Leading Toward Wholeness

identity and leadership effectiveness

If you want to become more effective at leading toward wholeness, I invite you to get curious about your identity. Why? Because our ideas and embodied beliefs about who we are form the foundation of what we do, and can do, in the world. Our identity sets the upper bound on our leadership effectiveness.

Think about it. What is more fundamental to you than who you think you are? Your beliefs about what’s you, and what’s not you, literally define you to your self. This mostly unquestioned collection of familiar thoughts, feelings, and sensations that something in you monitors moment by moment serves to assure you that you are you. And in my experience, these familiar beliefs and signals that serve as your identity often don’t do justice to your full being. So, if you feel up for an adventure, let’s explore and see if you can discover something more about you that can help you lead more effectively.

reflect on a recent act of leading

Please take a few moments and recall a recent event where you were engaged in the act of leading. See if you can remember an instance that feels significant to you. As a suitable event comes to mind, I invite you to visualize what you were doing and whom you were interacting with. Reflect on what you were intending to accomplish, what you said and did, and how things turned out. Create as clear a picture of that event in your mind as you can. Visualize the circumstances, the sights, sounds, smells, etc. And, notice what happens in you now as you reflect.

As you recall the details of this recent event, observe what emotion or emotions are present in you now. What sensations do you notice? What is getting evoked as you remember?

for example

As I reflect on these questions for myself, I’m remembering a coaching conversation I had with a client recently. I was leading a conversation to support my client to get clear about some big decisions she was making. We were talking by phone. I was sitting at my desk in my home office. The sky was overcast and gray.  I had a conscious intention to help her access more of her inner resources of wisdom, courage, and compassion that could help her do some things that likely will be difficult for her. I wanted to support her to feel more inner comfort and strength that could help her be with the painful emotions she was experiencing when we started our conversation.

As I remember this event, I notice emotions of curiosity, love, empathy, and warmth arising in me now. I also notice some anxiety, hesitancy and fear. As for sensations, I notice a sense of expansiveness, flow, and a pleasant vibration in my abdomen. I also notice some slight tightening or constriction in my throat, midsection, and around my heart center. These experiences all arose upon recalling that conversation.

your turn

What about you? As you reflect on your recent act of leading, are you noticing any changes in you? Do you notice any emotions or sensations arising within you? If you are noticing some emotions or sensations, do they seem to be coherent? Or, are there some apparent mismatches in what you are feeling and sensing? How do you make sense of what is getting evoked, or if nothing seems to be getting evoked?

one person, many facets

I’ve noticed for me and my clients that when we observe our self in this way, we may feel and sense many things at the same time. Sometimes those feelings and sensations feel very aligned (or coherent), and sometimes they feel at odds. This phenomenon may be difficult for us to describe or make sense of with our usual way of thinking and talking about our self.

Using my example above, I find it helpful to draw upon the idea of multiplicity in psychology. This idea suggests that instead of thinking of each person as a single personality, it can be helpful to view our self as including or consisting of multiple self-parts, each one with its own viewpoint, emotions, desires, and strategies. And, if I view myself through this lens, it makes sense that I could be experiencing multiple emotions and sensations at the same time, even if those emotions seem contradictory.

applying the distinction

Now, back to my experiences I described above. Using this idea of multiplicity, I can say that some part of me was feeling curious. And, something in me was feeling loving and empathetic toward my client. Some aspect of me was enjoying a sense of warm affection during the exchange.  And, something in me was feeling anxious – even afraid. That part was concerned that I might not be able to help my client deal with her difficult emotions. It was worried that she may become disappointed in me. As a result, that part in me felt hesitant about engaging in the conversation and was trying to convince me to avoid talking about my client’s challenges and her painful emotions.

And continuing, I can say that the sensations of expansiveness, flow, and a pleasant vibration I observed seem to be an embodied response related to the aspect of me that was feeling loving and empathetic. The slight tightening or constriction I noticed in my throat, midsection, and around my heart center seems to be associated with the aspect of me that was feeling anxious, hesitant, and afraid.

As I describe my experience this way, I notice that it feels right. It feels true and useful to describe my experience this way. And all of what was happening makes sense to me now from the perspective of each of the aspects of me that were that were having the experiences they were having.

want to try it?

As you reflect on your recent experience of leading, how might you use the idea of multiplicity to describe what was true for you? Can you see how there may have been more than one aspect of you feeling and sensing differently as you recalled the event? As you reflect on this, you may be noticing multiple parts speaking to you now. There may even be one or more speaking critically or using judgmental or harsh words. If so, who is the one who is criticizing? Who is the one being criticized? Take a few moments to inquire. See if you can look at your experience in a fresh way. What possibilities does this way of relating with your experiences open for you?

consider the implications

If you can see how two or more aspects of you were present during your reflection on a recent example of you leading, how might different aspects of you have been affecting your ability to lead effectively in the moment you are recalling? Were there multiple parts aligned and helping you be more effective? Did you experience some internal conflict between different parts who were active? How did those interactions between your self-parts support or inhibit your intentions for that act of leadership?

I invite you to be curious over the next few days about how this concept of multiplicity can support you to enhance your leadership.

Photo by Natalie Grainger on Unsplash

About Ken Kirby