Living from the Center of Ourselves
A leader’s authentic engagement requires a sense of presence to one’s environment. It requires the development of an acute sensitivity to the internal workings of oneself and the constant awareness and adjustment to the “field” that exists between the leader and those whom the leader is relating to. It is often said of effective leaders that they have a certain “magnetism” that is inviting and warm; people want to be around them to bask in a certain “glow” they emanate.
Such a leader does not operate from the edge of themselves. They understand the power of authentic engagement and have acquired the skills to inhabit and act from the center, the core of who they are. They have developed a strong inner observer, and as mentioned in the previous post, this begins with the recognition that their preconceived mental constructs and belief systems are filters that obscure them from the core experiences of reality. They have come to realize that authentic experience requires sensitivity to our human frailty and necessitates the exercise of skillful means to attend to it in modest ways. They understand the importance of establishing new patterns of awareness while slowly dissolving old ones that keep them in a state of trance; a state that keeps them at the foggy edge of themselves, disconnected from what is authentic in them and in the other. This requires consistent effort to step away from pre-conceived ideas and strongly held assumptions and to effectively learn to manage one’s emotional reactivity.
Connecting to the center of oneself, or that of an organization, is a thesis whose latest iterations by Peter Senge in his System’s Thinking work, or Otto Scharmer’s U-methodology, has been an age old question in Western philosophy and Eastern mysticism. A central running theme in many philosophies has been the recognition of three primary centers of intelligence that are required to be aligned and active with each other, thus allowing for a more authentic self (the center) to emerge; these constitute the Mind, the Heart and the Gut – Otto Scharmer replaces the gut with what he calls an “open will.”
The premise for an authentic engagement lies in developing presence through an “Open Mind” by which our preconceived notions, ideas and knowledge momentarily recede in the background allowing us to listen deeply and sense into what is emerging in the subtle field between us and others. Presence also demands an “Open Heart” through which we perceive others with compassion and gentleness and respond to their vulnerabilities with sensitivity and respect. An “Open Belly” allows for a deeper sensing of our environment and the ability to be attuned to our deeper wisdom. Actively engaging these three centers demands commitment, attention and steady effort; the reward of which is a centered presence and greater awareness of our experience in the moment.
Living from our center generates a grounded authentic engagement that brings with it deep listening, subtle sensing, open curiosity and a natural ability to suspend our agenda. We relax and open to sitting on the edge of the unknown with the other. The German philosopher Heidegger called it “the spirit of availability before What-Is.” In this state we listen with a different ear; we intuit deeper patterns and find larger context. This is the ground from which our wisdom and true competence emerges. It is a grounded state of being-ness informed by subtlety and deep knowing. Profound authentic encounters are possible in this place and people are enlivened and changed by it. Loyalty and trust from those we lead emerge with ease.