I believe that both leadership failures and leadership successes can be traced to a common question: has the leader done his or her internal work?
That work – the decision to diminish the influence of one’s past experience on one’s present behaviors – always precedes external awareness. It always precedes one’s ability to remain rooted and resilient in the face of change.
Put another way, the capacity of a leader to accept and engage with external change in a manner that is reassuring, resourceful, collaborative, and brimming with empathy for whomever is most affected, is positively correlated to the degree to which that leader is free from the constrictions of old adaptations.
This is crucial to understand because every day a leader does not act upon this knowledge is another day he employs an operating model that was once relevant but is now obsolete. And operating from an obsolete model like, for example, the need to be right, the need for endless praise, the need for easy answers to complex problems, the reliance on dualism, the need for allegiance, endlessly avoiding responsibility while blaming others, all of these only lead to the promotion of anxiety while failing to address the demands of change.
Think of it this way: people were driving and crashing their cars for a long time before seat belts, safety glass and air bags showed up. Those inventions don’t prevent the crashes, they limit the human damage. What was once a sure fatality is now more likely a few bruises and an insurance hassle.
Doing the most comprehensive internal work we can do equips us, just like those safety features, to make contact with change without it causing permanent damage to the people we are privileged to lead.
This is #41 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.” Here’s a slightly different take on today’s post.
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