As you read this, chances are you enjoy a significant degree of freedom in your life. You can choose what to eat without worrying if you’ll have enough to eat. You decide how to spend your free time, not whether you’ll have any. You select a career path, your social environment, a partner, a belief system, and a vacation destination that aligns with your preferences. This freedom of choice brings both challenging and rewarding aspects to our daily lives.
Unlimited freedom of choice comes at a cost, predominantly ecological and social damage on a global scale. Simultaneously, our choices have led to remarkable benefits: increased happiness in life, reduced poverty, and greater access to healthcare. Both organizations and individuals have roles to play in these developments.
In this article, I address you, as a professional who makes choices that affect your own life, your work and our world, both within and outside of your job. I want you to become familiar with being a warrior.
What is a Warrior?
When I mention “warrior,” you might envision a half-naked man on a horse wielding a spear. Bid him farewell for a moment, for that is not the kind of warrior we’re discussing here.
The warrior I refer to is an individual who knows themselves well on a mental and emotional level. They can express this self-awareness maturely to their surroundings, thereby forming connections with others on a deeper level.
Warriors bear their scars and pride with reverence.
They are neither hard nor soft; they are connected to both themselves and others. They don’t succumb to a victim mentality, nor do they act as unassailable leaders on top of the food chain. These are the people who can establish relationships by articulating their thoughts and feelings during conversations, providing feedback with purity, and displaying maturity in taking individual responsibility. This necessitates self-awareness and perseverance – more on this later in the section on “how to work on it.” First, why is it important, and what does it have to do with a better world?
Why are Warriors important?
Trends point in a clear direction: as a professional in an organization, you and I must address our emotional intelligence (EQ) to contribute to meaningful organizations. Kirsten Florentie of Telenet points out that if we want good relationships with our customers, we must also deepen the relationships between colleagues. In the future, executives will only be successful if they expand their array of soft skills, as indicated by the Robert Half Boardroom Navigator. Individuals at this level must be able to establish meaningful connections with all generations in the workplace. This necessitates a broad set of emotional skills. While diversity and inclusion are receiving more attention, the annual 8 billion dollars spent globally on related training is relatively ineffective at transforming the power of differences into meaning and success. Achieving this, through applying the lessons learned in training, can only happen if you’ve also done your work in the domain of being a warrior.
An individual who is connected to themselves and others can implement the uncomfortable lessons and choices for a better world into practice. Warriorship enables self-confidence and a sense of direction, fostering perseverance and the strength to lead others through connection rather than force. Whether your goal is to improve the organizational culture or launch a product that contributes to a better world, it requires that as an individual, you’re willing to give up something in the short term (time, money, security) so that the collective can reap the long-term benefits (biodiversity, equality, fulfillment).
How Do You Work on It?
Warriorship is an interaction between self-awareness and putting it into practice. Stepping away from the victim mentality or dominance isn’t easy.
It begins with a journey of self-discovery. Warriorship requires a deep self-awareness of your own fire (drivers, values), what triggers you (beliefs, the shadow sides of our identity), how you tend to act (patterns), where your pride and gratitude lie, and how you relate to your community of friends and colleagues.
Additionally, it involves an ongoing process of externalizing this self-awareness. For instance, practicing how to establish connections with others through yourself in conversations can be valuable. Revealing your pride and scars with reverence and speaking about them is a vulnerable act that requires you to invoke ‘courage’ within yourself. The good news about courage is that you can feel it, so you can learn to dip into it when needed.
From my own experience, this process demands continuous mindfulness and kindness to ourselves: some days are better than others. Some patterns within myself persist, and it’s an art to be gentle with my own emotions and thoughts. Warriors can also have “off days,” and kindness helps you look at thinking patterns and feelings from a different perspective.
There are numerous ways to develop this skill. Spending time in nature has been proven to make us calmer and happier. When you spend longer periods in nature, your thoughts naturally gravitate towards topics related to being a warrior. Moreover, you can collect ‘anchors.’ Anchors are reminders of the lessons you’ve learned about warriorship or sources of motivation. Encountering these anchors can bring you back to the moment when you discovered something new or gained motivation. The anchors can be small objects or even thoughts in the form of sentences, songs, or poems that bring you back to these significant moments. For some, regularly writing things down works well, while others only need the memory of an experience.
What Are the Benefits?
Working on being a warrior is an investment in yourself, but it comes at a cost: energy, time, vulnerability, to name a few. The easiest thing to do is not to invest in your warriorship: you won’t have to make the tough investments I just described. But, if you don’t make the investments, you won’t create the positive effects that you and I so desperately need.
Both on a personal and organizational level, there are advantages to working on warriorship. Personally, I’ve seen individuals in our leadership programs grow in self-awareness and self-confidence by working on their warriorship. By being more at ease with themselves, they experience less stress and greater resilience. Moreover, it’s easier for them to take the lead on matters they deem important, and they are better at initiating initiatives that benefit the organization.
In organizations, warriors enhance psychological safety. Influencing others comes more from authenticity than from power. The likelihood of exchanging valuable feedback increases, rather than adhering to rigid feedback schedules that miss the essence. Organizations become more mission-driven instead of performing tasks out of mere duty.
EY research reveals that skills such as listening to each other, collaborating, and inspiring are “key” to successful transformations. A Harvard study shows that social intelligence within a team is the most critical factor for effective collaboration and results. McKinsey notes that organizations in this day and age are undergoing ten significant shifts. To “successfully” navigate these shifts, you must connect with yourself, with others in the organization, and with the broader community.
In our year-long program, we allocate ample time to developing warriorship. One of our participants had this to say:
“This program helped me recognize my own patterns and preferences. I’m better at recognizing others’ needs and have a deeper understanding of how they function. This awareness helps me consider their strengths and weaknesses, which, in turn, makes me more aware of my own behavior and others’ reactions.“
I’m curious about what being a warrior looks like to you and your colleagues?