“A solely intellectual approach leaves something fundamental out of the leadership equation, negating the aspect of human nature rooted in the animal world that was probably programmed into our brain early in our species development.” (Sally Helgese: The Dance of Power)
Recently I was faced with life changing decision, one that would have taken me from the “certain unknown” to a more uncertain unknown, and one in which I needed help to differentiate the committee of internal voices going on in my mind. During this time, a coach and colleague from the Strozzi Institute challenged me to “follow my aliveness.” In an instant, I knew where I wanted to be, that I was ready for change, and that I had finished out a cycle of doing what I have been doing and where I was doing it. I was ready for next.
As I reflect back on the many decisions both I and my clients have made, and the origins of those decisions, they often come from places other than our aliveness. Being human, we base many of our decisions on survival needs and often fear. On the road of life, our aliveness is often affected, tamped down, shamed and controlled as a response to our cultures, families, organizations and more. Sadly, many are even afraid to get in touch with aliveness, experiencing it through risk taking, addiction, conflict and more. There may be cultural or even religious taboos and myths about feeling our aliveness (it happens in the body!) resulting in the inability to attend to this information as a source of wisdom and guidance.
As a leadership coach, I’m focused on becoming aware of what inhibits my clients’ aliveness. From an early age, usually by age 7, we have learned from our families what we need to be and do in order to insure belonging and safety. More often that not, this is the origin of beliefs, narratives, habits, that have been reinforced over a lifetime and show up in small and big ways resulting in depleted energy and mojo for one’s own life’s purpose. To varying degrees, we learn to fear, distrust and hold aliveness ‘in check,’ rather than allowing it to inform our choices. Fortunately, this can be changed!
What if “organizational aliveness” replaced “engagement” as a value in organizations? What would that look like? Recent Gallup polls point to an enduring 70% of workers who are not engaged in their work. We know this comes at a substantial price both in healthcare and revenue. Progressive and leading edge organizations are doing something about this, revolutionizing business through a focus on cultural attributes which support aliveness, such as learning, leadership development, a growth mindset, coaching, honesty, transparency and more.
Just as aliveness provides us with information, so does depletion. How many hundreds of meetings have we participated in that were depleting! As a leader, being aware of depletion is invaluable, as if you are not bringing aliveness to your meetings, presentations and interactions with others, opportunities for greatness are slipping through your fingers. This does not translate into being a cheerleader. By being aware of aliveness and depletion, you will have tapped into a source of invaluable information about alignment and consensus (or lack of) roadblocks, opportunities, blind spots and more. You will have tapped into the ‘pulse’ of engagement.
Allowing one’s aliveness to be a part of the ‘committee’ of internal choice makers adds to the dimension of what we are capable of as human beings and organizational leaders. It is readily available and often overlooked as a source of ready wisdom and guidance. Do your own research by checking in with what the aliveness in you wants to go towards and away from, the ebbs and flows of your aliveness and get curious about the information it is providing. You’ll find that learning to tap into aliveness as a source will provide direction and empower your capacity, your leadership and your personal and professional capabilities.