The Five Hallmarks of Inspiring Leadership


The following is an excerpt from the new book: Inner Switch: 7 Timeless Principles for Transforming Modern Leadership by Susan S. Freeman, available now from the Entrepreneur Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM And Apple.

Some leaders think that when they achieve a certain goal—a promotion, extra compensation, or some other desired status—they will be “someone.” They believe that when they finally get or achieve what they want, they will be happy. Many will “practice being unhappy” until they reach the goal, unaware that unhappiness is only creating a pattern of unhappiness on the way to their promised happiness. Think about it: how will you find the path to happiness if you were unhappy all the way there?

Others think that, like the velvet rabbit, the path to happiness lies in “becoming”: when one has received so much love that the fur is thin. But the becoming model implies that something is missing at the beginning of our journey. Everything we think we lack makes us unhappy because we are more attached to our goals than to our being. If we can become aware of our being and focus on it instead, we can be happy all the way to the goal. This simple change of perspective changes everything.

What really matters is how we are getting where we want to be.

There are five characteristics by which we can recognize ourselves and others as essence-based leaders. Do you embody this paradigm? Where might you want to change your current approach?

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Indicator 1: Self-enquiry

For leaders based on being, being always precedes doing. Knowing that the actions available to them are determined by their inner state, leaders conduct regular self-inquiry.

Many leaders believe their condition is determined by a mix of genetics, environment, and the impact of their experiences. Some believe that “people either have it or they don’t”. They believe that leaders who spend time processing their emotions are ineffective, slow, and will lose to their competitors through a sort of “survival of the fittest.” They see feeling and being as soft skills that are not worth investing any resources in.

These action-oriented leaders want efficient, low-maintenance employees for their organizations. They believe that people come to work with brains

which somehow have nothing to do with their feelings. This mindset can lead them to see employees and co-workers—and even themselves—as objects whose sole purpose is to get desired tasks done.

But how could someone treated like a machine show creativity, let alone innovate alongside others?

Although many people believe that our personality traits and behaviors are entrenched and therefore difficult to change, leaders understand and adjust their behaviors through self-examination. They take time to reflect on open-ended questions like: Is it possible that our state of being can be chosen and is not part of who we are? Can we change a state of being or a habit by becoming aware of it? Do we need intention? Practice? Anything else?

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Hallmark 2: Awareness and Presence

Unsurprisingly, leaders feel that their hard-won habits and wisdom make them perfect for tackling new challenges. These things often bring them professional success, recognition, and financial rewards, confirming that they followed the rules and “won.” But they work so hard that they lack the joy of life. Did they gain by creating suffering for themselves and others along the way?

It is a survival advantage to rely on learning from the past. It’s much more efficient for our brains to form habits so that we don’t use up our cognitive processing power every day with repetitive activities like driving a car or washing the dishes. But if we’re not careful, our minds can trick us into making hasty judgments about people and situations based on past events—and those expectations can turn out to be wrong, crippling social bonding, or blocking innovation.

Indicator 3: Awareness of your own energy

The third mark is becoming aware of your own energy, an important step in feeling into being. Many Eastern languages ​​have words for energy. In Sanskrit it is called prana. In Mandarin Chinese it is called Chi. In the west, our understanding of energy is more rudimentary.

We associate the word with either high or low states of being. Awake or asleep, excited or tired, present or absent, many of our problems with energy stem from our determination to artificially boost it. We look for external stimulants, such as coffee, cigarettes, or pills. Our urge to overwork depletes us even further, adding to our already depleted reserves of energy.

What kind of energy do you share? Leaders work with and through others. When leaders are aware of their own energy, they can use it to positively influence a conversation. Conversely, if they are unaware of their own energy and importance, they can potentially transfer negative energy to others, reducing their effectiveness or even having a detrimental effect on them. Not only does it encourage ineffectiveness, it also invites resistance. It can create a toxic work environment. Energy, good or bad, is contagious.

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Hallmark 4: Intrinsic connections between the physical body and the mind

According to Ayurveda, a sister science to yoga and India’s traditional medicine system, which includes diet and lifestyle practices, our bodies are highly intelligent machines designed to maintain homeostasis under the right conditions. This includes a healthy lifestyle based on the harmony of the earth’s natural cycles, as well as nutrition and exercise tailored to the body. When we manage ourselves in this way, our body’s autonomic balancing mechanisms work completely silently and effortlessly. It is in these conditions that we can best enjoy the pleasures of our body. We, too, can best utilize our mind-body connection when our body and lifestyle are in balance.

When we overeat or eat foods that lack nutritional value, our bodies cannot properly digest that food. The undigested food turns into excess fat and toxins, two causes of inflammation and disease. Healing requires knowledge, discipline and effort. Losing unhealthy weight can take a long time and requires us to develop a different relationship with food and our emotions around food. When we diet, we use the excess food energy that was previously stored in the body. Weight lost is often regained later. We may think that being overweight and being ill “are who we are”. We may even use medication to relieve symptoms without addressing the underlying issues. Sometimes the medical treatments have side effects or complications that make the original problem worse.

Likewise, “undigested” emotions and traumatic memories can be harmful not only at the time they are experienced, but also later – because they are stored in our minds as well as our bodies and energies. Traumatic experiences stored in our bodies, like food, represent the consequences of undigested emotions from the moment they occur. We can take medication or even over-the-counter medication or alcohol to relieve our distress. These methods can also lead to secondary problems.

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Indicator 5: Be a witness

Leading requires connection, not isolation. Decisions made when leaders are isolated in their programmed, reactive minds never reflect their best. They are usually made while being reactive and judgmental, often showing a lack of trust in others. Relationships with subordinates can be marred by conflict and a lack of creative problem-solving. Leaders will not be able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and will suffer while blaming those around them for those failures. Such leaders are likely to be bound by the results they achieve as an expression of their self-esteem. Because the results are never perfect, they can never experience true satisfaction with themselves or others.

A leader who initiates action from a state of preconditioned programming creates confusion around them. If they are separate from their inner source, they are not there at the moment. Your solutions will actually be a solution to a problem from the past, not the one at hand. They use an inner logic only accessible to the leader and visible only through the filters of the past. This type of leader tries to solve their inner problems without doing any work of their own, usually with mediocre results.

Conversely, when a leader chooses to transition into Witness consciousness, they can recognize that they were the source of their own problem—and their own solutions. They realize that solving conflicts first starts with solving them within themselves and they no longer rely on others to solve their problems. A leader who is aware of their own presence is connected to the power that is within them.

Decisions made from the witness consciousness will be harmonious. In this state we access the brain as an equal counterpart to the heart, soul and spirit and experience our entire being as a harmonious instrument. We are finally able to respond in the moment, unbiased through preconditioning. We accept others and inspire trust, and our relationships become peaceful. We inspire others to create with us. This generativity allows for rapid adaptation to change and innovation. We find joy in our choices, and that joy will remain regardless of the outcome.

To delve deeper, lift up Inner Switch: 7 Timeless Principles for Transforming Modern Leadership by Susan S. Freeman, available now from the Entrepreneur Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM And Apple.

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