11 Reasons Business Executives Must Reinvent Themselves as Fierce Leaders

Over the last few decades there has been an accelerating growth in self-centred, exploitative management and dehumanisation in the corporate workplace. Recently there has been a silent revolt against this unprecedented epidemic as evidenced by the astronomically high levels of corporate disengagement, particularly amongst the newer generations entering the workforce. How can leaders reinvent themselves and adopt a more humanistic management ethos to counter this epidemic? It requires nothing short of becoming a fierce leader: creating an embodied practice of management that includes qualities such as respect, empowering leaders to influence for better rather than worse and ultimately this will create a magnetic attractor for top talent who reject outright working in degrading environments.

What does it mean to be fierce as a leader?
We know it when we see it in action: when I stood on the Grand Parade in Cape Town as Nelson Mandela gave his presidential inauguration speech in 1994 my eyes filled with tears. He embodied fierce leadership in every fibre of his being; his presence and poise in the face of decades of dehumanising behavior was unforgettable. But we also know it when we see it in the mannerisms of a board member or the attitude of an executive running a team meeting: they are fully in the moment.

The four critical elements to being a fierce leader
Fierce leadership requires us to train our minds.  This training creates a formidable practice so that we can deal with modern day business and our susceptibility to the following situation: as a result of being constantly subjected to the 24 seven pressures of work and despite our best intentions, our resilience can break down even in noncritical situations and we can revert to bad-management-autopilot.

However, there are four critical elements to building a fierce leadership practice that help prevent this type of autopilot from kicking in. We do need to constantly tend to our practice by nurturing and supporting these elements.  We should see these elements as both aspirational and practical and use our best efforts to work on being stronger at each one individually as well as together.

1. Altruism and humanity –
Seeing beyond our current office and role and being aware that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our organisations gives us a capacity for much deeper understanding. It also increases our capability to take a serving stance through which we treat others as human beings rather than exploiting them as objectified resources.

2. Lucid clarity –
Dealing with what is showing up in the moment, what is here now as opposed to what happened in the past (“this is the way we’ve always done things around here”) or what is projected to happen (“if we can close this deal we will sell our products and more parts of the world”).

3. Imaginative openness –
Considering all angles and holding diametrically opposed points of view in our heads as we work through the implications of the choices we make is crucial. This requires both a highly developed imagination and ensuring there is sufficient spaciousness in our minds within which to explore, over and above all the clutter of a busy daily executive life.

4. Core focus –
Determining what we want to focus our attention on and maintaining that focus despite a myriad things trying to take us off task.

The benefits of a fierce leadership practice
As our practice grows we find ourselves:
* influencing more often for better than worse in not only the big impactful decisions we make, but also every minute of every day;
* becoming more focused and this lucidity of thought gives us the opening to deal innovatively with situations based on our efforts to deeply understand what they mean for us and others and compassionately realising the consequences impact of our choices;
* shifting our stance to lead by inspiration rather than expectation;
* finding ourselves considering others in their positions with more openness and respect
* becoming aware very quickly when thoughts aren’t true to ourselves and having the ability to redirect before we react
* more often exuding qualities that engaged people look for such as kindness and humour, and being more highly communicative – as fierce leaders we do this despite these qualities not necessarily being reflected in our organisational KPIs;
* finding ourselves getting more stuff done because we are more confident, have increased emotional intelligence, are more collaborative and have a greater ability to influence others;
* rejecting the negative narrative we may form around not being on 24 seven and being able to control when we communicate to only those times when we can be more actionable, considered and effective – this in turn frees us up to be more present in our daily non-work related activities such as exercise and family time and also frees up our people from following the bad precedent we were setting by, for example, emailing them at 11h30pm and expecting an immediate response;
* more able to be resilient and pause in any situation, no matter high pressured, and check in with ourselves how we are feeling about that situation before reacting – are we subject to any biases, is our response going to have unintended consequences, are we being mindful of all the variables at play;
* and at times of uncertainty when it feels like taking any action would be like stepping off a cliff, we are able to comfortably take that first step because we are capable of listening to our inner wisdom and trusting more completely in the unfolding without needing to always control or force what will happen.

Individual fierce leadership can also rapidly activate a culture of being fierce across an organisation which creates a strong magnetic attractor for top talent.

In subsequent posts I will go into more detail on how to build a fierce leadership practice and realise its benefits.

Fear Revisited

Fear.

 

It’s always there.

It can either liberate or bury you.

It all depends on how you deal with it.

