Being and doing
Some shifts in life happen intentionally; life shifts when you learn to drive a car. Other shifts sneak up on you and if you let them, you change.
The experiment of writing Leadership Freak began just over 16 months ago. During those months a major shift in my thinking occurred. Like sunrise it started slowly with a few birds chirping in the pre-dawn darkness.
I heard pre-dawn birds chirping during conversations with high profile, high power leaders. They kept saying, “Know yourself.” “Be true to who you are.”
I thought self-knowledge was a good thing but not that good.
You need to know I’m a farm boy from Maine. We don’t think about our feelings. Self-reflection is a form of new age naval gazing for people with nothing better to do.
The things you already know have already changed you. However, high potential tipping points teeter on the tip called confusion; things you don’t know.
My tipping point of confusion eventually came to rest on Frances Hesselbein’s definition of leadership. “Leadership is a matter of how to be not how to do.” Eventually, the self-evident truth that who I am is more important than what I do, dawned on me. Life and leadership tipped.
You might think focusing on being would result in less doing. Truth is, I am doing more but only because I am being more. For example, I’m more effective with others because connecting is easier. I’m not proving myself; I’m being myself and that sets people at ease.
When you open a door for others to know you they let you see them. The dynamic path of positive influence emerges.
One danger of doing is completion. The beauty of being is that becoming is a delightful journey.
Have points of confusion become tipping points in your own life?
What prevents leaders from “being” leaders rather than “doing” leadership?
Ha! I love it!
In my view, the moment when we realize that we are not what we own, who we know, what we do, or even what we think, we begin to experience a new paradigm of self and relationship to self and others. It is a brilliant moment, and I am uplifted each time I hear someone’s experience of this revelation.
It is in the moment that we realize our life is of us, but not us, that we gain new clarity: of choice, and connection to who we are. It is amazing how much more affecting and effective we become, when we are connected so.
Thanks for an insightful and encouraging comment. Love the terms affecting and effective. My experience aligns with your thoughts. It’s wonderful.
You always add value when you stop in. I appreciate it.
Best to you,
I’d like to think I’m not as old as I am. And I’m certainly not old, but I’ve recently passed a “round” birthday…. I’ve always known your statement of “who I am is more important than what I do” to be true, however, have never truly thought of this in the capacity of leadership. Sure, I’ve related it to my career or employment, but havent thought about it in this light. Ultimately, one would hope that “who I am” dictates “what I do” if I’ve been able to align my strengths and goals, but one should never let “what I do” dictate “who I am” or you just end up running the treadmill you referenced yesterday. From a small town country girl from NH, thank you for providing a different perspective, yet again.
Dear Small Town,
Great having a fellow New Englander on board. (Even though I’ve been in PA for 25 years, I’m still a Mainiac).
Your comment reminds me that doing things that don’t align with who we are makes us hypocrites. It’s using techniques and strategies to manipulate people.
Thank you for sharing your insights,
The scary part about working on being is it actually is more work than doing. Doing usually involves a task with steps that has an end point. Being involves introspection, habit-breaking, habit-forming, character development, etc. It also involves a lot of slow progress and even failure that cannot be blamed on anyone else. It’s probably the hardest job you’ll ever undertake, and it never ends.
Another comment – back in the day, the Army taught us young officers to first Be (the kind of person you would want to follow), then to Know (the current situation, the mission) and then to Do. As young lieutenants we were lectured on the danger of Doing without first Being and Knowing. “Nothing is more dangerous than a 2nd lieutenant with a map and a compass.”
Great point Greg, would imagine that being, knowing and doing, when interwoven well, provide for an excellent experience.
You are so right! Knowing who you are is one of life’s great opportunities and challenges. There is so much clutter in the way that it takes more work than you might expect.
I’m thankful seeing you in the comment stream.
I am excellent at getting things done when I don’t focus on BEing. Trouble is, the things I’m doing are inconsequential.
But, as you’ve aptly pointed out Dan, when I first focus on BEing, my DOing is pointed in the right direction and I am productive on the right agenda.
KaPow! That inconsequential word really kicks it. Thank you for driving a powerful point home with just a few words.
Best to you,
Scott is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/scott-couchenour
Good word here, Dan. The LORD shared with me after reading this, “Don’t try to “prove” yourself today, BE yourself.” What an awesome word and truth to live by. Thank you…
Mike – That’s tweet-able right there!
