When you look at society today and compare it with how things were a hundred years ago, it's hard to find something that hasn't changed. OK, maybe Velveeta (invented in 1918).

But, seriously, globalization, science, medicine, and technology have evolved at an alarming pace. But one thing that hasn't evolved, tragically, since the industrial revolution is the mindset and belief system of management thinking and practice.

This is the topic of a fascinating new book by executive coach and author Heather Hanson Wickman. In The Evolved Executive: The Future of Work Is Love in Action, Wickman makes the compelling case that, to truly evolve as a 21st-century leader, your first move is to evolve your human skills on the job.

More specifically, and totally counter to today's prevalent, fear-based management styles, "love in action" is a rallying cry for leaders at all levels to inject their companies with soul and purpose, and catalyze people in pursuit of a meaningful mission.

The first step toward your evolution

To truly evolve as a leader in today's digital age, the starting point is to break free from rigid belief systems and practices that were built for a different way of working more than a hundred years ago, Wickman writes.

She makes the point that most good leaders are skilled in the "horizontal" areas of management -- analytical thinking and the day-to-day nuts and bolts of their jobs -- which haven't changed much. But what they lack in this relationship economy is the capacity to "gain insight with the heart and the will."

What does that mean? Wickman says, "The heart accesses emotional intelligence, knowledge of people, and sensing the environments around you. The will, when accessed deliberately, can heighten your ability to connect with your authentic purpose."  

4 critical beliefs you need to evolve

To help leaders connect with both the heart and the will, Wickman lays out a path that will aid in developing four critical, evolutionary beliefs. She urges that you reflect on an all-important question as you read about these beliefs: What would it take for you to embrace each one?

1. The connection mindset

Paraphrasing scientist Matthew Lieberman in Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, Wickman points out that our need for connection is as foundational as our need for food and water. She says that we try to "shut off our need for connection as we walk in the door ... but in doing so, we starve our souls of connection and belonging."

Too many leaders believe that they can't get too close to their team members for fear that they might have to discipline or terminate them. This thinking is shortsighted, says Wickman. "Individuals are now looking for much more than a simple paycheck. We look for human connection and belonging."

She adds, "We want to work for a leader and an organization that is psychologically rewarding. We long to change the mechanistic relationship of alienation to a relationship that instead celebrates connection and creates health."

2. The growth mindset

To shift belief systems and challenge the status quo, you won't get any traction without valuing growth and a belief in human development -- both your own as a leader and that of other people. This is a matter of choice and intent. Here's Wickman in The Evolved Executive:

You begin by changing the dynamics within yourself before ever expecting to see any lasting change outside of yourself. You have to stop pointing the finger at someone else to change first. When we take responsibility and shift ourselves, people around us begin to shift as well -- that's especially true for leaders. There are no shortcuts to leadership.

 3. The trust mindset

To evolve amid so much rapid change in today's unpredictable business landscape, leaders have to let go of the need for certainty and, instead, embrace ambiguity. In other words, they have to relinquish the need to control outcomes and choose to trust -- in themselves and their teams, and in their ability to adapt even when they don't have all the answers.

4. The purpose mindset

The evolution of this mindset runs counter to most executives' emphasis on greed and profit as reasons for their companies to exist. By providing employees opportunities for meaning and purpose at work, and giving people pathways that appeal to their deepest motivations, you create loyalty and commitment among workers and customers alike, says Wickman.  

Healing the crisis of workplace suffering

Wickman's call to action comes at a critical time, because we've all been there; we've all experienced the pain, rejection, stress and anxiety, and crushing fear from exposure to toxic work cultures devoid of humanity and human connection.

As I wrap up here, don't fall for the false notion that the ideas espoused in The Evolved Executive are the stuff of drug-induced hallucinations. Bringing more "love in action" and humanity to the workplace (for competitive advantage, of course) is very real and found in countless global companies, including Patagonia, Southwest Airlines, TDIndustries, and Barry-Wehmiller. 

As a side note, I'll close by drawing attention to various events springing up across the country in support of the human leadership and human workplace movement that Wickman illustrates so well. Check out HumansFirst Club and Love Summit as a way to begin your immersion and join the movement. 

Published on: Nov 29, 2018
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