Why Stillness Is The Modern Leader’s Secret Weapon

Image Source: Andrew McAlpine

Image Source: Andrew McAlpine

I was away from home for most of last week. It was late on Friday night by the time I finally walked through the doors. The house was quiet, dark and still.

As I kicked off my too tight heels and collapsed onto the couch, I began to think about the previous two weeks. I was exhausted – not only physically and mentally, but (truth be told) emotionally as well. I hated to admit this to myself, but I realised the saying “too much of a good thing” can apply to a vocation as well. One I happen to love as much as kids love Halloween candy.

As I sat in my darkened living room, I began to feel more than a little uncomfortable with my realisation. I was surprised that “Super Suzi”, that part of me who feels like she has to “do it all”, someone I hadn’t felt for a few years, was right there with me, holding my hand again.

But there I sat. And there I stayed. Still. Quiet. Just “being”.

In business, we tend to value action over stillness.

But stillness is our friend. Especially in leadership roles.

Where is stillness present?

When we pause before pressing the go button on a new project when intuition says to hold off, despite pressure to rush the decision.
When we give someone our full, undivided attention for several minutes (without the need to give advice or fix the situation).
When a management team takes a half day off their crazy busy schedule to talk about how they are operating as a team – what’s working, what’s not, how they ‘are’ as a team.
When a leader practices mindfulness (click here to read my blog on how to master mindfulness).

Make no bones about it, stillness can be an uncomfortable place to reside. It can seem empty, boring, lacking in results. It can make us feel ‘ants in our pants’ impatient.

Or, it can lead us to a place where our deepest intuition can be heard. And, we might not like what it is telling us. But….

if we are constantly doing without hitting the pause button, we miss the gifts stillness can bring.

Deep reflection leading to sage decision-making.  The whisper of a knowing – an intuitive sense.

These things rarely occur when we are rushing around from one thing to another, from airport to airport, meeting to meeting or lurching from one spreadsheet to the next report.

For me, I had to face some uncomfortable truths. Like the fact that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew. And that maybe I need to get better at saying “no”. And that once again, I am not practising self-care as much as I should be. That there were things I was running away from facing, that in that quiet moment I acknowledged I am yet to resolve.

There is so much value in learning to be still in a life that is constantly changing.

As Martin Crowe, the famous kiwi cricketer who is bravely battling cancer, recently wrote, when describing the gap between balls in a test match:-

“This is the space between thoughts, between breaths, between fielders, between balls. They say to experience the gap wholly brings ultimate joy in what we do. In the gap there is nothing, and it’s that nothing space in which lies the secret to our purpose. As I contemplate the meaning of much of my life, a life I now truly treasure, with dangers lurking, it is in this moment of nothing that I feel at peace. Awareness has taught me that previously I was always too quick to fill the gap with judgemental, premeditated masking and conditioning.”

And as the ever wise Elle Harrison so eloquently puts in her book on business and personal transformation, Wild Courage (which is an absolute must read for the modern leader BTW),

“when we stop running from the emptiness and turn into it, we discover its gifts.”

How can you build stillness into your busy life?

How can you teach the magic of stillness to those you lead?

What tips do you have for embracing stillness?

November 4th, 2014|

About the Author:

I'm a leadership coach with over 15 years of experience in working alongside CEOs and senior leaders to harness their full potential - and achieve maximum results. Thanks for following my blog, The Leader's Digest. Please leave your comments – I'd love to hear from you!

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