Leadership by Influence
“Every morning on my way to work I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t always like this. I used to really look forward to making a difference in the lives of children who have so little going for them. Now it’s as much as I can do to get myself physically into work let alone emotionally”. (Jessica)
“No matter what I do, it is never enough. Our vision incudes building self-esteem and self-discipline for young people and yet none of the staff in our school seem to be happy. I’m managing three disciplinary processes at the moment and two staff members have taken complaints against each other. There's just no way we can be here for our puplis. I feel hopeless, as if all I can do is look forward to retiring in two years. If I can last that long." (Peter)
Some of us exercise
Leadership by Office
All of us exercise
Leadership by Influence
“I hate this job. I’m embarrassed to use that word. I joined this group of women out of an urge to lovingly take care of those in need and now I’m feeling the opposite. It’s as if I’m betraying all that I stand for when I have this feeling of despair. All I ever get is problems. I used to enjoy when we’d get together for meetings to talk about what’s important to us and now I dread them. It’s as if we’ve lost all sense of purpose. Still there’s just three years, two months and one week of leadership left. Then I can get back to what my life is really about. Being with those in need.” (Manisha)
Jessica leads a multidisciplinary mental health team. Peter is Principal of a secondary school. Manisha is community leader, in a congregation of women religious who are going through a time of profound change. Each of them accepted leadership with energy and enthusiasm, in order to make a difference, and now find themselves regretting the choice.
Emotional and physical exhaustion, combative relationships and feelings of betraying core values are increasingly common experiences for leaders today. As a result many become disconnected from their own inner source of inspiration and burn out quickly follows. It is as if leadership ought to carry a health warning.
However, insights from contemporary neuroscience tell us that when leaders engage well with the distress of those they would influence through their leadership they will themselves experience some of that distress.
This gives us an alternative perspective. Jessica, Peter and Manisha might be describing what leadership feels like when it is done well. What if they feel the way they do because they are doing something right rather than something wrong?
Furthermore, leadership doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of people like Jessica, Peter and Manisha, who have leadership by office. Regardless of our role, whether we intend it or not, our presence always influences others in a way that either supports their vision and dreams or gets in the way. We call this Leadership by Influence. When we ourselves are disconnected from source we cannot engage in ways that support others in their search. The first task of leadership then is one of re-connected to our own deep, inner source of meaning.
At the Centre for Re-Sourceful Leadership we
nurture relationships, host conversations and facilitate environments in which leadership by influence
can flourishing. By noticing and engaging with the disconnect, we seek opportunities for leaders to re-source themselves re-aligning the WHAT and HOW of their work with their source - WHY.