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Above or Below the Line?

In a recent blog post, Jennifer Sellers of Inspired Mastery shares a simple - but not necessarily easy - practice of conscious leadership from the book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp.

Highlights from the Article

The practice centers around a fundamental question that you can ask yourself at any time, “Am I above or below the line?” When you’re operating above the metaphorical line, you find yourself being open, curious, and committed to learning. In contrast, when you’re below the line, your behavior is characterized by being closed, defensive, and committed to being right.

In her post, Sellers observes “It hit me right between the eyes. Yes! I thought, Who doesn’t love being right!? And how often does loving being right make a mess of things? If I’m certain I’m right and committed to staying right, I am no longer open and curious. I’m more prone to being closed and defensive. It takes vulnerability to embrace uncertainty, and feeling vulnerable and uncertain are way less comfortable than feeling right! It’s easier to avoid them both.”

The principle is easy, it’s important to stay above the line to be responsible, compassionate and resilient human beings. By holding our own perspectives, views, and beliefs provisionally, there is more openness and curiosity, more commitment to learning, and more opportunity to both connect deeply and be surprised by something new.

Applying this truth, however, is definitely NOT easy. Faced with day-to-day challenges and stressors, an accelerating pace of change, and growing uncertainty all around us, it’s easy to find ourselves below the line. Trust me, I know! This is an all too familiar place of reacting, resisting, blaming, judging, and trying to be in control.

Thankfully, being above or below the line is a choice and the best place to start is to become more aware of what perspective (above or below?) you’re taking at any given moment.

So, what about you? Are You Choosing Curiosity Over Being Right?

The Gifted Perspective

The Conscious Leadership Group’s Above or Below the Line metaphor reminds us of some of our past work around personal responsibility. “Above the line” is definitely a place of “radical responsibility” where “below the line” is often a place of victimhood.

Susan Scott offers this amusing illustration: “The victim mode has wonderful benefits! It’s not me, it’s you, it’s them. I’ve assessed the problem and you’re it. If you and everybody else would accommodate me, I’d be happier. I’m innocent, blameless; the quality of my life has nothing to do with me, so I don’t have to do anything. I can’t. It’s out of my hands. If it were in my hands, I’d take action.”

After the initial grins, if we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that this description might fit for us more often than we’d like to admit. Luckily, our goal isn’t to be above the line 100% of the time. Our goal is to get better at locating ourselves and to consciously shift from below to above the line (check out the video above) when it would best serve us and/or other people.

We will partner with you and your team to coach, consult, support, and encourage you through the growth process involved in consistently choosing to be “above the line.” Contact us today about individual leadership coaching or our Teams That Talk™ coaching approach!


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