Louie Gardiner takes the opportunity to share some perspectives on Inspiring Leaders and the power of consciousness. Louie started Potent 6 with an emerging sense of purpose that, 5 years on, finally expressed itself as ‘inspiring leaders to co-create a world in which all can forever flourish‘.
As a leadership coach and facilitator supporting individual, organisational and community transformation, Louie partners leaders and groups on their journeys through complex change, uncertainty, conflict and confusion. She seeks to illuminate their internal, relational and organisational goals and processes – all the time supporting them, individually (and where relevant, collectively) to reach a place of clarity, choice and coherence in their decisions and actions.
Louie’s way of working is multi-dimensional and different for each person or group depending on their context, needs and aspirations. Outcome-focused and purpose-driven rather than content or process-driven, Louie’s creativity and skill at helping people see things differently, frequently delivers surprising, liberating results.
Inspiring Leaders and the power of consciousness
A light whose brilliance cuts through hazy eyes; clarity beyond crystal that pierces through months of intellectual and energetic blocks. This is my home; my place of rejuvenation, re-ignition. A light, that fires up my life. I can breathe here, grow here, open up again to life’s energy. Here is a place where life accesses me and its impact is instantaneous. Here I feel able to dream again … my dreams have not yet re-claimed me but I feel their presence; an insistence growing inside, pressing on, testing the edges of who I currently am as I sit here on the edge between land and sea.
Breathing into this place, I am ready now to respond to Karen’s invitation … and find myself starting a conversation with myself … and with you..
She asked me to write an article about leadership and power. Who am I to do that? Do you ever hear the critical voice that is so often the first to show itself at the start of a new venture? I know I am not alone in hearing that mental chatter. And I could get caught up in that question, wondering if I qualify as someone eligible to speak on the matter. But I am used to handling this internal conversation and am able to remind myself that I have as much right as anyone to share my views and perspectives. I know that what I say is not THE truth. I choose only to speak of my relationship with leadership and what I have come to know through my own experiences of leading and choosing to be led. And here is the key – I choose. In that moment of choice, I access my power; in the moment of starting to write, I exercise my power. And in doing both, I show leadership – of myself in this instance. Although I am ill and have been for over a week, I can feel my interest tickled and my brain clunk into gear. Something in my being suggests ‘it is time‘. But this is only the beginning; a decision taken on the surface of my consciousness. My internal critic crashes in “huh, if it was that easy, why, for all these years in your ‘oh so knowing place‘ have you not actually done it?” Good question; shame about the accusing tone behind it. Nevertheless, I embrace the invitation to look deeper at my … ‘choosing not to‘.
Choosing not to
For 10 years, since my MBA thesis, people have encouraged me to write. I have had a few abandoned attempts – having set intentions to submit articles – but so far, failed to follow through. I have consistently chosen to believe that what I have come to know is not unique in the world and that ‘many others have already written something like this, so what’s the point?‘ Now there is probably a lot of truth in that comment. And it’s been a powerful and compelling rationale for withholding what is in me to share. I sense that my ‘rationale‘ is a front for what lies beneath the surface.
Moment of revelation! Slow down. Notice the subtle double-meaning in the last 5 words in the previous paragraph – perhaps easier to detect if I say ‘who lies beneath the surface?‘ or even clearer, ‘who beneath the surface is lying?‘ Of course it is me who has been lying to myself. Now something begins to come into focus. My great ‘rationale‘ has been a front for what – indulging apathy and indolence; or perhaps for permitting a fear of being ‘ridiculed‘, ‘rejected‘ or ‘shot down‘ to control my in-action? For all these years, in making the choice to believe the surface rationale rather than dig for the lies/ stories/ fictions, I now find myself sitting here rather shamefacedly, realising that until now I have chosen not to illuminate the dark, and in so doing have been dishonouring my personal purpose and my values. I have been out of alignment; lacking congruence. I feel in my gut and in my throat, some discomfort and a sense of disconnection with myself. I am relieved I see this now. It makes some sense of my previous lack of enthusiasm. Seeing what I did not see before gives me another shot of energy and I sense my feelings shift to a hint of excitement. Now I think I can engage wholeheartedly in this, my current endeavour. The train pulls into the station and I have to suspend my writing. And so over the next 12 hours, another bit of life plays out.
And when it does … another deeper revelation shocks its way into my consciousness. It comes as a consequence of my being ill. I am too ill to facilitate a workshop for some clients. I have a colleague, my partner. We choose not to cancel but for me to handover the responsibility. In the midst of preparing, I have this sudden panic thinking that in sharing MY thinking, MY ideas, MY approaches, I am having my ‘identity stolen‘. I am shocked that I am even having that thought. And so, with support I dare to speak them out loud. I go deeper into the dark, unknown places in my mind where this has been hiding out. The story is as old as me and the belief that I took on as true, at oh so young an age, is that ‘by fully sharing what I know, everything of mine will be stolen‘ – more than that, ‘I will be stolen; my identity will be stolen‘; and in being stolen, I will become ‘lost, useless, unwanted, left behind‘. My logical mind knows all this is nonsense and yet the emotions those thoughts evoke, reverberate to my core as I recognise, yet one more time how a well hidden fear has been holding me back. This has been going on for decades!! I kick out the judgements that could come flying in here – another great trick of the mind to distract me and keep me in the same place … ‘this is even more proof that I should not expose myself, surely?‘.
