Jaume Gallifa, MBA, ACC

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Mindfulness of Leadership and Self-Leadership Assumptions Is Fundamental for Right Influence and Impact

In this post, we explore the importance of being mindful of the unconscious assumptions that leaders and self-leaders made.

About leadership and self-leadership

« Leadership is a process of influence for directing behavior toward accomplishing goals. »  Neck, Manz & Houghton, 2020.

From a process point of view, leadership is about influence and impact. Leadership is also an universally recognized character strength that can be learned and developed (Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Niemiec & McGrath, 2019).

To lead others, we must first be able to lead ourselves and learn how to effectively utilize shared leadership (Pearce & Manz, 2005). Transposing the leadership definition above with a positive psychology perspective, self-leadership means influencing and directing ourselves to achieve our transformational and flourishing growth intentions. In fact, we all lead ourselves – Not always effectively.

About integrative awareness

« …integrative awareness involves an openly explorative attention and awareness for gathering information, developing insight, and thereby facilitating well-being and adaptation. »  Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007:217.

In the context of Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000, 2017), “integrative awareness” is characterized by an assimilatory, non-discriminatory interest in what is occurring both internally and externally that serves the function of promoting synthesis, organization, or integration in functioning (Ryan, 1995).

Such integrative awareness and functioning are the foundation of self-congruent -concordance between conscious and non-conscious assessments- and self-endorsed actions -aligned with authentic values, needs, intentions and motives (Ryan, 1995; Brown & Ryan, 2003; Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007; Brown, Creswell, & Ryan, 2015).

Integrative awareness encompasses an accurate and validated, holistic sense, perception and deep understanding of oneself and others’ whole self, but also social interactions, teams, organizations, and larger systems, including eco-systems (Goleman, 2013; Goleman & Senge, 2014).

Developing such an integrative awareness leads to greater clarity, realistic self-confidence, resilience, authenticity, well-being and outstanding creativity and performance in leadership and self-leadership, both at the personal and organizational level (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2003/2013; Anderson & Adams, 2016).

Mindfulness of leadership and self-leadership assumptions is fundamental for right Influence and impact

Integrative mindfulness is the foundation of all competence development (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee, 2013; Goleman, Boyatzis et al., 2017). In this post, I posit that mindfulness of our beliefs and mindset as a leaders and self-leaders is fundamental for having the right influence and impact.

Leader’s and self-leader’s « conscious and unconscious thought processes (thinking) generate emotional/physical states (their feelings), which in turn drive behaviors (their actions) that produce outcomes (their results). » (Caillet, 2013).

As we know, most of our beliefs are unconscious and we need to be mindful of them if we want to have a positive influence and impact in ourselves and others (Wrigth, 2017). Gaining clarity about our beliefs system is fundamental for being an effective leader and self-leader. Equally, right mindfulness starts by having right insight (Nhat Hanh, 2015).

Hereafter I propose few principles we need to be mindful about that make leadership and self-leadership influential and impactful.

Wholeness

We can develop leadership and self-leadership because these qualities are already in us, and they are found to be characteristic of all human communities – Part of our wholesome nature. Following Jung (1977), we can call such characteristic « Archetype » (Abramson, 2007). Ancient Buddhist teachings call « Buddhahood » such wholesome characteristic (Nhat Hanh, 2015).

Only by all leaders and self-leaders believing in the wholeness of individuals one can imagine a “Teal” organization to fully embrace wholeness as a wide organizational principle (Laloux, 2015).

Leadership and self-leadership can be cultivated

Like any other character strength, leadership and self-leadership can be cultivated mindfully, resulting in human flourishing (Niemiec, 2014). Having such a evidence-based growth mindset is fundamental for having the right influence and impact.

A growth mindset means that you believe your intelligence, talents, competencies and character strengths can be developed over time, your personality and your mind can change for the better, and you can flourish. A fixed mindset is the contrary, and results in a deterministic view of the world and in limiting self-actualization potential (Dweck, 2017).

Leadership and self-leadership are not just a theory, but a practice

« Research has demonstrated the centrality of procedural skills to well-being, positive relationships, health behaviors, labor market outcomes, and academic achievement across the lifespan. »  Hirshberg, 2021.

Knowing about mindfulness and leadership does not necessarily make anyone more mindful. Cognizing about virtues and character strengths does not necessarily make anyone flourish. Knowing about emotional intelligence does not make anyone a better leader and self-leader. Being mindful, flourishing, and developing as a leader and self-leader needs sustained practice. Leaders and self-leaders are both the instrument and the player of the practice.

Self-leadership science (Neck & Houghton, 2006) provides an evidence-based set of volitional, awareness, motivational, cognitive, behavioral, somatic (body), learning and relationship strategies for developing competencies. To name just a few known strategies: intrinsic self-motivation, self-goal setting, self-observation, self-reward, self-cueing, joyful practice, systems sustaining self-regulation, beliefs and assumptions evaluation, visualization of successful performance and positive talk. The same strategies are instrumental to sustain the mindfulness practice.

