexible and innovative. It gives us the skills and resilience to think in new ways, and develop in different directions, rather than being stuck in the same old ways of doing things all the time.
Mental fitness is grown through looking after yourself in multiple small ways, which can be tailored to suit individual needs and requirements. Central to mental fitness is learning how to centre and manage your state so that whatever comes up you’re able to respond to it from a place of calm and objectivity, rather than simply reacting in the moment.
It’s also about the ability to identify when we have an internal negative voice driving the show. Knowing what triggers us, being able to recognise quickly that we have been triggered, and then being able to shift from that place. One quick way to do this is to name the part that’s speaking negatively to us, and what it’s saying, for example “I notice my Inner Perfectionist is telling me…”. By doing this we create a separation between the voice and ourselves, the voice is no longer US, and that gives us a choice as to whether to listen to the voice or not, in the same way that we have the choice to listen to a friend’s advice or not.
Intuition (the ability to harness the integrated intelligence of both body and mind)
The most underrated and often underused part of our intelligence, tapping into our intuition not only brings us better empathy and ability to respond to others, it helps us trust our own judgement, and see what lies beneath the bigger picture so we can make meaningful connections between things, driving creativity, innovation and openness to new ideas.
Intuition is often dismissed because people can’t see where it comes from, it doesn’t ‘feel logical’. In fact, it’s not a magical process, but rather the ability to gain insight without consciously thinking something through.
Just because the process isn’t conscious, doesn’t mean it’s not powerful and effective, or that it’s not based on thorough mental processing of the situation. A lot of information registers on the brain without conscious awareness and when we tap into our intuition, our brain is combing through information, patterns and knowledge that have been accrued over years, often coming up with something new, making a connection that had not been made previously but which can prove incredibly useful in solving our problem.
Quality of presence (embodying my natural authority and wisdom)
Sometimes known as gravitas, a deep quality of presence that can be seen and felt by the person themselves, as well as those around them. This is about being grounded in our own energy, having confidence in our own counsel and in sharing that counsel with others, the way in which we show up as a role model, that inspires, motivates and reassures others.