HBR this month reminds us that ‘…we believe that leadership starts with ourselves and, more specifically, it starts with our mind. By understanding and leading ourselves more effectively, we can understand and be able to lead them more effectively, and then we can better understand and lead our organisations’.
Bill George, professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, tells us that ‘ …self- awareness is the starting point of leadership’, and that ‘self-awareness is the skill of being aware of our thoughts, emotions and values from moment to moment. Through self-awareness, we can lead ourselves with authenticity and integrity – and in turn better lead others and our organisations.’
All true. But let’s notice how the difference between the two paragraphs above. HBR holds that leadership starts with the mind. Bill George teaches that it begins with being aware of our thoughts, emotions and values.
The recommendations they make are good: practice mindfulness, take breaks, and pay real attention to what others say.
All good advice. However, let’s remember Hamlet’s warning that focusing inwards can lead to us becoming ‘sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought’, and that the implications of mindfulness, while most beneficial, can lead us, that’s right lead us, – to quote Hamlet again – to ‘lose the name of action.’
Leaders – all of us – will benefit if we learn how to nourish self-awareness in thought (Mind), emotions (Empathy) and values (Authenticity).
We’ll benefit even more if we learn how to translate that self-awareness into the action which is inspiration. And it means using the power of Presence to shift our self-awareness into activating self-awareness into all the productive and inspiring statements and actions that inspire others.
Inspiration isn’t something that just happens. It’s something we do, and can learn to do more consciously. Self-awareness, and the mind, are just the starting point.
As trainers, coaches and workshop designers and leaders, we in the Corporate Theatre have researched hard and deep into how inspiration arises out of activating self-awareness into specific powers. Almost everyone can learn to do it. Its effects are profound and electrifying. It means hard work, but – as one of our delegates once affirmed – it works!