Dancing in the dark

By Heather Gibson, Managing Director, Pendulum Partnership

There are no better words to encapsulate the vision for a limitless leader

Isn’t it ironic that we have spent so much time talking about the art and the science of hospitality? Of the distinction between a style of hospitality leadership that is able to be both hands-on engrossed in the guest experience and a ‘Master of Business Administration?’ For right at this moment the need for leaders is far more pressing and urgent. Elevation of the highest order to see beyond the accepted lines of progressive debate and into something far more relevant to our times – alignment. To become limitless heart and mind must align; this is the outcome and the point of difference that will ignite the spark of innovation, creativity and deliver change in organisations of the future. It sounds simple, but it is oh so hard to do – in real life. Leaders must learn and relearn over and over again how to informalise and collaborate through their own individuality to build connection and trust; to dance in the overwhelm and complexity of our world with a limitless mindset and create the inspiration for change.

The art of leadership is now the ability to build transparent connection and create relentless momentum for the fact of change itself. Change is not isolated or one dimensional, far from it. My message here is that, blink and you’ve missed it, the future is already here. The headless chickens’ reality of what change can look like and feel like in organisations who are struggling to implement multiple streams of change is costing organisations not only financially, but also in terms of sheer effort and this builds cynicism, resistance and fragmentation. Limitless leadership forgoes cynicism and the victim mentality for a choose positive, make the choices holistic approach to communication, engagement and connection. The time is now to encapsulate this opportunity into the ground-breaking and differentiating cultural transformation that level the playing field for change to be successful, and to set your business up with the energy and pace needed to survive and thrive in the exciting but incessantly revolutionary environment ahead.

“The journey to alignment is going to feel painful at first. Over the years we have built very stiff upper lips and that stops us from speaking freely, so transparency is very hard to do in both the formal and informal rules of the game.”

Reframing the mindset of leader to become limitless is to focus on the ownership of self; to get in the zone of a think different mental dialogue that repeatedly and consistently applies limitless mantras which will build alignment and resilience. In short, the pure outcome of change delivery comes down to you, the limitless leader. But more specifically, it comes down to your ability to inspire the people impacted by change magnificently and through your own transparent voice. This is not formal, sanitised ‘internal’ communication, rather it is face-to-face and informal discussion that has been re-interpreted by you and articulated with words and meaning that are authentic to your own heart and mind. Words, emotion and connectivity that speaks to you and that you like, so that you are comfortable and relaxed to not only deliver a message, but fully engage in two-way discussion and debate to help build understanding, refinement and commitment to what it is that you are trying to say. To make sure you are getting your likes and follows and that you are building trust all the way.

Most people want to have a voice in a change; no one likes big bang, surprise or a fait accompli shockwaves. We have overdone the process – the science – for change and lost the willingness, nay the guts, for the hard stuff – the art – of change. There is nowhere to hide for a leader when it comes to the latter; it’s an absolute necessity to front up to the uncomfortable dance in the darkness of uncertainty, to communicate intelligently and often – even when you don’t’ know the answers to questions, or even what the questions might need to be. You will need to learn that the problem is you don’t know the problem is and elevate your communication to share your thinking on the way a scenario could unfold, or how you view the change happening without fear of reprisal or saying the wrong thing. Why? For it is in this dance of engagement that a culture of innovation and creativity is born because a higher degree of acceptance and understanding of change is developed; the organisation will become more open and collaborative, a place where many individuals feel comfortable articulating their thinking and questions and this is where the real magic happens. Think more change ready and nimble; a happier ecosystem that has levelled up to the real world and where heads have been pulled out of the sand. It will all start with a first step from a leader to set the tone and the pace for this amazing cycle of learning and growth to begin. And quite simply, that first step will be to stop and think about what you are doing and get in the room for an open discussion.

“There is a very real debate around what’s ahead for business and leadership. But so too, is the debate – nay movement – of people to realise their dreams and find their true purpose.”

As a leader or business owner or anyone with a helicopter view this informality of communication and engagement is uncomfortable. There will be a need to have a straight conversation with the Board and broader stakeholder group to ensure cynicism and hidden agendas are removed – a massive elephant in the room. Once you start this limitless journey you can’t stop or be stopped because of the whispering voices from above – leaders have got to freed up to communicate well. To begin the limitless journey is to commit to a total mindset transformation that brings you into true alignment with your heart and mind, and the renewed perspective on the dream for you, your leadership role and your organisation. A technique that will necessitate a reframe to put you – ‘I’ – at the centre of the we; to invest in the mindset shift you need, including adopting a holistic approach to this process of unlearning and learning that puts mental health first. It’s hard work to be this catalyst and voice for change; the pace is unforgiving. Focusing in mental health will be to give yourself space to invest in solitude, self-love and self-compassion to facilitate the transformation to to reinterpret your story, including your leadership style, in a way that is totally owned by you. What is it you really want to say? What do you really want? Where are your own values aligned to your current situation?

The journey to alignment is going to feel painful at first. Over the years we have built very stiff upper lips and that stops us from speaking freely, so transparency is very hard to do in both the formal and informal rules of the game. But once you start to take that step into a place of self, alignment comes very naturally. You will begin to understand your inner voice – your own core self – and this will give moments of clarity that transforms into a stream of realisations to clarify what you need do in a way that is aligned to the real you. It will take practiced time alone, the repetition of limitless mantras and a mental ‘jumping off the starting block’ moment to go for it. Your something different lives here. You will align to a dream – for you – that is so powerful, reframing your leadership and owning the words you say will become your motivation and your drive. The art of human connection and emotional engagement will become an urgency that inspires you every day you show up, and a space for certainty amidst the uncertainty will be found.

There is a very real debate around what’s ahead for business and leadership. But so too, is the debate – nay movement – of people to realise their dreams and find their true purpose. It’s this paradigm shift that leadership development must also address, it’s not only the ecosystem of the organisation.  Quite simply, a leader must learn to dance in the dark, like no-one is watching, to realise freedom and unmask their real self to rebuild trust through transparency; a human journey of revolution and life that is the calling card of our time. Think about Springsteen’s words in the song:

Stay on the streets of this town
And they’ll be carving you up alright
They say you gotta stay hungry
Hey baby I’m just about starving tonight
I’m dying for some action
I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book

I know you are feeling me when you mentally here this famous tune in your mind right now. Leaders: you can’t start a fire without a spark; even if we’re just dancing in the dark. You want something different?  Alignment is the only outcome that matters; here and now: you are limitless, and you can.