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Some of you may have heard me say “bad leadership almost cost me my life” and it was true for me.


I was told many things that I mentioned in last week’s blog like “millennials don’t want to work”, “millennials want things too fast”, “young folks don’t know how to work, be loyal and wait their turn”, “you need to learn how work works” and one of the worst ones, “if young plucky engineers want to try something new, tell them to ask a veteran employee how it’s always been done and do it that way”.


I was micromanaged to a point that I felt bullied.  My ideas were rejected, my value was questioned, I felt unseen, unheard and I felt like I didn’t belong.  I felt like they rejected me.


I got frustrated, I got angry then I got depressed, suicidal and, ultimately, in 2013, I tried to take my own life.


As I learned what Leadership 2.0 was, and I started seeing the gaps, I blamed them.  They were wrong and these Leadership 2.0 strategies of developing trust, psychological safety, DEIB, continuous improvement and, ultimately, high-performance were right.  


The Buddhist quote “to be angry is to let others’ mistakes punish yourself.” fits perfectly.  I didn’t feel better, I just had a better understanding of why I hurt.


I continued to heal, I became trauma-informed, I worked on myself through trauma therapy (IFS/EMDR), I further developed my understanding of Leadership 2.0 strategies and I changed my life with medication & ketamine therapy.  Through that journey, I learned who I always was, instead of who I was taught to be, and I developed an idea of the 2.0 leader that I want to become.  The most recent development has been a journey into spirituality through starting to learn about Buddhism.


With this healing, I’ve developed a new perspective.  I could have navigated that situation more skillfully, impacted that workplace more and, most importantly, felt so much better doing it.


So what can we learn?


There are 3 Buddhist concepts that we can apply to my journey that will make us better leaders (Note – I am only a month or so into Buddhism so I am by no means an expert and please let me know if I misinterpret any concepts!).


    • ImpermanenceFrom Wikipedia – “The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is “transient, evanescent, inconstant”.  
      • Like the managers were attached to status quo, I was attached to strategies, beliefs and ways of being that no longer served me.  It may have worked before but it no longer was, there’s a need to grow, evolve and adapt.  Ultimately, my inability to evolve in that situation caused me to suffer.
      • Similarly, what we perceive as best practices in leadership, business and life are just that, they are best practices today and, as things change, we will need to grow, evolve and adapt.  If we can lean into impermanence, then we can constantly adapt to what is best in this moment while not clinging to a past version of ourselves or the world.
    • Non-Attachment – From Frontiers in Psychology, “the Buddhist notion of nonattachment relates to an engagement with experience with flexibility and without fixation on achieving specified outcomes.”  
      • This was the most painful lesson for me to learn.  I was attached to who I was meant to be; a high-performer, someone who adds value, someone who works hard and is recognized for achievement.  Ultimately, I was attached to beliefs about myself like “I am not accepted”, “I am unseen”, “I am not worthy”. When my environment triggered these beliefs, it caused me to suffer. 
      • But this non-attachment is more than just ourselves, management was attached to “how things used to be” and we can become attached to “this is what leadership should be” or “how my product/idea/etc should be”  
      • If we can let go of our attachment, we can dramatically change how we feel, learn and evolve.
  • Skillful vs Unskillful – Noah Rasheta on the Secular Buddhism podcast, refers to beliefs, emotions and actions as being skillful or unskillful.  With impermanence and non-attachment, it’s not that we can just allow everything to be without trying to change it.  It’s that we can accept what is and then choose to believe and act in the most skillful way.  
    • For me, I started to believe that “management was wrong” and that “they’ll never change”.  Those are unskillful beliefs.  A more skillful perspective is “I can see how they are driven by fear, their traumas and the requirements of the executive team.  I can lean into empathy with my manager and see if I can help him grow.  I can also choose to leave this environment if it is no longer serving me”
    • When viewing your situation with impermanence & non-attachment, we can choose a skillful perspective that reduces suffering and is aligned with who we are.


As you may know, I love quotes and nothing sums up this journey like this quote from Rumi, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”


Yesterday, bad leadership almost cost me my life.  Today, my perspective almost cost me my life.  


Click here for the best, research-backed, high-performance leadership strategies that will  build you into a high-impact leader who turns their teams into happy high performers that achieve their goals. Rather than traditional leadership coaching,  Elite High Performance blends neuroscience, mindset coaching, high-performance leadership strategies with cutting-edge technology & data to provide a clear path to building a high-performing team – or to turn around an under-performing team. It’s the same way professional sports teams combine high-performance coaching, technology and analytics to build a winning sports team.


For more empathy, the skills you need to become a relationally intelligent leader, check out this week’s Leadership Launchpad Project with Dr. Adam Bandelli.  We talk about how to engage your people remotely and what the future of work might look like.  Check it out on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and more!


– Coach Rob

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