Courage—Being brave enough to reach beyond the boundaries created by our existing, often deeply held, limitations, fears and beliefs. Initiating change in our lives—of any kind—happens only when we are courageous enough to take the necessary action.
The easy part of leadership is telling others how to lead. The hard part is being brave enough to reinvent ourselves and reframe what we thought we knew about leadership and then practicing it. This takes enormous courage. In fact, no progress can be made toward the transformational practice of Higher Ground Leadership® until we take a deep breath, center ourselves and resolve to be different – regardless of how much we may be criticized, how bruised our egos may become, or how dangerous it may at first appear, or how much people will tell us that performance and metrics will suffer along the early part of the journey (which nearly always turns out to be untrue). These are all part of the necessary investment in greatness. There is no other way.
As Higher Ground Leaders we must model the best leadership practice for others. We all know that we should love one another, and tell the truth – the essential way of life for the Higher Ground Leader – and most of us know how to do both, we just need someone we respect to actually say the words in practice, in real world, work-a-day situations – in other words, to model the way. Until then, these concepts remain ideals, little more than nice theories better suited to a different kind of world than the one most of us believe we live in.
Without courage we cannot take even the first steps because they contain so much perceived risk. We are afraid of how we will be judged and that our personalities might be diminished by the criticism of others. The soul understands the need and the desire to take the appropriate action to change culture and actions at work, but the ego stands in the way.
Until we listen to our inner voices, to our souls, inviting our egos to take a secondary role, courage will not be present, but when we do, courage will emerge and give us the one thing that we lack – will. It is the will to make change that starts the process; it is the will that invests fire into our passion, fanning the flames in our soul so that we each become instruments of change.
Courage gives us the will to do what is necessary to make change, to rise above the intimidation that our personalities experience from the personalities of others.
Authenticity—Committing oneself to show up and be fully present in all aspects of life, removing the mask and becoming a real, vulnerable and intimate human being, a person without self-absorption who is genuine and emotionally and spiritually connected to others.
It is not until we become courageous that we can become authentic. It takes courage to be real, because being real requires us to be brave enough to reveal, to own – and sometimes share – our truth, our fears, our emotions and our vulnerabilities. This is how we become authentic. William Shed said, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
As soon as we see someone else displaying compassion, love and grace at work, our hearts are given permission to open, and we embrace the authentic person for their courage and genuineness. This is the practice of the Higher Ground Leader.
Most of us know inauthentic people – people who say one thing and do another; people who feel one thing but say another; people who think one thing, but do another. Authenticity is the opposite of this. When we are authentic, we align our minds, our mouths, our hearts and our feet – we think, say, feel and do the same thing with complete congruence. This is how we become real: by ensuring that what our minds think, what our hearts feel, what our voices speak and where our feet walk are identical. Until we have the courage to think, say, feel and do the same thing, we remain inauthentic. Thus, alignment of our thoughts, words, feelings and deeds results in our becoming authentic humans.
Authenticity, as much as anything, generates love in the hearts of others and our souls cry out for authenticity. What followers year for are leaders who are authentic and can therefore be trusted. Authenticity is the basis for building relationships and inspiring each other and our communities, customers and suppliers. The implications for increased revenues are obvious. What a gift – a way of being that inspires the soul and gratifies the personality.
Service—Focusing on the needs of others by listening to them, identifying their needs, and meeting them. Being inspiring, rather than following a self-focused, competitive, fear-based approach.
Old story leaders emulate warriors but followers are all yearning for human intimacy and sensitivity – for leaders who serve. We are exhausted from fear and competition. We are all searching for a new style of corporate leadership, one in which workplaces are characterized by love and truth, meaning and fulfillment – qualities of the spirit. The new story leader will change the world by introducing a more demanding criterion to organizations: “Does it feed the soul as well as the pocketbook?” Servant-leadership embodies sharing, cooperation, consideration and consciousness. The servant-leader honors the sacredness in others and in all of life. The servant-leader is a loving leader. To the leader who sees their most important responsibility as being of service to others, life is not a continuous improvement project in which we strive endlessly towards greater and greater personal achievements. Instead servant-leaders ask others, “How may I serve you?”
