As you grow in your capacity to lead others, you might find that the old strategies no longer work for you.
Managers are generally given the answers, at least to the big questions. You manage to a specific set of goals. The traditional strategy of caffeine and commitment generally works well in this context.
When you are a leader, you set the goals. You set the direction. Determining how to navigate an uncertain future, however, requires a different part of the brain.
Not only does this require more holistic thinking, which is the purview of the right hemisphere of the brain, but it also requires deeper thinking. And I’ve found four skills are incredibly important as you move into more of a strategic role.
Intention is the capacity to set a course and be open to unexpected help.
Insight is the sudden realization that arises when you aren’t even focused on a problem.
Intuition is the ability to have hunches and gut feelings that arise outside the bounds of logical or systems-based thinking.
Inspiration is beyond the simple flash of an insight. An inspiration can drive a leader or a team to greater achievements that perhaps any other skillset.
Each of these can be cultivated. I’ve found there is a prerequisite to accessing each of them reliably.
Different states of consciousness correlate to different frequencies of brainwaves. Our waking consciousness is called the “beta” state. But other states are also available, and you can train yourself to reliably access and operate from them.
Meditation is a classic way to access deeper states. Hypnosis is another. There are also audio entrainment technologies that can help. I’ve used one such program to augment much of my 25 years of meditation practice.
I’ve found, and science has confirmed, that the four “I’s” are more accessible from these deeper states of consciousness.
“Alpha” is a state of relaxed awareness that can also be conducive to recovery and healing. It is the state that most people enter when meditating.
“Theta” is a deeper state that is associated with creativity and insight and can be reached more readily by seasoned meditators.
“Delta” is, for most people, the state of dreamless sleep, although some long-time meditators can access it while awake.
You tend to get insights in the shower or during a run because they are two everyday activities that tend to trigger the more relaxed and open alpha, or sometimes, theta states.
This is also why sleeping on things is helpful. The delta state of dreamless sleep is for many people, the most powerful state of all. You can wake with a knowing that you cannot get in any other way.
Ask yourself when you have had your biggest aha’s. If you are like most of my clients, it’s in one of these states. Through practice, you can increase the amount of time you spend there.
The first “I” of deeper leadership—Intention
The first I, intention, is available to everyone, but it is only when we are more relaxed, more in the alpha or even theta state that it becomes most powerful.
Intention is as simple as it sounds. Taking an action while feeling the intention of a positive result.
The graduate level of this, expectation, is even more powerful.
There are theories (some involving quantum physics, believe it or not) around why this is so powerful. But taking action with an intention, or expectation, of a positive result works.
Interestingly, the result does not even have to be specified. In fact, specificity can get in the way, because it can block unanticipated solutions.
It is as if we are seeing how much better the universe can do that we can with our tiny human brains.
I know this can sound out there, but I’ve seen it in my own life and others, over and over again.
Unfortunately, expectation of a bad result can be just as powerful.
Where have intentions and expectations led to results for you? And have these generally been positive or negative?
The second “I”—Insight
Each of the four “I”s of deeper leadership—intention, insight, intuition, and inspiration becomes more and more accessible at deeper levels of consciousness. Each can be transformational.
My favorite of the four is insight, because it can seem magical.
In one moment, the world looks one way. An insight occurs, and suddenly, the world is different. Things that seemed impossible suddenly are not only possible, but inevitable.
One of my clients recently saw that her impostor syndrome was just a voice in her head. She was the one listening to the story, not the story itself. And she could see the story come and go with her mood and her state.
Seeing that changed everything for her. Because she realized that she never felt like she was a fraud when she was feeling good. It was her state that made her feel like a fraud, not the other way around.
She now sees that if she feels like a fraud, it’s just her mood and it will pass.
Will she make mistakes? Yes. Will she struggle from time to time? Of course. Does that make her a fraud? Absolutely not.
