Without diving deep into religious or spiritual beliefs, I often hear people throw around karma references like these:
- What goes around comes around.
- You reap what you sow.
- Turnabout is fair play.
- Karma is a bitch!
When I hear these statements, I have a couple of responses.
First, I know that anything you say reactively is a sign of something you believe at a deeper level, and I know that those beliefs are important to uncover because they may keep you stuck.
Second, these phrases seem to reflect something one-dimensional and transactional, which might be a mistake for leaders. You are essentially saying: My actions are transactional. When I do X, then I should get Y.
As someone passionately committed to developing and empowering leaders, I see three essential flaws in operating this way.
- True leaders have a deeper, broader purpose for their actions. They choose to do X because X is the choice that comes from the heart, aligns with the vision, moves forward their mission. They do not do X in order to receive Y.
- True leaders know that it’s not a linear response. Yes, if you treat people well, act with integrity, keep your word, and lead from the heart, there is goodness that comes back to you. However, it may not come immediately, and it may not come directly back in response. You will feel better immediately, because you are acting in a way that is fulfilling, like what is called the helper’s high. Yet it’s a more general, unpredictable payback.
- True leaders know that what they focus on expands. This is a foundational premise in many psychological and leadership development theories. If I’m focused on how great it is to work with the people on my team, then I will likely be aware of the fun and easy way we go about getting our projects completed. If I’m focused on how difficult a particular task or project is, then I am likely going to experience and be present to all the problems and challenges we face. Where we put our attention makes a difference in our experience, and as leaders the experience we create for others. As leaders we do have a responsibility to look at what’s so; we are not recommending ignoring crises, issues, or real problems. Yet, it is also a leadership skill to manage your attention and not over-focus on drama. Our role is to help enable our teams creativity to solve problems – together.
How can we break free from this limiting viewpoint of Leadership Karma?
True leaders stop the linear, transactional way of interacting when they begin leading from their values, their inspiration, and the integrity of who they are as a leader. When they do this, they begin generating positive Leadership Karma.
In my experience, the absolute BEST way of building good Leadership Karma is through networking.
Making connections across your network purely to support the success of others generates thriving Leadership Karma. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO of a company or the baseball team mom, you know people. And when you listen to people, you hear their needs. And when you hear someone’s needs, you want to help them. And when you can help them by matching them with another resource in your network, it feels great. The more you do that, the more others do that, and eventually it circles back to you in surprising ways.
The connection may be matching someone with the perfect realtor for their dream house, an internship for their daughter, or a job lead for their husband.
By the way, this is what true leaders consider networking: making connections across a network of people for the mutually greater good. I know networking can have a negative reputation for being self-serving, but true leaders know it’s an act of selfless service.
What stops us?
The common excuses I hear from our clients, colleagues, and even myself are:
- I’m too busy.
- It’s not my business.
- I don’t want to offend them by helping.
- I thought about it, and I didn’t follow through. Now it’s too late.
- I don’t want to be nosy or over-help.
When these thoughts go through our head, they immediately stop the action. If you are present enough to notice, you can move through the resistance by asking yourself this question:
What if this were your child, husband, mother, best friend, or colleague? Would you want someone to offer their connections or support?
Leadership Karma: The Bottom Line
Now you have the trick to developing your Leadership Karma. To bottom-line it for you:
- Have a pure, positive intention when making your connections — without being attached the outcome.
- Make the connections clearly yet graciously – without micromanaging the connection once it’s made.
- Move beyond the Golden Rule to the Platinum Rule — which is treating others how they want to be treated.
- Be creative and empowering when making connections – but don’t take over-responsibility.
- Live your Leadership Values each step of the way – this brings integrity to the process.
How will you create positive Leadership Karma today?