Now that it is out in the open I can deal with it all. Exercising some compassion for myself, I can see that I have been lying to ‘protect‘ myself from those fictional thoughts of what ‘might‘ happen to me if I dare speak up. And yet I also know that by listening to that future fiction, I end up denying who I am and withholding what I might be able to bring to the world. But once seen and named, it becomes easier to see a different perspective.
Seeing from a different place
I move out of myself and take a different standpoint. I consider the many, many people whose thoughts I have read, people who have researched and dared to write about what they think and know. I see and acknowledge that where I am now is because of all their contributions. They dared to put themselves out there and whether or not I agreed with them, I can see that their contributions have impacted my journey. So with that in mind, I realise it matters not whether you agree with me; what matters is that I share so you too can make up your own mind. I may make a difference to some of you and not others; I may resonate with some of you and not others. And even if, in sharing something of my passion and perspectives, you don’t ‘get what I’m saying’ – that is OK too. It just means you are not me, and that we do not see things through the same eyes. This part of the conversation helps me see what is helpful and what is not.
A Contract with Fear
In the spring of 1986, I came to understand how the mind plays these kinds of tricks and that by having a conversation in my journal, I could begin to see and hear more clearly the different voices at play. I made a promise to myself that ‘each time I recognise fear is holding me back, I will face it and choose to do what the fear says I must not do‘. The fear says ‘don’t write in public arenas‘; and so, right now I commit to exercising my power to share what I have written. In reaching this point in my inner process, I get a sense of relief. Finally, my choice comes from a place of illuminated consciousness rather than unconsciousness. And with that consciousness, comes my willingness to just do it. This is the point at which power finally runs free and true – where a clean decision taken from a conscious place, with good intention is given life through action.
So what does all this mean?
Through sharing this internal conversation, my purpose has been to use myself to illuminate the power of consciousness and the limiting effects of being unconscious to ourselves. Why is this important? Being aware of, and being able to manage our inner processes is part of our emotional intelligence. This consciousness, or awareness, is central to our personal power. When we are more aware of what is happening inside us, we become more able to empathise with others and to tune into what is happening in the world around us. And when we do that, many more choices become available to us. Such awareness is core to our emotional intelligence and our personal power. And as many of you will know, it is now widely understood that those with higher emotional intelligence are more successful in leading others. It is what we call a ‘meta-competency’. ‘Meta’ in this context means something that lays the foundation for all other competencies to be developed or sourced. In particular, when we have high emotional intelligence (Personal Mastery), it supports us in improving our Relationship-building competencies and these in turn, support us in leading others to make things happen together.
Reality defies the Myths
There is a myth that leaders should be ‘sorted‘; that they should know the destination, the direction, what to do, how to do it. And yet, with our local and global communities experiencing wildly varying degrees of uncertainty, complexity, conflict, chaos, crisis, it is rare to find a leader who, when pushed, will confidently and authentically claim to know ‘The way‘, ‘The what’ and ’The how’. It takes courage and humility for a Leader to say ‘I don’t know and between us all, together, I’m sure we will find our way‘. And so, as I have done in this article, I sometimes use myself (as a coach and leader) to illuminate and allay another’s fears – to show that whilst many of us may appear ‘sorted‘, in reality, most of us are actually always in process, learning from and with each other – even leaders; even coaches.
Inspiring Leaders and Coaches
As a leader acting unconsciously, I can be driven relentlessly by fear; or I can get stuck because of it. Either way, I suffer the consequences – as do those who follow me. When I seek out the support of others to help me see what I am not seeing, I help myself to become more conscious and ultimately effective, powerful and purposeful. I become a better, more aware, inspiring leader. As a coach, acting unconsciously, I will miss what lies beneath the surface of my client’s decisions, behaviours and actions; and I will miss what lies beneath the surface of my own line of vision, choices and actions. So by being committed to my own personal growth and by accessing my own support, I help myself to become more conscious, on purpose and therefore more effective in serving the needs of my clients. I become a better, more aware, inspiring coach.
Mission in context
Revealing our unconscious thinking patterns and beliefs can be key to fundamental transformation of both the leader and the coach. It is an ongoing process and a life-long commitment to discovering what blocks us from being all we can be. Inspiring Leaders are committed life-long learners. They gather feedback. They listen well. They draw on the skills and talents of others. In honouring the source of their own inspiration; they inspire others and in so doing, more lives – and hopefully our world – are transformed.
This is my mission.
Louie Gardiner © 30 March 2010