During the past eighteen months I’ve been focusing in my studies and research on leadership. I’ve focused this modeling in preparation for creating a leadership matrix using the Matrix model and for the first presentation of it next year in Geneva Switzerland (April 2006). Already Michelle Duval has been coaching a Leadership Matrix with various CEOs and senior management. Already we have a list of leadership criteria for Neuro-Semantics along with benchmarks for that criteria (Article on Website and in the Trainers manual).
Given that in one reference I discovered that there are over 6,000 titles on leadership and that’s just in English, what can we add? What’s new in the area of leadership?
Actually there are many, many new things. Various authors have been mapping out new distinctions in their studies about the many different kinds of leaders and styles of leadership as well some of the meta-skills critical for leadership. I’ll save those for later articles as well as for the Leadership Matrix model as well as applications of the Meaning/Performance axes for leadership.
For now I’d like to offer some reflections about leadership that I’ve been experiencing, how it relates to Neuro-Semantics, and implications for all of us. After all, the first and most immediate application that I have for these studies is my own need for getting clear on the leadership I have and want to offer as well as empowering others to become leaders in Neuro-Semantics so that together we can train up a new generation of leaders.
Ultimately, leadership is not a thing, but a process and therefore more accurately described using verbs than nouns. As a process, it’s about what and how we what we do. There’s only leadership when someone is leading out in thought or action and there are people who like that leading and so follow that lead. This makes the whole leadership thing an interactive interpersonal process involving communicating, relating, framing, acting, collaborating, giving and receiving feedback, and many, many other actions. This makes any and every leader’s leading a present-tense dynamic dependent upon ongoing exchange of vision, mission, values, style, etc.
Two reflections for now.
First is that the heart of leadership is about envisioning and pioneering a new path. I did not realize that’s what was happening when I first discovered the Meta-States model. While it brought together all kinds of things that I had been holding in suspense, all of the ambiguities that I had been embracing about mind and consciousness through years of reading Bateson, Korzybski, and many others, at first I only assumed that Meta-States was another pattern or two. It wasn’t long before I realized that it was an entire model, a model mapping out the workings of our self-reflexive consciousness.
Discovering that I followed that line of thought into the field of Meta-Cognition, Systems, the Cognitive sciences, neuro-science, Cognitive Linguistics, etc. Eventually, the model came together and created quite a stir in the field of NLP as it opened up new vistas of possibilities and eventually leading to some 150 new patterns. Writing about Meta-States in various journals and speaking about the model at various NLP Conferences, I began to travel upon invitations. Eventually, this led to the first Meta-State Certification training in Houston Texas.
While this description of some of the history may sound like I came up with it on my own, I did not. The model emerged as many others began asking questions, hard questions, explorative questions, as others saw new applications, connections, relationships with other models and ideas. Over the years I have attempted to track and credit the individuals who stimulated my thinking and further research but I’m sure that I’ve overlooked many who provided me feedback about things. In this example of a leadership of ideas, the so-called leading intimately involved the ones catching a vision of the ideas and seeing their inherent value. Again, it is a leading-following interaction of relationship.
And it is more. Meta-States satisfied a longing of mine about congruency. When I entered into the field of NLP, incongruency was the thing that struck me as the weakest link and the very thing that would threaten its success. I was both shocked and unsurprised when I first heard Richard Bandler say that he could not do NLP on himself during a training. Shocked because “how could that be?” If it’s about running your own brain and managing your own state, then just practice until you can do it on yourself?” Why not? But unsurprised when I saw how obese he was (and other things).
My longing was to find a pattern for “applying to self” and that’s, in part, what kept gnawing at me in the back of my mind about our self-reflexive minds. Paths are envisioned and pioneered by the presence of problems, difficulties, conflicts, stresses, distresses, traumas, and things not going right or things not working well. It is our of our necessities that we become the most creative. Therefore leading and training others to lead obviously involve enabling and empowering people to have embrace problems, welcome conflict, develop opportunity-seeing eyes when things are not going well. Such is the soil for creative leadership. So, given that, who’s game?
The second reflection. I’ve been discovering that, like wealth creation, there are many paradoxes about leadership. One is that to be a leader demands both being liked and disliked, followed and resisted, adored and hated. This is true when we think of the world-class leaders who have created revolutions, led nations, changed culture, created new industries and companies, etc. It is also true on much smaller levels. We both love and hate those who lead out. Take a stand – any stand – and you will have both your admirers and those who hate your guts. This is one of the occupational hazards and prices of being a leader.
