Do you ever wish you could play more of a leadership role at work and beyond, in a way that feels true to who you really are? According to Susan Skjei, PhD, Director of the Authentic Leadership Program at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, “authentic” leaders do not always have to be in the formal power position, but they can have great deal of influence based on the power of their presence and the quality of their relationships.
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What Is an Authentic Leader?
“They are committed to being self-aware and continuously learning, rather than defending what they already know,” says Skjei, a presenter at Yoga Journal LIVE! who has been consulting with leaders and executive teams of businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies for over 25 years. “They have a natural confidence that comes from not pretending. They don’t have to keep track of any stories or pretense, which provides more energy for engagement in what is actually going on. This allows them to be creative rather than reactive and to focus on what is possible rather than what can’t be done.”
Skjei asked 10 exemplary authentic leaders from business, government, and non-profit organizations how they were able to respond with increased authenticity when facing difficult challenges, and developed the following short meditation based on her research. For example, if you'd like to confront your boss but typically shy away from giving feedback out of fear, this meditation could help you get in touch with your inner resourcefulness and courage.
How to Conquer Stress + Cultivate Leadership
1. Abide in ambiguity.
Rest with "what is." Allow yourself to simply breathe and relax your need to figure everything out. Make space for yourself to simply be with the challenge you are facing and suspend any judgments you might have about it or about yourself.
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2. Listen to the body.
Notice how this challenge feels in your body. Scan your body and explore whether the feeling resides in one part of the body or is distributed throughout your body. Become aware of your sense perceptions: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting.
3. Engage with honesty and vulnerability.
Be kind to yourself and engage in an honest inner dialogue. Listen gently and let yourself be vulnerable. Ask yourself: Where might I be stuck? What am I longing for? Just feel that for a moment and listen to the answer.
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4. Open to new possibilities.
Become aware of the space around your body. Allow yourself to suspend what you already know and consider new possibilities that are beyond your usual ways of looking at the situation or challenge. Ask yourself: What might be one new way of looking at this challenge?
5. Act with courage and resilience.
Now it is time to try something. What new action could you experiment with that might be different? Allow room for mistakes and new learning and, most importantly, have a sense of humor. Ask yourself: What might I do if I felt strong and whole?
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Whether you're having a conflict with a boss or a friend, Skjei says this simple meditation can help you be more of a leader in any aspect of your life. “When we are authentic and genuine, we are authoring our own lives rather than living the life someone else thinks we should be living,” she explains.
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