— according to SUSAN PEARSE —
Leadership. It’s a word we correlate with big bosses and coaches, but oftentimes not with ourselves. While we aren’t all the bosses and act as a kind of subordinate at our jobs, we lead a multitude of people on a daily basis. We can serve as leaders to our friends, our children, our co-workers, classmates, social media following, the list is endless. And leadership is a common skill, according to Susan Pearse, and one that can be mastered by everyone.
Susan is a best-selling author, leadership expert, and co-founder of Mind Gardener, a site dedicated to helping you cultivate your brain, thoughts, and life. She’s passionate about practicing and teaching skills that help you to live and be present in the moment. For over a decade she has introduced her mind gardening techniques into some of Australia’s most high profile businesses. She’ll change the way you think and live your life.
After a quarter life crisis made her question her life’s purpose, she found herself in New York City in search of meaning and happiness. What began as a girl’s shopping trip turned into a pivotal moment in her life. In between clothing racks, she found herself at a conference with the Dalai Lama focusing on neuroscience and monks.
That was what led her to discover her true passion and purpose: to wake up the world. Pearse began exploring everything from quantum physics and neuroscience to crystals and chakras. And in those studies, she found a single truth that she currently teaches people, the need to get out of your own head, stop holding yourself back, and be fully connected in your own life.
While a lot of Susan’s work is focused on the mind and cultivating a satisfying life you love, leadership is an integral part of her mission. Being able to lead others is an important function of management to maximize efficiency and to achieve organizational goals. But it’s more than being a boss and hitting metrics. Leadership is about presence and innovation, flow and connection, and letting go and adapting. In today’s world, being a leader is accompanied by uncertainty and complexity. The environment of this decade requires a new style of leadership and a new set of capabilities to the ones of the previous decades. Today, experience, technical expertise, and basic qualifications won’t necessarily provide the easy pass into a leadership role, instead we are highly focused on the way our leaders interact with and understand others. The following are top leadership skills Pearse believes will take priority and put you over the top, in the business world and in your personal life.
Comfort with Discomfort
In her best-selling book, Wired for Life, Pearse explains the 5 fears we have inherited from our ancestors. And while they were vital for their survival, in the modern world, they often hold us back instead. One of these fears is the fear of losing control or being uncomfortable. Our brain loves certainty, but sometimes being comfortable with the possibility of discomfort is crucial.
Leaders in the coming years will face all sorts of uncertainty due to a new generation coming into the workplace, technology advances, global issues arising, and that sounds terrifying. Uncertainty triggers an automatic threat response in the brain, but it’s leaders who can address the uncertainty and move ahead. Those who interpret discomfort as a sign to take the easy road won’t be able to effectively serve as a leader in growth. Susan suggests to do one thing that makes you uncomfortable every single day, and in time, the skill to deal with discomfort will be natural.
For an average person, 90% of thoughts are exactly the same as yesterday, which makes innovation difficult. Leaders need to see challenges with fresh eyes and break free of the habits that keep us in ruts. When you see things from a new perspective, solutions become more innovative and work becomes more fulfilling. Train your brain to think differently. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, think outside of the box.
Attention Management and Present Moment Awareness
We all let our mind wander throughout the day, thinking about something aside from what our attention should be focused. Attention spans have shrunk, distraction has grown, and paying attention is a lost art. Being present is a trainable skill that is important in any kind of leader. It’s how you retain information, adapt, and innovate. But before you can focus a team’s attention, you have to manage your own.
Hold Space for Open Conversations
A lot of people, especially in business, feel their truth won’t be heard or accepted. Creating a space for open conversation will allow people to feel safe in voicing opinions, ideas, thoughts, and concerns. This can be a meeting room in an office or a family meeting in your living room. As a leader, you are in charge of facilitating conversation and knowing when to let them happen uninterrupted. You can then dictate the culture of the group and work toward a solution.
Courage and Vulnerability
A leader goes first, takes the courage to stand out in a crowd, and move into the unknown. But the traditional depiction of courage by armoring up and perfecting/protecting isn’t the best approach anymore. It creates a disconnect with those around you. Instead, walk straight into uncertainty without masking your imperfections. View a situation and feel comfortable saying, “I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing here. But let’s do it” or “Let’s see how this goes.” Admitting you’re wrong or don’t have every answer will help you gain more credibility, make you more relatable, and warrant more respect. And those are things that make a team more effective, at the end of the day.
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explained that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Sometimes leaders talk too much trying to offer the perfect answer, but deep listening can be transformative for the receiver. Problems get solved, ideas are generated, and people learn best when they come up with ideas themselves. How many times have you begun venting to someone for a solution, but you created you own as you were speaking? As a leader, it’s paramount to listen more and speak less.
Everyone can train themselves to be a better leader and train their brain to accept it. That’s what Susan Pearse aims to teach others through leadership programs, organizational and team transformation, and lectures and books.