Blog Conscious Leadership

What can Engineers teach us about Conscious Leadership?

Written by Charlie Efford

Photo by Rob Purvis  CC Licence

On a Sunday afternoon walk by the canal I found myself marvelling at the simplicity and elegant design of a set of lock gates. They are an almost perfect solution to the problem of allowing boats to travel up hill. The gates require no external power apart from a bit of human muscle and take full advantage of the available forces, gravity and water pressure. The flow of water locks the gates shut and then gravity both fills and empties the inner chamber. You can only move the gates when the water pressure is the same on both sides – so it is impossible (for normal mortals) to leave both gates open and so drain the navigation system. If you look around you there are many other examples of elegant solutions to the problems man has created, for example, ‘cats eyes’ on the road.

…man has chosen to work with and take advantage of the flow of energy rather than trying to force his will on the environment.

In these examples, man has chosen to work with and take advantage of the flow of energy rather than trying to force his will on the environment.

It is not a big leap to compare these elegant solutions with the way people are managed at work. What if leadership was really about working with the energies that motivate people and integrating them towards resolving the issues and problems that we create?

What if leadership was really about working with the energies that motivate people

In this scenario, leaders would need to be conscious of a range of forces or energies at work. These might include:

  • The motivation of the team to achieve or overcome whatever goal or issues lies before them
  • The talents and disposition of each team member
  • Any tensions or disagreements that lie between team members
  • The external forces imposed by management
  • The leaders’ own motivations and commitment to the cause

 

The first task of a leader would therefore be to understand what is going on. This would inevitably mean taking the time to listen to people and having the sensitivity to pick up the underlying meaning of what is communicated. Only when the leader has understood can they start to formulate a plan – a plan that integrates and complements the forces present rather than setting them against each other.

For example:

  • If the leader discovers that the team is highly motivated and raring to go then the best plan might be to stand back and ride the wave of positive energy. When it falters (as it will) the leader’s role is to create the conditions for the energy in the team to build again. Trying to impose traditional management controls on such a team will almost certainly fail and make things much harder for everyone.
  • If the leader discovers that people have good intentions but are not working together, then clarifying the purpose of the work and agreeing goals might be a good first step. It might also be worth identifying where forces clash or are going in different directions and working towards a more aligned way of operating.

In both of these scenarios, the leaders job would become much harder if they attempted to ‘get a grip’ and impose their own set of controls. Doing so might make the leader feel better (and pander to their own fears of insecurity) but progress would then rely on the leader continuing to supply the energy needed by the team. This might work for a while but would not be as effective as tapping into the energy available from the whole team.

For a Conscious Leader, working with the energy of the team is second nature

For a Conscious Leader, working with the energy of the team is second nature. They understand the advantages of aligning and integrating all the forces available to get the job done. From the outside their leadership seems elegant and simple – because it is.

You might like to have a think about how you operate and how much you understand about the forces at play in you team.

If you need any help – you know where to find me.

About the author

Charlie Efford

My name is Charlie Efford and I have been a leader all my life. I am at my best when I hold space for others to grow and develop. I do this because I enjoy it. I listen deeply, I care and I am not afraid to use my intuition. I often see things that others miss and I like to have fun.

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