What can skeletons teach us about leadership

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Someone suggested to me that this picture demonstrates that deep down we are all the same, when we bother to reach beyond the external labels that we give each other.

Skeletons V1

These memes are eye-catching and headline-grabbing. Yet they sucker us into even more assumptions and bias.

Of course, we agree that difference is only skin-deep. Underneath we are all flesh and blood and skeletons. Forget difference, look at the common humanity that binds us all. Everyone has the same hopes, fears, desires: to be loved, to be happy, to be respected. This guides us to treat people equally, with compassion, with understanding and with respect.

But hang on. We are different, diverse and no two humans are the same. In organisational life we should harness this uniqueness, work in teams and collaborate. Not pretend we’re all the same. Diversity promotes productivity (multiple studies report this). This is what true leadership is all about. Others can see what you can’t. Their background, skills and cognitive abilities provide variation that is good for teams and organisations. So we need to pay attention.

And that’s how mindfulness helps leaders. It increases our awareness. We notice things differently. Similarities and variations. And both are important to us. And to your effectiveness. If you think mindfulness sounds like some soft pappy nonsense, you’re listening to the wrong people – ironically, you’re not noticing! Living in your world of assumptions. Check out the science.

About the Authors: Opinion piece

Dr Phil Renshaw and Jenny Robinson are academics, entrepreneurs, teachers, and both have extensive private coaching businesses. Both deliver workshops for Cranfield Executive Development and Cranfield School of Management. Phil and Jenny met on the first day of their PhDs and immediately realised that they shared a depth of business experience from around the world that, combined with coaching, provided a unique perspective on leaders and their leadership. They are the authors of Coaching on the Go (Pearson, 2019), which offers a unique perspective on coaching skills for leaders and the power of coaching by focusing on everyday life situations.

Jenny Robinson specialises in mindfulness as a teacher, researcher and practitioner. You can join her online, for free, any Friday at 7pm through her zoom group to learn mindfulness. Join: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6530158955

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