It makes her human. A courageous human willing to fail in her efforts to grow.
The very opposite of an impostor.
What’s an insight that changed your life?
The third “I”—Intuition
Like the other “I’s,” intuition tends to show up most powerfully when we are quiet, and most reliably when we can cultivate a space where can feel, or hear, or see what’s next.
My own experience with intuition has been life-changing. When I was laid off from my financial services firm job in 2016, all I had was a sense of knowing, deep in my gut, that I was not going to be an employee again.
And step by step, more details were revealed. I was going to be a coach, not a consultant.
I was going to be moving across the country to the mountains of Colorado.
I was going to be working with senior leaders, and my work with them would in many cases have deeply spiritual aspects.
People think that intuition is like magic—the blueprint of your future life flashing before your eyes.
It’s more like headlights—you only see a few feet in front of you at a time.
But as you trust your intuition to drive those few feet, you see the next few feet.
And soon, you have driven farther than you ever dreamed possible.
What I have noticed about intuition is that, perhaps mores than the other “I’s,” it can be cultivated. I’ve even worked with someone to increase my capacity to use my intuition, and my fluency in understanding it.
We have so much information coming at us. Yet when we are quiet, there are bodily sensations, there are images, there are voices or words that appear to us. We might notice something in the outside world that we didn’t see before. And these things all seem to have a direction. We can feel directed or called in one way as opposed to another.
When you feel an intuition, do you follow it? Is it persistent if you don’t? Or does it go away?
My intuition seems to get stronger, and more accurate, the more I use it. And following it, both for myself, and in relation to my clients, has completely changed my life.
What has happened because of yours?
The fourth “I”—Inspiration
The last of my four “I’s” of deeper leadership is inspiration. “Inspiration” means to breathe in, and when we are hit by a moment of inspiration it truly feels like something outside of us has breathed a greater purpose into us.
When we are inspired we feel like can do anything. We are unafraid.
One of my clients had a moment of inspiration that changed her world.
She is passionate about helping people navigate the health care system in difficult times. This comes from deep pain in her own life, feeling helpless as she watch others struggle with and succumb to illness.
But she was inspired to find a role where she could have an impact. She helped her new company go public, and inspired her team members to have a greater impact as well.
That is a unique quality about inspiration. It’s contagious. A leader might be inspired by a circumstance in their life. But they can just as easily infect their people, their organization, with that inspiration.
And like a virus, it can take over an organization, and create the energy to do great and wonderful things.
I don’t pretend to know where inspiration comes from. I know that being quiet, being mindful, seems to increase the chances, to make us receptive to being moved in such a profound way.
I know it feels like the most precious gift, and that if we follow our inspiration, great things happen.
What’s a moment that left you inspired? And what came of following that inspiration?
Taking the four “I’s” further—my ultimate vision
At the beginning of a coaching relationship, my work is often simply to get the other person to calm down enough to see other possibilities. Because when we are stressed, we tend to be in fight or flight. Everything looks like a threat. Our very self needs to be constantly defended.
As the client slows down, as they are able to take a breath, the first thing they often see is that they have much more power to shape their experience than they previously thought. That they can be the owner of their life, rather than the victim of it.
It is when they calm further, when they are able to access deeper states of consciousness, that they begin to see the “I’s” that I talk about in this post.
They see that their intentions (and expectations) strongly influence their results.
That an insight can change what is possible in a single moment.
That intuition can guide them toward what is next.
That inspiration can not only reveal their purpose, but transform their team or their organization.
Cultivating these deeper skills is a lifelong journey. To me, seeing this development through the lens of work, of the corporate world, is truly exciting.
Because I believe that the more we are able to evolve as humans, the less likely the companies we lead will do something that is good for shareholder, but bad for the community or the environment.
Simply put, capitalism, the most powerful engine for progress that our planet has ever known, has put our planet at risk. And it is only evolved leaders, people like you, who are going to set things right again.