How to transform your leadership style
I grew up in an academic household where it was paramount to make fact-based decisions. The power of the intellectual mind got me very far in life: I won three city championships in chess with my school team, was the best student in my year and within just over five years was awarded a master’s degree in international business plus a doctorate title immersing myself in the world of law, writes Dr Kay Bretz.
For my doctoral theses, I entered the deep end of the pool by investigating EU, German and Spanish constitutional law. My intent was not to become a lawyer but to take logical thinking to the next level. It opened the doors to an international career at McKinsey, followed by senior leadership roles at Australian retailers.
For a long time, I solely worshipped the intellectual mind – anything else appeared too “fluffy”. Yet, I was blind to the fact that following logic alone was holding me back.
Everything changed from the day I turned right.
Turning right to access new territory
I was in my mid-30s when I had this rising sense of dissatisfaction. I chased one achievement after the other, yet the sensation of glory faded away quicker every time I reached the next peak. It was a problem I just couldn’t solve. A coincidental right turn at my garden gate gave me the answer.
To that day, I had always turned left leaving my house. I realised that it was a symbol for how I was leading my life: full of logic, discipline and control. For the first time I experienced the limitations of my thinking mind: it left no room for the unexpected, prioritised predictability before personal growth and therefore prevented me from entering unfamiliar territory.
I started exploring what I had stumbled upon and – metaphorically speaking – kept turning right. I started in a relatively safe environment and exchanged chasing personal bests in running marathons to exploring the world of ultramarathons.
I was curious what a 250-kilometre race through the Australian outback could teach me. To my surprise, it was my intuition that saved me when crossing endless sand dunes and running exposed to the burning sun. My intellect told me to slow down or give up. There seemed no other solution to deal with my heavy legs. Instead, an inner knowing emerged that the discomfort was just a sign of adjusting to the desert and would pass.
Instead of overthinking and trying to control the uncontrollable, I found innovative solutions to seemingly unsolvable challenges. Not thinking allowed miracles to unfold. As a result, I improved the race record by more than five hours.
Developing intuitive abilities
Problem-solving is a powerful leadership approach when we are facing technical challenges. Yet, we often ignore that our biggest challenges are not technical – they tend to be adaptive. Getting hit by a global pandemic is a prime example. When we as leaders don’t have all the answers, we can adopt a mindset where “not knowing” is a strength. To bridge the gap between what we are capable of and what is required, we are asked to transform ourselves. Turning right is the answer.
The good news is that any of us can develop the ability to tap into our intuition. When we are logical, overthink or even worry, we are run by high-frequency beta brainwaves. To develop a high-performance mind, it is essential to also access lower-frequency brainwaves such as alpha (present during one-pointed focus), theta (creativity and deep insights) and delta (intuition).
Regular mindfulness practice helps us slow down our minds and access different levels of consciousness. While the practice is simple, staying patient, disciplined and consistent often is difficult. It has helped me keep the entry barrier low and start with five to 15 minutes per day.
Whether you use an app to guide you or join a course, practising regularly will lead to your inner wisdom emerging more often.
Lifting our leadership
Any major challenge, whether in sports or business, will throw the unexpected at us, asking us to deal with much more than we seem to be capable of. When reach the limits of traditional problem-solving, it is time to take our leadership to the next level.
By practising stillness and becoming more present we will find a better balance between fact-based and intuitive decision-making. Then, it is only a matter of time for the seemingly impossible to unfold.
Dr Kay Bretz is the author of Turning Right: Inspire the Magic, a facilitator of transformation, executive coach and inspirational speaker.