Research Paper By Elaina Carpino
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. – Maya Angelou
Change is hard. It is inevitable and uncertain. Change can feel uncontrollable and be unpredictable. There is nothing truer than what we are living in today’s environment of a global pandemic, social injustice, and political instability. Yet, change is the only thing that remains the same. As a leader, how might finding the power to help you persevere through any change and transform into a heart-led leader?
This research paper serves to bring an appreciation for finding your power within and to act as a practical guide for leaders in becoming heart-led leaders. We will explore how the coach’s role can forward the leader’s progress toward finding their inner power and how becoming a heart-led leader creates an inclusive environment and, in turn, helping you find meaning in work and life. Using the H.E.A.R.T. Work model as the framework, we will demonstrate the application of finding your inner power and how this is at the core of transforming into a heart-led leader.
What is Power?
In a recent podcast of “Unlocking Us,” Dr. Brene Brown references Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s definition of power as “the ability to achieve the purpose and effect change.” There are four definitions of power: power over and on the other side of the continuum there is power with, the power to, and the power within. 1 Power over is where an individual has complete control over someone or a given situation and works from the premise that power is finite and has to be protected. These individuals often lead from a position of fear, certainty, and being right. Consider power over within the same context as a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset as defined by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” is an individual who comes with a predetermined, deep-seated, unchanging way of looking at situations in one’s’ life. 2
Those who lead from a place of the power with, the power to, and the power within come from an expansive state of how we collaborate and share ideas with others to stabilize and unite people together. They bring transparency in times of uncertainty and build learning organizations based on data and diverse perspectives. 3
Leaders often are in positions of authority where those in the organization look to them for direction, guidance, and certainty. In a world full of uncertainty, not knowing can make you feel powerless and without control. The leader who leads from a position of power to/with/within is aware, empathic, and fully present. They operate with a growth mindset, which, as defined by Dr. Dweck, contains the following attributes:
- Presenting skills as learnable,
- Conveying that the organization values learning and perseverance, not just ready-made genius or talent,
- Giving feedback in a way that promotes learning and future success, and
- Presenting managers as resources for learning. 2
How does one change their position of power from power over to power to, with or within? First, understanding leaders who work from a position of power over are often individuals who blame and bully others. To move past this, they must be aware of how they are leading and create awareness of their source of blame. Likely, the source of blame and bullying comes from scarcity or fear. When you continue to peel it back further, the fear is due to not knowing or uncertainty and the need to control everything. An astute coach can help bring awareness to the client by reflecting examples of where they desire to be in control and helping the client advance forward from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on. Growth itself demands that we move on. – Dr. Henry Cloud
In the book “Necessary Endings,” author Dr. Henry Cloud gives rise to three types of individuals: the wise, the foolish, and the evil. The wise are individuals who take critical feedback well, hold themselves accountable, and are aware of their shortcomings. The foolish are individuals who do not see their blindspots and often need consequences to address and correct their behavior. The evil is blatantly vindictive individuals who likely are narcissists and cannot be corrected directly through coaching. 4
In a coaching session, it is important to discern the type of client you are coaching so that you can forward their progress in achieving their power to/with/within. Leaders categorized as foolish or evil often come from a fixed mindset and work from a position of power. The foolish are coachable. Through the right action plan and direct communication, their behavior is correctable such that they move from a state of power over to power to, with or within. The evil, unfortunately, is not directly coachable and may need counseling to address rooted behaviors from their past.
To move your client to find their power within, we must first understand what is holding them back as their internal source of control. As mentioned previously, this source of control may be a fear or lack of something (e.g., desire for certainty, feeling inferior, imposter syndrome). And, they must be willing to change so they are ready to be in service to others and serve others powerfully. This is the premise of servant leadership and to become a “heart-led” leader, which we will discuss later.
Letting go and Surrender
Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing. Eckhart Tolle
What is surrender? In its purest definition, surrender means to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand, to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another, to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner, to give (oneself) over to something (such as an influence). 5 In other words, to surrender is to give up or let go of working from a position of power over and your ego.
How might letting go of control and surrender bring inner power to leaders? In an article from Conscious magazine, Gilliane Florence Spangler writes, “Surrender is not synonymous with passivity. We continue to dream, create, and manifest beautiful things of our highest potential; however, we come to find that through practicing that art of surrender more frequently – by letting go of the need to control – the things come.” 6 And, this is where the source of the power within begins.
The Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
As a Leader who lets go of control, you free yourself from the constraints of fear, shame, and blame. Your ego of who you once were as a leader begins to dissolve. You find yourself creating less drama and inviting less stress into your life. You learn to trust your team and empower them to learn, fail, and grow. New behaviors and mindsets form allowing you to enjoy life more. You now see it through a different, healthier lens and perspective. Underlying beliefs surface and you become more aware of when you pass judgment onto others. Above all, when you let go, you create flow and become more conscious, more present in the now, and more fulfilled. You focus your attention on what truly matters and not force things to happen. 7
Becoming a Heart-led Leader
To be the person who we long to be—we must be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen. – Dr. Brene Brown
For leaders, surrender is relinquishing your leadership control and learning to become more vulnerable. It is a necessary step toward being in service to others and becoming a servant leader. A servant leader possesses a serve-first mindset, and they are focused on empowering and uplifting those who work for them. They are serving instead of commanding, showing humility instead of brandishing authority, and always looking to enhance the development of their staff members in ways that unlock potential, creativity, and sense of purpose. 8 Moreover, a servant leader leads with their whole heart; hence, a heart-led leader.
