When I think about the moments that matter most in leadership, these are the moments when we need to be most fully ourselves. Like when a colleague is having a meltdown. Like when our integrity is being challenged. Like when someone rejects our work. Our presence needs to be like a lightning bolt: bright, focused, electric.
Our presence, who we are, is the magic of our influence. Yes we can learn some technical skills on being present, but nothing replaces the magic of you.
One of the things I see gets in the way of people being fully present in their leadership is the fact that we sometimes deny our bad bits. We try to make the right decisions, we try to behave the right way, and we try and suppress the nasty bits of us that don’t seem so pretty. Those childish voices that are jealous. The criticisms we have of others. The judgements that we make. The nasty habits that are substandard. We might be a procrastinator, a hoarder, sloppy, or a chronic typo writer. We deny our our lumps and bumps in the earnest effort to be better than who we are.
When we do this, those lumps and bumps grow to be volcanoes! The more we try and put a lid on it, the more it spills over. The trick to being whole and complete is making peace with and integrating those nasty lumps and bumps.
In Integral Life Practice, Ken Wilber calls this shadow work. The exercise is in feeling the feelings that we deny, being the person that we try and avoid, and feeling that as a whole part of us. When we accept that we have the greatest good in us as well as the greatest evil, then we are not at the mercy of sudden eruptions. When we deny no part of ourselves then we are fully complete. Ironically this is where we can disable the parts that might get us into trouble. We consciously choose which bits of us to act on and which bits to keep dormant.
Compassion for ourselves means totally accepting all of who we are. It doesn’t mean that we don’t try to improve. It means that we seek to grow and evolve and let go of the things that no longer serve us without beating ourselves up for them being there in the first place. If we have a commitment to living a non-violent life, a compassionate life, then the magic of who we are evolves.
So I can show up and be all of me. Inside there is the Bitch, the Witch, and the Hag. There is also the Queen, the Crone, and the Muse. Through all of them there is Me. And I’m fine with that.
What part of you are you denying? What is that costing you? What would it be like if you accepted all of who you are?