Unearthing True Power: A Deep Dive into Leadership, Empowerment & the Inner Game

Unearthing True Power: A Deep Dive into Leadership, Empowerment & the Inner Game

Rúna Bouius, founder of the TruePower Institute, emphasizes the critical role of trust, empowerment, and connection in creating forward-thinking workplaces.

Rúna Bouius: Founder of the TruePower Institute. Executive Coach | Mastermind Convener | Speaker | Author. Leaders hire Rúna to fuel their growth and leadership impact by unleashing their TruePower through conscious leadership. Connect with Rúna on LinkedIn.

At Forward Thinking Workplaces, we are discovering the people, insights, and strategies that lead to Forward Thinking minds, leaders, and workplaces of the future — today. Forward Thinking conversations will define the great workplaces of the 21st century. Check out our upcoming Events page or visit billfox.co to learn more.

Q1: How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?

Rúna: It's an excellent question. The key lies in trust. First and foremost, we must trust our people. This trust forms the foundation of everything else. We need to value, see, listen to, respect, and appreciate our people and be genuinely curious about who they are.

Understanding what makes them tick and gives them meaning is crucial.

We also have an obligation to empower and inspire them, setting an example they can aspire to. Our leadership should be such that they see it as an inspirational model, fostering aspirations within them.

We need to encourage our people to contribute, serve, and be an active part of the larger community of the organization. Not just exist in silos. This community should be committed to fulfilling the organization’s mission guided by its vision, which ideally is rooted in a higher purpose. 

People must find inspiration to actively participate in this vision, striving to achieve it through their collaborative efforts. In this process, they not only contribute but also grow, strengthening their inner leadership.

Our approach should not be forceful or fear-based. An additional key aspect is caring. We must show genuine care for our team members, nurturing their wellbeing. This ensures they are happy, healthy, and full of vitality in the workplace, enabling them to contribute effectively.

From this foundation of trust, care, and empowerment springs creativity, and creativity births innovation. 

Q2: What does it take to get an employee's full attention and best performance?

Rúna: This question closely relates to the previous one, particularly concerning the aspect of curiosity. To build effective relationships with our team, it's crucial to cultivate a genuine curiosity about them. This involves a concerted effort to understand their vision, what gives their work meaning, and their core values. Assessing whether their values align with those of the company is key. Additionally, it's important to discern their motivations for being in their current role. Are they driven solely by the paycheck, or do they harbor higher aspirations?

Understanding these elements can help us provide them with opportunities and a supportive community that fosters their growth and leadership development. This approach is not only beneficial for the individual but also aligns with the overarching goals of the organization, creating a more cohesive and motivated team.

Q3: What do people really lack and long for at work?

Rúna: Several years ago, I wrote an article exploring the concept of connection in the workplace. My conclusion was that connection is crucial, but what does connection really mean?

It's about finding meaning in one's work, contributing not only to personal fulfillment but also to the greater good.

This could involve creating products or services that positively benefit people, animals, or the environment, contributing positively to society.

Additionally, people seek a connection to their authentic selves, enabling them to show up completely genuine at work. They also look for connections with others, such as teammates and clients, since human beings inherently thrive on relationships. Business is all about relationships. The challenges faced during COVID, including loneliness and anxiety, highlighted the importance of this connection when physical interactions were limited.

Another aspect is the connection to a higher purpose. Ideally people like to work for a company which purpose alignes with their own. Also, there's a connection to what I call vitality, often called wellbeing in the workplace. While there's increasing discussion about workplace wellbeing, unfortunately, it's still not a top priority for top leadership.

To me, connection is the overarching theme encompassing all these aspects.

Reflecting on a personal experience, I recall when starting my own business here in the U.S. around 2005-2006. This was when I was writing the article. Connection became an underlying theme for the work.

Over time, there has been more discussion about this idea, both connecting to something bigger than yourself as well as connecting with your inner leader. Both you and I advocate the importance of honoring the 'inner game' of leadership as much as the 'outer game' because the inner game significantly influences external results and success.

