5 Powerful Shifts That Help Leaders Liberate Human Energy
This article/interview, by Kathy Caprino talks about how leadership styles have changed over the past couple decades, and about the paradigm shifts that have brought us to the world that we live and work in today.
Kathy Caprino , CONTRIBUTOR
I cover career and personal growth, leadership and women's issues. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Part of the Series “Today’s True Leadership”
Liberating energy and unleashing potential
In my work as a career success coach over the past twelve years, I’ve witnessed a significant shift in focus among the leaders and directors I work with. While these leaders still wish to learn new ways to expand their own success, impact and growth, they’re also keenly committed to helping all the people around them – their employees, colleagues, partners and all those they come in contact with on a daily basis – become all they wish to be. In short, there’s a clear commitment toward helping their entire work culture thrive.
To learn more about this trend, I was excited to speak with Renee Moorefield, PhD, CEO of Wisdom Works. Renee has been a trusted adviser to thousands of leaders—from Fortune 500 executives to socially-conscious entrepreneurs—committed to unleashing human potential for thriving, optimal performance, and positive global impact. She speaks at major conferences internationally and writes for outlets such as Experience Life, Coaching World, and Huffington Post. Renee chairs the Wellness at Work and Wellness & Government initiatives for the Global Wellness Institute, and has a deep passion for creating a well world through wisdom in leadership.
Here’s what Renee shares:
Kathy Caprino: Based on your work with leaders, what do you see is different about leadership today versus 20 years ago?
Renee Moorefield: The notion of leadership has changed dramatically. When I started advising leaders in global companies decades ago, “leader” meant the one person in charge (usually male). Leadership was about hierarchy, titles, and management controls.
This leadership style generally fit the nature of work at the time. You worked at a specific location with set hours, your work was pigeon-holed from the rest of your life, you expected long-term job security from your employer (and vice versa), and the meaning you gained from work was defined by money and prestige. You “climbed the ladder of success.” Of course, this wasn’t true for every company or person—but it was by and large the accepted culture of corporate life.
Practically no one can relate to those days now.
Caprino: If we’re not “climbing the ladder of success,” what are we focusing on now?
Moorefield: We’re getting work done by collaborating across geographies and worldviews with a scale we couldn’t imagine years ago. We’re working from anywhere anytime—and this calls for greater personal leadership and self-direction. We’re still seeking meaning through work, but we usually find it by contributing to something larger than ourselves—a noble purpose, a social innovation, an extraordinary team, or visionary goals.
Caprino: How does that impact how we lead, manage and approach our work?
Moorefield: It turns the old way of leading on its head. The fluidity of work has transformed what it means to lead. Effective leaders today facilitate positive outcomes by tapping into the power of human energy. They know work can be glorified drudgery in some cases, yet when energized by a person’s whole being, it can become joy.
Happiness, wellbeing, wisdom, dignity, trust, care, and love are not considered “soft” concepts as in the past; they are strategies to build exceptional work-teams and thriving organizations.
Caprino: What do you see is at the heart of this shift?
Moorefield: Deeper questions are guiding leaders, for example: “How can we lead in a way that unleashes human potential?”
Everything about work—relationships with colleagues, organizational culture, space and place, the act of work itself—is a potential agent of vitality, rejuvenation, meaning, and growth. Effective leaders ask: “How can we create the conditions where everyone can bring their best selves to work and leave work more capable and well than when they came?”
Caprino: How do you talk about this with organizations that want to cultivate better leadership?
Moorefield: I enter this conversation through the doorway of thriving. There isn’t a person or organization I know that doesn’t want to elevate their capacity to thrive. Because most of us operate from a deep-rooted, usually unconscious, belief: If we work harder (longer, faster), we will finally get in front of the complexities we face. Our hamster wheel of stress will stop soon.
It’s exhausting …and, ultimately, quite unproductive.
When we pause to examine this belief, we realize it is groundless. There will not be a foreseeable future that isn’t (as the military so aptly puts it) volatile, complex, uncertain, and ambiguous. I’d add: astoundingly disruptive and networked.
When IBM interviewed 1,500 CEO’s of global organizations, 79% forecasted complexity to rise across the planet and over half doubted their ability to manage it. Yes, over half. World-shaping leaders feel ill equipped to handle the escalating complexities that we, in our civilizations and our personal lives, experience as the norm.