Thanks, Scott…I did! 😉 ‘MikeHelms4HIM’ I also like your profile title: “I laugh in the face of burnout! Laugh with me.” Have an Awesome day!
I tweeted too (excuse me…)
Wouldn’t it have been nice to know your Being long before knowing what you Know.
Our biology just doesn’t work that way.
What prevents leaders from “being” leaders rather than “doing” leadership? For me, when I embraced that development was from the inside out and not the other way that I began to understand more about “being” than “doing.” As Mark P says, it changes how you see and connect to others. From there more things flowed out of me that were a by-product of that development.
What I observe is that our culture is A LOT about doing and seeming, so it follows that leadership would be one more thing to do. We read, we mimic, in an attempt to look like a great leader.
Back to yesterday, we need to be intentional about what we STOP doing in order to develop more of who we are. It requires time, space, and a willingness to work, listen, work, listen. I saw a quote some time ago that I really liked, “It takes a lot of courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
Good stuff, Dan, glad you made it out of the pre-dawn and confusion in order to share more of you.
Great post Dan! I had a discussion about this with one of my clients. It was an interesting conversation that went along a winding path. You’ve cut through the fluff to the essence of this topic.
There was a point when I was promoted to a leadership position in an organization and had great difficulty in making the mental shift needed to move from a “doing” position to a “being” position. I was, as Greg pointed out, a 2nd lieutenant with a map and a compass. This was a very difficult shift for me. And, I’ve seen many leaders who struggle with this shift. I think that companies are well served if they have a mentoring program, an apprentice program, leadership development training and succession planning in place to keep their pipeline full of potential leaders.
The shift from one on one work to one with systems work was a shock to my own system.
With light from others, I can see that I can positively impact others the more I am what I am…(props to Popeye!)
It is a case of getting comfortable within your own skin and to do that you have to look inside which often is not so comfortable, but required. Seems likely that each connection we make can shine a light on how genuine or not we are with ourselves in that moment. Its that darn mirror that Dan keeps pointing to.
It is about truly connecting on multiple layers, still one with one, one with groups, one with systems and here, one with the electronic community as free flowing as you can.
Hi Dan, great post and tough concepts. I totally agree with the sentiment of the group regarding how much harder and difficult the “Being” piece is vs. the doing. I particularly like the trilogy: Being, Knowing, and Doing. The latter two I believe have structure, are less complex, can be learned and taught, but the final executed product will hinge a lot on who we are. We are all specifically unique and that nuance will color how we arrive albeit to the same destination. This is all great stuff and Being is always a work in progress. AD
Thanks Al, for the reminder about how to know and how to do…definitely teachable moments whereas being is…
I like the statement ” When you open a door for others to know you they let you see them.And positive influence emerges. I believe this is true leadership where you allow others to see and know you before you actually try to know others. Today, people hide their identity in order to achieve success and by creating layers. And this is understood key success factor. By this way,people may get short term success but it is difficult to get what you want to achieve in your life.
I agree that points of confusion have become tipping points in my life. And fortunately that confusion energizes me, encourages me and fill me with greater passion and determination to achieve my interest. I think expectation prevents leaders from being leaders rather than doing. When leaders expect more from others and do less then he prevents to be in ” being ” category. Leaders should do more and expect less to become ” being”. And this is really difficult.
Leadership is all about others. You need to understand others position, potential, expectation and goal and connect them with their goal. Leadership about self is not leadership, it is manipulation.
Powerful stuff! Where this really gains traction is when “Doing” cycles around and strengthens “Being.” When what we do flows from what we are and then in turn enriches who we are it creates an amazing cycle of personal growth. Sadly, when the focus is solely on the doing it diminishes who we are, and it creates a negative cycle. While the role of a manager is primarily on facilitating the doing, a leader makes sure Doing flows from Being and then that people are enriched and blessed by what they do. The leadership piece is the responsibility of not only the manager but all the rest of us, too.
Leadership is about first being, not being first.
Great post Dan – I can think of some key tipping points in my life and, most powerfully, when I decided, after some deliberation and agonising to become independent. I think at that time the real me was liberated! Prior to that, the real me was, in part, dominated and oppressed by strong corporate cultures.
The natural maverick in me made occasional rebellion against the mass of ‘corporateness’ almost inevitable [I worked for local government for over 25 years] but independence really opened my door!
