Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.
This week’s article is written by the team at Third Wave, and focuses on material from their founder and CEO Paul F. Austin, one of the most prominent voices in the world of psychedelics. It is a companion piece to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-Creating Our Future titled Fringe or Mainstream? Leaders Explore Psychedelics, which aired on April 11, 2023.
|Short clip from the interview:||Link to the entire interview:|
From neurology to organizational psychology, we constantly strive to bring you the latest in leadership development. That means we will occasionally explore leadership topics that are on the edge, outliers from the mainstream, but nonetheless may play a role in leadership development in years to come. That starts with today’s newsletter. It’s about the rising use of psychedelics among leaders not as recreation, but to help with decision making and other business issues. As we take this first step in exploring lesser-known perspectives on leadership, we understand some people are uncomfortable with the concept of psychedelic use, but believe keeping you informed is important.
Please note that microdosing is not for everyone, may not be legal where you live, can exacerbate certain conditions, and should always occur with an experienced, certified coach or therapist.
Microdosing, or taking “sub-perceptual” low doses of psychedelics, has many applications for people who are experiencing emotional distress and those who generally feel well. One lesser-known benefit of microdosing is enhanced leadership.
Third Wave founder Paul Austin, in his book Mastering Microdosing: How to Use Sub-Perceptual Psychedelics to Heal Trauma, Improve Performance, and Transform Your Life (2022), discusses how taking regular, tiny doses of psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms enhances leadership potential.
What is Microdosing?
A sub-perceptual low dose of a psychedelic is low enough that you don’t experience classic psychedelic effects like visual distortions, hallucinations, intense emotional states, a strong body high, and deep introspection. However, this dose should still be high enough for you to “feel it” slightly.
You may experience an elevation in mood, creativity, mindfulness, focus, and energy. A microdosing regimen usually follows a routine such as dosing one day, taking two days off, then microdosing on the third day. You’ll typically repeat this protocol for a few weeks to a few months.
Many people experience mental health benefits following microdosing magic mushrooms or LSD, such as the alleviation of depression symptoms. 2021 research published in Scientific Reports revealed that microdosers report lower levels of anxiety and depression, and higher levels of well-being compared to non-microdosers.
The Relationship Between Microdosing and Leadership
Austin emphasizes that better leaders are desperately needed right now: “As the world evolves and we continue to develop new technology at a breathtaking pace, leadership demands are increasing.”
But what does it mean to be an effective leader? Austin explains: “Leaders need to adapt quickly to new situations and bring a creative, entrepreneurial problem-solving spirit to their endeavors. Microdosing can enhance both abilities.”
This connection between the microdosing experience and leadership is informed by Austin’s personal experiences, as he believes his “leadership path and overall character development are closely tied to microdosing.”
Prior to starting Third Wave, Austin had minimal leadership experience, but he cultivated that skill by starting and growing the company. Deriving benefits from a microdosing regimen, he discovered the many joys of leadership:
- Articulating a vision that resonates with people
- Contributing to a cause and mission greater than oneself
- Being able to speak about uncomfortable topics
- Cultivating the skills of social intelligence and public speaking
- Empowering team members to be responsible, purposeful, passionate, and productive
Austin believes microdosing may also provide changes in thinking, feeling, and behavior that can prove beneficial when dealing with leadership challenges, namely, learning how to deal with criticism, and prioritizing self-care instead of overworking.
Managing the Ego
Leaders must be able to create a positive work culture where employees feel empowered to be their best selves.
“Leadership is evolving to be less hierarchical, dominant, and aggressive, and more about curating and cultivating space to allow the best people to step in and contribute,” says Austin.
This requires “managing the ego,” according to Austin. Managing the ego means not reacting defensively when your self-image feels threatened, being open to honest feedback, and accepting criticism as an opportunity to improve. Self-aware leaders should be secure enough to admit wrongdoing without losing sight of their vision. “Microdosing can help leaders make this shift,” says Austin.
