Holistic Leadership

How to keep blind spots from derailing your leadership

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By Jim Funk

mirror for traffic collisionAs a leader, what you don’t know CAN hurt you.  Especially when it comes to what you might be doing wrong, even unintentionally.

Take Stanley, who has been a member of the executive team for five years. He is reaching a high frustration level with the CEO, whom he reports to directly. Because the CEO is out of town a lot, he doesn’t make himself available for ongoing conversations once he has delegated a major assignment to his executives. When he returns to the office, however, he decides that projects are not usually done to his liking. He then blames his team for not asking enough questions ahead of time about what the end product should look like.

As another example, Jill is a member of the Human Resources leadership team in a large company. She is a star performer, takes her responsibility seriously, and is known as the “go-to person” for anything having to do with change management. But Jill is unhappy. She doesn’t feel appreciated, and her boss simply isn’t one to give much recognition to his direct reports. He believes that if you just do the job well, that is recognition enough. Jill doesn’t want to go asking for recognition, but her increasing dissatisfaction is getting to her.

Lastly, Kim is a highly productive member of a company’s sales team. After only three years of experience, peers think of Kim as a superstar. But in spite of the strong performance, Kim’s boss is highly critical of her and nitpicks every little thing. Lately, Kim has started to feel literally sick to her stomach when preparing for meetings with the boss. She wants to speak up about her feelings, but she’s seen her boss become irate when she feels offended.

What do these cases have in common? Well, several things that should be troubling to any leader. First, there is a reluctance to come to these bosses with feedback or concerns. Why? Because the employees don’t think their bosses will react well. If honest feedback has not been appreciated or welcomed in the past, employees may have felt cast aside or insecure in their jobs, and are now unwilling to bring up their concerns. Any leader who is not getting honest feedback because people are afraid to provide it is suffering not only from a lack of information, but also from a lack of trust. This can be hugely detrimental to both team and individual performance.

Second, these bosses are not aware of how they are impacting their employees, and have no idea that their leadership style is suppressing creativity and making even their best employees dissatisfied. They have not made an attempt to ask their direct reports specifically how they like to be rewarded, and how they, as their boss, can be more effective as a leader. Again, without the information about what they could do better, these bosses are in the dark, and their blind spots continue.

And finally, as a result of the lack of open communication, trust, and awareness of self and others, some of the best employees and leaders of these companies are nearly ready to walk away.  Replacing them would be a great loss of talent and a large expense. Many times, bosses aren’t aware of how people really feel about them because they don’t ask. And a number of companies either don’t do exit interviews, or don’t get much information because the exiting employees understandably don’t want to burn any bridges.

If you are working in an Economy of Communion business, or are a leader in any organization that wants to follow person-centered principles, you would certainly want to address these kinds of issues. But blind spots are indeed blind—we often don’t even know we have them, or at least we don’t know what they are. Awareness of self and others is critical because it is required for emotional intelligence, which in turn is a good predictor of leadership success. As described by Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, awareness is key to being able to manage one’s emotions and relationships. When leaders don’t genuinely and openly seek feedback, or don’t receive it well, they can be derailed by what they don’t know. It doesn’t mean that every bit of feedback leaders receive is accurate, but it is a perception—and perceptions are reality for people. They have real impact. And we can’t act on these perceptions unless we are aware of them.

What behaviors do we see in leaders who are more aware of themselves and others? My Holistic Leadership Competency Model (© 2016 by J L Funk & Associates) describes several key behaviors that are observable, and that can be further developed. Leaders who are more self-aware know how to:

  • Learn from their experiences and mistakes
  • Build and manage collaborative and positive relationships
  • Effectively facilitate and mediate conflict resolution
  • Communicate and listen effectively
  • Seek and act on feedback from others
  • Put others at ease through their presence and disposition
  • Regulate their own emotions and make adjustments in their behavior as appropriate
  • Respond appropriately to the emotions of others

Why are these skills important? If we think about what leaders need to be able to do to be effective, it boils down to creating a vision, getting others to follow and actualize the mission and vision, and produce results. People follow leaders they can trust, and who are able to inspire them to contribute to the mission and vision with their full engagement and passion—not just to do a job. But when self-awareness and the accompanying behaviors are missing, fear and negative stress are created in the workplace. Thinking back to our three examples, these leaders are not self-aware. Their inability to effectively communicate and ask for feedback has left them in the dark about their employees’ concerns. As a result, they aren’t getting the full engagement of their team members, who may quietly move on to other job opportunities.

