What is SELF? A person's essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action… according to Oxford English Dictionary definition.
Synonyms to SELF: ego, I, oneself, persona, person, identity, character, personality, psyche, soul, spirit, mind, inner being.
The origins of SELF
Let’s take a trip back to our childhood and how we learn things. The answers to this venerable idea have been examined and dissected by many scientists. There are plenty of prominent theories explaining cognitive development and helping us to understand the foundation of knowledge.
Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, researched extensively on the intellectual development of children, through his theory of cognitive development. At the heart of Piaget’s theory is the idea that children are born with a basic mental structure, which provides the structure for future learning and knowledge. He saw development as a progressive reorganization of these mental processes.
“When kids are born, they’re already little scientists exploring the world…” - Estela Renner, Filmmaker
There are three basic components to Piaget's Cognitive Theory: schemas, adaptation processes that enable the transition from one stage to another, and stages of cognitive development (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, formal operational).
To Piaget, cognitive development was a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience. Children construct an understanding of the world around them, then experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment.
Jack Shonkoff, Director of Center on Developing Child at Harvard University argues that ‘there’s this inborn drive for mastery. These moments are crucial for development, and parents and the other children and adults who make up a child’s world have an enormous role in creating an environment where children have both the freedom and the support to learn’.
Children with high self-esteem who feel loved and supported are willing to try new things and to fail a lot in the process, because they know they’ll be safe, said Andrew Meltzoff, Kuhl’s co-director at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.
Therefore, our level of intelligence to this point, has a lot to do with our own early ‘child’s world’, and the people who influenced it. Ultimately, we can change our potentially unfavorable early circumstances and erase the ‘old coding’ through learning.
“Only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent, or gradual”. - Jean Piaget
What SELF has to do with leadership
Luthando Daniels agrees with the the idea that “Ordinary life rewards individualism, greed and shrewdness. But when we are non-competitive and selfless, often when we are rested and comfortable, we have access to higher consciousness. We are not operating under ego or bias. This state of higher consciousness allows one to do things not for personal gain or reward, but for the common good. Empathy and compassion increases. This state notices and values others.”
As leaders we need to understand 'SELF' first, to be able to move into the premise of conscious leadership. This leadership is achieved through valuing people and exercising compassion, empathy and affection as a requisite to the uncapping of their potential. It all begins with consciousness and the mind.
“To understand consciousness, one has to look within.“ – Luthando Daniels
Consciousness offers an important bridge between science and spirituality. Understanding your identity and your purpose are necessary key steps to positioning yourself to a full consciousness. 'Who am I?', and 'What am I here for?' are important questions that bring one ever so close to consciousness. What happens when we don't discover our purpose and identity? We drift through life unhappy in search of something meaningful. And probably the notion of consciousness is not in our vocabulary.
How do we lead with SELF
It starts with Empathy. Empathy it’s not about being nice… it’s not about pity or sympathy, either. It’s about understanding others and yourself, it’s the direct path to powerful leadership.
“Empathy lets us better understand the people we are trying to serve and gives us perspective and insight that can drive greater, more effective actions. The seemingly magical quality of empathy is the connection it helps us form with other people. Some of us are born with an overwhelming degree of empathy, while others are callous or even blind to the perspective of others. The rest of us fall somewhere in between. But empathy is more than just a natural talent; it can also be a process, a learned skill, developed and applied when and where needed.”– Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership
The SELF is more than a short acronym. Psychologists and philosophers have suggested for years that each of us is made up of many components, or ‘selves’. When these ‘selves’ are working together, aligned and empowered, we finally understand ourselves fully…and when they are in discord, imbalanced and confused, we cannot become the leaders, creators and partners we want to be.
S – Strength
What does strength look like in conscious leaders?
Moral fiber, confidence, courage of one’s convictions, confidence without arrogance. Conscious leaders have to be unshakable, able to stand up to doubters or to opposition that is motivated by baser instincts. They draw on the strength of their teams, without depleting the power of those teams, and they plug into the moral power of the universe, which is available to anyone engaged in genuinely right action.
How to strengthen your conscious leadership muscle
- Take a piece of paper and create three columns
- In the first column explore your strengths as a leader
- In the second column, list your weaknesses
- In the third column, list the names of individuals on your leadership team who can supplement your strengths and complement your weaknesses.
E – Energy and enthusiasm
Conscious leaders can tap into an infinite source of power because of their commitment to a higher purpose and a righteous path that is in harmony with their innate nature. Having energy and enthusiasm also means taking care of yourself in the process.
- Describe the last time you were very enthusiastic with your team about your business. What made you enthusiastic?
- What can you do to experience this more often?
L – Long-term orientation
The success of a leader is best gauged by what happens once he or she is gone. Conscious leaders activate on a time horizon that extends beyond their tenure as leaders, even beyond their own lifetime.
- List three long-term initiatives that only you could undertake to ensure that your organization will stand the test of time.
- What could threaten these initiatives?
- How could you alleviate the threat?
- What is your next step?
F – Flexibility
It is the ability to switch modes seamlessly and to bend without breaking, as the situation or the context requires.
“Every leader needs to develop a toolkit, like a golfer with many clubs. You have to identify the right approach in each situation and know how to implement it. In particular, conscious leaders have to know how to flex between “masculine” and “feminine” energy as the situation or context requires.” - Conscious Capitalism Field Guide
How do we build a flexible mind? By building a flexible body… Yoga, Chinese martial arts and techniques such as Tai Chi and Qigong. Flexible leaders are present and can embody simultaneously opposite qualities, such as wisdom and lightheartedness, toughness and love.
The most effective leader has no followers… because he or she builds leaders instead.
“The wicked leader is he who people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves’.”– Lao Tzu
- We are born with a basic mental structure, which provides the structure for future learning and knowledge.
- Children with high self-esteem who feel loved and supported are willing to try new things and to fail a lot in the process, because they know they’ll be safe.
- Our level of intelligence is influenced by what happened during our childhood, yet, we can change our potentially unfavorable early circumstances and erase the ‘old coding’ through learning.
- As leaders we need to understand our own 'SELF' first, to be able to move into the premise of conscious leadership.
- Empathy is key - understanding others and yourself, it’s the direct path to powerful leadership.
- Our whole SELF is made up of many components, or ‘selves’. When these ‘selves’ are working together - we understand who we are, when they are in discord - we cannot become the leaders, creators and partners we want to be.
- Conscious leaders display moral fiber, confidence, courage of one’s convictions, confidence without arrogance.
- Conscious leaders can tap into an infinite source of power because of their commitment to a higher purpose and a righteous path that is in harmony with their innate nature.
- Conscious leaders activate on a time horizon that extends beyond their tenure as leaders, even beyond their own lifetime.
- Conscious leaders know how to flex between “masculine” and “feminine” energy as the situation or context requires.
I am a researcher of people. I am intrigued by people's unique qualities and talents. I don't give up on people. Thank you for reading.