Summary of Lisa Gill’s session in the Leading Complexity Program 2022

The Transformative Power of Conscious Leadership

Lisa Gill, renowned coach, and organizational consultant, is the next keynote speaker of the Leading Complexity series. In her intervention, she provides a deep dive into the challenges of contemporary leadership and the inner shifts needed for new ways of working to work. Drawing from her wealth of experience, she discusses the implications of psychological safety, the practice of self-awareness, and the importance of creating a culture of accountability. 

Let’s see what she had to say.

Understanding and Practicing Self-awareness

First of all, Lisa Gill points out that many leaders tend to fall into the trap of equating coaching with problem-solving. Instead of practicing coaching as a space for fostering self-reflection and growth, they focus on providing immediate solutions.

It’s actually more giving advice or solutions, which is relevant sometimes. But that’s not coaching.”

However, as she highlights, the key to mitigating this tendency lies in practicing self-awareness. Gill emphasizes the necessity to accept and confront our imperfections. Furthermore, she explains the importance of understanding when we don’t truly listen and how we fall into unhealthy dynamics. To give a strong example, Lisa compares this leader-team member relationship with a parent-child one.

Creating a Culture of Accountability

Moving on, Lisa explains how in traditional hierarchies, giving feedback and maintaining accountability often defaults to a top-down approach. But in more horizontally structured or self-managed teams, how do we create a culture of accountability?

“How do you create a culture of accountability in an organization or a team with no bosses? How do you give feedback to someone if you’re equal to equal without becoming like a parent again?”

This is where Gill suggests we need to learn and practice new ways of giving feedback and nurturing accountability that respects the equality of the team.

The Brain’s Defense Mechanisms in Leadership

In her intervention, Lisa doesn’t pull back and admits that sometimes she is scared to say or do something so that she won’t make a mistake. However, she points out that it’s a natural defense mechanism. 

In other words, the brain is designed to protect us from perceived threats, often triggering a defensive response. This can inhibit our ability to respond constructively to disagreements or potential problems.

“Our brains are designed to avoid threats… when someone disagrees with me or… seems like they’re gonna do something that might be harmful to the organization, it triggers our brains to go into this kind of reptilian fight or flight or freeze response.”

This underscores the importance of developing emotional intelligence and strategies to handle such defensive reactions, especially in leadership roles.

Embracing a New Way of Leading

Last but not least, Lisa admits that shifting from traditional leadership paradigms to more collaborative and inclusive models isn’t easy. It requires practice, self-compassion, and a willingness to step outside of our comfort zones.

“To start to practice it is very challenging… we’re all scared all the time, us human beings. We’re always scanning – is it safe, is there a threat? And that makes it difficult to try out to practice another way of leading compared to what is safe or familiar or comfortable.”

Gill emphasizes creating safe spaces for practice and cultivating a learning culture as a way forward. She encourages leaders to reflect on their behavior, seek feedback, and consciously choose to act differently.

In conclusion… 

Lisa Gill’s insights are a call to action for leaders to rethink their roles and behaviors. The path to more effective leadership lies not in prescribing solutions but in the journey of self-awareness, developing psychological safety, and fostering a culture of accountability and continuous learning.

In the words of Adrienne Marie Brown, whose quote Gill uses, to sum up her argument: 

“You’re always practicing something. So you’re either practicing upholding the world as it is, or you’re practicing shifting into the world as you want it to be.”

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