29 Apr An interview with Iseult White
Iseult started her career in Silicon Valley, training Apple engineers in software design. She quickly moved to the business side of technology becoming a global marketing manager in services and products. During that time she authored two successful technology books.
Inspired by Silicon Valley entrepreneurship she founded a successful technology services company that led major organisational development programs at Fortune 100 companies like Bankers Trust, J P Morgan, IBM, Motorola, McDonnell Douglas, and McKesson Corporation.
Iseult saw how deeply people fear change and how that fear prevents individuals and organisations from adapting to change and moving to the next level. She realised that the only way we can make change happen in the world around us is by possessing the resilience to redesign our own thinking and acting. en we can lead others and ourselves through challenge. Yet years of helping people through the fast paced change required by new technology taught her how di cult this is for just about everybody.
She made it her life’s mission to discover how to teach resilience – the ability to bounce back and lead oneself and others through change – to anybody. Inspired by her knowledge of meditation, yoga, Chinese medicine, energy psychology and psychotherapy she has created a program called “Develop the leader within; a path to personal leadership.”
This program combines advances in neuroscience, mindfulness, and psychotherapy, to offer a suite of practices that call forth the inner leader in anyone. She currently mentors leaders, teaches mindfulness, and practices psychotherapy, while writing her book on personal leadership.
“A personal leader makes choices from their deepest values and acts decisively, with purpose, from a place of truth.”
Iseult, can you tell me what you mean by leadership?
Too often people think of a leader as a domineering, take charge kind of person, somebody with prestige, perhaps a senior executive or an elected politician. But leadership isn’t signified by level of seniority, title, or position.
Leadership is what we do when we influence the world around us.
Everybody can be come a leader in their own lives, and lead themselves to greater levels of success.
Tell me about your own experiences of Leadership?
There are two formative experiences that define my understanding of leadership.
My Grandfather was a government minister, a founding member of Amnesty International, and went on to win the Nobel prize for peace. As you can imagine I met a lot of great leaders while I was growing up.
Later, after I had completed my research MSc in computer science, I moved to Silicon Valley to work in the high tech industry. I met a lot of entrepreneurial leaders there.
Both of these experiences taught me that not every leader is a personal leader.
Some leaders are driven to success by deep internal drives. They may bring great things into the world, but put it this way, you might not want to be part of their inner circle! Sometimes leaders sacrifice just about everything in service of their path. Take a look at the movie about Steve Jobs if you are not sure what I mean!
When I talk about leadership I am really talking about personal leadership.
What distinguishes a personal leader?
I spent years leading organisational development and change programs in Fortune 100 companies. I noticed that when people are faced with major change they fall into two camps – either they adapt or they get stuck, and mired in negativity, almost paralyzed, like rabbits caught in a headlight.
Again and again I saw that the people who could adapt to change were also able to lead others through the change process. They possessed grit and grace. These people were not necessarily senior managers or team leaders. They were personal leaders.
Personal leaders are not more talented or more charismatic than everybody else. They are not always positive or upbeat. They get things wrong and they don’t feel confident all the time. They often feel fearful and anxious. What differentiates them is resilience, the capacity to bounce back. They recover from set backs and failures.
Can anybody become a personal leader?
Absolutely! Personal leadership is a choice, but it takes practice. Personal leadership comes from the inside out. It is not about learning a set of skills, it is about developing self-awareness, compassion, emotional intelligence, and the capacity to self-direct and self-motivate.
I know that sounds lofty, and possibly even hard to do. But really it is within anybody’s reach, once they have the right set of tools. I know that for sure. Personally I enjoy being successful, and the only way of successfully building resilience in individuals and organizations is by providing people with a variety of practical and pragmatic strategies that work.
Surely we don’t all need to be leaders?
The truth is that every single one of us will be asked to flex our leadership muscles at some stage in our lives, whether that is building a successful business, contributing in your local community, coaching a soccer team, creating a happy family, or leading ourselves and our loved ones through tough personal crises like illness or bereavement.
How does your own story contribute to your philosophy of personal leadership?
I successfully founded and ran my own technology services company. I started a not-for-profit childcare that supports families in my local community. I raised four happy children, my two daughters, and my two step-children. I did all this while experiencing severe PTSD (post traumatic stress).
All my life I held this question, if I could be resilient in the face of trauma, could I teach that resilience to others. When I couldn’t find appropriate treatment for my PTSD I researched new and experimental approaches to curing PTSD. I studied psychotherapy and did my MA research on trauma. On that journey I learned how even the profoundly traumatised can start to build resilience into their lives. Everybody can make use of these lessons.
Tell me about the people and organisations you work with?
I work with senior executives, entrepreneurs, coaches, teams, and boards. Some want to develop a more rounded approach to leadership, some are experiencing difficulties executing against their plans, while others are dealing with burnout, or facing difficult work/ life dilemmas.
I also teach practical mindfulness, communications, and stress management courses to corporate customers. I am currently delivering a wonderful program to Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, supporting the latest batch of entrepreneurs in building their own personal leadership, so they can be the change they want to see in society.
I devote some of my time to working with people who have experienced profound trauma in their lives. Teaching resilience to victims of trauma lets them move from surviving their trauma to thriving in their lives. is is part of my way of giving back, being thankful for the opportunities I was given, and offering what I have learned.
The personal leadership strategies you teach, from where are these drawn?
I am so pleased you asked me that question. Remember I originally studied computer science so I am a geek at heart! I love engineering, science, research, and evidence. But at the same time I have this wonderfully Piscean mystical aspect to my personality. I started meditating and doing yoga at the age of 14, so mindfulness has always been part of my life.
Fortunately our current understanding of resilience marries research into trauma, neuroscience, psychotherapy, social psychology, attachment theory, with traditional wisdom practices like mindfulness and compassion.
From neuroscience we know that we can rewire our brains for resilience. The research from psychotherapy, positive psychology, and mindfulness gives us a blue print for doing this. From systems theory, organisational development, and social psychology we understand how being part of a bigger relational system impacts our resilience, and what to do about it.
I have chosen best of breed strategies from all these areas. I have tested all of these strategies on myself, and I have taught them to a wide variety of people.
What I love about resilience and personal leadership is that I get to combine all the strands of my professional and personal life in one approach. Going back to my computer science days, I even use the approach we pioneered for successful software development in a modified form called RAP, which helps people build out their dreams in an iterative approach based on prototyping their success!
Iseult is our Leadership Expert on The Success Experience, for more details about how she can help you in your career please contact her through her websitewww.iseultwhite.com