With the recent conflict over one person, not a few have asked me what’s it like to receive so much hateful insults and slander. I mostly think, “part of the price. The way it’s been since I took Meta-States and Neuro-Semantics international. Par for the course.” Others have asked, “Why don’t you defend yourself?” My answer is that I don’t have to. If others want to waste their time and energy criticizing me rather, that’s their choice. Like the title of a book I saw many years ago, “Your opinion of me is none of my business.” That’s very Neuro-Semantic; I’m in charge of my response-powers and power zone so that what I’m responsible for pretty much ends at my nose.
In addition to that, I have so much better things to do than fuss about whether everybody likes me. I’m working on several new models, I have a book I’ve looking to finish on self-actualization, I have trainings to conduct, research to continue, a beautiful lady to love, a wonderful daughter to spend time with, rental properties to manage, a book business to look after, etc. Why would I want to waste time with trying to control the whining complaints of people who don’t like me? Hey, they are giving me free rent in their heads!
If you’re going to lead, you are going to piss some people off. It’s inevitable. As a leader my only focus about that is that I make sure that this pissing off power comes from the vision, mission, and values that I’m promoting and living, and not otherwise. If people don’t like the Vision of Neuro-Semantics and our mission or the values that we stand up for, well, they’re not invited to our party just as I’m not invited to their party. Now, where’s the red wine and who wants to propose the first toast?
Leadership Reflections #2
The first two reflections about leadership regarding anyone leading in any area of life, in personal life, business, in thought, in innovations, etc. are these
1) envisions and sets visions about the future, a bright dream and then
2) will be both loved and hated for that,
Given this, this leads to the next reflection which is a tough one, especially for those newly stepping up to a leadership role. Namely,
3) Leaders have to be able to take the heat.
This third reflection arises because leaders dance a thin line between the present and future, they have to be sufficiently grounded in today to know what’s happening and the needs that are desperately felt. They also have to have a vision of the future regarding applying some solution that will create a better world or situation. A leader who is too far “ahead of his or her time,” will not be recognized as a leader at all, but as a kook, as a wild-eye visionary, an impractical and dreamy illusionary, and therefore easily dismissed. A leader who is following the wave of the next important development, well, that person actually isn’t leading at all.
An interesting phenomenon of most leaders is that in hindsight what the leader saw, discovered, invented, facilitated, or expressed the next generation sees as “obvious.” People comment, “Why didn’t I see that?” “It was there all the time.” None of what Martin Luther King, Edwards Deming, or Nelson Mandela said or did was “revolutionary” in that the ideas were available. The leader is the one who sees first a new and exciting application and acts on that insight. The leader sees a solution, or at perhaps the application of a solution, that others had already suggested. The leader takes at least one step forward into the future and from that position pioneers the next new step. Sometimes this alone describes the genius of leadership.
In doing this, the leader stands up for something important. That stand then galvinizes the minds and hearts of others so they also catch the vision. They also now see the future. For this the leader is loved by some; hated by others. For this, some provide the support that allows the person to be recognized as a leader; for this also others find the person threatening the status quo and so fights to resist the proposed change. In this a leader has to be a person with conviction, determination, confidence, and the gall to stand up for his or her vision.
A caricature of this is the “politician” who wets his finger, puts it in the air and tests which way the wind of opinion is blowing to determine his view or position. That’s not leadership. Anyone who can read a poll could do that. Leaders take a stand about a direction. Of course, leaders also need to be liked, even loved and admired by some people, in order to be a leader. If no one is following, a person is not a leader. Leadership arises as a social construct of recognition. Yet it is in taking a stand that every leader at every level of every society will also be disliked, and even hated and despised, by some.
What does it take to be a leader and to lead out into a new area? For one thing, you have to be able to take the heat. Those who fear criticism, rejection, difficulty, conflict, embarrassment, and so on will not endure as a leader.
So what is a leader-in-training suppose to do? How do we prepare ourselves so that we can handle the heat? We can use such patterns as “taking criticism positively,” “un-insultability,” “distinguishing map from territory; person from behavior,” “optimism,” “developing ego-strength, and “resilience,” to develop the ego strength necessary. This also is where the ability to receive feedback comes a magical trait for ongoing development for leaders (see the series, The Magic of Feedback).
How did Nelson Mandela handled the heat? Or Martin Luther King Jr.? How about Jesus of Nazareth? You may not know it but Jesus was repeatedly accused of associating with drunks and whores and yet he answered not a word. He spent not a minute defending himself. Instead he stayed his course to fulfill his vision about love, faith, hope, and sacrifice.
