Provision #682: Enlightenment Matters

Laser Provision

If last week’s Provision, Entertainment Matters, was about the fun side of leadership then this week’s Provision on enlightenment is about the serious side. Simply put, unless we know our strengths and sensitivities, our values and needs, and our thoughts and feelings there is no way to be a great leader with others. Great leaders are enlightened leaders. We are not only technically competent; we are also emotionally competent. And our heartfelt intention is to make life more wonderful, both for ourselves and for others. How do we do that? Read on to get some clues.

LifeTrek Provision


You have perhaps heard the saying, frequently attributed to Lao-Tzu, a philosopher of ancient China and a central figure in Taoism, “Those who know others are wise. Those who know themselves are enlightened.” The two go hand in hand; there’s no way to have one without the other.

It’s possible to view the entire work of coaching through the lens of Lao-Tzu’s quote. Our conversations with leaders assist them to grow in both wisdom and enlightenment. That’s because we talk a lot about how leaders are relating to the people they work with. Relationships go both ways, so the more they understand others the more they understand themselves, and vice-versa. Leadership without enlightenment, a state of awareness that connects us not only with ourselves but with a larger, life-giving truth, is no leadership at all.

That’s why, in coaching leaders, we often include a variety of assessments to facilitate enlightenment. Some of the better known that we use include:

  • The DISC (a behavioral-style assessment). We are licensed to administer a professional version from Target Training International.
  • The Enneagram (a personality-type assessment). There are many of these assessments on the Internet. Here are links to a $10 version and a free version.
  • The Myers-Briggs (another personality-type assessment). Probably the most widely known, we sometimes use the $60 version available through MBTI Complete although free versionsare available.
  • The VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire (a values-oriented assessment). This free assessment is hosted by the University of Pennsylvania (Registration required). Another popular strengths finder is sponsored by the Gallup Organization (it’s free when you buy theStrengths Finder book).

In addition, we offer a customized version of the Clean-Sweep Program, first developed by Thomas Leonard, which focuses on the many things people may want to clean up and work on with their coach. We also offer a wide variety of other coach-specific programs and assessments that can help leaders discover, for example, their Work-Life Balance Quotient, their addiction to an Adrenaline Lifestyle, or their Leadership Style.

As you can imagine, all these programs and assessments can sustain a coaching relationship for many moons. They invite all manner of conversation about something that might be called leadership presence: how leaders show up and come across as human beings.

That’s as important, if not more important, than technical competence. Yes, we want leaders to know what they are doing. But we also want leaders to have relational competence, and that comes from within.

We work a lot with the concept of presence, not only with leaders but also with coaches. If and when there is a disconnect between orientation and action, the orientation always wins. People can sniff out a lack of integrity or sensitivity from across the room. That’s what people don’t like about the proverbial “used car salesman;” there is no genuine interest in our well being, there is only an interest in closing the sale.

Enlightened leaders avoid such compulsions. We may have an agenda, but we also have a perspective that connects compassionately with others and that opens us up to new aspirations, possibilities, and designs. Empathy plus inquiry is the way of enlightened leadership more than enforcement plus incentives.

The International Coach Federation (ICF), a leading association dedicated to the advancement of professional coaching, identifies coaching presence as a core coaching competency and describes it as the “ability to be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, and confident.” The same could be said for leadership presence. Enlightened leaders are fully conscious and creative, moment by moment employing a style that is open, flexible, and confident.

What does that look like? Perhaps we can adapt the seven descriptions provided by the ICF for coaching presence. Enlightened leaders are:

  1. Present and flexible in their interactions with others, dancing in the moment.
  2. Able to access their intuition and trust their inner knowing — “going with the gut” in life-giving ways.
  3. Open to not knowing and taking risks.
  4. Able to see many ways to work with people, choosing in the moment what is most effective.
  5. Effectively and sensitively humorous to create lightness and energy.
  6. Able to shift perspectives and experiment with new possibilities for their own action.
  7. Confident and capable in working with strong emotions, both their own and the emotions of the people they work with.

How’s that for a description of enlightened leadership? I love it! But I want to make clear the connection between self-knowledge and all these wonderful attributes. It is not possible to do these things unless you feel them in your bones. Or, as Charlie Parker famously quipped, “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”

So enlightenment matters. The more we know ourselves, the more we know our strengths and sensitivities, our values and needs, our thinking and feeling, the more fully we will be able to demonstrate leadership presence with all those on our team, our organization, and our many fields of interest.

Coaching Inquiries: How well do you know yourself? What would assist you to know yourself better? How can self-knowledge lead to enlightened leadership? Who could be your coaches, both formal and informal, for such transformational change?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


Your last Provision, Entertainment Matters, was great. It really gives one pause, given what happens at work today. Thanks for raising and focusing the topic. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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