This realization stems from my own spiritual journey, understanding the importance of being connected to ourselves, our soul, and something larger than us, whether we call it spirit, source, the Tao, or God. Although I didn't explicitly state all this in the article, the underlying message is about connecting deeply and meaningfully, transcending the self to bring about positive social change through leaders with higher consciousness.

Q4: What is the most important question leaders can ask employees?

Rúna: There are many possible questions to consider, but I propose an overarching approach: asking the employee, "How can we support you in thriving?" This question opens the door to numerous supportive inquiries. We can explore their goals, values, needs, preferred mentoring styles, and optimal communication methods. This approach also invites them to share how they can be their most creative and innovative selves, contributing to the team or company while finding personal meaning and purpose.

This strategy demonstrates the leader's genuine interest in harnessing the employee's unique gifts and talents.

It's about understanding how these can be activated not only for the company's benefit but also to fulfill the employees' deeper aspirations and allow for their authentic expression.

I appreciate this question as it serves as an excellent conversation starter. It's non-threatening, open-ended, and can lead to more in-depth discussions. It allows employees to immediately bring to the table what is most important to them. This approach allows leaders to understand what matters most to their employees without restricting the conversation to specific areas. 

Q5: What is the most important question employees can ask leaders?

Rúna: Yes, there is certainly some overlap in these concepts. A key question comes to mind: "Bill, as my leader, how can we co-create a situation where we both thrive? How can I use my gifts and talents to support the vision and success of your company while you help me become the best version of myself and grow as a leader? How can we ensure that my work is not only in full expression of my gifts and talents but also imbued with a sense of purpose and meaning?"

This question underscores the mutual benefit and shared responsibility in the leader-employee relationship.

It highlights the importance of collaboration in achieving organizational goals and personal fulfillment. I find this approach appealing.

Q6: What is the most important question we can ask ourselves?

Rúna: For me, it boils down to two fundamental questions: "Who am I?" and "What is my purpose?" These questions are central to the inner game of leadership concept, which is noticeably absent in many developmental and training programs. MBA courses, for example, rarely focus on internal development, although some universities are now incorporating mindfulness practices.

In general, emerging leaders in organizations learn external skills and processes. Currently, there's a strong emphasis on understanding technologies like AI.

However, the inner aspect of leadership – our 'inner technology' – also needs attention and upgrading.

By asking ourselves who we are and why we are here, we can bring our authentic selves to the workplace. Without this self-understanding, we risk merely conforming to role expectations and suppressing our unique talents, which are essential for organic innovation, especially in these times of exponential change.

Moreover, logic and rationality alone cannot address the complexities and uncertainties of today's world. We need to access deeper intelligences inherent within us that have been undervalued in the workplace and are difficult to quantify. Big wins lie in upgrading our internal GPS system and tapping into our multidimensional inner resources. These include multiple intelligences, intuition, body wisdom, emotional intelligence, and others, in addition to traditional IQ. These so-called 'softer traits' are vital and should be integrated alongside conventional skills to navigate the current landscape effectively.

Q7: What question is at the heart of true power?

Rúna: This topic essentially invites people to reconsider their understanding of power, a subject often avoided or viewed negatively. Yet, in reality, we all exercise power every moment of the day, often without realizing it. Whether advancing in the workplace, pursuing academic degrees, or other endeavors, we constantly bid for power. This pursuit of power always comes at a cost, be it time, money, energy, or stepping out of our comfort zone.

I encourage people to reflect on how their relationship with power shapes their world. The crucial aspect to consider is the distinction between mere power and true power. This contemplation leads us back to the inner game of leadership. It's possible to possess external power, like becoming a CEO with a corner office, and decide how to use it – whether for domination, empowerment, or collaboration.

