The Heart of Leadership
Our heart is at the centre of our relationships with others; this is the heart of leadership, well, it should be and sometimes it isn’t!
Much has been written about leadership qualities over the years, as managers and executives want to understand how to be a better leader. In short, that description, ‘want to understand’ tells us a lot about where they are leading themselves from. Leadership isn’t a definition; it’s a process called leading. It is what we feel, what we instinctively understand and what we know, when we are doing the right thing.
Nebulous, you may say and almost deliberately so, for we are conditioned to focus on using our head brains to solve problems, to become inventive and creative in designing, building and marketing new ideas, concepts and products. And for what purpose? What is the right thing? What number one driving purpose? I am going to suggest that, since Victorian times, the driving purpose has been to generate money. After all, that’s what every business is there for…right? The creation of wealth.
Well, that is the first assumption that sets us off on a path that has it’s own pitfalls and long term consequences for humanity. If the sole purpose (the one that is measured and rewarded) is to make money; all thinking and behaviours align to that goal. We become focused on productivity, market share, growing and expanding continuously and it’s what the investor expects; return on investment, making money. The consequence is an ever-increasing pace of life, pressure, fear of not succeeding, not measuring-up and the concomitant increase in stress, anxiety and burnout.
And what is wealth? There are many definitions, not limited to financial security
- an abundance of valuable things or money
- a plentiful supply of a particular desirable thing
Many years ago, a friend of mine said, if you could bottle contentment, you would have a queue around the block wanting to buy some and that queue would never end.
With increasing evidence, it is becoming more visible that, if done in an uncontrolled way, wealth-creation is unsustainable from a financial perspective. I will cite the recent collapse of Thomas Cook as an example of out-of-balance decision-making by the board of directors; making decisions that increase a debt burden well beyond what could be managed, impairing investment and adaptability. Ultimately, this led to loss of jobs (both directly and indirectly), customer dissatisfaction and loss, whilst directors took millions in reward payments and salary before the collapse into administration. A new development? Sadly not; just another example in an ever-growing list of corporate collapses following periods of sustained head- and gut-led leadership.
Let me explain; the multiple brains we have (those defined by science as brains), have different functions. They have been known about for millennia, honoured and used wisely by ancient civilisations. However, as we became more and more focused on the use of our head brains and came to believe it was the most important asset of human sapiens…the very thing that differentiated us from all other species on earth, we became trapped in our own man-made creation. These other brains are the Heart and the Gut brains. You can read far more on the underpinning science in the book by Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka ‘mBraining: Using Your Multiple Brains To Do Cool Stuff’, which you can buy here https://www.revealsolutions.co.uk/coaching-cards-courses-books-resources/mbraining-using-multiple-brains-cool-stuff/
Our current leadership is a product of that skewed creation. The expression ‘what gets measured gets done’ explains this; leading to the double-bind situation and belief, ‘if you don’t make the money expected by your investors, your investors desert you and your business goes South’. As managers, the organisation expects that you will maintain productivity and increasing performance, but the leadership here is pseudo leadership. It is driven by unbridled creativity; to find continuously better and cheaper ways of delivering the product or service, and the courage to push on, regardless of feedback…the ‘no-pain-no-gain’ mentality and wrapped up in the message of fear, ‘if we don’t adapt and get better, someone else will take the business’. This is largely what leads to corporate takeovers, removing the competition, establishing dominance, snuffing out small start-ups that are disrupters by buying them.
So in the short term, the wheel keeps spinning and there is a human cost to all of that. There is a migration to the few in power and holding the financial wealth. Business gets bigger and bigger, potentially dwarfing the economies of countries and governments. There is disproportionate global population growth, and resources are used in short periods of time, that takes Nature many thousands of years to restock, if ever. Such leadership self-sustaining power base is amplified out of fear and protection of what has been ‘earned’. And all of this is unsustainable, both for the planet and the human species.
In the meantime, more people experience increasing anxiety, depression and stress-related health issues – the World Health Organisation predicts that mental health illness will be the single biggest cause of death in the world by 2025! Why? Because we are not living in balance or harmony with Self, others and Nature.
What is your Purpose? This used to be a question that predominantly popped up in later life, after finding a job, finding a partner, getting married, buying a house, having children, getting promotions to increase your salary, supporting your children’s education until they start their own new cycle of life. Well that is no longer the case. This Life Question is being asked by many a lot earlier in life. I suspect the time of change in how we are currently living, is going to be more abrupt and quicker than even the biggest of corporations are willing to admit. I suspect the Heart of Leadership is about to announce it’s presence on the world.
Truly successful companies will be those whose DNA is bigger than making a profit. Their owners and employees will then truly be freed to make a difference in peoples lives, not just to say that they do! This is the heart of leadership
The heart brain’s prime functions are, Feeling, Valuing and Connecting
Just in the last week, I have had discussions with people who are experiencing Gen Z’s and Millennials in the workplace saying ‘no, I am not doing that, is not right, because it goes against my values and what important to me’. So leadership must adapt and businesses can become more sustainable where the focus is on careering, on connecting deeply with what their prospective customer wants and not what suits them to make a profit, on involving their people, acknowledging their needs and desires, on measuring the quality of the relationships, rather than merely the number of relationships, or the £ returned by each account etc.
The Heart of Leadership is at all levels in society; politicians, big business, small business, local government, educational institutions, voluntary organisations and above all else, at leading Self, being in balance with Self, so that you are able to make decisions that are sustainable and where thinking becomes wider than just look after number one. In order for that to happen, people need to feel safe and secure; humans do not thrive while under threat or in fear, they hunker down and survive. Creating a positive, wholesome environment is the role of government and can only be delivered when decisions are made, not for the short term patting of ego or the growth of interest and investments first, but with the heart leading creating a better future for all.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they shall never sit”. An ancient Greek proverb. One of the oldest civilizations in the world.
The heart of leading is using your multiple intelligences in an aligned way, so that each prime function of each intelligence is utilised. In doing so, we have access to emergent wisdoming, the synergistic combination of intelligences, the alchemy and fusion of sensing. Then, we make decisions not based out of fear or because we can; we make decisions happy that the outcomes leave a lasting legacy, from which others will also benefit. That what is built, is strong and stable and acts as a marker, an unwritten lesson to future generations. Generosity, kindness and respect for balance endure…this is the heart of leadership
Pseudo leading results in the majority surviving a trail of ruin and turmoil, disaster and unhappiness. Pseudo leaders who have little connection to their heart intelligence and hence the reason they demonstrate little personal reflection or remorse for their actions; preferring instead to lay blame at the feet of others.
I read the obituary T Boone Pickens in the Times newspaper yesterday “an oil magnate, whose ruthlessness earned him many enemies”. His life was littered with many multimillion dollar deals; I will allow you to read about his personal life for yourself; hasten to say, money does not bring you happiness.
There is more to life than surviving; each and every one of us has within us the power to decide what is the right thing to do. So choose wisely and be aware of the consequences of not engaging all your multiple intelligences.
I wish you a joyous and happy life, in harmony with Self, others and Nature. This is the heart of true leadership.