If anytime was going to encapsulate VUCA it is now. Volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. The term originated to describe battlefield conditions – now just describes a normal day.
And how to make positive change in such a context? Amongst the words of wisdom recently, American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield posted “quieting our mind is a political act”.
Quieting our mind is also a leadership act.
At Impact, we help leaders build capacity to navigate through their VUCA landscape. We recognise that leadership is not necessarily about being a special kind of person, or having a special title. It is about a special type of action. An action, that most often will fill a vacuum to provide meaning, value or structure where it is absent. An action, which is seen by others as sincere, well-intentioned and reasonable in the circumstances, and mobilises others in a collective goal.
In the infinite ways we can take action as a leader, to quieten our mind is at the core. From a quiet mind, there is a greater chance that our subsequent actions will be more courageous, compassionate, responsible and effective.
Quieting our mind is not to zone out, to ignore what is going on, or to be passive. Rather the contrary. We become more aware, alert and active.
An act of leadership starts when we are attentive to our internal and external environment, what is missing, and therefore what is needed. In quieting our mind, we increase our ability to notice,and notice in a more nuanced way. Quieting gives more clarity, space and perspective, so that we become a key witness to what is happening within us and around us. We hear ourselves and others more deeply. We note the interdependence.
With a quieter mind, we become clearer in our decision making, through being in touch with our own body and its wisdom. We feel more connected and whole. Using our internal compass, we literally can sense check with our body how we feel about what is going on. What is this anger? What am I, we, fearful of? And intuition, that valuable source of decision making expertise, so crucial in navigating VUCA contexts – can only be used, if we are quiet enough to feel its stirrings. Similarly, the quieter our mind, the greater chance of hearing our hearts, the ‘cor’ from which courage emerges.
Simply, when we quieten our mind, we access increasing sources of our own peace, power and potential. We notice how some of our beliefs, values, and judgements are themselves constructs which may be constricting ourselves, our teams, our organisations, keeping us trapped in a fixed way of being and doing. Quieting our mind frees us and brings greater consciousness and choice to take responsible action. It enhances our well-being which positively impacts on how we show up and engage with the external world.
If we can be in such a mindful state, we are more anchored and yet more open. We are rooted and can flex with the winds. With this leadership agility, we are less likely to be pulled off balance, uprooted, whether that is by another person, a twitter storm or a real one.
It’s therefore a grand act of leadership to:
1) Train your mind to quieten. Find out what helps you - meditation, mindfulness, yoga, exercise, music, solo time, whatever - and commit to it. (This will help you to do number two).
2) Quieten one’s mind in the moment, particularly in high pressure situations. This may be through remembering to pause, breathe, and come into presence.
3) Take the next action from a quieter, calmer, more centred place.
4) Be self compassionate when you fail to do any of the above.
Inspired by @JackKornfield tweet 1 Feb 2017. www.jackkornfield.com
Penelope Mavor is a Senior Consultant at Impact Italia.