I’m critical. And I’m judgmental. Of people and of things. At times my head floods with negative thoughts. I am also critical of my critical tendencies, which spirals into a very distasteful experience of myself. I could explain it away of course. Not my fault. I’m an introvert. I’m reserved, analytical, detail-oriented and good at finding flaws. There are strengths here. But I can show up as quiet, withdrawn, unsmiling. My thoughtful face appears serious to others and can feel unfriendly.
My rapidly growing self-awareness of all this hurts. It drains my physical and emotional energy and causes anguish that limits me, holds me back and darkens my spirit. The lens through which I see the world and other people and events has been clouded over my entire life by so many limiting beliefs. They work quietly, insidiously on autopilot in my subconscious, like a thousand small, leaden weights on invisible chains of thought. This is my shadow side. We all have one.
Yet there is also light and much brightness when I remember that I have so many choices in how to be in this world – I am not stuck. I have realized that I have lead with my head for much of my career. I’m good at thinking. Now I’m working on leading with my heart first. Uncovering my feeling abilities. Whenever I notice a judgmental thought I tell myself to fill my heart with love and compassion. It takes a lot of practice. And it’s working.
I found a quote by Mandy Hale that really struck me. So it’s posted in front of my desk. I look at it often. I also speak it to myself often. It says, “The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be.” I find it so powerful and helpful in changing my mindset in the moment when criticism flares. I also created a slightly different version for myself. It says, “The key to happiness is letting each person be who they are instead of who you think they should be.” This shifts my thinking to feeling how the other person is experiencing me. My love and compassion for people is awakened. It wasn’t absent. Just sleeping. Another habit I’m forming is to offer acts of kindness at every opportunity. Especially to strangers. This feels like leading with love to me. And it makes both of us feel happier.
Every day love seems to diminish as our world becomes more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Leaders react defensively to protect their personal, organization or nation’s interests. But our human minds, our leadership mindsets find it difficult or impossible to cope with this changing, challenging and scared new world. We retrench, get protective to create safety and peer out from our personal bunker. But it won’t work. As people and as leaders we need to evolve to a higher level of capability to deal with our circumstances. We have to develop a higher level of character, competence and mindset in order to keep up with the current reality and the pace of change.
A vital part of my own development is my Leadership Circle Profile™ It has revealed my critical and distant behaviors like a dirty mirror. But the guiding light for my development path is also revealed and I can finally uncover my constraining beliefs and, with the help of my coach, change them. Forever. My inadequate world view is changing as I realize that I can identify my beliefs, and manage or eliminate them. They no longer control me. I can change longstanding habits of thought. I can change my mindset.
We can all do this. Every one of us. We can move up from a reactive mindset to a more creative, compassionate view and experience our selfish, protective words, and actions fall away. As we lead with love for ourselves and all others we begin to fully embrace the leadership and human qualities that everyone craves, such as authenticity, self-awareness, composure, humility, collaboration, caring relationships, asking questions and listening deeply, teamwork, developing others and purpose – and leading with heart. With love for ourselves and for others.
John Lennon always had it right. All you need is love.