What makes the difference in truly powerful leaders? How do they attract and keep loyal, committed followers? Where does their strength of conviction come from and how do we tap into it?
I believe it comes from within each of us, through a state of being I call alignment. So, what do I really mean by alignment?
Aligned individuals simply love what they do, they are good at it, and what they do and why they do it are almost always tied to a purpose greater than themselves. Once an individual is truly aligned around their purpose – and thus, they are indeed living their life on purpose – this is when and where true power is revealed and released. Their mind, body, emotions, and spirit are in harmony. There is simply no substitute for total alignment and congruency within a person or leader.
Think about it … when we see a person who truly walks their talk, whose life is a full and total manifestation of their beliefs, and whose profession is one that fully capitalizes and optimizes their gifts and talents – we see a person who is in their groove. One doesn't have to look too far for examples – they are the ones that would do their work for free and that come to work with a spring in their step. They are the ones that have a passion for their work, an intense desire to make a difference, and are centered and confident in the manner in which they choose to let this unfold. Their personal and professional goals are aligned and they remain committed to doing whatever it takes to fulfill their purpose.
It is my belief that this 'quest for alignment', like all things, is a journey not a destination. So, what are a few steps we can take to start moving toward greater alignment and authenticity of 'who we really are' as individual leaders? In this article, I am offering a few baby steps to help us start down the path of revealing who we really are and what we really want.
- Observe when we are really 'in the zone.' You know what I mean: when we are fulfilled, happy, and energized, when our heart is singing, we are in the zone and 'in the flow.' Pay attention to these moments. They are whispers revealing the 'real me'. We need to get to know this person; and give ourselves freedom to be who we are. Let all things flow from there. This can be such a revealing process. Pay attention to that little voice inside. It may come as a question in the middle of the night, or as crystal clear as a voice in the shower. The voice is our soul – it is our core and it is the pure essence of what and who we are meant to be. Heed it.
- Create time for solitude. There is nothing like quiet time to shut out the noise of our day to day lives. Often, when we are searching for 'something to fill a void,' we surround ourselves with people, things, and activities. We over schedule and over program our lives. This 'busyness' clutters the air waves. Stop. Be at home. Feed the birds. Read a novel. Watch a movie. Turn off the car radio. Be with YOU … just like with others, the more time we spend with ourselves, the better we will get to know ourselves. I have also found that keeping a journal is amazingly enlightening. This may be a stretch for some who are reading this article – that is ok. Even if you only write down only one or two thoughts you have – when you have them – it is amazing how they will grow and multiply in your mind's eye. It is a great way to reflect on your day, the lessons learned, the observations of yourself and others. It is like living it 'over' in some ways – which is incredibly powerful.
- Stay connected. This may appear contradictory to being alone; yet, it is not. We are all connected. We are all part of the same energy of this world. To really define ourselves and get to know ourselves, we do this in relation to others. As the cliché says: “if you really want to know yourself and all your idiosyncrasies – be in a relationship!” How
true this is. So, yes, we need both solitude and community to truly enlarge and embrace our sense of self. By staying present in the moment, some of our greatest teachers will be revealed. As the Buddhist proverb says, 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.' I have found this can be through the random encounters with taxi drivers, bartenders, passengers on subways, and even our children. Yet, we have to be present to win! This means we must put down our iPhones and Blackberries, and be awake to the happenings around us. Try it the next time you are in an airport terminal – it may surprise you.
- Trust your gut and have courage to follow it. Choices are the right and left turns on our lives' highway. If we truly listen to our 'gut' and our intuition they seldom lead us astray. Our challenge is to have the courage to listen to our gut. We often rationalize, justify, and 'sell' ourselves on what we think we need to do. Sure, there is a balance – this is called judgment. However, I will offer that in my life every single time I have not listened to my inner voice – my intuition – the decision has been far less than optimal for supporting my true and authentic self. Let go of expectations of others for your life. Many times we may have a 'hit' to do or be something other than what we are presently – and we fight it (or just flat out ignore it) because it is not what we think we should be doing. The trappings of our world are intoxicating. We often get 'drunk' on these. What I believe, however, is if we truly follow our heart's desire – we will be successful. All the other trappings will take care of themselves.
