Leading and Living Consciously
As a clinically trained psychotherapist-turned-executive-coach-leadership consultant, I have the best job in the world: helping people to wake up, address their get-in-the-way-stuff, and lead from a place of wholeness. And this I know to be true: transformed people transform people.
Many take the invitation and when they do, growth happens as a result of hard work mixed with magic. The work we do is not for the fainthearted. It is for those who want to live and lead from a place of self-awareness, realness, and joy. For those who want to wake up.
Many brilliant executives stay asleep, unwilling to look at their patterns of abusing others, denial, addictive behaviors, and untreated mental health issues. Because they are highly functioning, drive nice cars, take family vacations chronicled on social media, and bring value to an organization, the damage they do to others is overlooked, sugar coated with success, influence, personal marketing campaigns, and charm. Many destructive people are bleeding on folks who did not hurt them as an attempt to deal with their own unaddressed baggage.
These damaging patterns bear a cost to the workplace including diminished productivity, low morale, talent attrition, disengagement, and plain old-fashioned mistrust and organizational chaos. Here is the take-away: the mental health of leaders should matter just as much as profitability does.
Harmful things occur in an organization if there are people who consistently exhibit these characteristics:
Rarely or never apologize (they might say they’re sorry, but they do not change their behavior hence, their apology is just a manipulation).
Appear emotionally intelligent but upon closer look, they strategically script their behavior to fuel their well-crafted persona.
Blame others and have boatloads of excuses why nothing is their fault.
Have only one real topic of interest: themselves.
Are self-centered and low on empathy.
Harbor resentments and look for ways to sabotage those who go against them.
Are masterful at spreading lies about others.
Enjoy orchestrating, watching, and experiencing the discomfort of others.
Structure conversations in such a way as to showcase their basic belief: they are right and the smartest in the room.
Manufacture challenges so they can find the solution and appear the hero.
Are rarely emotionally honest and transparent; work hard to present a picture-perfect life while chaos is most likely the reality.
Play the wounded, easily-hurt one if called on the truth of how they behave.
Healthy cultures recognize that those who lead have a tremendous impact on not only the careers of others, but also their emotional and spiritual health. In order to create healthier organizations, our hope is that people examine the stuff they lug around in emotional U-Hauls: the nuclear, dishonest stuff simmering underneath the surface that leaks out and poisons.
While there might be people in your workplace or life who could benefit from waking up and getting support, they might not be willing. We all know some of those, and while we can cast a light on the path of emotional and interpersonal wholeness, we cannot make someone else walk it. This is when it is critical to understand the importance of taking care of ourselves and letting go of the delusion that we are someone else’s answer. Nothing changes if nothing changes. And the biggest change we can bring to all the places we occupy is an awakened self.
We are all recovering from something.
“If you bring forth what is in you, what is in you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is in you, what is in you will destroy you.”
~The Gospel of Saint Thomas (Gnostic Gospel)
“If you bring forth what is in you, what is in you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is in you, what is in you will destroy you.”~The Gospel of Saint Thomas (Gnostic Gospel)
Life would be easy if it weren’t for the people.
And as unnerving of a confession it might be here is the truth: we, too, are one of the people. We can all be irritating, maddening, dishonest, self-absorbed, and a little bit insane at times. We can all find ourselves jonesing for the next fix that will numb us, stop the pain, make us feel awesome (for a hot minute).
Addicts and alcoholics are the wake-up call for all of us. They wear their pain like billboards: an invitation to the rest of us to examine our relationship to not just drink and drugs but to exercise, shopping, rescuing others, work, swipes and snaps. God help us to spiritually awaken: to put down the outside solution that wrecks us and pick up the inside connection that saves us.
So, what in the name of all that is holy is the inside connection? I have found the answer in my faith and by heeding the call of rigorous self-honesty. Of recovering from the compulsion that keeps me diving into people, places, and things that pull me under. And yet we can only say “yes” to rigorous self-honesty if we have a Higher Power on whom we can lean when we look at the truth of our lives. Otherwise, how would we survive the burning bush and the singed parts of our life?
Every ancient wisdom tradition requires a journey inward. In order to take this journey as leaders at home and work, we have to put down the personas, the hustle for worthiness, and the constant siren call convincing us that our well-being is tied to what we drive, how busy we are, and how many likes we get. We are exhausted by trying to outrun the honesty of who we are.
When we try to outrun our truth, the alarm gets louder in its desire to have us just-friggin’-wake-up-and-pay-attention! But we are a stubborn lot worshipping at the altar of denial. And while we are wasting precious time pretending that the truth is not the truth, our stuff is downstairs in the basement getting stronger and working out with weights.
My word lately has been “clarity”: going through the moments of my life with as much clarity as I can muster about who I am, what feels healthy, and what/who is no longer required. I am focused on removing the times I explain myself when no explanation is necessary. I am committed to walking away from the moments when I, once again, attempt to convince those who will never be convinced of my inherent goodness. I am now aware of the desire to numb myself by looking for someone to fix, rescue, heal. I actually pay attention these days when I smell the shame-hunters coming from miles away. I am no longer willing to have mine be one of those shrunken, severed heads in someone else’s trophy case. For a long time, I was.
This clarity requires a daily ritual of sitting still, of surrounding myself with those who pursue joy not denial, and being connected to my tribe: the ones who let go in order to connect. The ones who understand that there is One who sends out an army to find us in the middle of the darkest night. Those able to say, “You too? I thought I was the only one”. The ones who wink with an acceptance that only comes from facing the scare-me-straight-truth of who we are. The ones who know the next time won’t be different. The truly, utterly, bring-it-on awake ones.