October 10, 2013
The art of conscious leadership
Today we have a guest post from Altazar Rossiter who is in the personal development field looking at Spiritual Intelligence and The Wisdom of the Heart. He is a coach and facilitator and author of “
“As a leader, you are there to develop your people.”
(Ali Stewart in interview with Andy Britnell)
This is actually very slightly misquoted from the interview, but I’ll leave you to check that out for yourself. I work in the field of personal development rather than leadership development per se. But it’s my firm belief that personal development underwrites all shifts that produce sustained improvements in any aspect of human relations.
What that means is you can’t develop your team without developing yourself. You may try to ignore your own development, but it will happen without you looking. It will be an effect of any collective achievement. “Collective” is the important word here, however, as we’re talking about management and team performance. There is a symbiotic relationship between leaders and followers – one can’t exist without the other – and there’s a mystery to this relationship that operates outside the physical and intellectual realm, the everyday.
Every team is a collective organism with its own consciousness, which comprises that of its individual members plus the energy of their common purpose. This is an organic combination that can reach way beyond the imagination of the individual, or the straightforward manifestation of the original vision of the group leader.
The really nice thing about this is that collective achievement establishes a kind of positive feedback loop where success breeds success. When this feedback loop is working well, the team will have a self-sustaining synergistic quality, even though its membership will change over time. That doesn’t mean it will be without challenges.
One of the challenges is that presented by personalities and mind-sets that are misaligned, i.e. not fully connected with the common purpose, or just plain difficult. One of my teachers used to say there’s no such thing as a difficult person, just someone who’s in difficulty. I understood this concept well enough, but it took me a long time to integrate it into my daily routine. I still have to work at this occasionally.
No matter how well you put together a team the problem of misalignment can arise. When it does the organic flow that fuels the functioning of the team as a unit can be significantly disrupted. Personal circumstances change; even a once ideal match can deteriorate. Misfits do squeeze under the screening radar when a team is set up. People do evolve and move on, leaving a gap that will never be filled in quite the same way as before. In this latter case it’s often forgotten that those remaining will have a grief cycle to negotiate.
Psychological screening tools can eliminate most of the real mismatches. But assuming that hasn’t happened, what’s the deal when a really difficult personality shows up in the team? And what happens when a once reliable team member develops a dysfunctional manner?
The potential for toxic emotional fallout is immediate. Where the team has been a loose alliance it will most likely split into ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’. This is not conducive to efficiency, achievement, fulfilment, success or anything else that requires a co-operative endeavour. It’s the root of office politics, and it happens a lot.
Where a strong sense of group coherence has existed, the nastier aspects of majority rule are likely to show up: a problem person can be scapegoated or bullied. This leads to alienation. As shame, resentment and guilt start to work their way through some of the team members, there will again be fragmentation.
Here’s where I have to own up to having seen a lot of this, and participated in some of it. I’ve also been the scapegoat. There have been times when I struggled, and others where I was not proud of my actions. I’m actually quite pleased about all of this now, as it’s given me some powerful insight into interpersonal psychology and group dynamics.
I’ve taught myself a way of managing difficult people from the inside out, as it were. I’m going to share that with you here. It’s a simple, internally referenced process and it goes like this.
When you recognise somebody in your team who’s misaligned, awkward or even hostile, I encourage you to go inside for a moment and just be with yourself. Then focus on the person and say the following three sentences to yourself:
- Just like me s/he’s got some work to do.
- Just like me s/he’s doing his/her best, and struggling a bit.
- I wish you well in everything you are and everything you do.
This may seem deceptively simple, and even a bit wet! I thought so when I first came across the idea. But I’ve seen it work instantly to change the demeanour of someone stuck in a hostile mode of expression. This actually happened the first time I tried it. It was a situation where I had nothing to lose. I couldn’t even feel any conviction in the words as I said them to myself. But the shift in the relationship was instant and permanent. On other occasions I’ve noticed how the transformation can take a little longer to come about.
In my experience these three sentences will produce uncanny results. I know there’s no logic to this, but no-one needs to know what you’re doing and there’s very little to be lost in trying it. And, of course, its application is not limited to the practice of conscious leadership.
For me conscious leadership is linked to the mind-set of Leading & Developing High Performance. It helps us to develop self-awareness, emotional intelligence and have more respect and positive regard for others. It stops us from judging the person and helps us to focus on their behaviour instead.
Do you practise conscious leadership? How does it help you?