In the last 9 episodes, I have been exploring how few people emerge as leaders while all others remain as followers? This question was haunting me ever since I commenced my professional career. When I chose to become a consultant in my 50’s, I got the privilege of meeting and interacting with many CEO’s. I was closely observing the characteristics of these leaders with an aim to document my observations which will be of some benefit to growing youngsters and business leaders. In my previous episodes under the title of Mystical Ingredient, I had covered 9 characteristics of Leadership and in this episode I wish to add one more which is “Self-expression”.
SELF-EXPRESSION – Manifestation of Dharma of Life
The Lexicon has several synonyms for self-expression as “expressiveness”, “articulateness”, “eloquence” and so on. Let us examine what is self-expression and what relevance it has with the leadership and prosperity in life? My interpretation of self-expression is the ability of human beings to express them to make a difference in this planet. Each one of us has different degree of ability to make the World to know that we “exist”. Some of us are very articulate to express our ideas and some of us chose to be silent even when we have valuable ideas to contribute. Such of those who are very articulate are noticed and those who are silent gets ignored and taken for granted. I am not referring to aggressive behaviour to get your things done; it is the confidence with which we express to make a difference is what matters. Let’s look at the anecdote:
“Nandakumar grew up in a typical south Indian Brahmin family with religious beliefs and values. Like any youngsters growing up in such an environment, Kumar also displayed lack of confidence and hence self-expression as he believed he cannot make a difference in this planet. Your behaviour is the manifestation of what you believe and hence Kumar was seen as a meek looking youngster who was taken for granted. Whatever may be your character, the World will accept; it has accepted Hitler who could slaughter 10 million people and get away with it as well as Mahatma Gandhi who made a difference to this nation.
Like each one of us are branded based on our behaviours, Kumar was also branded as “meek” – timid and submissive. As Osho Rajnish used to say “Rose has born to be rose and Jasmine as jasmine – if rose tries to become jasmine, it will neither be rose nor jasmine”. Similarly Kumar has born to win as he has the right IQ and knowledge to manifest. Due to some unknown reasons he inherently believed that he cannot. Today Kumar is one of the most successful consultants and a star performer in SSA managing very big corporate accounts and making a difference in the field of process excellence
What made the difference in the case of Kumar? How his self-expression suddenly opened up?
Theory of Dharma:
In the creation every one of the element is intended to manifest a unique characteristics; the sun has to give warmth & light, the ice has to give chillness, the tiger has to be carnivore and cow has to be herbivore and so on. It is difficult to answer who made the cow as a vegetarian and tiger as a non-vegetarian? In philosophy it is called “Dharma”; dharma of water is to flow and dharma of fire is to burn. What is the significance of Dharma in self-expression? If you study the nature, particularly flora & fauna, we notice they exactly express the quality which is their “dharma”! They fire doesn’t feel shy to burn; the creeper doesn’t not feel shy of catching the wall and so on. The rose is proud to be a rose and snake as a snake. We notice self-expression is very evident in all creations in a natural manner without any hesitation. If that is the case why human beings have become so un-natural? We have forgotten to be the natural self due to the social conditioning.
In our childhood while we were laughing, we were told not to laugh! While we were serious, we were told why we are serious and so on! We are confused to be natural and slowly became artificial to please everyone around us. We want to “look good” rather than “feel good”. Over the period of time we lost our natural ability to express ourselves as we are. Self-expression hence is a natural process and does not require a B-school degree. All that is needed is “be natural as human”. Kumar chose to do this when it dawned on him.
Knowledge & self-expression:
One of the belief is “knowledge is needed for self-expression”. Many of us feel, if we open our mouth we may make ass out of ourselves as we have no adequate knowledge to impress people. If this is true, the Lion does not have knowledge but expresses it majestically! I am of the view that self-expression is a natural process and knowledge is more of an impediment rather than a virtue. If you carefully examine most of the leaders have limited knowledge in any one subject! They are generalist rather than experts in any single subject.
Kumar accumulated knowledge in many areas and still felt it is not enough to express him in the universe till it dawned on him that there is no connection between how much you know and your ability to market yourself. This self expression can never be given by any one like enlightenment; it cannot be taught, but has to be caught as Sukabodananda used to say. Kumar caught it one fine morning!
Self-expression & self-esteem:
There is a strong correlation found to exist between self-expression and self-esteem. What is self-esteem? It is the opinion we carry about ourselves; some of us feel that we are great and some feel it is a curse that we have born in this planet. It is the result of our opinion of our physical, intellectual and emotional personalities. At the physical level all human beings without any exception feel, we could have been created little more beautifully. At the intellectual level, we feel we don’t have adequate knowledge as much as others have. At the emotional level, we always feel we could have been more stable and so on. At the end we always have a perennial dissatisfaction about ourselves in one context or the other. This feeling of inadequacy leads to some sense of low self-esteem which manifest in our self-expression.
A careful examination will reveal leaders provide vision & strategy and no knowledge for execution. As the CEO Coach Marshall Goldsmith said “You are paid more for showing people “what is to be done” rather than “how to do it?” I have noticed successful leaders / people are the ones who feel complete unto themselves with high self-esteem. Kumar suddenly recognized he is complete unto himself and felt fulfilled of what he is! The day it had happened, he turned out to be a star performer as he had all the knowledge and wisdom and his own opinion was his impediment. At last he found himself.
How do we improve our self-expression?
In summary, self-expression is nothing but manifestation of all your abilities without any inhibitions that makes a difference to this World. It is your ability to put your signature in everything you do and feel good in your death bed that you made a difference at the end of your life. My prescriptions for improving your self-expression are:
- Believe you are a worthy human being irrespective of your physical, intellectual and emotional stature
- You are here in this planet for a specific purpose; recognize and act accordingly.
- Marketing yourself is your responsibility and no one will do it for you.
- Only by manifesting your expression, the universe will notice you.
- Whatever is your knowledge, it will still be fractional of what this universe knows! You can at the most a “Book in the Library and never be the library itself”
- Even you are a spoke in the wheel of this universe; still you can make a difference for its existence.
- Never hesitate to express yourself in as many forms as it is possible.
- Prosperity is the function of your value addition; if don’t express you cannot add value.
- Edison invented electric bulb since he wanted to “make a difference” and “not to make money” although he became one of the richest man – “When you make a difference, you make money by default!”
· Lastly, if you don’t manifest yourself, you are wasting your life.