“You are energy
What you think begins it
What you feel amplifies it
What you action will determine what happens next”
In my favourite movie the Wizard of Oz, the leading character, Dorothy, is taken on a life-changing journey where she leaves the comfort of her home in Kansas City to explore the great Land of Oz. Everything she encounters is foreign to her, and as uncomfortable and scary as this experience was, Dorothy changes forever. That is the great thing about change – once change occurs you can never go back to the way you were.
The character that is Dorothy resonates for millions of people the world over as we all move through a fast and challenging landscape of life, both personally and professionally. Dorothy enters Oz on the back of a tornado with the only familiar creature she knows, her dog Toto. She has to adapt and be open to a new world as she awakens among the vibrant colour and fantasy characters of the Emerald city. She meets characters along the way that will challenge her, scare her, make her question who she is and what is right. She is faced with life threatening situations where all she has to go on is her self-belief and conviction in what she needs to do and why. She has to learn to trust, she questions everything and take risks in order to get home. The characters she meets along the way are all in search of something. The Tin Man a heart, the Scarecrow a brain and the Lion is in search of courage. What they all realise in the end is that they have always had all they needed within them from the start. A bit like ourselves, everything we need is there, we just need to stop and tap into these resources and use them to reach our potential and purpose.
As leaders of teams and organisations we have more to get done in less time. We are faced with new technologies, complex systems and structures in many of the organisations we work in and the need to be on top of all of this. Not unlike being dropped into the word of Oz.
The United States military have long been committed to leadership training and practice and their acronym of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) is one many of us are familiar with. The elements of VUCA present the context for which organisations view their current and future state. Volatility refers to the nature and dynamics of change and the speed of this. Uncertainty relates to the lack of predictability and certainty of change – this is where our sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events is so important. Complexity applies to the multiple forces, issues, chaos and confusion that can surround the organisations we are in, and Ambiguity relates to the sometimes-blurred haziness of reality and the mixed meanings of everything we face.
I believe to survive and thrive in such a fast paced and ruthless environment we need to adopt what I call “Limitless Leadership”. Leadership and what it means to us individually needs to be built on, improved, changed and forever evolving; there is no final destination here. To reach the top of a mountain doesn’t mean we have reached our limit – those that summit Everest know that reaching the top is only 50% of the equation. After a climber reaches the top they must descend or down climb the mountain. Not only are they physically exhausted and lacking oxygen and focus but they also need to bring their team down too and believe they can all do it. Uncontrollable variables such as storms, snow blizzards and high winds they must face, and this is no different than people, technology and structural problems that you will be guaranteed to face in any leadership position in any organisation.
Limitless Leadership is an ongoing journey that you need to constantly work on: grow and evaluate your commitment, maintain effective communication skills and deep connections with your team, organisation and the why of what you do. These things aren’t rocket science but so often we are caught up in the doing and become what I call “human doings” and not “human beings”.
Like Dorothy’s red slippers, we also need to break out of our comfort zones to explore what really matters to us and why we do what we do. We need to know this and live and breathe this in order to get us through these challenging times and be the best we can be. Of the thousands of executives I have worked with, the ones that really shine and find success have these three things in common:
A clear purpose
Are you consciously aware of what lights you up and “why” you do what you do? Not having a why is like travelling to a destination without a GPS. Purpose gives us clarity around our direction and changes our thoughts and feelings into whatever action we do or don’t take and therefore our results and happiness:
◦ What do you value?
◦ What is important to you and what do you stand for?
◦ What are you passionate about – in the organisation you work with and for yourself?
◦ In three words sum up a life well lived and on purpose, for you?
◦ What gives you satisfaction and fulfilment?
◦ Why do you do what you do?
◦ What will be your legacy in five years’ time?
A strong self-belief
Knowing your purpose is one aspect but now you need to feel deep conviction and have self-belief in this. By having true self-belief in who you are and your abilities, along with a strong purpose, you are now in a position to being fully committed:
◦ What are your strengths?
◦ What can you offer the world that is unique to you?
◦ What compels you to take action?
◦ How do you continue to take action during a challenging time?
◦ What have you achieved that nobody else has?
◦ What are your suggestions for developing a strong mind-set?
◦ What will it cost you not to have self-belief and conviction in your purpose?
Awareness of Motivation
Strong motivation and knowing what energises us can determine almost 65% of our predictability for success in a role. So many people do what they are competent at but not what they actually enjoy. A strong purpose and belief in self, along with the ability to tap into your true motivators, can set you up to shine! Know what motivates you and feed these motivators in order to stay energised. Know what motivates others and satisfy these, not just manage them:
◦ What gets you out of bed in the morning?
◦ If you could do one particular function of your job, what would that be?
◦ What particular things in life give you energy and purpose?
◦ Which would you prefer – chase a goal or solve a problem?
◦ What lights you up and makes you feel alive?
Brendon, a senior leader I have been working with, loved his role and was more than competent but really didn’t know what kept him on track or why he did what he did. He could have continued on his current path but when we delved into what was important for him and what motivated him from a deep level, his entire energy changed as he felt more on purpose and more fulfilled.
Tapping into your true purpose and having a concrete belief in your abilities and who you are will fuel deep motivation to be the true you. This in turn keeps us on track when we hit challenging times – like the tornado that swept Dorothy into the Emerald city. When we live a life true to ourselves and congruent to our values, we cannot help but shine and emit an energy that helps others to reach their full potential.
During The Kindred Executive program (commencing in June 2018), we delve into the topic of purpose as one of the key themes. We’d love to have you as part of this annual collaboration of like-minded leaders exploring what is possible on a regular basis.