January 18, 2018

Archives for September 2012

How unconscious is your leadership?

Two doctors talkingWe tend to think of leadership as something we do consciously. In fact, it’s not really like that at all.

After all…

As ground-breaking doctor and hypno-therapist, Milton Erickson said “what you don’t realise is your life is mostly unconsciously determined,” meaning we live much of our lives on autopilot. Research says about 90% of what we do, we do unconsciously. If that applies to life in general, then it must apply to us when we are in a leadership role too, and not just to us but to those we lead as well.

You could also say, for that reason, your people will do as you do, rather than what you say, or even, they will be as you are. In other words, the predominant leadership effect is people unconsciously modelling themselves on your unconsciously expressed values and behaviors. That’s if they pay attention at all, of course.


If ever there was an argument for the authenticity of walking the talk, perhaps that’s it. The only way to ensure we lead unconsciously in the way we intend is to be thoroughly authentic.

Postpone the analysis, stay in the moment

Group of business peoplePeople interacting with one another have sensory experiences involving images, sounds and feelings.

Yet we’re often tempted to reach for analytical models; to turn the flesh and blood experience into an intellectual exercise and try to manage relationships at that level. With a professional training, we’re particularly prone to going “into our heads” and disassociating ourselves from the direct experience.

And the problem is…

The opportunity to act is lost, because we’re no longer fully “present” and, so no longer influential. Again and again we do this, every time losing the opportunity to work with the live energy in the situation. Why? Because it feels safer perhaps.

Instead, we could stay in the moment and leave the analysis until later—much later.

To influence other people, we need a real-time, in-the-moment connection; not to disappear into our heads, and instead to stay present, focused on the other people there; to be open and take what seems like a risk (though maybe it’s actually the safer path).

How do you know when you’re fully present? How do you tell? A certain heightened physical awareness of the space and other people, and a feeling of groundedness perhaps? What are your inner signals?

The importance of a specific goal, and a small step towards it

Mark BeaumontHe travelled 18,297 miles round the world on a bicycle and beat his target of 195 days by 8 hours. His target was in reality an arbitrary estimate based on 100 miles per day with an allowance for unforeseen difficulties. In so doing, he smashed the previous world record of 276 days by 81 days.

As adventurer Mark Beaumont said himself, there’s something to learn about the importance of setting a specific goal.

We might also infer something about the merit of focusing on your outcome rather than the “competition.”

Mark had more to say about having the right mindset, specifically focusing on short-term goals every day, like finding the right food and a suitable place to camp. The words of Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching seem to fit…

Take on difficulties while they are still easy;
Do great things while they are still small
The sage does not attempt anything very big,
And thus achieves greatness.

Giving yourself permission

Sonia ChoquetteAuthor and speaker Sonia Choquette give a fabulous demonstration of giving yourself permission to be yourself and do essentially anything on stage. The 700 or so people present respond wholeheartedly. In fact, the more Sonia is herself, the more the audience responds. It’s not that she’s does anything outlandish – just using her voice to the full and dancing around a bit – well a lot maybe.

Leaving afterwards, someone is overheard to say “I wish I had Sonia’s lack of inhibition.”

Think about it for a minute…

That’s kind of backwards. She already has her lack of inhibition, on the inside anyway. It’s a question of choosing to let it out. I suppose we get what she means though… it takes courage to be so exposed in front of so many people, or even perhaps just a few.

But here’s the thing…

The more Sonia is herself, the safer she is. The more she gives herself permission, the more we support her. And it’s the same with anyone else on that stage.

And it’s the same with people one-on-one…

The more we give ourselves permission to be ourselves, the safer we are.

The leader: Master or servant or something else?

Three managersThe notion of the “servant leader” conveys the important idea of the leader serving the people he or she leads. That’s a useful shift in perspective from the more traditional idea of leader as master and the led serving the leader.

But perhaps servant leader isn’t quite right either…

The idea that the leader has a lesser status than those she leads may cause other difficulties. The real art is leading without status either way. Abraham Maslow said that the most successful (Self-actualizing) people are not invested in power over others i.e. they are uninterested in status. That’s the most sustainable approach in the long run and the only one available when we have no explicit authority.

Seeking status above those we seek to lead won’t work well for us in the long run, but neither will appearing to place ourselves beneath them.

Status-free leadership is the better goal.

How much is status a feature in your working life and what perspective do you take on it?

Are you a shadow of your future self?

Professional man and womanWe’re probably familiar with the old expression “a shadow of her former self”, implying a temporary or even permanent decline from earlier capability and presence.

But perhaps the change is in the other direction. Perhaps you are now a mere shadow of what you could and will become.

What like is the person you are now the shadow of?

Why wait to be them?

Why not be the real thing now?

Why not come out into the light?

The power of metaphor

Man thinking, looking upwardHe visibly changed in front of our eyes… From a barely there, fidgeting, rather evasive character, he became a solid, three-dimensional, distinctly present person with solid eye contact and a strong voice to match.

What made the difference?

Thinking of a metaphor for the resourceful state he wants—one in which others’ slings and arrows simply bounce off. In his resourceful state, he is a steel sphere, rather a large one in fact. Much, much bigger than any steel sphere I’ve ever seen. That’s the great thing: The metaphor allows you to turn up the volume.


To strengthen a resourceful state for yourself for handling a challenging situation, think of a metaphor for it—could be anything really—and work up the detail. Develop a rich description for it, and be greedy. After all, no one will know. And you’ll have the resource you need.

Here’s a process…

1. Think of the quality you want in want in real world terms. Make sure it’s expressed as the presence of something you want rather than the absence of something you don’t. (In the example, the desire was first expressed as “not let things get to him”. That’s not a good starting point, so we turned it into “things bouncing off”.

2. Once you’re clear about the state you want, ask yourself “That’s like what?” to get a metaphor.

3. Work up the detail of the metaphor and notice how it strengthens your state.

4. Remember the metaphor when you want the state.

So simple and remarkably powerful.