Leadership in Times of Transformation

We live in volatile times and cannot accurately predict what will happen next.

  • In the near future climate and earth changes and wars might cause more displacements of millions of people
  • The world economy is far from stable: Shaky banks, unstable trade relations and inequality attest to that
  • Old structures are crumbling
  • Authority that used to come automatically with the office is gone: The president of the United States and the CEO of Volkswagen are examples

A buzzword that illustrates the situation very well is VUCA. It is the acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, which is just a complicated way of saying:

There are too many moving parts

 

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To meet the challenges we face today and in the future we need new ways for coping. The structures that have been working for us so far don´t suffice. We need to make international cooperation more efficient.

We have a good base to build upon

In case of earthquakes or other environmental disasters international rescue teams are able to fly in with only a few hours notice. This is a great accomplishment. I think we should opt for complementing this with informal networks in every country that can call to action people for whatever needs to be done.

To manage this we need responsible leaders

When 1 million refugees came to Germany in 2015 there were no structures that could have coped with this. Millions of individuals taking action made all the difference. I have personally met many responsible leaders in this situation: They saw the need, stepped in and helped. They seemed to come out of nowhere. Nobody told them what to do and how to do it.

We have all the resources we need

The digital age gives us a solid base for international networking. We only have to put our human ingenuity and creativity to good use to master these turbulent times. Sounds easy doesn´t it?

We have great human resources to build on and I am witnessing many people learning and educating themselves to be able to play a responsible part in this.

Balanced personalities

It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves first. People who don´t know how to properly care for themselves cannot take care of others. I believe that only when we take good care of ourselves we are able to develop balanced personalities and bring balance back to this planet.

We are becoming more aware of our interconnectedness

I see this clearly in my clients of all ages: They are actively working on becoming more aware of themselves and they start to see our interconnectedness.

The generation Y is another good example: They are digital natives. Born between 1980 and 2000 they prefer to work in teams rather than in deep hierarchies, they long for more freedom and personal-fulfilment and less for status and prestige. They want to make a contribution that matters.

International cooperation will save us

We are in the age of self-empowerment and cooperation. To manage the many moving parts we need to juggle it is very helpful to cooperate worldwide. More and more people are realising this.

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What skills do responsible leaders need?

I compare responsible leaders with bus drivers because for bus drivers many hard skills we believe to be important are secondary.

They don´t need a university degree or specific professional skills other than knowing how to handle a bus. The people who want to travel to a destination are focused on getting there. They choose a driver they trust. Together the two groups make efficient teams.

Soft skills are essential for responsible leaders

Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills and communication skills.

Bus drivers care for the wellbeing of the people they drive. They need soft skills to be good at that. Leading responsibly is all about self-awareness: Responsible leaders lead by example. They go first and don´t dictate what others should do. They demonstrate how something can be done and others will follow.

Characteristics of responsible leaders

The responsible leaders I have met or follow in the media have these characteristics:

  • They are unpretentious: They are not motivated primarily by prestige, fame or status.
  • They are interested in making a contribution that matters.
  • They see the bigger picture and care for the wellbeing of others.
  • They risk exploring new paths thereby creating opportunities for themselves and for others.
  • They are motivated by the problem or the task at hand and don´t necessarily care for long-term commitments. When they reach their goals they search for a new challenge or drop the role of the leader altogether.
  • They walk their talk and thus earn their authority: They are authentic.

In times of turmoil we need leaders who are at peace with themselves

  • They have to be self-confident enough to not be thrown off course easily.
  • They respect and accept themselves and their fellow humans.
  • They see and acknowledge the talents of the people around them and encourage them use them.
  • They inspire cooperation and teamwork.

How to cultivate and develop responsible leaders

We are the examples for the younger generations. The most important thing we need to teach everybody is how to become responsible for themselves and to take care of themselves.

In my workshops and in my practise I see people of all generations working on educating themselves and getting to know themselves better. This is great, because we need more people who are aware of their potentials, who know that they have what it takes to become responsible leaders.

