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The Man in The Mirror: How Leaders Can Create Conscious Organizations by Leading with Courage & Vulnerability

As I am sitting down to write about how the leaders of tomorrow need to climb down from their ivory tower and connect more meaningfully with a workforce they don’t understand or appreciate, Michael Jackson came on the radio to helpfully remind me that leaders first need to take a good look at themselves:

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Leadership is equivocal. It is a space of no right or wrong answers. There isn’t any one type of leader that is better than another. We all do it differently. But what separates good leaders from the not so good leaders is that the good ones aren’t playing a role, they are leading with authenticity and from a place of courage. Courage to show up fully, without egos in sight, they stand by their values, they are the first to show trust and lift everyone up in the face of setbacks and failures.

Why is a new type of leadership required?

Every organisation is experiencing change. The traditional organisational design based on hierarchies and command and control is increasingly being displaced by a network of teams regardless of industry, geography, or company size. This type of agile workplace is becoming increasingly common, and with its focus on the employee experience, leaders are faced with changing employee expectations who are demanding more soulful workplaces where their skills and talents meet their deepest desire for purpose. Organisations are making investments in agile transformations in the hope of capitalising on agile’s well-documented benefits of greater speed, better product and service quality, lower costs, and increased customer orientation.

Leaders need to self-disrupt

The problem with transformations is not a lack of ideas and motivation.  It’s a lack of courage.  Leaders cannot strive for great outcomes without being brave. And we cannot be brave without being vulnerable, because in the pursuit of greatness, come mis-steps, disappointments, and failures.

Vulnerability is the ability to show up and to be seen and stay engaged when you´re in fear and uncertainty.

~Brene Brown

If leaders don’t align their behaviours with agile values and principles and cultivate an agile mind-set for business agility, leaders themselves will limit the return their companies can realise on their agile efforts. You can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. That’s a hard pill to swallow, after all, leaders have reached a certain level of success and capabilities doing what they do, so why and what do they need to change now? Unlearning what led to personal success in the past is a tall order.

So what are the qualities of an Agile Leader?

There’s no one model for agile leadership, but more and more we see that agile leadership is all about people: empowering them, letting them take control of decision making, helping them direct their energy and activities productively, encouraging them to bring their whole selves to work.

An agile leader creates an environment where people feel safe and belong, where human ability is nurtured, valued, and unleashed. An agile leader models patience, trust, and wisdom through their actions. They empower their teams to actively seek opportunities to experiment and learn fast to adapt and thrive in a changing environment.

Focus on building EQ, not IQ

The qualities described above require an enormous amount of self-reflection and self-awareness.  There is a lot at stake when leaders commit to leading with authenticity and courage. These skills are related to emotional intelligence, not intelligence quotient.  HR Managers must turn to development under individual and group emotional quotient.

Creating a conscious organisation

To succeed in today’s highly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world it is critical for leaders to create an environment where team members feel safe to make mistakes, learn from them and take those lessons forward.

To scale daring leadership and build courage in teams and organizations, we have to cultivate a culture in which brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts are the expectation, and armour is not necessary or rewarded. We have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.

~Brene Brown

How are you leading your teams? Are you empowering your teams to have more honest conversations, respect each other, and embrace each other’s differences? Are you creating a space that is safe enough for employees to speak their minds?

When you lead from a place of courage and vulnerability, you give yourself and everyone around you the chance to connect more deeply and work together more powerfully.

This is what the leaders of the future look like in the mirror.

Rishita Jones
Rishita Jones
Creating happy, healthy, and engaged workplaces through purposeful HR practices and authentic leadership. What I am: I am a human of the world. A wife, daughter, sister, and a mother of 2. I am curious. I am a seeker and a soul searcher. I am a dreamer and a believer. I live for today and I show up for tomorrow. What I do: I chose HR on purpose, 14 years ago. I didn’t fall into it or get stuck in it. My love for what I do led me to live and work in 4 countries looking at what drives, motivates, and moves people. My professional journey of searching for more egalitarian ways of working, sense of belonging, and purpose led me to discover Agile. For the past 4 years, I have worked as a change agent in HR, bringing the Agile values, principles, and tools to individuals, teams, and organisations wishing to make a transition to more innovative, trustful, and team-centred ways of working. I am an accredited Agile HR practitioner and trainer, and a multi-linguist who seeks to carry forward the new language of HR.