What can leaders do to boost their awareness of themselves and others? Here are 10 ideas you can implement, whether you are in a leadership role or a member of a team:

  1. Ask for feedback regularly, and thank people for giving it (even if it isn’t what you wanted to hear)
  2. Engage in reflective practices, such as meditation and mindfulness to increase focus and concentration
  3. Make an explicit and public statement of your intention to be aware of your blind spots, your presence, and to place a high value on your relationships
  4. Practice stress management techniques and improve your work/life balance
  5. Acknowledge your emotions, learn your triggers for negative emotions, and develop ways to change your emotional reactions
  6. Walk around, be curious about what people are doing and notice their reactions to you
  7. Practice active listening and validate what you are hearing
  8. Practice humility, acknowledging mistakes and asking forgiveness
  9. Check your alignment by comparing what you say with what you do
  10. Take a formal assessment of your Emotional Intelligence with a validated test instrument. I recommend the EQ-i2.0 by MHS Assessments, which must be given by an authorized partner. (There is a cost. Contact me for more information.)

We also learn a lot through our experiences, and from the experiences and stories of others. I invite you to share stories about how you have uncovered your own blind spots, and how you have been able to increase your own awareness. Further, share how this awareness impacted your own effectiveness as a leader. You can reply to this post, or contact me directly by e-mailing me at jim@jlfunk.com.

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk.

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Is Your Leadership Balanced?

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By Jim Funk

Tightrope Walker Balancing on the Rope
A lot of attention is given to work/life balance these days. But that term suggests there is some magical place where, if we can find it, we are spending just the right amount of time and energy on our career versus everything else.

Of course there is no magic formula for balance, and leaders often find that their work crosses over into many other aspects of their life—whether that means taking work home, staying late at the office, or even taking the laptop on vacation and getting online while sitting under an umbrella at the beach. Granted, the demands of leadership rarely fit neatly into a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday box. Leaders may spend time thinking about their goals, worrying about a struggling employee, or stressing over an upcoming difficult conversation even as they are drifting off to sleep. That is sometimes the work of leadership—to ruminate over problems and generate ideas when they have time to think.

So what do we mean by “balanced” when it comes to leadership, and how do leaders split their time between work and other aspects of life? I would propose that balance isn’t only a matter of how much time is spent on various activities, but it is also about how much mental energy and focus is given to those activities. For example, when you are sitting at the dinner table with friends or family, where are your thoughts? Are you rehashing a conversation you had at work or are you paying attention to what someone is saying to you in the moment? Maybe you’re jumping back and forth, missing parts of conversations while you mentally replay parts of your day. Research shows that the human brain cannot focus well on more than one thought at a time. That’s why the failure to be mentally present is one way leaders become out of balance. It takes discipline to turn work thoughts off when there is something else we need to focus on in the moment, and it also calls for trust in our own capability to address the issue later and not let it distract us in the meantime.

And what about working while on vacation? I must admit that I have exchanged work emails on my smart phone while watching our kids play tennis at our vacation spot. Sometimes leadership and other professional roles are so demanding that a quick response is called for, and we cannot let something wait until we return or have someone else handle it. And yet I would challenge myself and other leaders to make arrangements so that others know when we are not available, and so that we can trust others whom we have put in charge to use their judgment and abilities.

It’s not that I’m suggesting that leaders can or should completely separate work from the rest of their life, or minimize its importance. Work is an important part of one’s life, livelihood, and contribution of talent and skill. Rather, I am talking about balance and focus. It’s about being present with the people in front of us, rather than being a thousand miles away in our thoughts about work. It is also about regularly engaging in rejuvenating and restorative practices, and caring for ourselves so we have the energy and good health to be attentive to all the important aspects of life. That includes taking vacations and finding “down time” when we can put work aside and engage our minds and hearts—and time—in our other needs, and the needs of others.

