“I’ve come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us… I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to *prevent* children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.”
“It’s absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does…”
“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”
Managers and leaders know that most people are looking (consciously or not) for a number of things. These include:
- autonomy – the freedom to decide what they should do, when they should do it
- some control over their own future
- a chance to plan, act and succeed
- to improve things – to make them better
- to take some responsibility – to enjoy it – to seek it
- to be active rather than passive – to have an orientation towards action – rather than reaction to the instructions and orders of others
- to be a person rather than a human resource – a cog in a machine
- to be creative and autonomous
- to be acknowledged, recognised and valued by others.
Managers and leaders can establish relationships with people that help them to look for, and find, these things. People develop, talent flourishes, relationships improve and performance can excel. This group of people usually respond very well to the introduction of effective management and leadership as they it offers a vehicle for accelerating progress.
However some people are not looking for any of this.
They do not want freedom, or responsibility. They want instructions, structure and clarity. They want other people to do the thinking and the creativity. They want to be the foot soldiers – doing an honest days work for an honest days pay. They do not see life as a vehicle either for their own self development or creative expression. They are not looking for self-actualisation but security and control. This group can be very resistant to leadership, seeing it as an intrusion. They are likely to resist development, and accept change grudgingly, if at all.
There are several things to consider here:
- the first type of response is deemed ‘healthy’ – for society , the organisation and the individual. In these circumstances it is likely that people will thrive. The relationship is synergistic – what is good for the individual is likely to be good for the organisation and vice versa.
- the second type of response is not ‘healthy’. It is a defence mechanism. It leads to staleness, frustration and at best mediocrity. It is characterised by a loss of synergy – the perception being that what is good for the organisation or society will not be good for the individual and vice versa.
- the type of response that we find depends, in large part, on management and leadership style. For decades leadership has encouraged people to respond passively to direction to follow the ones who ‘knows the way and shows the way’. Some of it may be driven by personality or by experiences from the past or from outside the work context – but in most cases the response we get tells us much about our own management.
Go to the people
Live with them
Learn from them
Start with what they know
Build with what they have
But with the best leaders
When the work is done
The task accomplished
The people will say
“We have done this ourselves.”
Lao Tsu (700 BC)
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Since Lockdown I have been convening regular dialogues on the need to develop our practice as leadership developers, and it has been a spiritually, emotionally and intellectual rewarding endeavour.
Here is a little flavour…
Dialoguer 1: In the work I did for thirty years or something I did a lot of work with leaderless groups where there was no appointed leader or designated leader. And then the leadership just begins to flow. It wells up out of the ground, right? Like looking at spring water. It’s there, its rich in our relationships as human beings, it’s hard to even suppress it. Because we are potentially able to exhibit leadership in any situation.Leadership Dialogue 7
It’s hard to suppress it. You allow leadership to flow between people and the one who has it, at any instant, right, so one moment it’s the elder the next moment, it’s the problem solver or something, you know that it bubbles. It, effervesces in relationships, as people begin to engage with each other, allowing each other to, to respond.
Dialoguer 2: The language there reminds me of a poem that Rumi wrote in about 1500 and something called Two kinds of Intelligence. And I was wondering if we could reimagine it around two kinds of leadership. He talks about the first kind of intelligence as what you learn at school, it’s manufactured, it’s created. You learn it from books and from teachers and you collect it, you amass it, and he talks about how that’s a hard intelligence to maintain. But it does give you a certain power in the world. And he talks about strolling with your intelligence around the world. And then he talks about the second kind of intelligence as being already complete and in you. Like a spring that overflows, that bubbles up. And he and he, he talks about cultivating that second form of intelligence as being the key to transcendence really. But most of us get judged by our first form of intelligence. You know, how much knowledge we’ve got in our heads? And it just just strikes me there. You know, this thing of leadership as learned technique, versus leadership as an innate expression of love.
If you would like to join us in a future exploration into Leadership and Its Development you can do so here….https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/102888121140
I saw two very different broad type of responses to c19.
The first is was that of widespread paralysis. Like rabbits caught in headlights. Sat waiting for the ‘top’ or the ‘centre’, or ‘HQ’ to figure things out and give us clear guidance and instructions. If in doubt – do nothing and await further instructions. Or, keep doing what we have always done – but do it with greater commitment, greater risk, and greater efforts to mitigate the risk too. It is a reflection of a particular culture where organisations and individuals have formed a dependency on an ‘authority’, that will eventually ‘know the way’ and ‘show the way’. And a reliance on habits and routines that have been proven to work in the past and will surely, hopefully, prevail again. It was a culture of ‘closed innovation’ where some were paid to think and lead while others followed.
The second broad response was that of open innovation and creativity. Self organising and mutually supporting groups and networks have springing up within days and all sort of innovations being tested. Restaurants becoming take-aways. Makers clubs running online. Choirs and bands performing from the sofas using collaboration platforms and music being released at an amazing rate. GPs suddenly doing nearly all of their consultations online. New hospitals are spring up within weeks. This world is moving quickly, collaboratively and positively.
What influences which of these two reactions we get in a crisis? Well, certainly personality, history and culture play a huge part.
Some people are more prone to ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ when they face a threat – they act. They experiment. They test their assumptions by trying things out. While others are more prone to freeze. Let others take the risks. As the way forward becomes clear, guidelines will appear and we can the move with safety.
In our evolutionary history both can work.
I also think organisational culture and structure play a part.
Families with strong leaders look to the leader for assurance and guidance. Organisations with strong hierarchies look to the senior management and the board for guidance and instructions, while families with more distributed leadership start talking to each other about what next. Organisations with more empowered structures start to blossom with experiments as individuals and groups start to test the new waters in terms of what works, and share what they know.
But which is best? How should we develop our systems to better respond in the future. Well, I don’t think it is either/or.
It is both/and.
The best responses have both a strong top down influence and this blossoming of innovation. They work together – exchanging information. Listening, challenging, supporting, testing. A clear sense of direction and purpose re-stated from the top. A strong culture of connection and innovation learning and sharing how to work for this purpose in the new world.
Dependency is replaced by a healthier, more human relationship. A genuine association around a shared purpose that knows how to work with both power and love.
Take a good look at your systems. What reactions are you seeing to the crisis?
What does it teach you about the need for things to be different in the future?