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.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
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.
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Great article! I especially identify with the first point about observing when we are in the zone. So often we forget to actually stop and reflect on the fact that we are truly enjoying a moment and question what that might mean.
Love the article.
Thank you for your kind words, Maggie! If you like and ‘get’ the concept of being present in the moment… you may like the book ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ which is all about the ‘incidental meeting not being incidental’ – AND to really ‘get that’ we have to be ‘awake’ in the moment. (aka: off our Iphones) Thanks, again!