The first step to strategizing what kind of team you want to lead is deciding what kind of story you want for your organization. What stories will your customers tell their friends and family? What stories will your employees tell their friends and family? Your business’s success and profitability depend on the stories that get told. Take the time to develop a story that captivates and engages.
Here’s an example. I have spoken many times around the world about a disastrous experience I had on Lufthansa Airlines over ten years ago. There is even a video of me available on the Internet telling the story. Personally, Lufthansa has lost over $350,000 in business that they could have potentially got from my international travels because of this experience.
Conversely, British Airways is one of my all-time favorite airlines because of the emotional connection I have with them. Why? What is the STORY that makes me go out of my way to do business with them?
“Your story must encompass your values.” –Robert Murray
It was New Years 2010, my daughter, then 19 years old, flew back to Europe to see her school friends and celebrate New Years with them. She had a lot of fun – apparently too much fun because when she was returning home, she had to transfer to the last leg of her trip at Heathrow Airport. While she was waiting for her next flight, she fell asleep in a chair at the gate and missed repeated PA announcements calling her to board her flight.
If you need to pause, reflect more, and change your leadership style or behavior, this book will jumpstart your thinking.
Are You Above or Below the Line?
Personal responsibility and personal accountability are vitally important to success in any endeavor. You start the book with a simple but powerful model: Above the Line / Below the Line. Would you share that model with us?
The model is a simple black line. At any moment a leader is either above the line or below the line. When we are above the line, we are open, curious and committed to learning. When we’re below the line, we’re closed, defensive and committed to being right. What we suggest is that the first fundamental building block of conscious leadership is the ability to accurately locate yourself at any moment, asking, “Am I above or below the line?”
This sounds rather simple, but it actually requires a high degree of self-awareness. Many leaders spend most of their time below the line. In fact, it is the normal state. Asking them if they’re below the line would be like asking a fish if it’s wet. When leaders begin the journey to conscious leadership, they develop a greater and greater capacity to locate themselves accurately in any given moment.
“You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.” -Stephen Richards
Many leaders spend most of their time below the line because we go there when we are threatened or when we are in a fight or flight reactivity and the goal is survival. Our brains are hardwired to do this. This is normal. It is human. The issue is that this reactive pattern occurs whether the threat is real or perceived, and when the perceived threat is to the survival of the ego, we go below the line to protect it. Many ego-driven leaders experience a fairly constant threat to their ego. Thus they live and lead from below the line.
When leaders are below the line, they are in a low-learning state and create cultures of fear and threat. This results in lower creativity, innovation, collaboration and connection. When they’re above the line, they are in a state of trust, and the result is a higher level of effectiveness.
So the first key of conscious leaders is to accurately locate themselves either above or below the line. If they’re below the line, the second key to conscious leadership is to shift back above the line. Leaders master reliable shift moves that take them back above the line.
“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.” -Brian Tracy
The reason we are so committed to being right at all costs and to proving that we are right is that the ego doesn’t believe it can survive unless it is right. Being wrong is ego death. Being right, and more importantly being seen as being right, becomes our highest goal.
What we see is that conscious leaders become more interested in learning than in proving to everyone, including themselves, that they are right. The more secure leaders are, the less they need to spend time explaining, justifying, defending and proving their rightness and the more time they spend learning through deep listening, curiosity and wonder. As leaders learn to lead more from curiosity and wonder, they discover that breakthrough ideas come their way regularly. Also, the more leaders get deeply interested in learning over being right, the more their teams and organizations do the same.
“Conscious leaders are more interested in learning than proving they are right.”
Would you share the “victim-villain-hero” triangle?
When we’re below the line, we’re in drama. All drama is driven by three roles: the victim, villain and hero.
When I’m a victim, I’m living as though I’m “the effect of” people, circumstances and conditions. I locate the cause of my experience as something or someone outside of me. I’m upset because a supplier didn’t deliver or the markets are down or there is bad traffic. It could also be that I’m happy, but the cause of my happiness is the circumstances outside of me. Victims never take full responsibility for their lives.
Villains blame. They blame others, the collective and themselves. They move through life finding fault. Villains believe something is wrong and their goal is to figure out who caused it.