Misled Into Leadership

By Paul Dunion | August 18, 2015


We have come to believe that leadership is ultimately and mostly something that happens between people. It is a way we manage people. Beginning with such an exterior focus of leadership may be misleading. It may be that what we witness as leadership is implemented as an outcome of something more hidden and more interior. The priority may be to learn to manage ourselves, and clarify what it is that is more interior and hidden.

An old definition of the word lead icause to go with one. To a great degree, the cause to go with one will depend upon what we want from a people and whether or not they have the willingness and capacity to offer what we want. We may want to follow someone because of a particular task we want to accomplish, learn something or go on an adventure. Regardless of what we want from a leader, it may be important to ask: What makes a leader trustworthy? What makes it likely that a leader can deliver what we want? What summons our respect for a leader and gives cause to go with that person regardless of our particular desires?

Leading From the Interior

A deeper perspective of leadership and offering cause to go with someone is the leader’s relationship with him or herself. The modeling of a deepening relationship with the self is an immense offering to others. Also, when leaders are committed to deepening their relationship with themselves, they are less likely to act in some arbitrary and impetuous fashion. This is especially true when a leader is frightened. When leaders know how to feel fear, be aware of fear and solicit the necessary support to work with fear, they will likely be more able to hold a larger vision and making decisions reflective of that vision. This larger perspective helps leaders to move out of a pattern of fear-driven decisions that typically fail to consider critical factors. When fear is in the driver’s seat, choices are made to suppress feeling insecure and not necessarily what’s best for productivity, creativity and teambuilding.

Managing the Self

There are a number of interior skills that greatly add to our capacity to lead others. These skills may also be the greatest cause to go with someone. 
Internal balancing happens when there is a commitment to remain mindful of emotions that can easily impact our beliefs and decisions. Typically, our beliefs are accompanied by emotions and our emotions have stories connected to them. The key is to remain curious about the stories generating emotions and curious about the emotions guiding our thinking.
Internal centering occurs as leaders bring more awareness to the kind of seductions to which they are vulnerable to. Do I give my power away to people who have a good deal of formal education? To people who physically present well? To those who are articulate? To folks younger or older? Or maybe to those whom I define as successful?
Internal security comes from facing uncertainty with the faith that more will be revealed. Rather than being paralyzed by a lack of clarity or pressured into finding the right answer, internal security suggests that clarity will be offered. The leader needs to mostly remain awake and receptive to the lucidity making its way to him or her.
Internal discretion identifies when to listen and when to have a voice. It can be helpful to identify which is stronger, the ability to listen or to have voice. That information suggests where to err. If there is strength in having a voice, then listening excessively is advisable. Listening is not done to be polite but rather from the belief that it is a way to be informed. From such a posture listeners are not poised with their reaction to what they hear. Rather, they are an empty bowl, taking in both the cognitive and emotional components of what is communicated.
Internal commitment to clarify personal values. This allows leaders to identify when their actions are either compatible or incompatible with their values. Being able to make this assessment informs leaders regarding whether or not they are in or out of integrity. Integrity reflects a congruency between what is valued and what is done. Being in integrity as well as being willing to acknowledge being out of integrity make a major contribution to being trust-worthy.
Internal capacity to hold tension without acting prematurely. This enables leaders to become more fully aware of the forces generating the tension and time to consider what the tension may be asking for.
Internal commitment to bring compassion and forgiveness to themselves when making a mistake. When living with this commitment, they are less likely to fall prey to several disempowering circumstances. The first is needing to compensate for a mistake by expecting some unrealistic accomplishment. The second is to compromise holding authority so others will forgive them.

It may be that we all carry both, the search for a cause to go with someone and the hope that others will find cause to go with us. Whenever two or more people come together, the energetic field between them is charged with: Is there cause for me to go with this person? Do I want this person to find cause to go with me? Consciously or unconsciously, we have these wonderings even in a twenty-minute conversation. The concept of going with someone or someone going with us may be as simple as wanting to be understood or accepted, or as complex as guiding national policy. Ultimately, our capacity to lead under the most simple or complex situations will depend upon the depth of relationship we have with ourselves.

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