Within each of us is our light, our essence. During our formative years, we may encounter varying levels of trauma. Instinctively, we add a layer of armor to protect this light. Each experience, a new layer. Does this armor truly serve us?
Understanding the profound impact of trauma in shaping our lives and behaviors is a vast ocean we often overlook. Trauma doesn’t just influence the personal sphere but also seeps into our professional lives, molding leadership styles and team dynamics. Taking a pause to clarify this topic opens up a new avenue of self-exploration and growth. It’s about acknowledging how our past influences our present, and more importantly, how we can steer its impact towards a positive future.
I have recognized my own trauma and the armor formed. As Brene Brown shares, stripping back that armor will open up opportunities to form authentic connections in our personal and professional lives. By healing and removing what gets in my way, I will unlock possibilities. My leadership style will develop & benefit.
Would you like to experience this shift?
Say hello to Amy Elizabeth Fox, Founder and CEO of Mobius Executive Leadership, an exceptional woman who truly understands the complex dynamics of the human experience. With an insightful mind and a heart open to compassion, Amy passionately navigates the realm of leadership. During a HAPPINESS SQUAD podcast, Amy discussed the patterns of early life trauma in many leaders, imparting that societal change hinges upon healing these fractures. Drawing from this insight, Amy introduced healing trauma as a cornerstone of leadership development, providing a breath of fresh air in corporate life. Let’s delve into this across three areas:
- Impact of Trauma on Self
- Inner Healing unlocks Effective Leadership
- Transform Leaders, Transform the Organization
“Leaders who work on themselves at transformational levels build mature leadership capacities including an ability to truly engage other’s perspectives, ideas, and experiences; emotional intimacy and relational depth; and the fluidity and hope that comprise change agility.” – Amy Elizabeth Fox
Impact of Trauma on Self
The lack of trauma literacy distorts our interpretations of reality and can inhibit our personal growth. Trauma, whether stemming from childhood experiences, societal structures, or abrupt life shifts, exerts a substantial influence on our sense of self and worldview. It forms the bedrock of our emotional responses and can drive us into a self-protective mode, inhibiting our abilities to connect, empathize, and lead authentically. As a collective, we turn a blind eye to the potential long-term impacts, underestimating the impact in shaping our lives and behaviors.
For me, it was my upbringing in the Indian culture of seeking approval and validation from my father, my elders, leading me to overachieve while constantly comparing myself to others. I lost sight of my ‘why’ and looked to others to acknowledge my decisions. I operated out of fear, never felt good enough, and even now recall my father’s angry lectures (albeit brief) that made me feel I am walking on egg shells.
Engaging with Amy Fox’s perspective illuminates the profound weight of trauma. Experiences, seemingly benign or overtly hurtful, can embed deep psychological wounds, precipitating reactions of fear, self-doubt, and a distorted perception of self-worth. These wounds, unless confronted and healed, continue to influence life trajectories, impelling individuals towards self-protective behaviors at the cost of authentic connections and effective leadership. Amy highlights the importance of recognizing the shadows of our past traumas, engage with them, and navigate the path of healing and transformation.
Acknowledging and understanding the impact of trauma is the first step towards healing and growth. Individuals start to unravel the tangled web of fear, pain, and self-protection that has built up over time, paving the way to more authentic connections and compassionate leadership. As part of my coaching program at the Newfield Network, I learned about the power of language through assessments and assertions. Assessments are stories that are open to interpretation based on our past experiences. Assertions are facts. By exploring our stories, learning to ground our assessments that serve our purpose and dropping assessments that do not, we unlock possibilities and remove obstacles that get in our way. This is an ongoing (and incredible!) process for me.
Inner Healing Unlocks Effective Leadership
There is a critical link between trauma and leadership potential. Amy shed considerable light on this crucial relationship and the importance of inner healing. Our leadership qualities are deeply rooted within us, yet become buried under layers of unresolved trauma and life experiences. By turning our attention inward, we can confront our traumas, begin the process of healing, and subsequently unearth the qualities that make us authentic and effective leaders. This approach to leadership development is widely considered unconventional, but it lays a strong foundation for leadership that is not only more effective but also resilient and deeply empathetic.
