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The Work of a Leader is to Lead in Doing the Work

What you are speaks too loudly; I can’t hear what you are saying.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The work I am referring to is the work we all need to do inside ourselves to release any obstacles in the way of our best expression. The extent of our talents and gifts are more unlimited than we may believe. Even if we consider ourselves successful, we can grow and expand our capacity to be more authentic and energy filled.

Every week in my coaching practice I meet with leaders who are operating at 50-70 percent of their capacity. They are struggling to feel good about themselves, to navigate conflict, and to manage their emotions under stress. In response to their struggles, they do more and more and cause themselves more and more stress and give themselves less and less space and time to change the patterns operating in their lives.

So instead of doing more and more, I am gently guiding them to look into how they are being. Do they have a connection with their body while they work? Do they have a connection between heart and head as they work? Do they breathe deeper than the shallow quick sips that get them through the day and land them exhausted at the end?

I hear people describe feelings of overwhelm, inadequacy, fear, anxiety, and even depression.

Is the work causing all this? In my thirty years’ experience working with leaders I find that in an overwhelming number of cases, the circumstances are not the issue. The circumstances are common; the response to the circumstances is where individual choice resides. It is common to deal with a limit on resources, to deal with challenging colleagues, to deal with market fluctuations, even to deal with the shock of world events like natural disasters or pandemics.

When we find ourselves with limited responses to the inevitable stresses of work and life, we have narrowed our field of vision to that which we believe we can handle.

We feel satisfied or dissatisfied, complete or incomplete, in control or out of control. Many leaders move between this continuum for months and even years. There is no true joy, gratitude, or feelings of love and connection that last for more than moments and this is considered acceptable. The deep reservoir of resilience that can be built through a healthy mind, body, and soul has been largely ignored and instead, we have set goals, built skills, clamored for more responsibility and resources, and don’t find ourselves feeling good about our lives.

So what is the way forward — another management book, or training? The way forward is through the exploration and release of thoughts, ideas, and stored trauma that is silently driving your behavior and your life. Lately, I have been called on to do weekly mindfulness sessions for organizations. These sessions introduce meditation, affirmations, bodywork, self-talk, energy balancing, and all kinds of tools to help navigate our days as embodied as we can be. These tools don’t always get to the root of the issues that obstruct our full, healthy presence, but they help with the day to day.

The deeper issues need to be acknowledged and worked through whether in a series of sessions or year over year. Growth, recovery, wellness, and wholeness is a lifelong journey. Finding your path to healing is part of your leadership work, whether you chose traditional talk therapy or somatic or yogic approaches, the important action is to choose.

What is in the way of your highest expression? Do you know?

Are you willing to do the work to find out? Can you imagine how you would lead if you felt a clear connection between heart and mind and you felt a peace inside your own skin? Science is uncovering fascinating connections between challenging life experiences and our behaviors over time, there are grooves in our brain, connections made sometimes even when we are unaware. These connections can be triggered by current events and our responsive behavior can be detrimental to solving the challenges we face right now.

As leaders, let’s be willing to do the deep dive into ourselves and emerge as a better version of ourselves which invites everyone whose life we touch to bring out their best too.

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