Becoming a heart-led leader is a personal transformation and journey. The leader must be ready and willing to “give up” and let go of control. It starts with recognizing the need for control which is governed by the ego. Heart-led leaders lead with vulnerability, empathy, and transparency. They are “all in” and create thriving teams, and, in turn, thriving workplaces. These leaders embrace uncertainty, stay innately curious, have a craving to learn. They lean on their teams to make the right choices and decisions for the greater good of the team and organization. Heart-led leaders embody the growth mindset fully.
In a recent publication of O.C. Tanner Institute, “2021 Global Culture Report,” these leaders foster inclusive work environments where all feel safe and can bring their full selves to work. 9 It becomes a ripple effect that pervades throughout the organization which in turn attracts and retains the right talent, becomes more customer-centric, and increases top-line revenues.
The power to let go and surrender brings a more fulfilled, healthier, and happier life. Those who discover their own Ikigai, a Japanese concept for “a reason for being,” are said to bring fulfillment, happiness and make you live longer. Ikigai is the convergence of four primary elements 10 :
- What you love (your passion)
- What the world needs (your mission)
- What you are good at (your vocation)
- What you can get paid for (your profession)
Leaders who become heart-led leaders, in turn, discover their Ikigai. They find deeper meaning in life by finding their passion, profession, vocation, and mission to transform themselves and those around them. How might one become a heart-led leader using the concept of Ikigai?
The H.E.A.R.T. Work Model
To effect true transformational change, heart-led leaders draw on the qualities of humility, vulnerability, transparency, empathy and love.- Tommy Spaulding
Imagine you are a leader who serves your team powerfully, embraces uncertainty, and changes as if it is simply a part of your everyday life. You have an insatiable curiosity always seeking to understand and continuously learn to grow yourself and your team. And, you consistently break through barriers guided by your values and leadership behaviors.
The philosophy behind the H.E.A.R.T. The working model is to catalyze heart-led leaders based on three tenets:
1) Speak your truth to lead authentically and courageously. Leaders are increasingly looking for ways to live out their purpose at home and work. Let your aspiration be your true north.
2) Define your leadership behaviors to live by each day. Like DNA, leadership behaviors are unique to you. Allow your values to be the lens by which you act and behave consistently.
3) Serve your team in a way to create powerful connections. Putting others’ needs before your own defines heart-led leaders. Create powerful connections with those you serve to unleash their limitless potential.
Change begins and ends with people, which is why this methodology is grounded in coaching and leadership development where the client is the expert. The role of the coach is to catalyze and activate the client’s change transformation.
The H.E.A.R.T. Work Model guides leaders through their personal change transformation. Like a heartbeat, the leader will establish a rhythm of consistent behaviors that allow them to realize their goals and overall aspiration.
The premise behind the H.E.A.R.T. Work Model is to guide leaders through their personal change transformation in becoming heart-led leaders. Through this approach, we uncover what is their personal aspiration as a leader. Similar to Ikigai, the client finds their passion and why serving their team powerfully brings purpose and meaning in the leader’s life.
The model helps to surface what might be getting in the leader’s way of their power within and living out their truth, or purpose. We connect the dots to their personal strengths and how these are tied to their core values which then become the leadership behaviors they live by each day.
How might you become a heart-led leader who makes change a healthy part of your life?
- What position of power do you find occurring most often in the workplace: Power over or power with/to/within? What observations have you seen to support this?
- What does power within mean to you? How might this serve you as a leader?
- What are 2 – 3 things that are holding you back from letting go of your control? What is the first step you might take to surrender your control?
- How do you define a heart-led leader? What 3 – 5 behaviors come to mind?
- How would transforming into a heart-led leader create a more inclusive workplace? What would change for you?
- Reflect on the term, Ikigai. How might you find your passion and mission to serve what the world needs?
- How are the H.E.A.R.T? Work model and Ikigai related? How might this approach be beneficial for leaders?
1 Brené Brown, Unlocking Us Podcast, “Brene with Joe Biden on Empathy, Unity, and Courage”
2 Dr. Carol Dweck, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”
3 Brené Brown, “Dare to Lead”
4 Dr. Henry Cloud, “Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up to Move Forward”
5 Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of surrender
6 Conscious Magazine, Gillian Florence Sanger, “The Power of Surrender”
7 John Purkiss, “The Power of Letting Go”
8 SHRM, “The Art of Servant Leadership”
9 O.C. Tanner Institute, “2021 Global Culture Report”
10 Medium, “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life Might Just Help You Live a More Fulfilling Life”