Examples of responsible leaders today

There already are many responsible leaders today. Here are some examples:

  • Jóhannesson, president of Iceland,
  • Pope Francis
  • Khan, founder of the non-profit educational organisation Khan Academy
  • Kayango: The global soap project
  • Check TED talks on Youtube, you can meet more there

One way of supporting responsible leaders is to establish more informal international connections between individuals.

Examples of successful international connections

  • Exchange programs for teenagers and students
  • International work camps for young people all over the world
  • Conferences like the ICSR in Cologne for networking
  • The Panama Papers: International journalists collaborated for years and published simultaneously: A revolution in investigative journalism

The good thing is that we are getting to know and to work with each other worldwide that way.

How we can support responsible leaders

In Germany during the last 3 years we built informal networks involving volunteer organisations, state officials and politics.

In my hometown of Hamburg it took a long time to establish cross-sectional communication across the different government agencies. This is not working perfectly yet, but we have established these networks and we will surely need them again.

We are all responsible for our future

The weight of our future is not only resting on the shoulders of responsible leaders. Quite the contrary:

Responsible leaders are the ones who are stepping in when they see the need. They go first and start driving a bus. Their passengers are the people who support them. They see the need to get to the destination themselves. The drivers set the example and the passengers make their own responsible choices.

We are all in this together. We all are responsible for creating our joint future. Together we can make things happen we would never have thought possible.

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Are you working on taking care of yourself?

To be able to shape a better future together we have to know how to take care of ourselves and accept ourselves first. You think you are already taking good care of yourself? Really? Think again!

Just try to monitor for one day how often you tell yourself that you are stupid for forgetting this, that you are dumb for making that wrong decision. This is not taking care of yourself or acceptance! Believe me, I have been working on this for ages and it still is work in progress. But I have learned that when I accept myself more it is much easier to accept others.

Why is it so hard to accept ourselves? We were brought up to always look at what we lack and what we are deficient at. As a consequence we treat us habitually bad so often that we don´t even realise what we are doing. Only when we become aware of what we are doing we are able to change this.

Not all of us have to be leaders, but the world needs all of us to take responsibility for ourselves. My own experience shows how important it is to be responsible for myself. People who know themselves better are more able to see the bigger picture and make a difference.

Living in a VUCA world

We have to remind ourselves that we are the ones who create our reality. We have to own our authority and be courageous enough to jump into processes with unknown ends. We need more positive pictures of the future to interest more people to involve themselves in the coming transformations.

The situation is going to stay volatile. But panicking is not helping. We can do this. Together we are able to ride the waves of transformation and not get drowned by them. Responsible people and responsible leaders will make the difference. Because:

Everybody can cause considerable rippling effects by being truly himself.

 

Pictures: pixabay and private

© Inge Schumacher

 

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Get Started! 8 Exercises for Letting Go

These exercises are part of my blog-article on Letting Go. I put them together for my clients because I value practical tips. Because they are so important to me, I put them in a separate article. You can read this article in German here.

I share here eight exercises of the many good ones I know. I especially like exercises that include the body. This signals our brain that loves to have input from all sides, that we are really getting serious.

Letting Go is clearing up on the inside

We tidy and clean our home to feel comfortable in it. We take care of our body by having a shower regularly. Many people are becoming aware that it is important for their well-being to also take good care of their inner home: By devoting time to this important part of themselves they are getting more familiar with it.

When I realised that my inner home likes to be sorted once in a while I started to do letting go sessions every once in a while. In these sessions I evaluate what I really need and what only takes space and energy that I could use much better elsewhere.

Exercises facilitate change

1. Clarity

An exercise forces you to get to the point. To be really precise can be more difficult than you might think. It is so important to write down precisely what we want to consciously let go. Being precise at the beginning of the letting go process helps to focus. I also found out that writing things down by hand brings greater clarity than tapping on the computer keyboard.

2. Setting the signals on change

With doing an exercise you are signalling to yourself that you are serious. To permanently change a habit you need at least three weeks. It takes that long to convince your whole being that you really want to implement something new. This is why it is so easy to fall back into old habits. So please don´t give up too early!