A danger sign to watch for is negative “isms” that can creep into our lives. These tend to be extreme, and they can get that way before we are even aware of it. Examples are workaholism, dualism, egoism, and hedonism. But what is the difference between a healthy commitment to working hard in a job that sometimes demands many hours of our time, and workaholism? I think the difference is a question of who is in control. Are we really working because we have to, or because we are addicted to the “high” that amazing accomplishments can give us? Are we able to turn off our thoughts about work issues when we need to pay attention to other obligations and commitments, and turn our minds to other things and to the people we love? I suspect there are times when people put undue pressure on themselves at work because it’s become a habit or a compulsion. Achieving perfection can feel good in the beginning, but it can become addictive and pay diminishing returns, especially when other parts of your life suffer.

As I read back over what I have written so far, I must admit it sounds a bit “preachy,” and perhaps comes off as critical of people who work hard. But I am speaking from my own experience. There were years in my early career when I usually worked many hours a week over 40 because I was motivated to do a good job, and I was just doing what I felt was required. Now as I reflect on those years, I can see I was out of balance. I didn’t know how to reign it in.

What can we do to check our balance? Here are some steps, some of which may take courage and an open mind:

  1. Track your time for two weeks, in 15-minute intervals, both at work and outside of work. How are you actually spending your time? When you review the results at the end of two weeks, what surprises you? What would you like to change?
  2. When you are engaging in a project that will take a great deal of your time or cause you to put other important activities aside, ask yourself honestly what will happen if the project doesn’t get done. If it’s a must-do task, explore whether parts or all of it can be delegated. Also check whether the due date is reasonable or negotiable.
  3. Learn to say “no” to work or time consuming activities that are not as important as someone else thinks they are. Every time you agree to do something, you give up time that could be spent on something else. Time is more fixed than money. If you are crafty, you can figure out ways to earn more money, but you cannot create more than 24 hours in a day or 7 days in a week. You can only use it more wisely.
  4. Ask close friends and family what they observe about your work/life balance. Do they feel you are mentally present or preoccupied when you’re with them? Tell them you really want their honest feedback, and thank them when they provide it—even if it isn’t what you wanted to hear.
  5. Do some self-reflection on the aspects in your life that are in balance, and those that aren’t. You can divide them into what could be called the wheel of 8 Fs:

Friends
Finances
Fitness (health)
Firm (work)
Fun (recreation)
Family
Faith (spirituality)
Faithful Companionship (spouse, significant other, etc.)

Which of these could use some improvement? A wheel that is not round is a pretty rough ride. What aspects would you like to get into better balance? You can’t work on everything at once, but pick the top category or two that need the most attention. Remember you may need to pull back on one of the Fs to dedicate more time to an area that’s been neglected. A coach or mentor could help identify some strategies.

Holistic Leader Competencies - BalancedBalance is one of the nine attributes of my holistic leadership model. Holistic leaders understand the importance of balance, and are willing to do what it takes to achieve it. These leaders also know the importance of modeling balance, because they know that others—particularly those who report to them—will often emulate their work habits because they think they will be judged in a more favorable light by their boss.

What habits of balance are you modeling? And if this is an area of difficulty for you, what are you willing to do to make some changes? I invite you to reply to this blog or write to me at jim@jlfunk.com and share your story of balance—perhaps a change you were able to make to become better balanced, and what difference it has made in your life.

 

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com

Is Transparency Always a Good Thing?

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by Jim Funk

Businesswoman and question mark on blackboardThe news I received last month was unexpected, disappointing, and maddening. My alma mater, St. Joseph’s College, announced they would be “suspending operations” at their Rensselaer, Indiana campus after the end of the spring semester. This decision was made by the Board of Trustees, based on a dire financial situation at the college that the majority of the members believed could not be turned around. The students, faculty, alumni, and town were all caught off guard. The Alumni Association responded quickly, saying they believe the college can be saved. They are undertaking a major fundraising effort on their own to try and reverse the decision, but only time will tell whether their efforts will work.