- Finally, be willing to play hard and possibly fall hard. Whether this is engaging in a yoga class, a lacrosse match or taking a monthly art class, we need to 'do stuff' we really love. This is our essence. We need to go for it with all the gusto we can muster. If we stumble or fall – that's ok. We are living life without fear of failure. Whew, what a concept. If only we could truly embrace the cliché: 'what would you do if you knew you could not fail' in every moment of every day.
We have the choice to grasp all the possibility within ourselves, and then act in a disciplined, concentrated and focused way. Whether we are leaders in our organizations, mothers and fathers raising our children, or simply making our way in the world, as Hawthorne offers: “No one man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.” Once we find 'the true one face,' we reveal and embrace our fullest potential with simply 'the real me.' Therein lies the power of the authentic and fully aligned self.
So, is alignment the secret to authentic power? I actually believe authenticity and alignment are synonymous. I also believe there is undeniable power in the authentic congruency of mind, body, heart, and spirit. So, yes, I believe becoming 'aligned' with your core soul, and allowing this to manifest into the world through your choices, is the secret to living your life with powerful purpose and purposeful power.
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About the author: Kristin Kaufman formed Alignment, Inc. to help individuals, teams and leaders increase their overall contribution, bottom line effectiveness and personal fulfillment. Using a well-rounded ‘end to end’ alignment process, she helps some of the world’s leading organizations achieve measurable results and develop and inspire leadership capacity for ongoing transformation. Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centered on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment, was published in 2011 to national acclaim. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
I used to think I needed to find passion in work.
There are things I feel passionate about – such as creating a work environment where employees feel like they can bring their full selves to work and be engaged to do their best work. But as far as feeling passionate every single day?
Nein. I don’t come to work every day because I feel passionate about my work; rather I come to work every day because I have bills to pay and prefer to have a roof over my head. I am part of Gen Y which I suppose by association makes me lazy and want things handed to me on a silver spoon. I don’t really operate that way, but that is the stereotype.
Me? I need passion in my work. I work much harder and more diligently towards the things I feel passionate about. Does this mean I don’t do the things I feel “eh” about? No, I’d get fired. Here’s my realization. Take it for what it is worth:
- I will not love every job I have during my career
- I will not love every aspect of every job I have during my career
- Ultimately, we work to pay bills
If the goal in life was to feel a sense of passion for what we are doing, money would not be an issue and we’d all be out working towards causes we ARE passionate about. Or, doing the things we always said we wanted to do, but never wanted to take a chance to do and I am including myself in this statement.
Really, if we all just LOVED what we did, we wouldn’t be talking about work/life balance all the time. It would just be a part of life. Okay, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but you understand where I am going there. I enjoy my job but saying I feel passionate about being a human punching bag most days is kind of a stretch.
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This one is personal.
Let me go through a brief synopsis of a conversation I had a couple weeks ago. I was sitting with a group of friends, all of whom have had been in transition,when one interjected and said to me, “You’ve had it easy compared to when I was looking for work.” I sat for a moment and chewed over this harsh statement. Calming my boiling blood, I moved on with the conversation.
Let me stop here. It was not the person’s gender or that I thought any less of this person. I understand that we had different backgrounds and different circumstances and we were both exhausted from our own job search experiences. This person landed a great job that they still enjoy 8 years later. But still, there was something more to this for me than ”having it easier” because I didn’t. What was it?
The answer came from a career coach I absolutely admire and respect. She made a comment I will never forget, ”Perhaps you were more emotionally mature and equipped to handle this.” Was she right? Was I more emotionally equipped to handle the job search?
What is emotional maturity and what does it mean?
Emotional Maturity is the way in which you control your emotions without allowing your emotions get the best of you. Your emotional maturity is characterized as your capacity to manage and balance your emotions even to evaluate others emotions and perhaps an ability to persuade others emotions and actions. A key discernible factor in assessing your emotional maturity is measured in your relationships. What do your relationships say about you?
- Are you able to control your emotions or do you let your emotions control you?
