Coming Full Circle: Beyond Neuroscience and Emotional Intelligence
If 80% of the global workforce is disengaged, yet $387 billion is spent annually on leadership development, then what in the world are we missing?
I’ve thought a lot about this question in the past few weeks as I prepared to speak for the World Business and Executive Coaching Summit. As a result of that prep, I considered the picture here of the medicine wheel we use for opening and closing rituals in our Healthcare Coaching Institute.
Feeling as if I had been bopped on the head, I realized that much attention is being paid to neuroscience (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), as well as to physical energy and health (PQ)… yet not so much to the spiritual intelligence (SQ) or the energy of a worker until there is a need to address a performance gap.
Medicine wheels that depict the notion of the whole being are found in Native American and many other aboriginal cultures. The four domains illustrated by the wheel are intended to have each person take responsibility for their well-being and can serve as a clue on our path to understanding what the real gap is in leadership development. In the medicine wheel there is embodied expression of how and why each dimension is important to the whole – -an honoring of the connection of all elements, all directions, including Mother Earth and Father Sky. West energy is physical and depicts times when we hold information in the body. It is the earth element, the healer. North energy is intellectual, a time when we receive with the mind. It is an air element and the warrior. East energy is spiritual, it determines with the spirit and is the fire element, the visionary. And finally south energy is emotional space, giving through emotions. It is associated with the water element and the teacher. Each of these aspects or dimensions is part of us, and each is metaphorically a limb on our body that we strengthen daily or allow to atrophy.
It appears we have become three dimensional at work, focusing on thinking or mental energy – neo-cortical brain – and limbic brain – emotional or feeling energy – mostly in unconscious ways. My understanding is that we often bypass the neocortical or executive functions to make decisions based on emotion – limbic system. And I also see more often than not, executives and teams making decisions that are based in fear – reptilian brain which commands some of our physical responses and has us holding our attention and stress, or tensions as fears, which determine the self-preservation and protection mechanisms. Perhaps the biggest leadership gap in the recent history of training is getting leaders to more fully integrate who they are with what they do, and to learn to develop that in others, to inspire potential and magnificence.
In contemplation of the medicine wheel and the gap between investments and our current reality – it occurs to me that the glaring need we have is an understanding that a career path is synonymous with the spiritual path in our work. It is the spiritual dimension on the wheel – the fire element which is where we find ignition and ways to bring out our best.
Because “spiritual” typically is equated to religious traditions we have made it unsafe to embody the principles of being spiritual beings – which in its simplest form is the place where vision and energy intersect to have us manifest our best ideas and work. We should rethink that notion and free ourselves up to understand that this dimension is the one that, when addressed, can close the gap between the engagement of others we are charged with leading – and realize our own fulfillment.
The chaos and challenges we face in the daily cycle of change – the abject fears compounded in a workday require leadership innovation. We need leaders we can trust fully.
If we embrace coaching as a simple three-part formula: Partnership + Exploration + Wisdom – and a way of viewing the wheel of life, we will become better at developing leaders to communicate inspired visions for what’s possible for themselves and those they lead.
Coaching has given us a language that includes a dimension of spiritual growth and learning as we connect with others and the world around us. Coaching as a discipline empowers leaders to walk the wheel and host more conscious conversations. We may even learn to stand together in the center dimension which in simplest terms connotes the mystery of life, the void, the generative place of creation and bold ideas.