There have been criticisms leveled at the Board and Administration for not being transparent about the financial situation, and not acting early enough to properly address the problem. The backlash, and the ultimate result that the school is suspending operations, may be indicators that transparency was needed long before now. The Chairman of the Board recently issued a statement saying that they thought sending out an SOS would have been unproductive. The Board thought that sharing information about the school’s financial hardships would discourage potential donors from giving, rather than encourage them to help. I would also guess there was a lot of discussion about whether students would continue to come to St. Joseph’s if they knew of the financial problems. We don’t know the answer, but we do know that many people are upset, and now the future of the college is in jeopardy.

I know from my years working in Human Resources that there are many situations discussed in the administrative suites and board rooms of companies and organizations—in practically any industry—that beg the question of transparency. When those in charge know certain facts, their communication choices can be critical. For example, in a situation where there are likely going to be layoffs, prudence calls for a well-thought out communication plan that has a clear sequence of steps, timing and messaging. Most leaders easily see why such care and planning is necessary. What about situations that are not so clear-cut, or where there is disagreement among the decision-makers about what information should be shared?

Opening the books: A decision of transparency

I decided to do a little more research on transparency in the business world. I spoke with Anne Godbout, Executive Director of Spiritours, an Economy of Communion business located in Montreal, Quebec. I know Anne to be an honest and forthright leader, so I asked her whether she had ever gone through a time when she found transparency to be a challenge.  It didn’t take her long to think of a situation she recently faced. She told me how her company was not able to meet their financial goals last year, so she had to inform the employees that there would not be a team bonus. Later one of the employees found out that the company had made a significant donation to a charity during the previous year. The employee started telling other employees about it, and suggested it was probably the cause of the financial shortfall that resulted in no bonuses.

When Anne learned of this, she considered sharing the company’s financial records with all the employees—something she had not done before. Of course, a private company has no obligation to open their books to the employees, but she thought that maybe it would help them understand there were other factors involved, and the charitable contribution was not the cause. She worried, though, because she said it’s tricky to show employees financial information that they may not fully understand. Despite the risk of further misunderstanding, she decided to go ahead and review the company’s books with all the employees in order to reassure them and rebuild trust. After doing so, she said she felt right away she had done the right thing. The employees better understood the situation and appreciated Anne’s openness with them. Now she continues to share financial records with them, as she believes they deserve to know more about matters that could impact them, and they deserve to feel trusted. In turn, she finds they trust her more, too.

Holistic Leadership calls for transparencyholistic-leader-competencies-transparent

In my Holistic Leadership competency model, being transparent is one of the nine characteristics that is critical to successful leadership and successful organizations. Holistic leaders are open, honest, direct, and forthright in the way they act and communicate. This doesn’t mean they are indiscriminate with the timing or the information that is shared. Rather, they understand when people are being impacted by certain situations and they willingly share the information that matters at the appropriate time. These leaders communicate clearly in a direct and honest fashion, which earns respect from colleagues.

But is transparency always a good thing?

It is a fair question to ask. Surely everyone isn’t always on a need-to-know basis. How does the leader know when and how to be transparent? Such decisions require the leader to:

1) Take time to reflect on the implications of transparency, and of withholding information;

2) Talk with trusted confidants or other colleagues who can share honest feedback and advice;

3) Display courage in meetings with other decision-makers by speaking up when the decision or the communication plan doesn’t seem right.

Of these three, I would actually list the last one as the most important, and in some ways the most difficult. Courage is not only critical to making good decisions about transparency, but also to the initial decision itself. Leaders must ask themselves: Is the decision the right thing to do? And when we communicate this news, can we do so with honesty and integrity, knowing we made our best decision?

To do what is truly right, there is a sequence, place and time for transparency, so that it does not create unnecessary misunderstandings or pre-empt the elements of a good communication plan.

Going back to my opening story, I hope that St. Joseph’s College will somehow recover from their current financial crisis. I look back fondly on my four years at the institution. I found it to be an exceptional and unique educational experience that prepared me well for my career and my life. I love their motto, “Involved for Life,” which is truly what they teach and encourage in their graduates. If there is an opportunity to take the college into the future, people will expect the leaders to be vigilant about communicating with the transparency that was missing in recent years.

