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State of Being: Why Every Leader Needs to Master This Skill

May 31, 2016

After hosting a leadership webinar recently, one of my clients asked me to explain the difference between “being” and “doing.” Leadership from a “state of being” means that your decisions and actions come from a deeper sense of who you are as a leader, so that every behavior and every decision goes through a filter of your intentions and highest values. Those decisions must also harmonize with the laws of the land, as well as the rules, mission, and vision of the organization you represent. Leadership from a state of being is about alignment.

The distinction between doing and being is parallel to the concept of leading by the letter of the law or leading by the spirit of the law.  As a leader, rules and policies can only take us so far; however, when we make decisions that are also in harmony with both our intentions and highest values, we become aligned, not just to the corporation but to the core of who we are.

As unpopular as the F word (feelings) is in business, when you lead from a state of “being” you feel it in your gut. When you are aligned, you know it.  When you are misaligned, you experience internal drama.

All of us can “do” certain tasks, make certain decisions, or take certain actions according to the rules of the game, or what the boss says we should do. Yet, when we take action without considering our values and intentions, we often get unwanted consequences.

Three Questions Leaders Should Ask Themselves

The key to leading from a state of being is to answer these three questions which become a filter for all of your decision making:

1.What is my leadership philosophy?
2. What is my intention?
3. What are my values?

Why are these three questions so important to being? To raise awareness. Leaders often have conflicting motives or intentions of which they are unaware.  For example, when I was coaching an executive who needed to have a difficult performance conversation with an under-performer, the executive told me his top value was fairness, and his intention was to help the employee improve performance. However, his language and actions indicated to me that he wanted to punish or even fire the employee. His need to be right conflicted with his top value of fairness. He was unaware of the opposing forces working within.

Where to Start

You are a creative being. You get to define your leadership philosophy and even your definition of what it means to be a leader. This may take some time, and you may have to experiment, but I encourage you to take the challenge. Secondly, when you consciously define your intention, you raise your awareness to make sure your talk equals your walk.  You can practice stating your intention before a difficult conversation, before a meeting, and before starting your day. This act of stating your intention gives you direction and focus. Finally, your  values act as a North Star, bringing you back into alignment with who you say you are and what you say you want.  Claim a couple of values and observe where you get off track and need to course-correct to align your walk with your talk.

When you know who you are, know your intention, and lead from higher values, your decision making is mindful and the outcome more powerful. As you develop your leadership philosophy and gain clarity on your values, you get to practice decision making in alignment with those values. That’s when you “become” a very conscious leader, and where leadership doing emerges from leadership being.

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About The Author

Marlene Chism is an executive educator, consultant, and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley, 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion, 2015). She works with executives and high-performing leaders who want to transform culture in the workplace. She can be reached at marlene@marlenechism.com.

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