As I reluctantly started my first day working at a Mental Health organisation over 20 years ago, the manager in charge of the new recruits, posed a powerful question to me.
He asked; “Where are you coming from?”
As I looked on surprised and confused, he continued.
“Because once I know where you’re coming from, I know where you’re going.”
As a slightly hesitant woman in her twenties about to navigate her first professional role, I didn’t quite understand the question, or his subsequent answer. But as life has afforded me so many opportunities to understand this powerful, yet simple question, I now understand that it all starts within.
Where you come from is everything.
It all starts with your internalised mindset, which affects your motivation, purpose, intention and determines the direction you move towards and all that sprouts forth.
Leadership is more than a title, status or role.
It is an embodiment of qualities creating a ripple effect which manifested outwards, create an external impact. It allows those who relate to you to react based on your inner leadership stance. This is not just confined to the walls of an office, but you carry it wherever you go, like that companion who walks alongside you determining each action you take.
We’re all born into a system called life and within this system, we incorporate our family, work, culture, religion and community. Finding our place in life and then having to take on the responsibility of leading others requires a certain capability.
It’s not for the faint-hearted.
We all knew kids at school who were natural leaders, they hadn’t completed a leadership training or attended any workshops, yet wherever they stood in the playground broodily looking on, other children would surround them like bees to a honeypot.
They exuded an inner confidence and self-belief that was innate, and others followed.
These kids could wear the most mismatched outfits, the most hideous haircut, but all their ‘followers’ in their group would follow on obligingly. The effortless stance of being completely at ease with who they are, and letting go of being a leader, had the effect of becoming even more effective as one. No effort or energy being spent forcing or cajoling others to follow.
I coached a client recently who was struggling in his leadership capabilities. He had never been respected in any of his roles as a manager, and had tried hard to be liked. Taking constant actions within his company so he could to gain recognition, acknowledgement and praise. To his chagrin, he was generally ignored, dismissed and demeaned.
But he had missed one very important point.
Leadership is not about ‘what’ you’re doing, it’s about ‘who’ you’re being.
So what is your inner stance?
By this I mean, where do you come from?
There are various mindsets that can potentially impact your state, and it’s important to recognise when you’re operating from one of them. Do you lead from a soulful place of compassion, love, empowerment, or from a state of anxiety, insecurity, stress and anger?
This requires you to be aware of the mindset that is driving your behaviour.
Remember that we live in a thought created reality and your thinking creates your feelings, which then creates your experience in the moment. Feelings are not created in a vacuum, they are always powered by thought.
We have approximately 60,000 thoughts a day and the process can become a high voltage scenario which can get in the way of gaining any measure of clarity.
This isn’t about changing your thoughts into positive ones, or becoming the thought police as a feeble attempt to stop your thinking.
It’s about knowing that we don’t need to take some of these thoughts seriously, or attach, internalise and personalise them. They are thoughts often powered by the ego, carrying decade’s worth of insecurities, regrets and juvenile dialogue.
The thoughts driving you could be ‘I’m not being respected,’ ‘I’m going to fail,’ ‘I have to be perfect,’ ‘I have to know it all,’ ‘No one ever listens to me,’ ‘It’s not going to work.’
Imagine attempting to step into leadership with any selection of those thoughts running through your mind.
Ask yourself; which thoughts are getting in the way of your leadership?
Imagine if those thoughts were no longer there, how would you lead differently?
What benefits would this have on you and your team?
I teach my coaching clients to step up into leadership from the offset. Which means they need to take responsibility for their growth during our work together. As they approach their first coaching session, I observe as my clients look to me for guidance, as a child looks onto a parent. It’s as if they have handed the baton of the responsibility of their growth to me.
At times, I’ve had to step up my own leadership stance substantially, as clients will often attempt to push the boundaries on all levels and this doesn’t serve the client or our work together.
As an example of this, I was coaching a highly successful businesswoman who was extremely disorganised and vacant. She consistently turned up late or missed sessions and seemed to lack the commitment needed to be in coaching. This experience was making me feel angry, disempowered and disrespected, therefore making this exchange about my ego being tarnished.
I discussed this case with my own coach who picked up the anger in my voice. He swept my ego to one side for a moment and asked me;
“What would best serve your client?”
I sat in silence for a while as I realised how enmeshed I had become in my client’s process.
I reflected on my client with compassion as I recalled that the reason she had wanted coaching was because she felt disrespected by her own clients and was struggling with being taken seriously as a professional in her field.
Despite the fact that she had already paid me for a 3-month coaching programme which was none refundable, I stepped up into leadership from an inner state of compassion and a focus on doing what would best serve her, whilst being unwavering in what I was willing to tolerate from this client.
I drafted an e-mail to her, and in my communication, I told her that I had chosen not to continue to coach her at the present time. I didn’t want to invest more on what she wanted than she was prepared to. Once she was ready and prepared to show up for the sessions and engage in them fully, she could resume the sessions. But for the moment, I wouldn’t schedule a further session until she could commit to keeping to our coaching agreements.
She didn’t respond to my communication immediately.
It was only six months later, when I received a short e-mail from this client where she stated sheepishly “Michele, I’m ready to re-start our sessions.”
I can’t stress how different this client was once we re-started our work together. She was engaged, present, focused and not only did she complete the sessions, but she happily referred other clients to me.
Had my leadership included confronting her angrily, because I was feeling disrespected, it would not have had the same result.
In discovering the mindset that was leading my state, I was able to turn it around; focus on leading not from anger, but from what best would serve my client in her growth, whilst honouring myself in the process. This changed the dynamic, the communication and all that happened after.
At times we are too caught up in our own processes to be fully present with what is unfolding around us. It’s important to slow down, become aware of the buttons that are being pressed, and reflect on what your inner motivation is. In this way, those who you lead are drawn to you because you embody a presence, which appreciates, acknowledges, collaborates with and motivates others.
A leadership presence which does away with hierarchy radiates authenticity and inspires those around you.
If you liked this article, you can read more chapters like these in my latest book ‘Look Inside: Stop Seeking Start Living’ available now on Amazon.
If you want to connect with me to share insights from this article, send an e-mail to [email protected]