Toxic bosses and workplaces are in the news again. Executives at France Télécom are standing trial for bullying employees so relentlessly that 35 of them committed suicide. With more managers and employees facing “burnout” from workplace stress, Tom Eddington, an expert on conscious leadership, weighs in on how to avoid these extreme scenarios.
Eddington formerly worked as an international consultant, leading mergers of global giants, including HP/Compaq and Chevron/Texaco. But, working 70, 80, and sometimes 100 hours a week took its toll on his health, causing him to suffer temporary blindness, brain fog, and other symptoms that sidelined him for four years. With his health and life on the line, he began to exercise, meditate, and study a new, healthier path: conscious leadership.
Conscious leadership is bringing your entire self (with complete awareness) to your job as a leader. Today, as one of Silicon Valley’s top business advisors, he shares below four characteristics of conscious leaders and how this inspires healthy teams at work.
- Self-awareness and self-mastery are critical for leaders to understand how they show up in their environment. Which behaviors are they exhibiting that are helpful and effective? Which actions are derailing their efficacy as a leader? Such inquiries require an openness to receive genuine feedback from team members.
- Open communication. “One of the most significant challenges leaders have is having open and honest conversations with their teams. If the corporate culture does not encourage honesty, it lacks the necessary sense of trust and safety-critical for growth and the encouragement of new ideas. Honesty does not undermine authority, as many leaders fear; on the contrary, it opens up channels of communication in which trust can thrive.
- Vulnerability. “This level of openness is only possible if the leader is willing to be vulnerable. It starts by providing a safe space in which subordinates can provide honest communication. Active listening without judgment or an impulse to overlay an agenda is a critical piece for effective communication.
- Being present is another critical component. “People can tell if you are distracted simply through your body language. Good eye contact and a non-defensive posture give off a very different signal than fixing your gaze elsewhere while fiddling with your smartphone. When we show up 100 percent at work, we allow our employees to do the same.
Defining what your motivation and intentions are in leading your organization is essential. Why do you show up to work every day? And how will you show up? Will you expose 100 percent of yourself or only a fraction? What is important to you? How do you choose to express those values?
Leaders need to exhibit the kind of behavior they expect from the people who work for them. They can model this behavior by exhibiting a sense of authenticity and approachability. You are not just an executive, project leader, or entrepreneur. You are a son or daughter and perhaps a parent too. You as a leader can only show up authentically; however, if you engage in the inquiry of who you are as a human being.