By the way, I have not forgot your question from a previous post. Sorry to still leave you hanging but I am still considering how best to reply!
I think detecting “points of confusion” and being open to their messages is key to opening our minds and spirits up to a “tipping point.” It is so easy to keep doing what we’ve been doing.
And leaders are prevented from “being” leaders and continuing to just “do” leadership, sometimes because they don’t have the support of someone at their side (or giving them a gentle or not so gentle prod on the back) who says “do what you really need to do to be you.” Do it.
Nice one, each one have to learn it his own way though and as you said it’s not always based on our education and ways we have being doing thing so far 🙂 Shortly it takes time, but with will and effort changes will happen.
Hi Dan, nice post and great comments. I think for me part of the resistance is the confusion that arises in others – I don’t trust that people will interpret my being as ‘being’ consistent with what might be happening in the general environment – that is Being is a longer framework than doing, and if those around don’t connect with the difference they can be confused with what you are doing by being. Aggghhhh :0 (despite this i try to be ‘being’ as often as I can be)
Dan as I re-read your post and the comments it occurred to me that this is your best one yet. It has opened the “cracked window” and shown a glimpse of you intriguing, comfortable, secure and assuring. I have also witnessed the changes over time as I peruse this blog. thank you for your candor, giving of yourself and your teachings. They are a blissful way to start my day. Regards, Al
Being known and appreciated by someone is one of life’s great pleasures. I think it’s a fundamental human need.
This post took the “I” voice. Frequently, I write first drafts in the “I” voice and then I transpose them into “you.” I enjoy the sense of conversation and inclusion that “you” provides.
Using “I” on this post was intentional. I’m thankful you noticed and took time to let me know.
Best to you,
I’ve been feeling like I’m on the edge of becoming.. being… But there are always all these things I have to do! Your story is inspirational. Thank you.
Thank you for consistently great posts, Dan. This one is especially intriguing.
I heard yesterday about two people who went to a foreign land and knew nothing. They were brand new people when they got there — no language, no friends, no familiarity of space and time in this land. They said that all they could be is who they are. In my decades, I have had three of these times. The first “pumped” me up (albeit prematurely). The second one popped my bubble, and I became cynical. The third and current one, has forced me toward a healthy balance. A decade into it, I look back and see that balance has been harder than the cynicism. Balance is being.
First I had to want to get healthy. Ego (even a deflated one) eats healthy for breakfast! There’s always justification. Being emotional was easy – I was always right.
The greatest teachers and mentors have helped me mature. I realize that my mind has to rule my heart. If emotions are the boss, I’m on the treadmill going nowhere. Inspired says: “Ultimately, one would hope that ‘who I am’ dictates ‘what I do’ if I’ve been able to align my strengths and goals, but one should never let ‘what I do’ dictate ‘who I am’ or you just end up running the treadmill.” I agree, and my aim is that doing and being are the same good thing – I am what I do, I do what I am – but knowing myself has to come first.
Dan says, “When you open a door for others to know you, they let you see them. The dynamic path of positive influence emerges.” I really like this. Sometimes it’s scary to open up. I find that when I bring out another by asking innocent questions, we both reveal our identities and come away enriched.
This is one of my favorite topics, Dan. Thank you for introducing it by sharing your own confusion. My “guru” always says, “Confusion is a good place to start.”
I had to be knocked flat to take the journey into Being. I accomplished a lot as an inveterate Doer, but at the cost of my own health — and was felled by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome back in the early nineties before they even knew what it was.
And thus began my journey into the unknown world of Being, which I wrote about in “Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master” — which I recently learned is being published in Chinese. (I don’t quite know what to make of this.)
I am researching what it take to be an agile leader at the co-creator and synergist level (see Bill Joiner’s book, Leadership Agility) — and having a high level of awareness is a key component. Bill says in his book that a high percentage of leaders at these top levels. (who make up less than 10% of the population of leaders) have a regular meditation practice.
Understanding how to help people progress from Expert to Achiever, from Achiever to Catalyst, and then develop the capacity to be Co-creators and Synergists is, in my opinion, one of the most important actions we can take if we are to transform ourselves and our organizations to deal with the challenges of complexity and change.
Exciting times, glad I learned how to BE so I am still around to make a contribution to the Doing…
For those of you who are confused and confounded about this Being thing, trust me, I know how you feel. Hang in there — it is worth the struggle.