14 COMMENTS

  1. OMG. I wanted to highlight one sentence then I realized there is no way! I agree with you 100% on everything! Welcome and very nice to meet you. Ok I will mark one : “The problem with transformations is not a lack of ideas and motivation. It’s a lack of courage. Leaders cannot strive for great outcomes without being brave. And we cannot be brave without being vulnerable, because in the pursuit of greatness, come mis-steps, disappointments, and failures.”

    • Thank you Brooke. I’m really happy that this article resonates with you and that sentence you highlight, that is what being human is all about. We all strive for extraordinary, and with extraordinary we have to accept failures, disappointments and mis-steps as part of learning and growing.

  2. Welcome!
    This says it all Rashita..
    “Leaders cannot strive for great outcomes without being brave. And we cannot be brave without being vulnerable..”
    It is in the pursuit of greatness I question…
    There is so much to be said about leadership.
    The greatest leaders are the ones who know how to lead from within We are all leaders and followers
    There is an innate leader in you.. we need to follow and be true to this. When we can do this, then others will see it too. The role is held by everyone, some are better at organizing!
    Those who are wanting the title of leader without being a follower too? This isn’t working.
    A helper is a leader. The pursuit of making everything better and great.. if intentions are in the right place, the leader must be a helper first. Help themselves and then they are best equipped to help others.
    Thank you for this well articulated piece!
    Have a great week
    Paula

    • Thank you Paula. I love what you just said. The symbiotic relationship of leadership and self-help or self-growth. You can’t grow others if you don’t grow yourself first. You can’t lead others if you don’t lead yourself first. Thank you!

  3. Charles Darwin was already saying: “Do not survive the strongest or the most intelligent, but those who adapt more quickly to change.”
    Today are required “flexible organizations”, those companies, that is, are able to “navigate” the change and the complexity of the present business world. The organizational flexibility is essential for business success. And leadership is not only flexible for the ability to learn and adapt to new responsibilities but also and above all, in the effectiveness of its initiatives, the creativity with which complex problems are solved, in actively seeking feedback on its effectiveness. The agility is also manifested in the ability of managers to change their style decision-making in response to a wide range of parameters such as urgency, level of risk, time constraints and the regional and cultural differences. Not all decision-making styles can be applied everywhere or constantly. Agile organizations tend to have managers with the right mix of personal attributes, that is, people who demonstrate a variety of skills, clearly comfortable with ambiguity and respectful of processes, without being slaves of them. They understand the difference between influence and authority and therefore are completely at their own ease in influencing and participating in the team. They do not focus on hierarchy, but on ideas, information, creativity, flexibility, openness, and curiosity. Together, these leaders do team, with extensive experience, are resolute, responsive, flexible, able to speed up the decision-making process, given that the main issues have already been discussed. One of the biggest challenges in this complex world is the fact that we need different perspectives, different knowledge and different ways to solve a problem. Sometimes there is not “one” answer: there are some, or many: That is why what is first of all needed is to think as a team.

    • Love this Aldo, all of it! For me what really stuck out is that there is not one answer. If we open our minds and accept that there is more than one answer, we invite expansion of thinking, of reason and of doing. And in doing so, we create the conditions for collaboration, exploration, experimentation, trust, and so on …

  4. Rishita – Welcome to the BC360 family. In this forum, you will find encouragement for your writing, engagement that is respectful and thoughtful, and followers who become online friends. I enjoyed yourf first article and agree with you – every leader must look in the mirror daily to ensure they still like and respect the person looking back at them.

  5. Hi, Rishita.
    Good to find another Brene Brown fan. Do you also engage with the work of Glennon Doyle?
    Thanks for your focus on leadership as creating the environment of shared power. I actually prefer to use “power sharing” rather than “empowerment.” I’m a recovering English teacher, so words draw my attention. My problem with “empowerment” is that you do it to people (it’s a transitive verb), so who really has the power? “Power sharing” you do with (not to) people, so across rather than down.
    Keep on fightin’ the good fight.
    Mac

    • Marc – thank you ever so much for the clarification. I shall be more mindful of this distinction. I have not engaged with Glennon Doyle but shall look at it. Thank you for enriching insight.

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