A Balanced Approach to Thinking and Feeling
An effective leader is someone who knows when to take an analytical approach to problems and when to follow their gut feelings.
To find this balance, however, and adapt these styles in light of changing circumstances, “requires a significant degree of honest self-reflection,” and many business leaders have found that microdosing enables such a mindset.
Microdosing can “facilitate a flexible balance” and adaptability with regard to the different attitudes we can take towards problems in business, according to Austin, and thereby help leaders adapt to an uncertain future.
Austin also used this balancing of two important ways of being when building Third Wave. He states:
“I have hired team members on several occasions by focusing solely on how their skill sets would allow them to contribute. Determining this fit was task-based—I had to create clear expectations of everyone’s tasks.
“At other times, the candidate’s values have taken center stage in the hiring process. I understand that my feeling and intuition of who the person was and my sense of the values that dictated their work were better predictors of success in the long run.”
Divergent Thinking and Creativity
Novel problems require creative solutions. Many business leaders find that microdosing improves divergent thinking, or the processing of creating multiple, unique ideas or solutions to a problem you are facing.
Leaders also succeed when immersed in finding new and better ways of completing a task, a process that they find deeply fulfilling. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has called this process flow. “The adaptability and focus that go hand-in-hand with microdosing perfectly complement this concept,” says Austin.
Many entrepreneurs can also have some of their best creative ideas when in a microdose headspace. As Austin told Quartz, “I started microdosing in June 2015 and I did it for seven months, and through that I came up with the idea of the Third Wave.”
In 2020, Business Insider also reported on how company founders were generating new business ideas through microdosing. And a 2018 study found that “both convergent and divergent thinking performance was improved after a non-blinded microdose.” (Convergent thinking involves reaching one well-defined solution to a problem.)
On Tribal Leadership
In the book Tribal Leadership, authors Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright explain the state of leadership culture today and how we can shift toward one that prioritizes the common good. While the authors don’t discuss microdosing, Austin believes that this practice of using psychedelic medicine is relevant to generating compassionate leadership.
In Tribal Leadership, the authors argue that professional cultures in the US are mostly defined by the excellence of the individual, not the group. A more evolved kind of culture, they believe, is a collective of core values and group members working toward a shared goal.
When leaders embody this latter kind of culture, the benefits are myriad: new waves of creativity and success and reduced fear, stress, and friction. As touched on previously, by reducing the grip of the ego and encouraging creativity and flexibility, microdosing can help leaders see why a collaborative culture is much healthier and more productive than a competitive, egocentric approach to leadership.
Final Thoughts on Microdosing and Leadership
Austin summarizes the benefits of microdosing to leaders as follows:
The requirements to succeed as a twenty-first-century entrepreneur—the ability to find creative solutions that address complex or chaotic problems, the capacity to self-reflect honestly and incorporate feedback from several sources in your processes, and the power to tap into a flow state to produce your best, most meaningful work—are things that microdosing supports. Of course, microdosing alone won’t make you a great entrepreneur. Still, it does hold the potential to unlock the qualities that leaders need to develop and carry out their visions in a dynamic and fast-changing world.
Disclaimer: Psychedelics are largely illegal substances, and we do not encourage or condone their use where it is against the law. However, we accept that illicit drug use occurs and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this document is designed to enhance the safety of those who decide to use these substances.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Paul F. Austin is one of the most prominent voices in the world of psychedelics.
As the founder of Third Wave, he has educated millions on the importance of safe and effective psychedelic experiences. A pioneer at the intersection of microdosing, personal transformation, and professional success, he has been featured in Forbes, Rolling Stone, and the BBC’s Worklife.
Paul helps others use microdosing as a tool for professional development and increased self-awareness by treating the use of psychedelics as a skill refined through mentorship and courageous exploration.
Learning how to master this skill will be crucial in the story of humanity’s present-future evolution.
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