January 16th, my grandmother celebrates her 97th birthday. January 17th our nation commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 93rd birthday. As we step tentatively into the new year - some of us with new glimmers of hope and others still tending to the wounds of the previous years – we begin to ponder how to celebrate and honor the important days ahead.
We spend our whole lives getting to know ourselves, unlearn old habits, and becoming who we are as an individual, member of a group, and leader. These aren't skills that can just be taken in a management workshop, graduate school or webinar. Leaders practice them over and over. The same skills we practiced at 15 or 35 or 65 reveal our growth, understanding and relationship to ourselves. Before we move on to interpersonal skills, let's recap our list of intrapersonal skills for leaders.
Why are you here on the planet? What part of the story of humanity are you playing? Great leaders are connected to an unshakable sense of purpose. So much of our careers focus on what we do and what role we play. But, what is the simple truth behind why you exist in this world? It is both a spiritual and practical question.
This might very well be my favorite addition to any list of leadership skills. Becoming. Most competency lists will include something like "learning" or growth mindset," but becoming is so much more. It's part science, part art, and part magic. It's about intimacy, trust and work. It's about knowing when to hold on tight, and when to surrender. When people have it, you know it because it is palpable. It's almost like they have an otherworldly tranquility about them. And leaders need that now more than ever.
I'm writing this just after one of the most significant, troublesome and consequential days in our modern democratic history - a day when I have many questions and have lost a great deal of curiosity for others. While I feel a sense of rigidity, sadness, blame and anger seep in, I also know unequivocally that it is curiosity that invites healing, innovation, creativity, openness, learning, and repair. Curiosity can be one of the most transformational skills. Today, while I struggle with curiosity myself, let's remember its importance, together.
The "HSL" (pronounced hizzle) stands for hear, see and love. It is a simple premise initiated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and passed onto me through my teachers Barbara Simmons, Christa Tinari and Dr. Mark Jones. It is the idea that every living being needs to be heard, seen and loved (in that order), and when it doesn't happen "mischief" occurs. It may just be the most critical skill related to leaders' compassion, resilience and ability to create transformational change in themselves and others.
You won't find "land" as a leadership competency in corporate trainings. But, I believe it's a necessary element to recognize as a part of your origin story and how you lead. Not convinced? Practice that curiosity we talked about previously and let's play.
Joy may not be what you first think of when you think of a President, CEO or General. But when you recall the people who have had the most formative impact on your lives, chances are they were inspiring joy.
I've found the skill of congruence to be controversial. Congruence is the harmony or alignment of one's internal states and external expression. It allows for you to be more authentic and build trust faster. It's something most people say they value, however is not consistently applied. Let's dig into why congruence is so difficult.
In every culture, there are understood protocols about directly addressing another person whether it's to give a compliment, resolve a conflict, or share feedback. Addressing someone directly is about speaking to a person, not about them. Technology offers a plethora of ways to practice this, but without cultural awareness it's tricky. I like to think of it more as direct connection.