Full Belly Leading

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To be the most effective and inspiring leader possible, you can come to the table “full.”

This means that you’re meeting all your basic human needs in a variety of ways and don’t NEED anything from your leadership position or the act of leading.

When you don’t need anything, you come to the table to contribute your best and create great results with others around an inspiring vision.

The optimal natural human experience is to give, help, contribute. Yes, humans also take, destroy, exploit, yet not when they feel good. People give when they feel internally powerful and take (vs receive) when they feel internally unsure.

In today’s world, more and more, people like you and I, notice internal yearnings to do more than feed the industrial machine or eke out a living to provide a social service amidst tight not-for-profit budgets.

This means that we’re interested in exploring our inner worlds to feel good and with that, we can come to the table full.

Full of What?

Have you ever heard the American expression, “He’s so full of it”?

What is that “it” he’s full of?

The “it” in that expression are needs to prove his worth by exaggerating achievements, knowledge, experience.

When you lead from a state of feeling good or satiated, the way you might feel after eating a French meal, you can contribute a higher quality of yourself than if you lead from an empty stomach.

Full belly = feeling self-confidence, self-respect, self-compassion, self-trust, integrity, wisdom, choice — feeling really good about yourself with a sense of humility. When you lead with a full belly, you don’t NEED any external validation (or other proof of your self-worth), so you funnel all your energy into creating, solving problems, collaborating with others. When you feel satiated you GIVE without needing to TAKE, a distinction from receiving.

Empty belly = needing to gain external validation (and other proof of your self-worth) to feel good about yourself. You’re busy ensuring that people realize that the good idea was yours, or that they know that you responded to emails at midnight when you didn’t have to or that you founded and sold a company for $20B and you’re on to your next venture. It’s the busyness of seeking external goodies — position power, prestige or money for the mere value of feeling good about yourself.

But wait, you might worry that if you’re belly is full, all you’ll want to do is sip Mai Tai’s on the Bahamas with friends. In fact, you might want to do that for a while, but after getting your fill, your inner needs to connect, grow and contribute will entice you to get onto doing something else — like investing in a vision bigger than you.

But Leaders NEED to Get Things Done…

You might wonder: “If I’m in a leadership position, I NEED to get things done or else…”

Yes, yes, you need to get things done. At the same time, you can lead from different states of BEING.

An Example

You have agreed to lead a project to create a senior citizen home in Athens. Success in this instance is a well-functioning senior citizen home that houses elders and offers medical and social services. So you NEED to achieve that metric of success and any others that you define with your team. YET, from which state of being?

You can lead the project from a NEED to GET something from the project to FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF or succeed for the joy of creating something useful and contributing your best. From the former state, you need something external to feel good about yourself and the latter state, you ALREADY FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF and create from there.

Empty Belly Leaders

Most people who non-consciously live in today’s legacy industrial model lead with an empty belly. Actually, of all the students in my UC Berkeley course, most want to become better leaders in order to get their needs met through leadership positions. They think that through external success, they’ll feel smart, respected, achieved, successful, like good contributors and everything else they want to feel.

It won’t happen.

Hoping to get your basic human needs met by leading is like trying to get vitamin C by drinking diet coke. It doesn’t work.

There are lots of people who do achieve external goodies, some even at billions of dollars, and they tell us that they don’t satiate. There are lots of monks who sold their Ferraris

Ok — have you ever heard, “People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses”? That means that the people who use their positions focus on getting their needs met instead of ensuring the best interests of the company. When people have such bosses, the easiest answer is to leave the company.

Have you ever people in leadership positions who do everything possible to look good, hide mistakes, take credit for successes, lobby for promotions, give all the fun presentations? It’s as if they’re desperate to prove their worth and when this is taking place, there’s little time, energy or focus to really lead, meaning inspire people into productive action.

Empty belling leading is another reason that the legacy industrial model is crumbling. When people use their positions to get their own needs met, there’s not time to further the organization’s vision and so, the system weakens.

Are You a Full-Belly Leader?

To assess yourself, notice how you feel at work, at home, in whichever capacity you lead:

      • What do you FEEL by having a leadership position?
      • What do you WANT TO FEEL by having that position?
      • What would you feel cheated from if you didn’t get from leading?
      • What might it feel to work with a full belly?
      • What does it feel like when you lead from an empty belly?

Another way to think about full belly leading is clean leading. Read about that here.




[Image from Freepik]