Innate Leadership Qualities
All of us possess the capacity to embody the full range of leadership qualities needed to create powerful transformation in the world—qualities like confidence, power, compassion, courage, peace, joy, and connectedness. Having access to these qualities can make a powerful difference for leaders and the organizations they lead.
What Holds Us Back
We’ve all had challenging and painful experiences that led us to develop ideas and beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. While it’s important to distinguish between the suffering of institutional oppression—affecting economically disadvantaged groups, people of color, and other marginalized groups—and personal suffering, it’s also true that both lead to internalized beliefs, which limit who we think we are, what we believe about our potential, who we take others to be, and what we believe about the current reality of our situation. These beliefs constrain our freedom to access and embody the innate leadership qualities we need to reach our true potential as leaders.
A Path of Transformation
There is a clear path of transformation that can free us from our limiting beliefs and help us more fully embody our innate leadership qualities. This path includes expanded self- awareness, structured practice, and transformative inquiry (see Our Process for more).
The nature of these innate qualities is such that we do not need to work them into being. Because they are the essence of who we already are, they tend to arise naturally once we break the grip of our limiting beliefs. While this can be challenging and difficult work, the experience of being ourselves has an effortless flow that is profound and recognizable when we awaken to it. The more we recognize these essential qualities as fundamental to who we are, the more our capacity to experience, embody, and manifest these qualities in our lives matures and develops. Since the maturation of these qualities leads to powerful and transformative action in the world, the implications for leadership are profound.
An Alignment of Perspective: From Individual To Collective
When collectives of leaders begin to align themselves and their work with this perspective, a powerful field of “presence” can emerge that supports both individuals and organizations in reaching their highest potential and purpose. When this alignment of intention and purpose is combined with an understanding of the importance of broad and diverse community engagement and constituency building for the common good, profound social transformation is possible.
The Central Principles Illuminated:
Moving from Self-Reliance to Connectedness and Collaboration
All leaders have the innate capacity for connectedness or collaboration—the capacity to build thick networks of relationships between themselves and others. In social change work, this quality of collaboration is essential in cultivating shared ownership for the change we seek.
This is especially important for self-reliant leaders who believe, fundamentally, that nothing gets done unless they do it themselves—and who, as a result, find building broader constituencies for change particularly challenging. This belief may have developed from a past situation where a leader depended on someone and was disappointed or let down by their failure to support him. His complete self-reliance and his inability to trust others conflicts directly with his drive for shared ownership, but he’s not able to see it. He just knows that if he wants something done, he has to do it himself. Without addressing his underlying beliefs, it’s impossible to create a lasting, powerful constituency or culture of shared responsibility.
How can a coach loosen the grip of entrenched beliefs like self-reliance? We can use self-observation exercises that help a leader become more self-aware by building his capacity to observe his behavior in daily activities and interactions. Sometimes, we have to go deeper, and examine more subtle questions: What event or circumstance gave rise to the belief that he could not count on others? What was the emotional impact at the time when others disappointed him (i.e. shame, humiliation, etc.)?
At the same time the leader is learning to let go of the old belief pattern, a coach can offer structured practices to help cultivate the qualities of collaboration and connectedness that were blocked by the old belief. For example, the coach might ask the self-reliant leader to practice requesting support from someone twice per week over a period of time–requiring him to identify what kind of support he needs, who might best offer that support, and how to effectively request that support.
Once our self-reliant leader can free himself of the constraining beliefs around having to do it all, the past belief no longer clouds new opportunities for collaboration and connection. He begins to see that connection and collaboration are his natural inclination, and starts to feel his natural desire to build relationships of mutual interest that will further his change work. He acts on these opportunities without difficulty, and when collaborations don’t make sense our leader does not feel stress or anxiety. He simply recognizes it for what it is and moves on. No longer obscured by his old beliefs, he now makes clear assessments about what potential relationships will lead to shared ownership and more powerful collective action. Our individual leader is experiencing the benefits of his transformation and seeing how it is improving results for the organization. He also is seeing how the Immanent principles have impacted him and begins to feel the motivation to be free of other constraining beliefs that are blocking his access to his essential leadership qualities. At the collective level, others in the organization feel more included and a greater sense of ownership for the organization due to the shift that has occurred within our leader. Additionally, colleagues are inspired by the ease and effectiveness they witness as our leader demonstrates how to cultivate more connection and shared ownership in the organization.