During our discussion, Amy Fox posited that unresolved trauma could hinder the natural leadership qualities inherent in every individual. The spectrum of trauma is broad, extending from family addiction and alcoholism, emotional or physical abuse, racial prejudice, poverty, to the personal loss of loved ones. She made it clear that such experiences erect self-protective barriers that, while useful in navigating challenging circumstances, can limit our potential as leaders. For instance, the pressure of perfectionism, a product of traumatic experiences, can result in demanding and seemingly caustic attitudes towards others. I struggle with this – seeking from others what is or was expected from me. Nothing felt good enough – and for this reason I strove for perfection over progress.
Ignoring the shadows of the past or underestimating the importance of our past experiences can lead to hollow leadership, dependent solely on external validation, achievement and positioning. Healing requires not only self-awareness but also the courage to confront and work through the pain and hurt buried deep within us. The power in personal transformation is that it reshapes not just the individual, but their interactions and their impact on the world around them by tapping into their distinctive leadership potential. Individuals can realign with their authentic selves and invite a form of leadership that centers on well-being and collaboration within their sphere of influence, driving both personal growth and community development. So while the journey may be tough, the pay-off is priceless. I embrace progress over perfection!
Transform Leaders, Transform the Organization
If the individual suffers, the individuals surrounding suffer, and the organization suffers. Amy strongly believes that dedicating time for holistic healing and introspection is fundamental to personal growth and contributes positively to organizational transformation. Everyone, regardless of their position or role, has the potential to create a lasting, positive change. I firmly believe in this – it may feel great to leap from goal to goal, but learning to enjoy the process with the team around me has been incredibly meaningful.
The transformation that results from resolving our past traumas can be powerful, enabling us to tap into our full potential, lead with more authenticity, and contribute meaningfully to our organizations. This understanding also has wide-ranging implications for corporations – fostering an environment that recognizes the importance of mental health and healing can lead to healthier, happier, and more resilient teams. Making trauma healing a part of personal and professional discourse is a strategic move towards better leadership and organizational development. Amy’s insights underscore the need for a dialogue that acknowledges the role of trauma, leading to a workplace where every member feels valued, heard, and empowered. This approach is not just a necessity but also a strategic path toward better leadership and organizational development.
Understanding the impact of trauma is not only beneficial on an individual level, but also promotes a healthier, more resilient organizational culture, where every member feels valued, heard, and safe to express themselves. Encourage psychological safety within teams, present opportunities that unlock transparent dialog within teams and identify a mechanism to track the pulse of team on a regular basis. The improved engagement will show its results in the energy, awareness and collaboration amongst the team.
The topic of understanding trauma and its impact on our personal and professional lives is immensely significant. The conversation with Amy Fox sheds light on how experiences of trauma, often overlooked or neglected, can shape our behaviors and hinder our potential. By recognizing the importance of inner healing, we can begin the transformational journey towards more effective leadership. It’s a chance to shift our perspectives, to dig deeper, and to recognize that our past experiences don’t define us, but they can guide us. If we dare to face our past traumas, we can unlock new possibilities within ourselves and as a result, contribute positively to organizational transformation.
It is time to strip back the armor and let our light shine. The journey to self-discover, heal and rewire is lifelong and requires courage. You and I are not alone – let’s take the first tiny (and mighty) step together!
Amy Elizabeth Fox, co-founder and CEO of Mobius Executive Leadership, a premier transformational leadership firm offering immersive executive development services including experiential leadership sessions, executive coaching and executive retreats. Amy has been guiding weeklong programs for senior leaders in the private and public sector for twenty years including CEOs and Board Chairs of Footsie 100 companies and top team members of the Fortune 500. She is a pioneer in introducing trauma literacy into vertical leadership development
Beginning in the Fall of 2023 she will join the faculty of both the University of Chicago’s Leadership In Society program and the African Leadership Institute’s Tutu Fellows program. In 2024 she will co-lead with Thomas Huebl a global certificate program for trauma informed consultants and coaches.
Learn more about her at Mobius Executive Leadership and LinkedIn.
Listen to the full podcast with Amy below.
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