Compare fear with the wind. When it is a gentle breeze against your cheek, you hardly notice it. However, when it tuns into a howling gale you instinctively brace into it.

No matter its strength you only become mindful of the wind when you notice it, gently rippling over or buffeting your whole body. In that moment of mindfulness you can decide to enjoy nature or cower from its power.

Fear is always blowing.

At times with ferocity.

Choosing how you confront fear puts you in power.

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As much as we sometimes fear fear itself, it is an integral part of our overall energy system.

I’ve pitched for millions of dollars in funding; I’ve given many keynotes and run countless workshops all over the world; as a lawyer I delivered numerous arguments before packed courtrooms; and yet, every time I take the floor before an audience, I feel the familiar butterflies rising in my gut.  Instead of railing against them I embrace them.

I know that the more of them there are the greater high I will feel after my talk concludes successfully.

You see fear is a raw emotion that arises from deep within us and it can be harnessed and converted into a powerful energy that drives us to step up and achieve more than we may have without it.

Without that fear I may become nonchalant and try to wing my talks. Previous experience has shown, for me at least that this can be a disaster.

I need that fear to achieve at my best.

I choose to harness it, rather than let it debilitate me.

Fear and Hope

Fear is the ultimate tool of oppression.
Dictatorial regimes and bully bosses are past masters at using it as a tool for controlling their citizens and staff, respectively.
People can be manipulated to do terrible things through fear.
As individuals we use fear to achieve self-oppression.
Some of us are masterful at tapping into the pervasive undercurrent of fear percolating within our deeper layers of consciousness.
By doing so we reveal specific fears:
the fear of saying the wrong thing; the fear of being laughed at; the fear of being betrayed by a loved one; the fear of losing your job; the fear of being diagnosed with a terminal disease.

Recently my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Coming less than two years after my own sudden cardiac death experience, this hit me hard at first. He is the toughest man I know; I always saw him as indestructible. It may sound counterintuitive, but to now see him in the fight of his life fills me with hope.

Briony Scott, herself a lung cancer patient, sums up how hope can overcome fear in a beautiful piece she wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Hope, knocked down, gets up. The spirit bends towards life. Surrounded by those who know the worst and yet focus on the best, those of us sidelined by fear are able to pick ourselves up, shelve the grief, and do what needs to be done. The force wielding the gun is just as deadly but you care less. You have choice. To spend whatever is left of your life in fear or to get on with living. You do everything you can to extend your life but you will not spend it waiting for the end to come.”

One year on, I am back running a school, doing what I love. But I have changed. I am intimately acquainted with both fear and hope. They merge and cross from time to time but with an extraordinary team of people working quietly and persistently towards a cure, for all types of cancer, and especially for lung cancer, fear will not win. Hope does and will; again and again, and again.”

Such powerful words, but how do they apply to us in business?

What do we do in a work context when fear arises?
Do we confront it or push it away by working harder?
Fear needs to be confronted, directly, by the team facing it and collectively they need to brainstorm solutions to overcoming that fear.

The team’s initial instinct is to rather work harder at solving the problems that are causing the fear, for example by closing new customers. This amounts to busywork and is being done to mask the fear. Tensions will continue to rise until people on the team feel like the business is unraveling.

The real work requires the team to be fierce and confront the fear together, deciding together what solutions are best for them to pursue. This is the best way for a team to find sustainable solutions to dealing with the fear. It will also bring them together as a more cohesive unit, mending relationships and bringing people back together. While it may feel like the tougher option in the moment, it will provide the focus needed to shift the business to a higher level.

It does not matter what the underlying cause of the fear is, confronting it directly, as a team, is the only way to solve for the long term.

How can EXOscalr help?

Our work is focused on guiding people to be fierce, with themselves, their relationships and their businesses and to tackle their personal and business fears with hope.

We take our clients on a journey of self-discovery and powerfully guide them to go deeper into themselves and step into their greatness; we are bold truth tellers and guide our clients to be the same; EXOscalr is fuel for the soul; we give our clients an audacious wake up call and assist them to find and reclaim the innate powers they possess; we are their compass, challenging them to find their direction and go beyond their limitations; within themselves our clients find compassion, joy, personal power, timeless wisdom and unconditional love; we strip away everything that no longer serves them and give them the tools and inspiration to rebuild their faith in themselves, while showing them how to live a bigger, more true life.

We work with our clients individually one on one, as well as with their teams; we meet our clients where they are, combining insights into personal development and business growth.