“To lead others, lead yourself first.” – John C Maxwell
As old leaders leave the scene, new leaders emerge. In many situations, the reality has been that though there is a change in the name of leaders, there is hardly a change in the leadership styles and tendencies. With this, we have an almost unending stream of egocentric and solely profit-oriented leaders running organizations and teams. This is not unconnected to leaders managing the company in the same way that brought it success in the past. Even though, the methods can be outdated and unsustainable. This is the situation with unconscious leadership.
However, research and studies have shown that the most successful companies are ones where the leaders know how to motivate the employees to put in their best in achieving set goals. It has also become obvious that these successful leaders have developed themselves to be self-aware and also conscious about people and things around them. To achieve much as a leader, conscious leadership is indispensable.
What then is conscious leadership? Jennifer Cohen, in an article on Forbes, said of conscious leaders that “conscious leaders speak with integrity, lead with authenticity, and hold themselves accountable. They listen with the intent to understand and not just to respond, and they do it by being in tune with themselves and the world around them.” On the other hand, with unconscious leaders, their ego often dictates the tune.
In any organization, the employees can determine the success rate. When employees put their best to work, success is inevitable. However, getting the best from employees takes a lot of work from leaders and employers; employees must be seen as teammates and not machinery for work. There must be a shift from solely economic considerations of maximizing shareholders’ wealth to fully realizing the potentials of team players in the organization. Collins and Porras found in Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies that a golden thread is to be seen in most visionary companies is “a core ideology that transcended purely economic considerations”. It was further discovered that this group of companies performed 15 times better financially than the general US market from 1926 up to modern times.
Employees thrive in an atmosphere where they are valued, appreciated, motivated, and given room to develop at their own pace. A research project undertaken by Gallup Organization where over a million individuals from a broad range of companies and countries were surveyed revealed that what the most talented employees want and keeps them retained is found in a leadership culture where they are seen, valued, can grow and develop, experience genuine relationships at work and are encouraged to do what they do best every day.
Anita Roddick, The Body Shop founder noted the kind of environment she would like to work in that: “I want to work for a company that contributes to and is part of the community. I want something not just to invest in. I want something to believe in.” With this, it is part of a leader’s job to empower the employees to unleash their creativity, passion, and ideas in achieving excellence for the organization.
However, with egocentric leadership, there is insulation between the leader and employees. The employees want to keep their jobs so they massage the ego of the leader by saying what the leader wants to hear. Hougaard and Carter in an article on Harvard Business Review titled: Ego is the Enemy of Good Leadership noted that:
An inflated ego corrupts our behavior. When we believe we’re the sole architects of our success, we tend to be ruder, more selfish, and more likely to interrupt others. This is especially true in the face of setbacks and criticism. In this way, an inflated ego prevents us from learning from our mistakes and creates a defensive wall that makes it difficult to appreciate the rich lessons we glean from failure.
This is where the statement that as a leader, you must lead yourself, comes fitting. You will be helping those working with you achieve their potentials and attain excellence. You must first achieve excellence in managing yourself. Take time to meditate and understand yourself. Learn to listen to others and appreciate the feedback. You need to commit to the constant personal development of yourself and those around you.
If we allow our ego determine our perception of things, what we hear, and what we place believe in, we have let our past success damage our future success.
So, what will it be; conscious leadership or otherwise? Are you to be a 360 leader who achieves and helps in achieving excellence? Are you ready to do your part in the ongoing introspection? Make your decision for conscious leadership today and you will have yourself to thank for it in the near future.