3. Select an exercise that feels good to you

The exercise that you choose should fit to you. You do not need to do the hardest, longest or most complex exercise. Be creative and vary an exercise to your liking. What matters most is that you set the signs for a new beginning.

4. Define an objective

At the beginning you have ideally put down a goal you want to reach with an exercise. It  helps to decide how often you want to do the exercise and you can better monitor your success.

5. Don´t forget to appreciate yourself

You did it! Party when you have finished with an exercise. Pat yourself on the back! You have deserved a reward. This way you reinforce the positive change you initiated.

Eight letting go exercises

When doing your exercise find a place where you feel comfortable and safe.

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1. Discovering what exactly you want to let go of: Evaluating your habits

  • Write down what your thoughts are busy with often. Everything that we repeat a lot of times becomes more and more important to us. What subjects are your thoughts revolving around most?
  • Why is that so (thoughts, emotions, actions)? Which beliefs are behind this that are consistently reinforced that way?
  • Do these beliefs still fit to you?

2. Being aware of emotions and letting them go

This exercise is for self-awareness. Define as exactly as possible what you want to let go: People, conflicts or beliefs. Now imagine releasing them. Because this is a process you need to repeat this exercise.

  1. In this exercise you watch yourself: What do you feel? How much can you allow? Please don´t go too far. To make this process more tangible please write down the recurring thoughts.
  2. What emotions can you allow? What impulses and automatic responses can you detect that you use to supress these feelings? Can you look at them without judging yourself? When you realise that you are going on a negative spiral stop and start with 1. again. The feelings will get less dramatic over time.
  3. Repetition: Are you able to let the feelings come and go? E-motion is energy in motion. Look at your feelings from a distance. Over time you will get used to releasing feelings more easily.
  4. Now you can manage to observe the emotions you wrote down travelling through you. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself.
  5. The more negative emotions you can let go, the more space you have for positive ones. Fill the space you create with acceptance and love for yourself.
  6. Be thankful for the time and help that you had from the people or beliefs you let go.

3. A letting go ritual: Let a piece of paper fall to the ground

Write down what you want to let go of in only 1 to 3 words. This helps you to be precise. Fold the paper, stand up, open your hand and the paper go. Watch how it is sailing to the ground and monitor your feelings. Please repeat this at least 3 times the same day and on the following days.

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4. The exercise with the ball makes letting go tangible

Hold a small ball not bigger than a tennis ball in your hand. Press it hard until it is really uncomfortable. The ball is the symbol for an emotion, a person, or something else you want to let go. The hand represents you.

Open the hand and let the ball roll around on your palm. It is not part of you and therefore doesn´t stick to your hand. Let it fall to the ground and observe yourself and your feelings. Repeat the exercise.

5. Remove the connection to people, who are not good for you

  • Visualise the connection as a tie.
  • Say thank you for the time you have spent together and say good-bye.
  • Imagine how you are undoing the tie, rolling it up and putting it in your pocket.
  • Repeat the exercise.

6. Forgive yourself and others

  • You cannot change other people but you can change the way you react to them.
  • Write down as exactly as possible what is hurting you and what you keep thinking about.
  • Accept the situation. You know that we all decide at any given moment as best as we can.
  • Affirmation: Say aloud: “I forgive me and I forgive you.”
  • Do a symbolic act: Burn the paper or bury it. (Exercise number 3).

7. Visualisations

  1. Imagine how old issues are getting smaller. Visualise a block of ice melting and becoming liquid. Transfer this to your situation. With this you can now water a plant. What kind of plant is it?
  2. Envision a big untidy knot in a long rope exactly where your problem is. Start to slowly untangle the rope and roll it up. When you have a real ball of tangled yarn at home, great, you can also use that.
  3. Fake it until you make it: Imagine in detail how free you are feeling when you have finished the letting go process. This is a psychological trick that really helps.

Repeat the visualisations.

8. Clearing up

Tidying on the outside is a nice symbol for letting go on the inside. This can feel so liberating! No matter what you put in order: Car, closet, basement, desk or handbag. When I feel the strong impulse to tidy, my inner home is often very much in need of a clearing up session.

Pictures: pixabay and private

© Inge Schumacher