- Are you able to express yourself in a way that it engages, influences others?
- Are you able to think before you act?
- Are you able to tackle life when it hits rock bottom?
- Are you staying true to your principles and acting with honesty and integrity in thought and action?
- Do you have the sense of self reliance and the capability to take responsibility and accountability for your life and actions?
Emotional maturity is not characterized by, or found in, age. In fact, I believe it isn’t at all and the statement, “youth fades but immaturity lingers,” appropriately summarizes this psychology.
In their purest form, relationships are the most transparent gauge of emotional maturity and I am going to take relationships a step further. Relationships can be between ideas, thoughts, your leadership style, how you express yourself and how you trust.
How do you achieve emotional maturity? You learn to direct your energy through positive healthy channels. You accept responsibility and learn from your mistakes, respect feedback when given, surround yourself with others that support you, become aware of your inner strength and, above all else, honor yourself.
Take a good hard look at yourself. Are you displaying emotional maturity?
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Lately, some HR Consultants, bloggers, and congresspeople have been all atwitter about the concept of transgender employees at work.
The Employment Non Discrimination Act, (ENDA), which would protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, is currently stalled in the House of Representatives, in part because of some people's fears about, of all things, where transgendered employees will use the bathroom.
In celebrity news, Rachel Maddow, who is not transgendered but, like many people, falls somewhere outside the classic Barbie and Ken model of gender, was recently the subject of some widespread commentary when her high school yearbook picture showed that, in her teens, she fit western attractiveness standards much more closely than she does now. Maddow's leadership, courage, and wit are dismissed so that some anonymous poster could voice his opinion that “gender-appropriate” young Maddow would have been worthy of his no-doubt formidable romantic attentions.
Here's my take on gender at work.
Gender fetishism by supposedly “normal” people is far, far more distracting in the aggregate than the isolated cases of transgender transformation in the workplace. The Human Rights Campaign (pdf) states that the American Psychiatric Association believes that perhaps one in every 30,000 people born male, and one in every 100,000 people born female, seek sexual reassignment surgery.
The chance that you will ever work with a transgender employee who is in the transition period of his or her life is very, very small. Most people going through the very long, very tedious gender reassignment process, or people who live their entire lives somewhere between the two extremes of the man/woman gender continuum, want nothing more than to do their jobs and be treated fairly. But the chance that you will work with someone who distracts coworkers with extreme displays of the gender they
were born with is very, very high.
Anyone who has been in HR more than a year or two has had to have the “dress code” conversation with a female coworker determined to show off her gender-related assets. Just last week I talked to an HR friend who had to deal with a woman who wore a short skirt and no panties to work. The employee spent a good part of her day making copies and changing out paper. You can imagine how that turned out: office productivity took a nose dive. That's why, when I write dress codes, it usually says simply, “Please dress such that your work, and not what you wear, is what people notice. Dress in a way that doesn't distract clients or coworkers from your work contributions.”
Anyone who has worked in an office has seen that some managers are blinded by classic beauty, be it male or female. They (often completely unconsciously) show bias towards people who are conventionally pretty or handsome whether or not these hotties can get the job done, often very much to the downfall of their teams. I'm not suggesting that we all erase our humanity, but we unless we work where gender and sexuality are key margin drivers, we need to keep staff focused on the numbers, not coworker displays and judgments of attractiveness and gender conformity.
Let's give up the illusion that the conversation about which bathroom transgendered or transexual employees will use is anything other than, at best, voyeuristic and distracting, and at worst, just plain discrimination. If someone is transgendered, they've dealt with the interpersonal dynamics and bathroom logistics much, much longer than you, and they've got it covered.
As HR pros, we are supposed to help ensure that there is a clear line of sight between an employee's effectiveness and his or her ability to do well at our organizations. Other than maybe Hooters' waitresses, very few jobs require Barbie and Ken style gender extremism. Let's work together to help company managers disentangle their own gender conformity preferences from the requirements of the job, and the companies we help lead. Let's not allow ourselves, our managers, or our staff to get distracted from their jobs by gender and appearance matters, if in fact they don't matter, to our company profitability.
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