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The #1 Leadership Skill for the “Covid19 War” – Inner Peace


COVID19 is a health crisis; an economic crisis; a social crisis; a political crisis; and a geopolitical crisis. It is a crisis dominated by unknowns and huge downsides. It is an existential crisis — life or death. It generates personal fears, insecurities, and stress, all of which can inhibit high-quality thinking, decision making, and effective collaboration, which is mission-critical in such times.

How does one lead on a daily basis in an environment which is volatile, uncertain, and constantly changing?

How does one lead in an environment where the trade-offs could be stark: human life or human financial survival versus organizational financial losses?

How does a leader keep his or her emotional balance in order to role model the desired behaviors needed to enable the highest levels of organizational — human cognitive, emotional, and behavioral performance?

Such an environment requires leaders to be the best thinker they can be, the best compassionate listener they can be, and the best collaborator that they can be. That requires leaders to manage their fears, insecurities, and ego in a way that enables Hyper-Learning — the continuous ability to learn, unlearn and relearn by adapting to the reality of the world as it evolves overcoming the natural human reflexive way of being that values efficiency, speed, confirmation of what one believes, the affirmation of one’s ego and cohesiveness of one’s mental models.

Leaders will need to bring their “Best Self” to work every day — to bring your Best Self into every meeting and into every conversation. Being your Best Self requires you to be more “selfless’’ and more “other” oriented. That requires “Inner Peace, which is having a Quiet Ego, a Quiet Mind, a Quiet (calm) Body, and a Positive Emotional State.

How well one leads, thinks, and engages with others depends on how well one manages and optimizes what’s going on in one’s mind, brain, and body. Inner Peace is based on science and ancient philosophies and is a state of inner stillness and calmness that enables you to embrace the world with your most open, non-judgmental, fearless mind with a lack of self-absorption. Inner Peace helps you reduce internal noise and distraction and helps you align your mind, body, brain, and heart — so you can better engage with the outer world.

Inner Peace enables heightened awareness, reflective listening, and high emotional engagement with others and the highest levels of critical, innovative, and emergent thinking, all of which are needed to lead in disruptive times.

Inner Peace does not come easily. It requires the daily use of practices. It requires rigor and self-discipline and acceptance of the science which clearly states that we are suboptimal learners and thinkers who are “wired” for speedy efficient processing; seeking confirmation of what we believe; affirmation of our egos; and maintaining cohesiveness of our mental models — none of which enables the highest performance in volatile and uncertain situations which require Leaders to “be good at not knowing” and at enabling the highest levels of collective intelligence within their teams.

Personal Daily “Inner Peace” Practices

Achieving Inner Peace takes deliberate daily practice. Here are some practices that have worked well for leaders that I know well and for myself.

Start each day with a 3-5 minute Mindfulness Meditation Practice building up over months to 20 -30 minutes each morning. Then do a 5-7 minute Deep Breathing Practice (such as Coherent Breathing); then review your list of Daily Intentions (a short list which you need to create of how you intend to behave each day in each human engagement) and visualize yourself behaving in those ways.

For example, here are some of the behaviors in my Daily Intentions List: “Be Kind; Be Caring; Be a Positive Life Force, not a Negative One; Smile; Maintain Inner Calm via Deep Breathing; Be Really Present; Really Listen; Don’t Rush to Judge; “Yes, and” not “Yes, but”; “My hypothesis is”; Listen to learn not to confirm and “Slow Down” to be totally present. Mentally visualize yourself behaving in your desired ways. Visualize, for example, how you would behave to be kind.

During your day, be very aware of your heart rate, your body- feeling hurried or rushed or stressed so that you can take a couple of minutes to “Slow Down” via deep breathing to become calm before each meeting. Be disciplined and schedule four 10-minute breaks in your day to be alone and just to calm your mind and body — to re-center yourself. Get yourself into a positive emotional state where you can enable others appropriately. Do not go into a meeting carrying emotions or thinking leftover from your last meeting. Take 2-3 minutes and regain your calmness — your inner stillness — your Inner Peace before you start each meeting.

At the end of your day, reflect on your performance using a Journal. Where did you lose your Inner Peace? What triggered that? How can you prevent that happening again? What could you have done differently? Where did your behavior hinder the highest levels of team performance? How could you have behaved differently to enable others? Is there someone you need to make amends with?

And before you go to sleep every night, do a 3-5 minute Gratitude Meditation where you visualize people in your life that helped you along the way to become who you are, including your closest loved ones.

The Inner Peace Invitation

I invite you to embrace Inner Peace — the daily foundational Journey to becoming your Best Self. The Journey is not linear. The Journey is not one of perfection. The Journey is both hard and joyous. You will be amazed at the impact that it can have on you, your organization, and your home life.

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Leading Forum
Edward D. Hess is Professor of Business Administration, Batten Fellow, and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the Darden Graduate School of Business and is a top authority on organizational and human high performance. His studies focus on growth, innovation and learning cultures, systems and processes, and servant leadership. He is the author of Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change,” which will be published by Berrett-Koehler in August 2020.

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