Several years ago, I heard a story that had a massive impact on me. It was a story of a golden eagle that moved away from its tribe after birth and started living with some hens. As it grew up, it started thinking, behaving and even walking like a hen.
After a few years, another golden eagle came across this golden eagle, playing with some hens. In sheer shock, it asked, “What are you doing here? You should be with us.” The hen-like eagle responded, “No, how can I be with you, I am a hen and you are an eagle. I walk and you fly”.
The golden eagle said,” You too can fly.” The hen-like eagle responded, “I cannot fly.”
The golden eagle insisted it could and took this hen-like eagle right on the top of the tree and pushed it. To his utter amazement, the hen-like eagle started flying! It realised that it was actually a golden eagle that had forgotten its real potential.
In the corporate world, we often come across leaders who tend to focus on their limitations and weaknesses. They do not focus on their innate talent or innate greatness. It impacts their overall executive presence. Despite having a lot of technical knowledge and expertise, they unconsciously tend to sabotage their growth in the organisation. Not only this, their hard-wired brain tends to focus mostly on mistakes and weaknesses. They unconsciously create a similar culture in their teams, and hence, in the organisation.
There is a saying that wherever we focus, that space expands in our life. If we focus on health, it improves. If we focus on relationships, it improves and so on and so forth. Similarly, if we focus on our strengths, innate greatness and talent, they will certainly increases.
When leaders consciously shift their focus towards their greatness and strengths, they experience a shift in their overall state of being.
Each day, when leaders walk into their workplace, they not only carry their physical being but also bring along their state of being. It is their state of being, which determines their success throughout the day.
When they operate from a lower state of being, their day is full of resentment, conflicts, depression and chaos. On the other hand, when they work from a higher state of being, their day is full of accomplishments, solutions, celebrations and fulfilment.
So, what is this state of being? Every human being has two aspects of their being: a higher self and a lower self. The Higher self is full of optimism, energy, hope, assurance and confidence, while the lower self has all the negative attributes, such as fear, jealousy, hatred and anger.
The state in which leaders operate depends on where the focus is. For instance, if they are anxious and operating out of the fear of being fired for underperformance or downsizing, they will work from a lower state of being.
Impact of a leader’s state of being
A leader’s state of being, not only affects them, but also impacts everybody around them. Their state of being has a direct impact on the overall executive presence of a leader.
1. Anxious leaders create an unpleasant and stressful work environment. On the other hand, leaders with higher energy create a happier and conducive work environment.
2. More stress at work leads to health disorders for the entire team, including the leader.
3. Leader’s state of being is directly proportional to the extent of conflicts the team will experience with the stakeholders. If the leader is working from a lower state of being, the team usually experiences frequent conflicts.
4. Lower state of being negatively impacts the overall success of the team.
With such a high impact on personal and professional life, a higher state of being can make a big difference in the ecosystem.
The question is, how one should operate from a higher state of being.
As a leader, here are seven ways to consciously achieve a higher state of being:
1. Become aware of the current state: There is a saying, “Start from where you are and not where you would like to be.” The first and the most significant step towards a higher state of being is to understand one’s present state of being.
In Upanishads (ancient Indian texts), there is a Sanskrit phrase, “tatvamasi ” which means, “I am that.” What we put in place of “that” manifests in our life. For instance, at a deeper level, if one feels “I am weak”, one will feel disempowered in one’s life. On the other hand, if the inner dialogue is “I am powerful,” one experiences power and control in life. So the first and most significant step is to become aware of “that” and replace it with an appropriate word.
2. Identify anchors that lead to a powerful state of being: Each one of us has memory anchors that transport us to a higher state of being. These are things or words or memories that have an association with some strong positive emotion at the subconscious level. For instance, it could be a poem, or the voice of a near and dear one. It could also be a photograph or a particular smell, such as that of a perfume, that reminds one of someone or some specific incident. We call these “anchors” as they connect us with the much-desired positive state, without us consciously knowing about them. It is essential to identify such anchors in one’s life, which have always taken one to a higher state of being and keep utilising them to achieve a higher state of being.
3. Alter the physiology: Our physiology and our emotions are deeply interlinked. If we are conscious of our body postures and the way we sit and stand, we can change our physiology to be in a more powerful state. There is research to corroborate this by eminent social psychologist Amy Cuddy and many others.
4. Recognise activities that trigger a higher state: All of us have an innate talent, and we perform specific operations with ease and grace. We need to recognise that and fill our day with such actions. Reflect and acknowledge activities that have always given a high. For instance, in my case, after each coaching session, my energy level is very high. One should ensure that one performs such activities relentlessly every single day.
5. Ensure physical wellbeing: If the body is not well, it will have a negative impact on the overall state of being. Physical exercise, such as yoga, gym workouts, walking, or any sport are an essential component of a successful leader’s daily schedule, as it positively boosts the state of being.
6. Progress towards worthy goals: All of us have higher goals to achieve in a lifetime. While some are aware of them, others are not. Even a small action taken every day towards such a worthy goal elevates the energy level. For instance, if one is passionate about starting a new business and one takes out at least 30 minutes every day to work towards it, it will keep one in a higher state of being.
7. Express gratitude: Lastly and most importantly, having an appreciation for all that one has, leads to a higher state of being. It is a great practice to follow a daily ritual of journaling at least three things for which one is grateful.
A higher state of being is an outcome of two things. First, an awareness that it is essential to have a higher state of being, and second, integrating the aforementioned seven aspects in one’s daily ritual and making it a consistent practice.
By consistently operating from a higher state of being, one creates a positive impact on the ecosystem and exhibits a powerful executive presence.
Professional Coaching can help any leader or individual reach a higher state of being. Coaching is defined by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) as “partnering in a thought-provoking and creative process, that inspires the clients to maximise their professional and personal potential”.
Whether one decides to experience coaching with a trained professional or to acquire coaching skills oneself, developing the ability to hold holding effective coaching conversations will give one the skills to empower others to develop themselves and also reach a higher state of being. According to the Building Strong Coaching Cultures for the Future, a 2019 study from the International Coaching Federation and the Human Capital Institute (HCI), developing coaching skills for leaders is an ongoing process in organisations with strong coaching cultures. Leaders who develop coaching skills also see increasingly higher levels of employee engagement, motivation and efficiency.
In 2020, the International Coaching Federation celebrates 25 years as a global organisation for coaches and coaching. Dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, ICF provides independent certification and builds a worldwide network of credentialed coaches across a variety of coaching disciplines. Its 41,000-plus members located in 147 countries and territories work towards the common goal of enhancing awareness of coaching, upholding the integrity of the profession, and continually educating themselves on the newest research and practices.
In India, ICF is represented by five vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi, ICF Mumbai and ICF Pune.
(The author, Kshitij Sharma is a PCC certified coach from the International Coaching Federation with an experience of over 3000 hours of professional coaching with hundreds of Fortune 500 clients. He is a passionate advocate of women in the leadership roles and is very well known in the industry for coaching leaders on creating a powerful executive presence.)