Essential Leadership is designed to refocus us on the possibilities that are before us each day. And it is also designed for us to be able to recognize and confront the limitations that have been hard-wired into our personal styles or into our organization as a whole. By leading our organization essentially, we also encourage our team to be their essential self in order to release their true gifts and talents for their own inspiration, happiness and growth. When we achieve this state, the team becomes more interested in collaborating than competing, and as a result they combine their essential strengths with others for the benefit of the entire organization, and likely beyond.
Essential Leadership isn’t radically new. There are many other terms we see in business literature for this class of leadership. Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and former chair and CEO of Medtronic, and characterizes his work in this field as either Authentic Leadership or Mindful Leadership. He has written books, many blog posts and tweets tirelessly on the subject.
Essential Leadership builds on these concepts and incorporates the life work of Kerry Parsons, a very creative and influential life coach in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Kerry’s most important work has been the development of the principles of the Essential Journey, which is a framework to help individuals discover their true talents which often lay hidden under layers of adapted or learned behaviours that were formed for each of us while we were very young and learning what it takes to survive in the world as it reveals itself to us. Once we understand our adapted self (another way to look at this self is as our day-to-day operating system) we can begin to explore our true essential self and transfer control to that aspect of us. The essential self longs to experience, to express, to create, to contribute, to connect … it longs to grow. When we live in our essential self, we see possibilities everywhere. When we operate from our adapted self we are more limited in our approach to life, and tend to see it through a lens of scarcity.
Leadership works in this same way, but at multiple levels within an organization.
First, it can manifest at the individual performer level much as described above where the individual can be focused on their interpretation of personal success than .
Second, it can manifest in the way our managers interact with their teams, struggling between leading their team to personal growth vs. focusing on their own achievements.
Next, at the senior management level we may find the potential of the company limited by our measurement systems which encourage individual performance vs. collaboration.
Ultimately, the organization may find itself adrift from the purpose, mission or vision that brought it into existence, pulled off course by the issues of the week/month/quarter.
Essential leadership is intended to instill a model of alignment where each member of the organization, the entire leadership team and the organization itself share a common purpose, understand the real contributions each team member truly desires to make toward that purpose and engages in such a way to maximize those contributions in fulfilling that purpose in the world.