“The most innovative people among us are breaking from traditional structures to become more flexible, more nurturing, and more collaborative.” ~ John Gerzema
There was no discussion about leadership style when I was growing up. I’m a Baby Boomer. The boss was the boss and what he (almost always a man) said was the final word. End of discussion. It was a top-down, autocratic system in which we often heard the phrase “my way or the highway.” This was common in the job market as well as schools, clubs, teams and civic organizations. Shared leadership and shared vision only existed to the degree allowed by the person in charge. Any equanimity was handed down from ‘on high’. Those principles and methods are pretty much dead and gone. Not entirely of course…some have re-emerged in governmental structures of late. But this kind of leadership is having its last gasp. We are becoming so interconnected that domineering, power-over models are unacceptable. The idea of success as winning through intimidation and blocking the upward mobility of others is now seen as morally corrupt. We are beginning to embrace an emerging kind of leadership that emphasizes power-with. It embodies heart and soul so that the organizations’ well-being is interwoven with the well-being and success of everyone.
Some eight to sixteen styles of leadership have developed over the past forty years. And, like the autocratic style, are becoming less effective when standing alone. Heart and Soul Leadership models which synthesize the positive aspects of each are beginning to show up in their place.
The Importance of Leadership; Steering Individual and Community Mission and Vision
Leadership is one of the most popular subjects and of great value to every kind of organization. Seminars, workshops, conferences, and a variety of classes are continually available to consumers of any age or stripe. And usually there is a big price tag associated with those proven to be most useful. For example, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business has a program offering in September, 2018 called Essentials Of Executive Leadership using the popular the Chicago Approach™. It lasts for four days and costs $10,500. Old timers like the Dale Carnegie even offer live online courses. A 2014 report put the value of this leadership training at close to $24.5 billion annually. That is up by $10 billion in just two years.
So why is leadership training and development so important today? We are guided by the vision of leaders. They steer the mission of organizations and teams within them. With our demographics changing so dramatically it is critical for everyone to reimagine their role and skill sets. About 10,000 baby boomers are retiring daily which means that a new generation of people will be guiding us. The digital age is here and concepts of leadership are rapidly changing along with the times. Even military and Law Enforcement Agencies are now engaging in leadership sharing styles to become more proactive and effective.
This is important information to process and absorb for Millennials and iGens (the post-millennial internet generation) as Boomers and GenXers step aside. The future will be in their hands. The worn out classic descriptions of leadership styles once dominating the scene such as autocratic, democratic, transformational, moral, participative, Laissez-Faire, and strategic won’t go far enough or provide adequately sustaining models for tomorrows organizations. Admittedly, those styles should not go away. Each of them is functional to one degree or another in accomplishing the two essential objectives critical to any organization’s effectiveness. These common leadership goals are:
- Setting the course and direction of the organization
- Influencing members to move in those directions
Leadership is both this simple and this complex. How will today’s young people approach these leadership goals and objectives differently than their parents and grandparents? They are placing the highest value on, and guided by, the underlying themes common to successful leadership as opposed to a specific advocated style. These themes are dedicated to common mission and vision while emphasizing personal health, safety, well-being, and success. This embodies the heart and soul of their organizations, setting the course and influencing individual direction. One of the more publicized versions of Heart and Soul Leadership has been researched and written about by Gaurav Bhalla. He has researched and written about this shift in style and theme calling for Soulful Leadership. Bhalla encourages leaders to steer away from market-centric to a human-centric focus that aspires to greater inclusion and equality.
Developing Mission, Vision and Value Statements; A Project for Heart and Soul Leadership
The first and foremost principle in creating an effective Heart and Soul Organization is to recognize that everyone has some kind of skills and leadership potential. We only have to look for it and develop it. One very effective way to do this is through the development of mission, vision and value statements. Most organizations have already adopted these, but in light of our ever-changing world, it might be an idea to reimagine them with the entire group or in small subgroups. Here are some things to know as you put them down on paper.
The Mission Statement defines the purpose of your work and the effect you intend to have on the world around you. It states what you do for others and the approach you follow as you aim to achieve the aspirations you’ve set for yourself, your organization, or your business. Think of your mission as the route you’ll follow to achieve your vision. Stephen Covey calls it your constitution.
The Vision Statement defines your long-term aspirations. It explains why you’re doing what you’re doing and the ultimate good you want to achieve through your success. Think of your vision as the picture of where you ultimately want your work to lead you.
The Value Statement defines your beliefs about your responsibility to others. It articulates and explains what you believe in. It can include specific descriptions of how you want to pursue your core principles.
