In part I of this post, I pointed the truth that the authentic expression of leadership involves an upgrade in their operating system or consciousness of a human being. And when this update occurs critical applications, commonly labeled as leadership competencies, boot up within the person without the need for specialized training. Further, this natural process is not supported by most approaches to leadership development. In this post, I will share what is behind this leadership transformation as well as share my perspective on what must be in place catalyze this ‘upgrade’.
Before I discuss this, let me share my definition of leadership:
Leadership generates a context that brings out the best in others, leading to high performance and profound outcomes in service to a great mission.
In other words, the leader’s primary task is to generate context that creates fertile soil for results and actions that forward the organization’s mission and priorities. An executive can do a far better job of facilitating this context once they transform themselves. When this transformation occurs, the individual is not attempting to ‘do’ leadership based on some intellectual understanding. They are ‘being’ a leader, and their very presence powerfully influences those around them. The positive impact on business outcomes that results from this human upgrade into leadership are exponential.
Given the current leadership crisis we are facing, it is important for organizations to foster a new approach leadership development that bases itself in the truth around how leadership is actually developed. And such a truth based process must begin at the top because the senior team’s leadership culture creates the most powerful context for the transformation of leadership within the organization.
When one awakens to leadership, an increased ability to influence and create value is born and individuals begin to trust their presence and instincts more, moment to moment. When this shift happens stress drops, work relationships become richer, and a natural peripheral vision is born that naturally understands what has to happen to forward important outcomes. And those that find themselves around such a transformed individual feel uplifted and inspired to be more authentic and do better.
The difficulty in making the transition to leadership is that the stage of adult development that precedes leadership focuses mostly on trying to control and shift things mechanically on the outside, and there is a general lack of self- awareness. So the resistance to leadership and the development process is quite natural because it in a sense does not compute to those still entranced by reactiveness. An opening occurs as an executive experiences the validity of the shift in both their experience and as they begin to generate a higher quality of outcomes for the business once the internal change to leadership takes place. As was mentioned in the last post, this recognition most frequently blooms when the mindset prior to leadership starts creating negative consequences or the individual faces a crisis the feels beyond their current conditioning to solve.
That said, most executives will outwardly acknowledge the desire to engage their talent and see the value of creating innovative, value-creating organizations. So the desire to improve outcomes is the doorway organizations can use to encourage the wake-up call in their executives. After all building an organization that more powerfully delivers on their missions, retains their talent and generates generous profits is of highest importance. And it is common sense that if those supporting the mission fully align with the organization’s direction, find inspiration when coming into the office and work with others more collaborative way than business results would take care of themselves.
Unfortunately, there is a shared, unconscious misunderstanding around how we develop leadership. This misconception (also discussed in my last post) appears as we attempt to develop leaders through training and experiences that try to instill individual competencies. It’s not that there is no value in that approach, it just does not create the most direct path to powerfully awakening leadership.
A big reason we engage the current approach is that we believe that by guiding people’s thinking we can turn them into leaders. The challenge we face, in large measure, is because running organizations has more and more become analytically driven. The rise of technology, while having many benefits, has only reinforced an addiction to believing we can figure everything out through our minds and that increasing efficiency of process solves most problems. And this growing tendency to over-think is the main reason for the leadership crisis we face, record low employee engagement, a lack of innovation and the muting of value creation, especially in larger organizations. And I know some who read this will get cross-eyed with this paragraph. After all, what do I mean about over-thinking and why is it such an issue? To answer this, we must understand how human beings naturally get so identified with the thinking mind.
From the time we came out of the womb, we have been programmed – by our families, communities, society and our life experiences. All of this enters us and generates a perspective of the world. Our beliefs, memories, imagination and habits around how we focus our attention were mostly not chosen by us and our combined conditioning forms a kind of prescription that we ‘look through’ and this unconsciously directs our behaviors. Over time, as we add more and more life experience, our thinking becomes more and more habitual. Again, most of what we took in and accepted as true in life was not chosen by us and we have never questioned it. Yet, we live out of the assumption it is true.
All this ‘personal programing’ leads to forming habits of judgment about what is happens inside us (our thoughts, feelings sensations) and what happens outside (relationships, events, objects). And this is going on for every human being, each walking around looking through their own unique prescription. In short, there is one earth yet 7.4 plus billion worlds. And each person’s ‘world’ is a matrix of thoughts, feelings, and sensations that we identify with as us. This conditioned identity, created in the natural course of life is what we begin the challenge through the leadership development process. In short, we are being programmed by our experiences that then create the illusion we are making conscious decisions to do things in a particular way believing they will lead to a highly desired result.
Recent findings from Neuroscience support all that I am sharing. For example, Neuroscience is discovering is that 95% of the time most human beings are on automatic pilot. Automatic pilot means we are operating a large amount of the time from habits of thinking based on our past conditioning yet live in under the illusion we actually have more free will than we do.
Robert Scheinfeld, the author of many books, including the New York Times best seller, Busting Loose from the Money Game, compares the mind to Google’s search engine. When we something within us or in the outside world magnetically draws our attention, we begin processing what it means based on our past conditioning, which in a sense serve as our search algorithms. In other words, we use the past to try to understand what is happening and then react from the meaning the mind makes of the internal reaction and external situation. This habit of thinking entrances us because we identify with our mind as a firm reality. When we do this we tend to miss opportunities or solutions that are presenting themselves to us at that moment.
Again, this last paragraph will likely bring a discomfort to some who read it. This discomfort arises because it challenges the very notion of the unconscious belief that we are the same as what we think. We can easily discount this idea if you are willing to trust your experience that shows you that you are not what you think. For example, when you walk out to your car after work and approach it, the car is seen, but you know you are not your car. Similarly, if you if you were to raise your left hand and look at it, you can see it but you know it is not you. The question then becomes how do you know you have a particular opinion or feel strongly about a decision? It is because you see these thoughts and feelings and thus because you can see them you are cannot them. There is something watching it all that is the real you.
Again, just as when we watch TV or are involved in some powerful experience we can become entranced by it, most of us are walking around entranced by our thoughts and they are in charge of running our actions, not us. Sometimes we can even take an action and wonder ‘why did I do that, that makes no sense?’ But it does because you are reacting unconsciously based on a conditioned pattern of thinking. Most of our actions, including the ones that we engage in as executives are all based on the past.
I am not saying, what you think or feel is unimportant. What I am saying is you are far more than what you think and feel. And This recognition and the process of discovering one’s deeper, more powerful nature is the root of developing leaders. Again, innovation, the creation of inspiring contexts and value creation are key outcomes of leadership. Such outcomes are far more difficult for one entranced by their personal view of the world. Given this, the question is what does have to be in place to support the transformation of leadership? There are two levels of this, organizational and individual as noted by the table below:
If an organization is serious about strengthening the expression of leadership and desire to ensure the maximum business benefits that come from creating a leadership rich culture, these are the foundations that must be in place. And investment in a leadership development process that includes these fundamentals is the only way to resolve the current leadership crisis. Yes, it requires a leap of faith to make this a priority yet the organizations that are willing to do so will benefit greatly, including in their bottom line. That’s the truth.