We can all learn from these difficult lessons. Things don’t automatically get better if we avoid sharing bad news. In tough situations, the smartest thing we can do is to consider the people involved and the possible outcomes of disclosing information. Leaders who go through this process will be respected by their colleagues, even when they are faced with delivering bad news.

 

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Leading with Virtue

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by Jim Funk

Gears Going Up Values Belief Integrity Faith Virtue

I recently conducted a workshop for a group of successful physicians about leading with virtue. At the beginning of the session, I asked the question, “What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘virtue’?” The responses varied from one of the dictionary definitions (moral excellence), to things like seeking perfection, having integrity, doing what is right, having a strong character, and being courageous.

We agreed that these are all valid descriptions of a virtuous person, and then we talked about why virtue is important in leadership. Leaders become the way they are from the inside out—meaning that who they are as a person impacts what they do and how they lead. If integrity is lacking in a leader’s behavior, it is probably because integrity is lacking in the leader. Thus, virtues are not only behaviors, but positive dispositions and attitudes that can guide leaders in making decisions that are good, right, courageous and prudent—and that will help ensure the organization’s success.

holistic-leader-competencies-virtuous“Virtuous” is one of the nine key characteristics I have identified for Holistic Leadership, which is a person-centered way to lead that considers the whole person—body, mind and spirit—in how others are directed, motivated, evaluated, rewarded, and given the opportunity to use their particular gifts and talents. This is important not only for the development of employees as people, it is also critical to organizations being able to meet its goals and objectives—to be sustainable and successful.

There are a number of virtues that I have observed to be critical to effective leadership, but I will focus on five in particular: Courage, Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Humility. What do we see in leaders who embody these virtues? Let’s use the leadership competency of effective decision-making as an example.

  • Courageous leaders are able to overcome difficulties in seeking what is good and right, even in the face of adversity and pressure to make a different decision. For example, it requires courage to stand up for what the leader believes is right, even when his or her opinion is clearly in the minority, or unpopular.
  • Leaders who practice the virtue of Prudence apply practical wisdom to their decision making. When pressured to make a quick decision, for example, the prudent leader knows when there has been the right amount of deliberation and dialogue before moving forward.
  • Just leaders are fair, and they respect the rights of all human persons. For example, they make compensation decisions that ensure their employees receive wages and benefits that are competitive, and that even the lowest paid workers at least receive a “living wage” to be able to meet their basic needs.
  • Temperance is acting in moderation, and keeping things in balance. Leaders who model work-life balance more often make the decision not to work that extra hour or two, but to go home to their families at the end of the workday.
  • Humility is not only about not exaggerating our abilities and accomplishments, but it is about affirming the innermost, true nature of who we are. Leaders who are humble do not take credit for the work others do, and they are willing to admit when they are wrong. They decide to be vulnerable.

Some might say, “Sure, I agree that these are good qualities, but what do they really have to do with organizational sustainability and getting results? Isn’t it enough to just do what needs to be done, and hold people accountable?” Let’s go back to the physicians I described earlier. Can you imagine going to a doctor who takes a certain path simply because it is easier? Prudent healthcare professionals do not make decisions that way. Rather, they make sure various treatment plan options have been thoroughly considered before deciding which one to recommend. It wouldn’t take many situations with a lack of prudent decision-making in the practice of medicine to negatively impact the trust of colleagues and patients, and the sustainability of the practice.

While this might be obvious, we can call to mind numerous cases of executive and leadership decision making that was not virtuous, and the result was usually the removal of the leader from the role, and at worst, the demise of the company.

What does it take for leaders to be virtuous? First and foremost, they need to be willing to undertake the “inner work” of becoming aware of their own character strengths and opportunities. I recommend an instrument that I have used with various leadership groups called the VIA Survey, available through the VIA Institute on Character. Ideally take the free VIA Survey and then upgrade to either the VIA Pro or the VIA Me report for a nominal cost, which gives people good feedback and insight into their particular values and virtues. There are also many resources on their website about ways to both use one’s character strengths, and to boost those that are not as strong.