Like any other competence involving the brain executive centers and the limbic system, leadership and self-leadership is best learned through inner motivation, extended practice, and feedback (Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee, 2013; Lewis, Amini & Lannon, 2000).

Leadership development is a social practice

« Engagement in social practice is the fundamental process by which we learn and so become who we are. »  Wenger, 1998.

Communities of practice allow for connecting with other practitioners strengthening supportive networks provide a platform for sharing knowledge, experience, and best practices (Wenger, 2000).

Communities of practice are also one of the traditional foundations of the mindfulness practice, a fertile ground for transforming and flourishing together as a community (Nhat Hanh, 2015). Such type of social learning corresponds also to the distributed leadership and self-leadership styles that characterize the organizations of our time (Wenger, 2013).

The Mindful Leadership Community is an example of such social community of practice. Leadership and self-leadership can only be developed in a social context with the appropriate social support, trusting relationships, help, and encouragement in each step of the development process.

We all have agency and self-efficacy – The power of developing leadership and self-leadership

In line with Rogers’ (1951) concept of the organismic valuing process, it has been found that there is a human tendency to move towards beneficial goal choices with self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997; Sheldon, Arndt & Houser-Marko, 2003).

Only by integrating such belief with an unconditional positive regard and acceptance to others (Rogers, 1957) leaders and self-leaders can contribute other people growth and flourishing.

How leaders think about themselves and how they value themselves plays a key role in their well-being, as well in their influence and impact on others. Leaders and self-leaders offering unconditional positive regard to others will facilitate an atmosphere of congruence -were self-image and the notion of ideal self is in alignment- as well as the needed space for experiencing, learning, and transforming (Wouters et al., 2018), which is much needed as we all face change.

There is a way, a process, for developing leadership and self-leadership

We propose hereafter a process for developing leadership and self-leadership inspired in the Boyatzis (1999) model for self-directed learning.

Developing leadership and self-leadership starts by getting to envision the kind of leaders we want to be. This is about clarifying intention, vision, service orientation, and intrinsic motivation. The following questions would help clarifying intention: For what are you aiming? What is your vision and service orientation? How ready are you to motivate yourself, take initiatives and strive towards your goals? What about your discipline, perseverance, and accountability? How is your ideal leadership and self-leadership self like?

Leadership and self-leadership development continues with self-awareness, self-knowledge, critical thinking and decentering (having the ability to take a meta-position in regard to oneself). The following questions would help getting to know yourself: How well do you know yourself and your strengths? How well do you recognize your own emotions and their effects on yourself and on others? How accurate (decentered) are your self-assessments?

Once you have a good understanding of your intention and who you are, your leadership and self-leadership development continues with self-management, self-observation, self-regulation, regular practice, engagement, and focus. The following questions would help getting to know yourself: How close are you of your bodily sensations, emotions, and intuition? How do you manage your attention, emotions, and behavior? What are your self-management strategies? How effective are they to build on your strengths while reducing any gap? What systems sustain your self-regulation? How joyful is your practice? How do you sustain your practice with visualization of successful performance and positive talk?

Follows keep experiencing with new leadership and self-leadership behaviors, beliefs, thoughts and feelings with achievement and solution orientation, initiative, responsibility & accountability, self-efficacy (influence) and effectiveness (impact). Pertinent questions in this development step are for example: How do you influence and have a positive impact on yourself and others?

Self-efficacy and effectiveness lead to self-confidence, self-esteem, calmness, balance, and resilience. Pertinent questions here are: How do you trust yourself, your ability to cultivate optimism, hope, resilience, as well as positive relationships, emotions, and strengths? How do you show kindness and forgiveness for yourself?

Personal growth, self-fulfillment, self-actualization, and authenticity of the leader and self-leader will follow. Here one can ask: How well are you aligned with your intention and motivation?

Finally, inevitably change, feedback, challenges, successes, failures, risks, new learning needs and learning and innovation will follow. Questions here are: How well are you reframing your challenges? How well do you adapt? How flexible are you in managing change, learning, and innovating? How are you using your strengths to provide new perspectives to your leadership and self-leadership practice? How ready are you to change your perception of self and transform?

This development process should be seen, hopefully, as an upward spiral leading to more and more leadership and self-leadership development and flourishing.

The foundation of self-leadership is the awareness and attention we put in our aspirations and present mind-body experience

We can deduce that the inner transformation of the leaders’ and self-leaders’ consciousness is fundamental, since their ability to embody self-congruent and self-endorsed actions, having a positive regard for others, will determine the effectiveness of their impact and influence. Such transformation can only happen with right integrative awareness.

Finding the inner space to lead

Finding the inner space to lead is part of our self-leadership development journey (Marturano, 2015). Looking for such a space in ourselves and in our life is our responsibility – Inside and outside the organization.

We can all contribute to flourishing in the world by developing a personal and collective leadership and self-leadership presence energy. « Mindful leaders change the world. ».This is the shared vision of the The Flourishing Circle and the Mindful Leadership Community of practice.

References

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