This article is the first in a series on Leadership from the Inside Out. The purpose is to look at the leader as a person first and as a leader second. In developing the person, the leader can them emerge stronger, more capable and whole and better able to relate to others. Topics in this column will relate to the abilities, motivations and resources that we have within us that make us better people and therefore better leaders.
Leadership from the Inside Out
The Mentally, Emotionally, Physically and Spiritually Fit Leader, Nancy Mramor, Ph.D.
We hear so much about leadership, about leading and inspiring others, bringing the business around, accomplishing goals and improving marketing, but the more I work with leaders, the more I see that the real issue is the leader, the person he/she is on the inside. The leader can be viewed as a multidimensional person, with mental, emotional, physical and spiritual intelligence, all of which effect who he/she is and how they lead.
First, let’s examine the spiritual intelligence of the organization. What inspired the mission of the business in the beginning? Is that uppermost in the mind of the organization’s members? Is there still a mindful awareness of that core, or central purpose of the group? The word for spirit in many other languages also refers to inspiration, life, and breath. In Europe, the expression, “con brio” refers to living “with breath” but the word breath also signifies life, spirit, vitality and energy. In the Eastern world the word, “prana” means the same thing. In Asian cultures, “chi” as in the oriental exercise form “tai chi” has the same meaning. In our culture we have no such word. Our spiritual intelligence is more related to belief systems or religions. The spirit of the organization and its individuals is actually where the inspiration comes from. In the example of the Wright Brothers, the idea for the airplane came from inspiration.
When there is a mission greater than the members, a cause or theme that transcends the individual needs of the team, then the inspiration or spirit of the organization remains alive and the team stays energized. When the purpose or spirit of the business is lost, individual agendas become more important than the mission, and mistrust occurs. Personal needs and goals supersede those of the organization and become more important than the central mission.
If the spirit of the group is intact, then the mental intelligence of the group is directed and everyone is of the same mind set. When the vision is shared, the mind of the group operates like one mind. Everyone involved brings something to the purpose of the business instead of the personal agenda or purpose of individual members. Individual minds form a group mind and move with integrity toward the goal. There is a commonality that allows for a group set of values to be established. The members hold each other accountable for the values of the group, and bring one another to the central goal if they move away from it. A person of high mental intelligence sees things in a positive light. Even if they are the troubleshooters of the organization, they see how that troubleshooting can be a positive contribution to the business. In the example of the Wright Brothers, the mental intelligence is responsible for the blueprints or plans for the airplane.
Our beliefs are what create either stress or relaxation in our bodies, affecting our physical intelligence. If you are overly cautious, suspicious or a worrier, you are constantly bombarding your body with stress signals. Over time, those signals create illness and wear and tear on the body. The airplane is much like the physical intelligence. It is the physical reflection of the concept, or inspiration for the plane.
The heart of the person is much like the heart of the business. It pumps the emotional commitment and passion into the business. In Dean Ornish’s book Love and Survival, he clearly illustrates that we need to care for our lives and other individuals in order to survive. Those with supportive relationships get sick less, heal faster and live longer. Perhaps we could apply this data about the heart to the health of the business. When we are emotionally connected to one another, in a supportive fashion, the business will be healthier and will survive. Emotional intelligence obviously has a huge effect on physical intelligence and health. The heart is where the passion and love for what we do resides. Emotional intelligence is greatest for those who are able to exercise this kind of excitement in their work, and have a good match between their interests and the job. Knowing exactly what it is that you want to do with your life and doing it, creates high levels of emotional satisfaction that even a promotion could not provide with the wrong job. Emotional intelligence would be the fuel for the Wright Brothers airplane.
There is evidence that the largest number of heart attacks occurs on Monday morning between 8 and 9 AM. This occurrence is related to the experience called “joyless striving”. It applies to feelings of having to force yourself to go to a job that you have no interest in, or even truly dislike. Clearly these feelings suggest a lack of emotional fitness in the match between the employee and the job.
The interaction between employees is also a large factor in the emotional intelligence of the business. Even if someone is emotionally healthy, interactions with others can present challenges. It is often easier to be successful in your own right, and in your career that it is to manage others. Often, factors come into play that deteriorate teams. These include: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results (Lencioni, Patrick – Five Dysfunctions of a Team.) Interpersonal relationships are one of the three major causes of life stress, along with environmental events/conditions and personal attitudes and beliefs. It may even be possible that our own attitudes and beliefs create the interpersonal stress. If you do not have trust, or have a need to win even at others’ expense, you are unlikely to relate well to colleagues.
We often focus on physical fitness of the individual, but what about the physical intelligence of the organization. The fourth part of the equation of the fit business is the physical structure that supports the business. What kind of support is there for the projects and priorities of the organization? What is the plan for the daily operation of the business, how is it executed and by whom? Is everyone in agreement and committed to the whole process?
Finally, ask yourself if the individuals that make up the business are using their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual intelligence and continuing to develop them internally? If the organization provides such opportunities . encouraging personal, as well as professional development . then employees learn to value their personal growth. If such activities are frowned upon or lack support, the employee who desires inner growth is likely to lose motivation. Unless we are growing, we do not become self-realized, fulfilled and able to meet the new challenges that face businesses today. The example of the tragedy in New Orleans clearly shows that we cannot always meet new situations with old methods, and that we must continue to grow.
Nancy Mramor, Ph.D. is an educational, health and clinical psychologist, specializing in mind-body-spirit issues and stress management. She has worked in businesses, schools, hospitals, private practice, universities and educational television for the past 30 years. Her new book, Spiritual Fitness, a guide to wellness through health of the mind, body and spirit is already in its second printing. Nancy was voted one of Western Pennsylvania’s most successful women in 1995. Her work on mind-body-spirit issues has been presented both nationally at the American Psychological Association and the National Behavior Medicine Conference, and internationally.