Leaders need to be lifelong learners and be willing to practice in order to be virtuous. They must learn from their own experiences and those of others, as well as remain open to honest feedback. Finally, they need to be willing to practice and build the skills and behaviors of virtuous leaders. Virtues develop through practice, and from cultivating them over time. Coaching or mentoring from a leader who has moved further along in the journey of becoming virtuous can be a particularly great resource.

Do you work for a leader who you would consider “virtuous?” What was it like? How do you think they got that way? I invite you to write about your experience in reply to this blog, or e-mail me at jim@jlfunk.com with your story. I would like to hear from you!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

What Do Leaders Leave in their Wake?

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by Jim Funk

body mind spirit balance hand drawing on blackboard

We learn a lot about leadership from reporting to different bosses. Some inspire us and our teams while building trust, commitment and engagement. Under their leadership, people thrive. Other bosses drive people into the ground to get results, punish mistakes, and create fear. Under their leadership, talented people leave. So if we really look at the wake that leaders leave behind, we can decide what kind of leader we want to be and then aspire to become that.

I like to challenge leaders to evaluate their own leadership by pausing to reflect on what it is like to work for certain types of leaders. In one of my workshops I divide the team in two and ask one group to imagine working in an organization led by fear and a philosophy that only results count—not people. In this scenario, employees are simply resources to be used to get to the desired outcomes. The other group is asked to imagine working in a place where leaders put people at the center, and where creativity and teamwork is encouraged. In this scenario, people are truly valued.

After some discussion, each group then shares what it is like to work in their respective organizations. The fear-driven group typically describes the working environment this way:

  • Distrust and anger
  • Dysfunction, rumors, blame
  • Punishment for taking risks that don’t work out
  • A feeling of powerlessness, helplessness
  • A negative atmosphere, tension, disorganization
  • Less engagement and commitment

And the person-centered group? Their working environment is quite different:

  • Energy, creativity
  • Personal, timely and open communication
  • Freedom to take risks and learn from failures
  • Empowerment to help others succeed
  • A family atmosphere
  • A desire to make a personal contribution to the vision

These are nearly exact opposites. And I also found it very interesting to watch the passion that the two groups display when sharing their reports, probably because they are speaking from real-life experiences. To some degree, they relive their experiences just by talking about them. The fear-driven group has sullen faces, a tone of voice that exudes anger and frustration, and they even seem to be anxious. Conversely, the person-centered group speaks with enthusiasm, excitement, and they can hardly stop talking about how engaging and satisfying the work environment is.

What is the difference? In my leadership development work I describe person-centered leaders as “holistic” because they bring their whole selves to their leadership role—body, mind and spirit.  In doing so, they treat others as whole people too, rather than just resources.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how this plays out in the real world. What is it really like to work for a person-centered leader?

Merle Tebbe works for John Mundell, president of Mundell & Associates, an environmental consulting firm and Economy of Communion business. He tells a story about Mundell’s leadership that demonstrates how he puts into practice the person-centered principle of Economy of Communion businesses. Some time ago a former co-worker from another company was out of work and recuperating from a significant medical issue. He wanted to start his own business and get back on track as soon as he could, but he didn’t have a place to work. Mundell offered him free office space in the building so he could successfully start the business, and he allowed him to use it for several months. Later on, the company landed a project that actually required the skillset of the former employee, so he was offered his first paid work in quite a long time. The result of Mundell’s person-centered leadership? Tebbe points out that this was truly a win-win, which resulted solely from the generosity of Mundell in giving the former employee the break that he needed without expecting anything in return.

In another example, Lori Shannon reports directly to Blake Dye, president of St.Vincent Heart Center. While the Heart Center is not an Economy of Communion business, they are part of Ascension Health, the largest Catholic health system in the country. Ascension also has a principle of being person-centered, and in particular providing for those who are poor and vulnerable. Shannon says she quotes her boss frequently because she admires his style. One of her favorite quotes is a statement he made to her when she first started in her role as an executive. He said, “You know what you are doing, Lori. I am getting out of your way so you can do it. Let me know if you need anything from me.” His trust in her skills and abilities was a real compliment. She also points out that he expects his entire team to manage their work-life balance, and he sets the example himself. The result of this person-centered leadership? An engaged executive team—both individually and collectively—that successfully leads facilities that provide the best heart care in Indiana, and explore innovative technologies that are helping to establish new standards of care.

