Welcome to the second installment of Leadership Learnings, where we ask a diverse group of individuals what qualities are important in a leader. We explore the topic one person at a time, and as always, you’re invited to weigh in.
Rei Chou is a healer, artist, and innovator that designs experiences. She’s also co-founder of The Feast, a dinner series that has helped people in 20 countries share stories and gifts at the table to create abundance. Her latest project, Land & Story, seeks to connect people in our divided present. Here’s what she finds compelling in a leader.
Vision is the ability to sense, see into the future, and hold a north star for the team or organization. Vision is not so much about knowing how to get somewhere as much as it is about WHERE you’re going. The where includes values, how you want people to feel, and the outcomes of your work (both in the future and in the process of getting there).
Coaching mindset is the capacity to be curious about people and teams and to enable, empower, and motivate them from the inside out. A coaching mindset includes the ability to ask insightful questions that help people identify their intrinsic motivations and/or goals as opposed to having them come from top down.
As a healer, I’ve gotten an opportunity to really see into people’s worlds; their psychology, belief structures, and how it all affects the lives we want to lead. We are a giant bundle of beliefs, stories, and associations and no one has exactly the same perspective as you. That is one of the most challenging parts of being in a relationship with anyone, whether it’s a team member or a partner. We always think that the other person thinks like us. This is far from the truth. Each person has their own beliefs, their own intrinsic motivation, their own gifts, and ways of doing things. Something that seems like a no-brainer for you could be the most challenging thing for someone else. So it doesn’t make any sense to tell someone what to do — especially if you’re trying to motivate them. That’s why a coaching mindset is critical. It requires a sense of curiosity, open-mindedness, and empowerment. It suggests that the person you are engaging is fully capable of arriving at a solution that works best for them. It’s a way of leading founded on respect, and far more dynamic than a command and control framework.
Adaptability and non-attachment
These days, everything is in flux. Change is exponential. Everything must therefore be ready for that change. The ability to be flexible is dependent on your capacity for presence and non-attachment. Here’s where leadership meets my avid embrace of meditation. The more attachment you have, the more you are invested in things staying the same. “But I worked so hard on that.” “We HAVE to continue with the current course.” “This is how things work.” Whether we know it or not, we are full of beliefs, stories, and attachments (conscious and subconscious). Beliefs about how the world works, about what is good or bad, about what makes us successful or not. These attachments, at best, cloud our thinking when we need to make decisions and adapt quickly. At worst, they can create rigidity that can take down our entire operation. There’s a great story in the book The Diamond Cutter about a monk who goes into business in the diamond trade and mistakenly places a million-dollar order for the wrong kind of diamond. Instead of freaking out (because of attachments to “doing something wrong/being wrong”) he quickly works with the design department to create a new product that ends up being the bestselling product ever at the company. It’s this kind of clear-headedness creativity and adaptability that we need in a world of quick change.
What do you think of Rei’s take on leadership? Leave a comment or nominate someone we need to hear from in this series.