Leadership and growth- Part I

Growing is not an easy task, in my experience I believe that it is one of the most difficult task we can encounter in our lives. The interesting thing is that it wasn’t difficult in the past, it just became difficult as we grew. When I see a child, I can see that adaptability and resilience that helps him adapt to any outcome.

To grow, the first step is in the mindset. In 2006, the book Mindset was published and boosted the concept of a growth mindset. The book states that mindsets can be divided into two, 1) fixed and 2) growth. When a person is in a fixed mindset it is set that their intelligence is static, they usually avoid challenges, give up on obstacles, don’t see purpose on challenges, ignore feedback and they feel threatened by the success of others.

When a person or a leader are immersed in a fixed mindset, they can be dangerous to the work environment and to themselves. A leader with fixed mindset will see those who collaborate with him as challengers for his position, making it impossible for him to help others grow. This is one of the worst aspects that can be embedded into a business culture, since you can only grow in a company as far as your leaders are able to accompany you and accept your traits. If you are feeling challenged by those around you and you feel threatened, tell yourself that it is a not a good thing.

The work of the leader is to lead the best, and this will often require extreme effort from you. That is how leadership is constituted, you have to select the best talent for the job and lead. If your mindset is fixed, if you believe that they threat your position, how are you going to be able to coach them? How would you be able to make them grow? In the end, you will become what you were trying to avoid, the one that gets in the way of growth.

The reason why we feel threatened is because you think that your value is on the line. Sometimes this is referred as ego, but in philosophy ego is not a word with a negative context, this is why I will avoid the ego discussion. When leaders feel threatened, they fear that their value is affected. What we usually forget is that value has two parts: 1) internal value and 2) external value. The problem is that we usually focus in the second one.

The external value is what others think of us. It is our reputation. It is the pat on the back. It is the farewell party. It is the comments about how smart, beautiful, capable, admirable and others words that we attach to our value. This is why we post in social media for others to see. It is not wrong, not at all, it is part of what makes us human. The problem is choosing the external value as 90% of our whole value. Why? The reason was explained by Epictetus in the book Manual and it was for me, the first time I came across with this book, a hard pill to swallow:

Of things some are in our power, and others are not. In our power are
opinion ([Greek: hupolaepsis]), movement towards a thing ([Greek:
hormae]), desire, aversion ([Greek: echchlisis]), turning from a thing;
and in a word, whatever are our acts. Not in our power are the body,
property, reputation, offices (magisterial power), and in a word,
whatever are not our own acts. And the things in our power are by nature
free, not subject to restraint or hindrance; but the things not in our
power are weak, slavish, subject to restraint, in the power of others.
Remember then, that if you think the things which are by nature slavish
to be free, and the things which are in the power of others to be your
own, you will be hindered, you will lament, you will be disturbed, you
will blame both gods and men; but if you think that only which is your
own to be your own, and if you think that what is another’s, as it
really is, belongs to another, no man will ever compel you, no man will
hinder you, you will never blame any man, you will accuse no man, you
will do nothing involuntarily (against your will), no man will harm you,
you will have no enemy, for you will not suffer any harm.

Epictetus, A Selection from the Discourses of Epictetus With the Encheiridion. Project Gutenmberg

When we center our value in the external, we center our value outside our control. As Epictetus states, our reputation is not in our control. In this digital era, someone can write a post about someone else and destroy the concept of reputation that was built by someone during a certain time. Epictetus also shares with us the importance of not centering ourselves solely in the external, he tells us that we won’t be compelled, we won’t be hindered, we won’t blame, we won’t accuse, we won’t to anything against our will, we won’t be harmed, we won’t have enemies, we won’t suffer any harm.

How many times have we seen this in history? The vendetta because someone dared to accuse the other. This is the whole purpose of the amazing story, The Count of Montecristo, a vendetta focused on justice searching for justice. In the end, Edmond Dantès reminds us of two important things, wait and hope. The interesting thing is that wait and hope cannot be achieved by externals, their are created internally. Dantès understood this, that we cannot base ourselves on externals.

Leadership should be focused on the internals, the internals of the leaders and the internals on the ones being lead. If we believe that we are in this life to serve, to encourage others, to make this world a better place, then focusing on the internal is the solution. If you believe in what Marcus Aurelius said about is being as bees, that one cannot be well without the other, that what affects me affects the other, then how could you lead from a fixed mindset? The answer is that you cannot.

To lead we must focus on our acts. As Marcus Aurelius said on being a good man. To lead we must change from the fixed mindset, and help others be better by being themselves. The problem is that the leader could lead with his internal value but forget the internal value of the ones that are being led. Focused on reputation, on office politics, on the reputation of the ones being led is a harmful thing, because we must separate who we hear and why. Every king in history had a snake whispering in the ear, telling him to focus on the external of others, leading him in a road to perdition. We must lead from internal to internal. We must focus on our abilities and the abilities of the ones we lead. We must focus on our acts and on the acts of others. It is the only way of creating a great culture in a company. It is the creation of a positive culture.

If we lead by reputation, this won’t get anybody far. People are forgotten, statues are overthrown and awards collect dust. What is forever are our acts, the way we led our team, how we helped them grow, how they helped us grow, in the end, how we all grew. This is the most important trait in leadership. Lead through action, without fear, and without being threatened.

You cannot avoid what others would do to you. You cannot detain the process of a person that wants your job, you cannot detain the post destroying your reputation, but you can choose how you act. You can choose to be a good leader because it is not about the results, it is about the process. It is about changing others and changing yourself. It is about making this world better by our actions. That is to lead. Lead is not about awards, lead is not about getting famous. Lead is often done in closed rooms, in the morning run, in our home, in our meditation couch, in church. Therefore remember that, leading is a privilege, don’t waste it by being afraid or threatened. Lead with confidence from the inside.

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