Photo Credit: NEXT Academy,

Written by Sean Reid
July 22, 2020

We’re in a time when leaders are experiencing pressure to offer some sort of inspiration amid much confusion and uncertainty. Some are rising to the occasion. Some are hesitating–unsure of what to say and afraid of how what they have to say may be received.

As leaders, the best inspiration we can offer our people is the authentic inspiration that comes from within ourselves and from the experiences we encounter immediately around us every day. 

Cultivating that attention to ourselves–our inner lives and to our experiences–is something ancient wisdom writers called watchfulness. We can grow as leaders by growing in watchfulness.

Becoming Students of Our Own Lives

At any given time, there’s so much going on around us that we can learn from and share with others. Some of the most effective counsel we can offer to our people may be something we learned for ourselves just 24 hours earlier. The more, therefore, we can become students of our own lives, the more we’ll have to pass on to others. 

As leaders, it’s easy to give ourselves a hard time about what we could possibly have to share with people. But if we become students of our own lives then we constantly have something real, something tried and tested, to pass along.

In our current times, when we hear of leaders who are labeled as “ignorant” or “tone-deaf,” chances are we’re hearing of leaders who need to grow in watchfulness.

  • When we encounter entrepreneurs and marketers deeply attuned to the needs of their clients and deeply engaged in shifting their organizations to meet those needs, we’re encountering leaders practicing watchfulness. 
  • When we see business owners and managers admitting their failures and making amends for past wrongs, we’re seeing watchfulness in practice. 

The advice and inspiration you have to offer is you–your perspective, your authenticity, and your unique experiences.

Nothing New Under The Sun

Here’s a hard truth: most of the brilliant thought-leaders in our world today aren’t actually bringing new thoughts to the world. Study the ancient wisdom literature. Most of what sounds fresh and new to our ears today has been with us for millennia. 

What’s new is the perspective of the messenger–a perspective rooted in current, relevant experience–timeless truth shaped and applied to present-day struggles. 

Perspective born out of watchfulness is what connects with people.

The lesson for leaders is we should spend less time questioning if what we have to say is new, and more time asking if what we’re saying is rooted in an authentic experience and relevant to the authentic experiences of others.

Watchful Leadership Across The Organization

In this unprecedented time, the most successful organizations are those with leaders who are watchful, learning, and consistently asking “how are we really doing?”

The truly remarkable organizations are those with leaders who realize the connection is critical and authenticity is essential; that all of the mucky human things that go on in the insides of each of our employees are actually the things that make the biggest difference in the success of our enterprises. The more we can cultivate awareness and attention to such things, the better our businesses will perform.

If we come out of this shared experience with nothing else, let us emerge embracing more closely each other’s humanity at work. Let us strip away some of the false veneers of so-called “professionalism” and replace it with attentiveness, vulnerability, and connection. 

We don’t need to dismantle all boundaries between work and personal life (nor should we), but let’s redouble our efforts to support, serve, lead, and love each other at work as we do outside of work.

Sean Reid is President and Head Coach at Arrowhead Coaching and Facilitation Solutions, a coaching and consulting company committed to helping leaders build remarkable organizations with clarity and confidence.

Photo Credit: NEXT Academy,