The subject of disposition (character, temperament, nature, constitution, mentality) comes up frequently in my 1:1 conversations with my clients.
Such conversations are often about how we respond to what happens as leaders being more important than what has actually happened. Our disposition matters because it is a key driver of how we respond to situations. Disposition is also a key to our influence as leaders and to whether we are inspiring others or not.
At my best I have a very positive disposition. I see the best in people and situations. At my best I can respond positively to even dire situations and inspire others.
At my worst I can be negative and dismissive, particularly when others don’t do what I believe they should do. I can be even more brutal when I know that the other person knows what they should do and doesn’t.
I’ve arrived at 3 conclusions about disposition:
Our disposition is an imposition if we’re not putting ourselves in a better position.
Equally our disposition is an imposition when it puts others in a lesser position.
When we change our disposition, everything can change.
Our best is often hiding in our worst.
I am candid, contrarian and controversial by nature. At my best I am a breath of fresh air for others. At my worst I’m am perceived as a threat to others and someone to be avoided.
To continually operate at my best I invest time and energy in working with the darker side of my nature, what Carl Jung called ‘the shadow’. As the noted lecturer and Jungian analyst Robert Johnson observed “there is gold in the shadow.”
The shadow for me is everything we wish we were that we aren’t yet bringing to daily life. It is also everything we wish we weren't that we are bringing to daily life!
I help to integrate the darker side of my nature (Robert Johnson calls this “owning your own shadow.”) by keeping the following diagram at the forefront of my mind. It helps me to bring my best to what happens most of the time.
When I’m caring and candid I can be blunt yet not brutal.
When I am compassionate and contrarian I can help people to see all sides of a situation and better deal with conflict, difficulty and disagreement.
When I have collaboration as my pure intention people can benefit from my controversial views and innovation can happen.
There’s gold in your shadow. How are you mining the gold?
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde is the great symbolic story of our best and worst.
The greater our awareness of our Jeckyl and Hyde, and the more we own and integrate our shadow, the greater our disposition in all situations. And the more inspiring and influential we are as leaders.
Be the difference you want to see in the world.
PS The evil 'Edward Hyde' is on the rampage in many situations in our world today. The more we stand up as our best selves and be counted, the faster good will triumph over evil in non-violent ways.