We can see in these examples that person-centered leaders like John Mundell and Blake Dye inspire and motivate others, not only because of their leadership capability, but because of who they are as people—and how they treat others. I refer to this as holistic leadership.

Do you work for a holistic leader, or have you in the past? What was it like? What difference did it make to you, to your team, and to your organization? I invite you to write about your experience in reply to this blog, or e-mail me at jim@jlfunk.com with your story. I would like to hear from you!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

9 Characteristics of Holistic Leaders

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by Jim Funk

Holistic Leader Competencies Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 8.01.49 AM

Traditional leadership competence has been about behavior—what a leader is capable of doing in the workplace. That approach describes desired actions, but it overlooks the character traits that are crucial for guiding those actions. A more complete model of leadership competence goes beyond actions to describe who the leader is as a person. I refer to this model as holistic leadership.

Holistic leaders know how to integrate their character and values into their leadership, and they understand that they bring their whole selves to their leadership role – body, mind and spirit. In observing these leaders, I have identified the following nine key characteristics that I believe set them apart from others.

Virtuous

Virtue is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as, “Conformity to a standard of right; a particular moral excellence.” It is not only the holistic leader’s behavior that is virtuous, but his or her disposition and attitude toward the good; toward what is right. When virtues become part of who a person is, the person is in turn more disposed toward virtuous actions. These show up as behaviors and decisions, which are guided by moral excellence. One particular virtue that is critical to holistic leadership is that of humility. The humble leader is able to admit faults, to ask forgiveness, and to be vulnerable and authentic.

Ethical

Leaders are frequently faced with making decisions when circumstances aren’t black and white. Critical thinking skills and an acute sense of right and wrong are paramount to being able to consistently and reliably evaluate possibilities and make ethical choices before moving forward. When it comes to the ethical treatment of people, it really boils down to treating others the way he or she would like to be treated—known as the golden rule.

Transparent

Holistic leaders are open, honest, direct and forthright in the way they act and communicate. This doesn’t mean they are indiscriminate with the timing and information that is shared. Rather, they understand when people are impacted by certain situations and they willingly share the information that matters at the appropriate time. Transparency is also linked to the virtue of humility, because holistic leaders are willing to be vulnerable and admit when they don’t have all the answers or things don’t go according to plan.

Trusted

When leaders are truthful and follow through with what they say they will do, they build strong relationships with their colleagues. This becomes the foundation for trust, which at the end of the day also enables getting work done efficiently and effectively. It is also important to recognize that trust comes not only from one’s character, but also from competence, or capability. It is one thing to make a promise, but the leader needs to be able to follow through with more than just good intentions.

Capable

This characteristic is about being able to functionally get the job done. Effective leaders must be able to craft a vision, engage others in following that vision, create a plan, execute the plan, and drive results. While character matters to a very great extent, a leader will not be effective without these competencies that deem him or her capable.

Balanced

Holistic leaders have a balanced view of others, work, teams, and themselves as a composite of body, mind and spirit. These leaders take good care of themselves while supporting others in self-care as well. This plays out in a positive work-life balance, but also as avoidance of any negative “isms” that can be extreme (e.g., workaholism, absolutism, dualism, egoism, and hedonism.)

Aware

Awareness is a critical characteristic of holistic leadership, because it is required for emotional intelligence. As described by Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, awareness of self and others is key to being able to manage one’s emotions and relationships. Leaders who are not open to feedback, do not ask for it, or do not know how to receive and process it with an open mind, continue to have blind spots that can derail them. Self-awareness also requires humility—the ability to see ourselves as we really are, even when we don’t care for some aspects of that picture.

Servant

Much has been written in recent years on the topic of Servant Leadership. Robert Greenleaf wrote, “The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”* This dynamic is similar to what I described earlier for Virtuous. When being a servant becomes part of who a person is, the person is in turn more disposed toward service. Holistic leaders are servants first because they are focused on people and their needs. They know that work gets done through people, and when their needs are met they are more likely to be engaged and be at their best.

