The Four Domains to the Leadership of Being

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The Leadership of Being

As an astute student of leadership, nothing fascinates me more than the factors that influence, drive, and sustain leadership. Beyond skills, charisma, and personal brand etc. and everything that a leader does, what’s at the core of the leadership of being? What makes a legendary leader? Why do they become role models? My personal experience has taught me that there are four, key domains to the leadership of being. They are:

  1. Thought
  2. Speech
  3. Action
  4. Reflection

Each of these four domains is interdependent and interinfluential. They are the rudder of leadership behaviors that are outwardly visible. They are not leadership styles. Instead, they are anchors that steer, guide, and inform everything a leader does.

The Leadership of Being
The Leadership of Being | Anitha Aswath

Domain 1: Thought 

A man is but the product of his thoughts – what he thinks, he becomes.
Mahatma Gandhi

As I pursue my advanced coach certification in Brain Based Coaching, I’m reminded of the astounding fact of the human brain: it has approximately 100 billion neurons. The primate brain, on the other hand, has approximately 25 billion neurons. I think that single fact should settle, once and for all, the power of human thought.

If we were to consider thought as energy fields or energetic entities [Eckhart Tolle], could it be that very space of consciousness from where thoughts of love, compassion, kindness, jealousy, anger, competition, loss etc. all emerge? As leaders of people, teams, projects, communities, and our own lives, thoughts are intrinsic to everything we do. As the 1st domain to The Leadership of Being, what truly matters is:

  • how aware we are of our thoughts
  • what we choose to do with them

Domain 2: Speech 

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One of the books that deeply influenced me is “Language and the Pursuit of Happiness” and here’s an excerpt from the book that opens the door to view language differently:

The focus of this book is language – specifically, human language. And my intent is to share with you the incredible possibilities that become available by taking a new look here. When we start taking a new look at language in this way, it quickly becomes apparent that what we’re also doing is taking a new look at ourselvesa new look at human beings.  – Chalmers Brothers

Authentic leadership that constantly works to hone, improve, and adjust begins with authentic communication. This refers to the kind of communication that goes beyond speech coaching or communication training. Speech is the fabric and DNA of your intent. What is the language of your leadership communicating to your teams? Is it trust, engagement, inspiration, and a healthy striving for improvement? Or is it negativity, distrust, disengagement, and pressure to execute no matter what or how? Do you come across as warm and transparent in your keynotes? In a world that is increasingly virtual, your speech and choice of words become furthermore integral to the leadership of being.

Domain 3: Action

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Leadership is not a role, title, or designation. It is truly service, in action. When you bring together everything you thought and said you would. It is acting upon each of those commitments. It is the fulfilment of a promise made – both to yourself and to the businesses, teams and communities you serve and lead.

In this model, I view action as an outcome of the first, two primers, namely: Thought and Speech. Action has the potential to build or break trust. It is the nerve center of momentum you can create in the journey. Every milestone that causes progress is the result of consistent, productive action. And when this action is in alignment with your values and integrity, it has the power to create a special kind of success.

Domain 4: Reflection 

At the heart of mindful thought, speech, and action lies deliberate and non-judgmental reflection. The benefits of reflection include:

  • an opportunity to look back on what was
  • the wisdom and information to move forward
  • the opportunity to hardwire what serves you well and the courage to let go of what doesn’t

I daresay that most of my learning has come from reflection. If I had focused exclusively on thought, speech, and action and never spent a moment on reflection, I can’t say I would’ve made any progress at all.

Questions to promote Review: 

  1. What did you set out to do?
  2. What did you actually do?
  3. Which actions served your goal and vision? Which ones didn’t?
  4. If I could change one thing about this outcome, what would it be?
  5. What factors would inform that decision?

Questions to promote Vision: 

  1. Which behaviors can you start, stop, or continue?
  2. What can you do to improve or enhance the direction of your life, relationships, and business?
  3. What would success look like?
  4. How would that continue to inspire you in the future?
  5. Why is that important?
  6. What can you do to sustain progress?

Questions to promote Measurement: 

  1.  Where am you on a scale of 1 – 10 in the goal that you’re currently pursuing? 
  2. If you’re at a 6 or a 7, where would you like to be? What does that look like? (Articulate as vividly as possible).
  3. What percentage of growth or improvement would you define as success?
  4. What 3, difficult actions will you take to move closer to your goal?
  5. How are those 3 actions within your control to enable measurement?

Congruence Across the 4 Domains 

What’s most critical is the alignment or congruence across all these domains. But what does lack of congruence do?

First, it can derail from your intended course. And it can cause irreparable damage to your brand and legacy. Second, it can have unimaginable consequences on the businesses, teams, and communities you lead and serve. And they then become the inheritors of the misalignment in the being.

However, where there is impeccable alignment across the domains, you begin to view success, differently. In Conscious Business, Fred Kofman calls this Success Beyond Success. 

When behavior is consistent with values, we say the person has achieved unconditional success: success beyond success. This success generates an inner peace and happiness beyond the threats of external shocks.

It is unconditional because it is based on the human being’s free will, his autonomy beyond any external factor. Even when results may not be what we want, it is always possible to feel at peace because we know we did our best to face the situation with dignity. The (superficial) sadness of (superficial) failure is totally compatible with (profound) satisfaction of (profound) success.

This, right here, is real congruence. Acting in alignment with your values and integrity determines true success.

So, The Leadership of Being is not an esoteric model. The four, domains of thought, speech, action, and reflection truly inform the outward, observable behaviors or ‘the doing’. Where are you today in your journey of being? 

Anitha Aswath is an HR Consultant and Strengths Coach of Leader Success in the Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area at Cisco. She has the unique privilege of meeting Cisco clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of their teams.


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