Centered Leadership: How It Influences Your Success In Life?

centered leadership

It may be surprising to learn how many leadership models have been developed over the years. One of those models is centered leadership. The term was coined by two McKinsey & Company consultants, Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston. They described their theory and model in a book How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life.

The authors postulated that leadership consists of the following five interrelated dimensions and related subcomponents:

  1. Meaning – happiness, core strengths, and purpose
  2. Energizing – sources and uses of energy, recovery, and "flow"
  3. Framing – self-awareness, learned optimism, adaptability
  4. Connecting – inclusiveness, reciprocity, sponsorship
  5. Engaging – voice, ownership, opportunities, risks, and fears

Centered leadership focuses on physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual strength that enables leaders to accomplish personal goals and inspire others to follow. Centered leadership builds on positive psychology and emphasizes positive emotions to help people thrive.

This all starts with meaning. Meaning underpins everything. It establishes motivation to move people in the right direction. People with a deep sense of meaning are happier, more energetic, and more resilient. Meaning inspires passion and can turn any job into a calling.

Meaning is especially important for leaders as it increases job satisfaction, causes higher productivity, lowers turnover, helps to set and achieve audacious goals, and results in higher loyalty. The authors found that "meaning is a defining trait among successful leaders." All the leaders who were interviewed for the book attributed their professional success to finding meaning in their work.

Happiness is the first element of meaning. When people know what makes them happy, they can discover a path to fulfilling their full potential. Jonathan Haidt, in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, provided a happiness formula.

Happiness = S + C + V

  • S - Set points (i.e., person's biology)
  • C - Conditions of life (ex. gender, age, profession, relationships)
  • V - Voluntary activities (built upon a person's strengths)

Voluntary activities are the variable that people can control the most, giving them the power to increase their happiness. Choosing activities that will provide a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment requires people to know their strengths.

If someone is unsure about own strengths, positive psychologists Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson's book Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification can be a great resource. The authors identified 24 personal strengths under six broad groupings that have consistently emerged throughout human history.

  • Wisdom & Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective
  • Courage: bravery, perseverance, integrity, vitality
  • Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
  • Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  • Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation
  • Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

In addition to happiness and core strengths, the final element of meaning is purpose. Purpose is the source of inspiration and what drives us. When the entire team shares a higher purpose, leading becomes easier. Setting goals becomes easier. Facing new challenges becomes easier.

Goals that serve others, whether it is people, a cause, or a community, have the greatest impact on our sense of fulfillment. For the goals to be meaningful, they also have to be personal. Impacting others in a way that is highly personal to us inspires people to take on greater challenges and grow.

"To love what you do and feel that it matters - how could anything be more fun?" - Katharine Graham


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