A great way to create these statements starts with each member of the organization creating and writing their own set of statements. Some groups break into the process by having individuals write Six-Word Memoirs or Life Stories. This helps focus people on who they are and where they want to go.
Here are some questions and a guideline for composing personal statements:
- About Mission: How do you define your purpose as an individual? What do you want to do to emphasize this purpose?
Example: “To be a decent person who is respected by my family, friends, and my community. I will be there to lend a hand, keep an open mind, and will get involved in issues that matter most to me.”
- About Vision: How do you imagine a better future for yourself? What would it look like if you were more authentic in all you do by pursuing your true passions and interests?
Example: “I am more courageous every day. There is extra time for family, friends, activities, and fun. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I am successful and living the way I want to live.”
- About Values: What are your most important core values and moral foundations? How will you express them in your everyday life?
Example: “I will try to be compassionate and honest when dealing with people. But I will also strive to be more assertive so I don’t get pushed around. I will use money in conscientious ways to enjoy life while benefiting those who are hurting. I love being in nature and will respect the environment leaving it better than I found it”
Once this is accomplished, the organization is well prepared to create or reinvent corporate statements. They should be clear, powerful and broad enough to set the course for the group, inspire members to follow them, and explain your purpose to stakeholders. Based upon the individual statements they have already created; ask them what they think the mission, vision, and values of the organization should be. Heart and Soul Leadership empowers all members to provide valuable input into the process. Once the information is gathered, a team of people can synthesize it and write overall statements. The final versions are then presented in large or small group settings and adopted as the future direction of the greater organization.
Empowering Practices; Guiding Skill Sets in Heart and Soul Leadership
Specific practices can be employed to spirit the direction of an organization driven by Heart and Soul Leadership. The following series of skills help foster the acceptance of group goals and create high-performance expectations.
- Exhibit confidence devoid of arrogance. Speak with passion and conviction and be knowledgeable about what you are discussing.
- Find ways to consistently articulate your personal and corporate vision. Be a good model of that vision by showing commitment to your own action. Inspiration comes from a good role model.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks. The organization will not grow if you hide behind past performance or outdated policies and procedures. If something new is needed…marshal your people and create it.
- Always be organized while flexible and open-minded. Disorganization never works but being overly structured is equally destructive. At times, it is more effective to go with the flow, take it as it comes and explore each new opportunity (keeping in mind your goals and objectives).
- Know the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and others. Being a leader does not always mean that you are the most intelligent or capable person in a group. If you are truly passionate about the area you are leading in, not only will you be successful, but there is no end to what you can do.
- Be fair to everyone in the group. Never play favorites. Let everyone know whats going on and make sure they have the same chances to succeed.
- Be optimistic. Optimism is what is needed to change the way things work. “What you expect tends to happen,” says Gary Dees, president of Leadership Messenger Academy.
- Embrace Inner-Coaching™ which involves shifting from a negative mindset to a positive mindset, the willingness to challenge your thinking when it might not square with reality, your knowing tools for best managing our stress, practicing ways to counteract the voice of the inner critic and using strategies that support you to stay resilient when things are not going your way.
- Develop compelling directions. Evidence suggests that developing directions account for the largest proportion of a leader’s impact. This set of practices is aimed at helping colleagues develop shared understandings about the organization and its activities and goals that can underscore a sense of purpose or vision. People are motivated by goals which they find personally compelling, challenging, and achievable.
Exciting New Leadership in an Exciting New Era
Heart and Soul Leadership is neither bottom-up nor top-down in style and substance. Rather, it is circular in nature. The tired idea of climbing a ladder of success is replaced by a stimulating dance of success. Each individual owns and develops his/her strong suit leadership skills and talents. Those are recognized by the group and employed to meet and exceed organizational goals defined in mission, vision, and values. All of the classic styles have merit and useful tools that can be used by Heart and Soul Leadership. We can customize and individualize them to fit into an ever-evolving model. This eclectic approach maximizes engagement of group members and promotes the highest degree of well-being and success for everyone, including stakeholders.
Businesses, civic groups, the labor market and other organizations will be faced with leadership challenges as Baby Boomers move into retirement. People will have more choices and leverage regarding where they work, when they work, and how they spend their free time. We will need to have embraced and integrated systems like Heart and Soul Leadership to cultivate interest and offer opportunities that lift up both the individual and the organization. It is the sure way that emerging generations will deliver the kind of success, energy, and clarity needed for the future.
Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration , and meditation.