I consider self-awareness and mindfulness to be the most crucial components to leadership success and healthy organizations. Don’t get me wrong—you can have zero self-awareness, live in stress most of the time, be a total jerk, and still be monetarily successful.  However, if you would like to lead differently and measure the success of your life by more than how well you did surviving the day, please keep reading.

I offer a leadership model here that I have used for several years to support myself and the health of organizations. Please do not let the simplicity of this model dismiss the efficacy. I first learned this model from Dr. Gay Hendricks and Dr. Katie Hendricks from the Hendricks Institute.

The model is a line (I warned you about the simplicity). Above the line, I am open, curious, and receptive. Below the line, I am closed, defensive, and more interested in being right. I have found The Line to be one of the most simple and powerful means of knowing where I am coming from in every moment.

You may be thinking, “What’s so wrong with being right?”

A lot, actually. The biggest problem is our obsession with it.  Being right is so valued that we win awards for it and repeatedly are patted on the back for it. It only takes one experience of being mocked for having the wrong answer—or one time of being laughed at for asking a “stupid” question in class—to make you jump on the “I pretend like I know everything” train.

I am going to take a leap here and point out the obvious, yet mortifying, reality: we equate being wrong with death. Not our physical death per se, but the death of the image we are desperately trying to create or maintain.  Sound crazy? Notice any place in your life where you are committed to being right and then consider giving up your position. It just got real, didn’t it?

Once we commit to being right, we automatically go below The Line.

And when we go below The Line, we are entering the stress response. When we attempt to function from chronic defensiveness and stress, a physiological pattern emerges: shallow breathing, increased cortisol, adrenaline, and an elevated heart rate. This is a less than ideal state to be in when interacting with others and facing daily decision-making.


You may have already decided that being above The Line is better than being below it. I mean, who wants to admit that they are defensive and more committed to being right than to learning? Pretty much no one.  But it is exactly this lack of self-awareness that derails us and our teams in the first place. First, you must be able to locate your consciousness and be honest about it. If you are willing to do that, then you have a very real chance of being successful—without being a jerk. For more tips on how to maintain your sanity in the workplace, check out my podcast: The Super Fantastic Leadership Show (specifically episodes 18, 48, and 73).

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