Blog: Mindful Leadership Part 1: Leading with Intention

Blog: Mindful Leadership Part 1: Leading with Intention

By Hal Adler

Editors’ note: Hal Adler is a certified Depth Hypnosis Practitioner and Executive Coach. His daylong workshop on Mindful Leadership will be at the Sacred Stream Center on February 3. In this first installment of a two-part post on Mindful Leadership, Hal addresses the relevance of the self-transformation models of Depth Hypnosis and Applied Shamanic practice to people who lead others.

When people decide they want to grow and develop themselves in their careers, the skills they usually start building first tend to be externally focused. People might want to be hirable in new ways or in new industries, and they also may want to help more and be of service more. Eventually, what people come up against isn’t the challenge of the work they are doing but the challenge of themselves: facing one’s own power struggles, one’s own relationship hangups, one’s own patterns. Shamanic practice and Depth Hypnosis are valuable in making way for this inner work.

I recently led a retreat with a leadership team for a startup. Half of the retreat was completely focused on business goals and strategies. During the other half, individuals concentrated on an area of inner growth relevant to their work. For instance, one person’s focus was to address work issues less quickly in personal interactions with colleagues, and the importance of building trust and building relationships. Another person addressed needing to be more patient with others and create more space for them to go through their own process. At one point, someone in the room rightly pointed to the difference between looking for the “fix” and what you can do to be perceived differently externally, and what the learning really is. So then I turned to some Depth Hypnosis type questions for everybody: What is the nature of my relationship to patience? What is the nature of my relationship to relationships? To other people?

When we are willing to ask, “What is this pattern and what can this pattern teach me about myself?” that’s the kind of work that can create lasting change. That’s what we do in Depth Hypnosis. We help with the symptom, and give some easy, go-to tools with the symptoms but the deeper work is to identify and to dissolve the underlying pattern. And that deeper work is what I encourage people to think about.

Another aspect of Depth Hypnosis and shamanic work is that it leaves you in a constant state of curiosity, which I think is unbelievably important. When we become subject matter experts within our organization or when we’re in one place for a good long time, whether it’s an industry or a company, we become the go-to person. We provide answers, and we feel good about ourselves, and we can even allow a little bit of pride to come into things. We can easily forget to take a beginner’s mind approach, be curious, and not believe our own story.

Leaders are constantly challenged to resist adapting their old stories to situations. Because sometimes the more you know or the more you think you know, the more dangerous you are to yourself and other people. The things that have worked before may not be the things that will work in the future, but there is no fresh lens, there’s no bonus for saying, “I don’t know.” In fact, that’s where you begin to lose credibility, which is a problem. So leaders will often look at a puzzle, a problem, or an issue and they will apply the last road map that worked for them in a situation that looks similar.

That can work sometimes. But sometimes expertise or success can actually get in the way in this situation, because every problem has enough nuance to it that you’ve got to be very careful about applying the most recent solution as opposed to asking questions about the current problem. Working with Depth Hypnosis or shamanic practices, however, forces you to be curious, ask questions, and recognize or think about things differently.

One thing that is especially helpful to get curious about is intentionality. Even if you don’t get into trouble applying an approach or solution that once worked in the past, and it sort of works anyway, what leaders often forget to do is consider their intentionality through it all. “What is my intention in this interaction, in this meeting, in this series of discussions? What is my intended outcome?”

In working with karmic patterns and with Depth Hypnosis and shamanic practice, landing on the intention is very important. As is looking for the places where that intention may be driven by something other than what would best serve the situation—insecurity, jealousy, pride, etc.—and recognizing the degree to which this intention is only driven by the highest good of the situation.

My upcoming Mindful Leadership course will help people understand their intention broadly as well as their intention as it applies to challenges that they’re currently trying to work through. The class focuses on the broad intention of what it means to be a leader, and then takes people through a process that allows them to pinpoint their intentionality around specific challenges, and then addresses what practices, approaches, or actions they can take to turn intention into behavior—either their own behavior or the behavior of those they lead.