However, adding 'true' to power introduces a deeper dimension. It suggests the existence of an inherent power within us that is invulnerable to external circumstances. Even if one loses a high-ranking job like a CEO position, they aren't rendered powerless.

True power is intrinsic and remains with an individual regardless of their situation.

This concept ties back to the importance of connection – recognizing and nurturing the enduring power that resides within us.

Q8: What are the top two or three takeaways you'd like people to know about true power?

Rúna: Firstly, it's essential to recognize that you have more power than you think. This reminder is crucial, especially since life can be challenging, and it's easy to become discouraged or despairing. We live in times where such feelings are commonplace due to personal struggles and larger global issues like wars and climate change. Reminding people of their inherent power can motivate them to persevere, reinforcing the belief that there's always something within their control to move forward.

Secondly, regarding the nature of power, it's important to understand that power itself is neither inherently good nor bad. As I've observed in my workshops, responses vary significantly when I ask participants what power means to them. Power carries negative associations for some, like oppressive bosses or hierarchical dominance. Others perceive it as an inner resource, a personal strength they can tap into. In its essence, power is neutral. It's how we choose to wield power that matters.

From a shamanic perspective, power is seen as energy, which is inherently neutral. Our actions and intentions in using this energy define its impact. Understanding this can change how we view and utilize power, emphasizing the responsibility that comes with it. These points are crucial in redefining our relationship with power realizing its potential for positive influence and helping us step into the next level of our leadership.

Q9: What led you to your insight on power? Is there a backstory behind that?

Rúna: Reflecting back to 2005, when I started my coaching and consulting business, I'm reminded of how my journey with the concept of power began and its development over time. Living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for 13 years, I engaged in various training, including with a Native American teacher. Power was a central theme in these teachings. I also studied with other shamanic teachers, where there was an emphasis on power and the interplay of masculine and feminine energies.

My Native American teacher particularly influenced me by using the medicine wheel. Each direction of the wheel had specific qualities, but it was the center, symbolizing wholeness and power, that is our ultimate destination. This journey towards the center - achieving balance, healing, and releasing limitations - became my understanding of true power.

This concept deeply impacted me, and I carried it forward. Around 2009, I encountered the conscious capitalism movement and the term 'conscious leadership,' which resonated strongly with my approach. I began describing my work as conscious leadership, and my focus on true power faded. 

However, a few years later, I felt something was missing from my offering, and I decided to apply the feminine principle of emptying out by letting go of conscious leadership. Then, I waited for what wanted to emerge.

Surprisingly, the concept of true power, which I had shelved, resurfaced strongly, reminding me of its importance.

It led me to rebrand my company as the True Power Institute, focusing on discussions around power and true power through conscious leadership, aiming to inspire and empower people to lead and live from within, thus the inner game of leadership.

During this period of introspection, I worked with my colleague Tim Kelly from the True Purpose Institute. He guided me in exploring my deeper purpose and discerning between ego-driven responses and soulful insights. It became clear that the concept of true power was not just an intellectual idea but a soulful calling, affirming that I was on the right path with this work. Like a saga, this journey solidifies my commitment to helping others discover and embrace their true power. So, my purpose became “Awakening leaders to their true power,” and my mission “To evolve humanity’s relationship to power.”  

Q10: Is there a question you wish people would ask you about true power or anything else?

Rúna: That's an intriguing question. If I could choose a question for people to ask me, it might be, "How can I attain true power?" This question is akin to walking into a store and asking, "Can I buy a loaf of bread?" Much like everyday transactions, many people believe they can acquire everything externally. However, if someone were to ask me how to obtain true power, it would open the door to an enlightening conversation.

I would explain that true power isn’t something to be acquired from an outside source; rather, it’s already within you.

You have simply lost sight of it. The key is to remember that this power exists, claim it, and have it be the fuel to take you to the next level of your leadership and personal life. I find this to be a profound and beautiful question, one that leads to a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s innate connection and strengths. This kind of inquiry can lead to true transformation.