Having just delivered an Authentic leadership and well being course, I have been thinking about true leadership potential, it emphasises the ‘possibilities’ inherent in us all, and how we engage with this potentiality more fully. This draws from the concept of “entelechy’ which is a Greek word that means “the fullest realized essence of a thing.” Entelechy is all about the possibilities encoded in each of us. For example, a grand oak tree is the entelechy of an acorn; an adult is the entelechy of a human infant. It is the fullest realized aspect of ourselves. This unfolds as we explore our own leadership journey and sense of true purpose. We get to this through understanding our own story but also the stories of those that have inspired us. Our entelechy is the higher possible version of ourselves and we draw upon this by reflecting on whom we would wish to emulate.
The old definition of leadership was that it belonged to a few and that it was a mysterious entity is now clearly outmoded. These ideas have transformed themselves; the path of leadership is open to all of us. Any discussion around leadership should be integrated with wellbeing. If we take Google’s example for a moment, Google believes great ideas can change the world; and we do this by addressing our wellbeing. Google uses contemplative practice (some of which we are going to outline over the next few days) and have developed a programme called ‘Look inside yourself’- they allow their engineers to spend 20 percent of their time on developing mindfulness practices and learning about emotional intelligence/awareness. This was initiated by, Chade Meng-tan (since 2007). He has met and worked with some of the most powerful and influential leaders in the world, like Obama. Google is a marker for high IQ; you need to be around the top 1% of intellect and that stress can be a badge of honor for high achievers within many organisations. His decision to use these techniques was because he felt people who needed help with stress, were the least likely to seek it out. He really cared about the happiness of his co-workers and wanted to help people align and optimize themselves with what they wanted/needed in their lives but the practices needed to be rooted in scientific data and evidence driven.
There is a significant body of evidence suggesting that Mindfulness practices offer useful mental habits to retrain your brain, to bring about small changes to help your brain alter and adapt, so you can bring about effective differences in how you live. He found at Google people struggled not with ‘coding’ and but interacting with each other and as half of most of our work involves talking to others this has an impact. So some of the practices the participants learnt, were to pause, take a breathe before typing an email, look again and think about how they other person they were sending it to would receive it: imagine their mental and emotional responses and alter the email accordingly. We have all written an emotionally charged email because we were triggered somehow, how might it be to pause and respond mindfully and compassionately. Mindfulness is like going to the gym, it’s a practice. You don’t usually run on the treadmill, saying ‘look my muscles, I’m so fit’. It’s how you feel outside the gym, may be you have more energy, you feel more alive. So nothing particularly special happens in the gym, like often nothing special happens when we meditate or act mindfully, but we can begin to see that pretty ordinary moments can feel richer and fuller.
Authenticity is a practice; it’s a collection of choices we have to make every day, a choice in living. It’s less about striving to be a good leader; it’s about being an authentic one.