As disheartening is Gallup’s 2015 poll of managers. 65% of the leaders studied reported being disengaged or actively disengaged… basically, checked out. Kathy, I wonder what your readers’ experience is?
Ill-equipped, disengaged leaders are more likely to replicate that way of being wherever they are. I believe the sincere cultivation of a new standard of effective, thriving leadership within all of us is more important now than ever.
Caprino: In my readership and community, I’ve seen there’s complete agreement with what you’re sharing. However, I see too that there are still so many leadership development programs out there that miss the mark entirely, and focus on the wrong things. What do you find is missing?
Moorefield: Forward-leaning companies want to continuously innovate and transform, yet often don’t grasp a basic tenet: they cannot evolve any faster than the consciousness and capabilities of the people leading them. This means they choose leadership development strategies that miss the boat in at least three ways:
Their approaches don’t help leaders plumb the deeper values, biases, and beliefs driving how they lead. Yet it is at this depth of exploration—the leader’s internal operating system—where a generative shift of mind and heart can take place to activate a genuine leap forward in leadership effectiveness and impact.
Failure to embrace the whole self.
Great leaders use their whole being to get results with and through others. Yet leadership development strategies often lack the holistic approach that helps leaders amplify mental and emotional well-being, instead of reactivity and stress.
Lack of real change.
Many leadership development approaches awaken leaders to new possibilities for healthier ways of leading, yet still lack a system of accountability and learning to support sustainable changes in leadership behavior.
After many years of working with leaders around the globe, we purposefully designed our Be Well Lead Well® leadership development programs to tackle these issues.
Caprino: What changes do you notice leaders making through your work with them?
Moorefield: When leaders are willing to travel the path of well-being and leadership transformation with us, we see five powerful changes:
They are committed to knowing themselves.
They are willing to really look at themselves—their gifts and their gaps—and reinvent how they lead based on authenticity, passion, and wisdom from within. This creates a tremendous boost. There is a quickening of energy that occurs when you operate from the truth of your being. For these leaders, it is as if the energy that was once tied up in “how I should be” is now freed.
They operate with greater clarity and balance.
Organizations need leaders who can lead from the inside out—where their inner world is so vibrant that the outer world doesn’t rattle them. This enables leaders to bring clarity, discernment, and balance to their teams and organizations, cutting through the organizational noise.
They are more inclusive.
When leaders appreciate themselves as whole people, they treat others as whole people too. They seek to understand how all people see the world differently, and they use these differences as catalysts for innovation, connection, and trust.
They proactively boost thriving in teams and organizations.
Too much or too little stress can erode performance. So, these leaders consciously make thriving a game-changer in their teams and organizations. When mind, body, and spirit come online together, people can create the extraordinary.
They cultivate shared wisdom and leadership.
Because these leaders make a positive impact by empowering leadership in others, they gain access to new ideas, relationships, and experiences—wisdom they might have been closed off to before. How they lead is an invitation to evolve.
Caprino: In our conversation, you mentioned that men dominated leadership roles in the past. What about women in leadership today?
Moorefield: Beyond the value of embracing the brilliance of women (just as you would embrace the brilliance of men), promoting women in leadership makes business sense.
Overwhelming research from well-known organizations, such as Credit Suisse, McKinsey & Company, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, shows companies with more women in leadership, particularly senior and culture-shaping roles, experience a higher return on equity and greater organizational effectiveness.
On the other hand, excellent research by Mercer finds women executives three times more likely than men to leave a company. They aren’t as interested in the “climbing the ladder” approach of the past, and health, wealth, and career issues clearly differ for women than men.
To address this head on, we’re now launching an exclusive version of our Be Well Lead Well® programming for current and high-potential women executives. It is a yearlong transformative and groundbreaking journey where women leaders explore two profound questions: “What enables me to thrive?” and “How can I cultivate the conditions where others thrive—at work, at home, and beyond?”
We’ve incorporated revolutionary personal wellness genomics, mindfulness training and neurofeedback, somatics, pioneering leadership assessments, and other transformative practices and tools to assist women leaders in tapping into their deepest commitment to thrive—mind, body, relationships, and spirit—plus uplift their consciousness and capabilities for driving cultures of thriving wherever they lead.
To learn more, visit BeWellLeadWell.com.
For more from Kathy Caprino, visit her career and personal growth programs and her TEDx talk "Time to Brave Up."