Inspired

I once got into a debate with a colleague about whether holistic leaders are inspired or inspiring. Which comes first? I believe it is both. The leader’s own inspiration becomes inspiring to others. When the leader brings inspiration along with authenticity, people can sense that the leader is genuine—the real deal. There is also an aspect of inspiration that is linked to faith. While this may or may not be religious faith, it is when leaders recognize they are part of something larger. They know that inspiration comes not only from within, but from outside oneself as well.

How Can You Develop Holistic Leadership?

If you aspire to be a leader who embodies these characteristics, or if you would like to adopt this leadership model in your organization, there are several things you can consider. Individual leadership coaching can be a very effective way of gaining self-awareness and building holistic leadership practices. And organizationally, creating a leadership competency model that spells out the expectations and development opportunities for the 9 characteristics of holistic leadership is a good place to start. But in the end, a leadership program will only be effective if it also addresses who the leader is as a person and not simply what he or she can do. That is the key to holistic leadership.

In my next blog I will talk about what it is like to work for holistic leaders who have the characteristics I am describing, including some compelling stories from members of their teams.

Source:
*Robert K. Greenleaf, The Servant Leader, 1970

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Three Ways Holistic Leadership is Different

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By Jim Funk

Leadership Development Blue Grey Square Elements

What does leadership mean to you? Is it a style? Behavior? Charisma? Engaging others? Getting results? Leadership is all of these things to some degree, and more.

But holistic leadership is different. Holistic leadership recognizes that people are multi-faceted by nature. Whether they like it or not, everyone brings their whole person to work—body, mind and spirit. Acknowledging this fact changes the way people lead, the experience for their teams, and perhaps most notably, meaningful business outcomes such as retention, productivity, and profits.

 

There are three main differences between holistic leadership and other leadership models, all based around the leader’s understanding of:

  • the purpose and dignity of work
  • the workplace community
  • self

Understanding the purpose and dignity of work

A job is important to people not only because it enables their livelihood, but also because it gives them the opportunity to make a contribution. People want and need to feel useful. Whether it’s contributing to producing something or helping people in some way, there is dignity and value in having a purpose. Holistic leaders understand that work enables people to contribute their gifts and talents to something that has meaning, and they help employees see the difference they make every day.

Understanding the workplace community

People are relational beings and have an innate need to connect with others and belong. Recognizing this, holistic leaders work hard to build and maintain positive relationships with others, while also helping people relate to one another. Work is almost never done in a complete vacuum, even when there’s only one contributor in a given role. At multiple levels there is a community of work, whether that community includes co-workers, customers, consumers, suppliers, partners, or even neighborhoods where the workplace is located. Holistic leaders see this big picture as an opportunity to instill a sense of community into the organizational culture, which creates a more meaningful and cohesive environment for employees.

Understanding self

To drive positive change around them, holistic leaders first look inside themselves. They know they are not just a set of leadership skills and behaviors; they also have a body, mind and spirit that they bring to their leadership. They take a holistic approach to their own personal development because who they are as people will impact how they lead, and how others will experience their leadership. Holistic leaders know they are continually on a journey of becoming the best leader they can be, and that they can never truly arrive at that destination. They are lifelong learners, they want and ask for feedback, and they are willing to invest in their own ongoing formation and development. They are courageous enough to face even uncomfortable truths, and are willing to do the “inner work” of continually becoming more self-aware.

When leaders understand the importance of these three elements, they are able to connect the organization’s goals with the goals of individual employees. These leaders make their coworkers and direct reports feel valued as human beings. As a result, people become more motivated to reach their full potential, and to help the organization fulfill its mission and goals.

It isn’t a complicated leadership model to follow, but so many organizations and individuals overlook the obvious. If you want to achieve excellence, lead transformational change and reach goals in your organization, start with these three principles.

My future blogs will more fully describe this leadership model and its characteristics, how leaders can become holistic leaders, and how organizations can select and develop these leaders.


Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.