Truthfulness—Listening openly to the truth of others and refusing to compromise integrity or to deny universal truths—even when avoiding the truth might, on the face of it, especially in testing times, seem easier.
We are suffering from truth decay. Corporate history is littered with the disasters of denial: boards who know in their hearts that it is time for a new CEO but are afraid speak their truth and so fudge the facts; salespeople who accept outrageously unrealistic quotas, but deny this truth and lie by accepting them; brokers who advise their clients to buy while they themselves are selling, physicians who withhold the truth from their patients, companies who know their products are defective, dangerous or damaging, but deny it and mislead regulators and the public; old story leaders who intend to limit the potential of an employee but promise unwarranted opportunities; executives who sand-bag their budgets and others who declare that their employees are their most important asset and then fire 500 of them. The strangest irony is that we have been teaching a myth about all this: the misguided notion that strong human relationships can be built on a flimsy footing of deceit. How can we build harmony, respect, integrity, honesty, inspiration, leadership or love on a foundation of lies? There is no logical argument that can support the idea that we can build consensus, community, ethics, teamwork, high performance, organizational and personal transformation, or outstanding customer service and quality without first building the necessary foundation of integrity on which to place them. Why do we expect to become Higher Ground Leaders from a base of dishonesty? After all, if we can’t even trust or tell the truth to each other, what are the grounds for expecting employees, customers or suppliers do any better? Walter Scott wrote, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”.
Love—Embracing the underlying oneness with others and life. Relating to, and inspiring, others and touching their hearts in ways that add to who you both are as persons.
How did we forget the old adage that more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar? Where did we learn the myth that we can get our way more effectively with petulance or through aggression and violence than with love? All human communications are transmitted and received on a continuum ranging between negative and positive, between fear and love. Our brains release different biochemicals depending on whether we are experiencing pain and fear or love and inspiration. When we experience pain and fear, the brain puts the body into “stress mode”, triggering the release of stress hormones by the limbic system. When we experience love and inspiration, the brain releases the body’s natural “uppers” that lower blood pressure, heart-rate and oxygen consumption. Since the soul and the body are one, our experiences of love or fear directly influence us to the core of our being – emotional, spiritually and, as we can see, physically. Violence and love are at opposite ends of a continuum, with selfishness at one end and service at the other. One builds. The other destroys.
Love is when my heart touches your heart and adds to who you are as a person. We know that we all yearn for more love in our lives. But we delude ourselves when we think this is only true of our personal lives and is not just as vital to our work environments. We all want more love in all of our lives – at home and at work.
Effectiveness—Being capable of, and successful in, achieving the physical, material, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual goals we set in life.
In corporate life, the requirement to achieve high levels of performance, are ever present. This is the reality of corporate life. But being a Higher Ground Leader is not about turning our attention away from these realities; it is the way we achieve them. Bottom line performance is our economic permission to continue leading the business as stewards for the owners of the enterprise. But too often we trade the short term metrics in exchange for the greatness that can only come from consistent and patient investment in courage, authenticity, service, truthtelling and love. According to the Towers Perrin study referred to in the Introduction “…negative emotion about work not only relates to higher turnover rates, but contributes to the kind of workplace malaise that can materially diminish productivity and performance. Conversely, strong positive emotion correlates with better financial results for an organization, as measured by five-year total shareholder return. The study also reveals that while employers are aware of the widespread discontent in their workplaces, they misjudge some of the root causes and risk taking inappropriate actions as a result. “Right now, there is an enormous gap between employees’ current and ideal work experience. People know what they want and need to feel intensely positive about their work, but unfortunately many are not getting it,” said Mark Mactas, Chairman and CEO of Towers Perrin.
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