If you respond to the call for leadership (and in Neuro-Semantics, we see the roles of training and coaching as leadership roles), then get ready for the heat. Get ready for the pressure of criticism and accusations. If you’re doing anything significant, you’re giong to face it. Leadership, in the end, is not about wealth, fame, glory, and recognition, it is about serving people, adding value, and being true to your vision.
Leadership Reflections #3
Review of reflections about leadership.
1) Leaders envision and set visions about the future.
2) Leaders are both loved and hated.
3) Leaders have to be able to take the heat for leading out.
Two more reflections about leadership for now:
4) Leaders are leaders only to the extent that they add value.
If it all begins with seeing the future and stepping out to make the solutions of that future present in the now, then the external side of leadership involves adding value. It may involve adding value to customers and clients, it may involve adding value to a business, corporation, or organization, it may involve adding value where there are hurts and problems, but in some way the leader is a leader because he or she adds value to others.
This raises some very personal questions for anyone in leadership or training for leadership: “What value am I adding? Value to whom, when, where, and how? How can I add more value to what I offer? How do I or others measure the value I add? How does it affect the bottom-line, customer satisfaction, quality of products, etc.?
Those who are put into roles of leadership, and who assume the title of leader, but who do not contribute to the value of the business, to clients, customers, employees, etc., are not truly leaders because they are not truly leading. A true leader gives, contributes, and serves. Ah, here is another one of those paradoxes of leadership. You have to have a servant’s heart to truly lead.’
Why is that? Because leadership is about giving to others something of value—a vision, a solution, a new product, process, pattern, etc. Without enriching the lives of others, a leader is more of a bureaucrat administrating an organization that, while in name, is supposed to be adding value to others, is more likely to be self-serving as it is structured with rules that serve the organization, not the customer.
As a leader gives birth to something new, something that adds to the quality of life of others, he or she also has to nurture and care for that new creation. Because nothing is birthed full-grown, leaders need patience, love, commitment, etc. to bring a new moment, idea, business, or organization so that it is robust and effective.
I have often written that Neuro-Semantics is about performing meaning and enriching performance with meaning. Given that, then the culture we want to create is that of a performance based culture. That means one where actually acting on what we do, translating ideas into actions, taking great ideas and actualizing them in performance, walking the talk, and closing the knowing-doing gap is important. This is equally true for leaders. They have to be creating and adding value to those they lead.
5) Leaders live the vision
If adding value is the exterior facet of leadership, the interior aspects of leadership is living the vision. Gandhi put it most succinctly, “Be the change that you want to create.” This speaks about the importance of a leader living the vision that he or she sees. This speaks about personal congruence and authenticity.
While Howard Gardner (Leading Minds) recognizes and distinguishes that this and yet asserts that this is not so true or important for “thought leaders.” Those who lead via their ideas, models, concepts, etc., especially those who lead from ivory towers, are not required to “walk their talk.” Gardner illustrated with Einstein. His own personal life did not (perhaps could not) validate or invalidate his thoughts about special or general relativity in physics. Yet when Albert Einstein was invited to be the first Prime Minister to the newly formed nation of Israel, he declined. In his letter he said that he had no training and little aptitude for leading people and so declined the offer.
If leadership is a co-created social construct arising from interpersonal interactions, then it inevitably involves sharing of one’s authenticity. It involves hearing what the leader truly thinks and feels, truly believes and cares in, truly envisions and wants. Leaders who only tell what they think people want to hear undermine the very heart and soul of leadership.
In this leadership is not only what one does, but what one is. It’s about one’s being—one’s inner heart and soul. In Daniel Goleman’s work on applying the concepts of emotional intelligence to leadership (Primal Leadership), he has described what he called “emotional resonance” that enables one to provide emotional leadership. It is this inner side of leadership that calls upon the leader to be direct, straight, forthright, warm, respectful, honest, caring, to be his or her word, etc. The more they determined their position from opinion and popularity polls, the less authentic their voice and contribution.
To facilitate that, a leader has to have an open and receptive frame of mind to feedback, to the giving and receiving of feedback, to taking on board reflections from others, and integrating changes in one’s own behavior and lifestyle. To not do that is to say, “I’m above this and will not make myself accountable for walking the talk.” And that attitude will essentially prevent any kind of long-term durable leadership. (See The Magic of Feedback articles on the website)
These very personal and intimate facets call upon leaders to be the kind of person that people want to follow. Now you know why the leadership criteria in Neuro-Semantics has both being and doing competencies and put congruency as one of key criteria for Neuro-Semantic leaders. Given that we are leading out in models, patterns, and experiences for enriching lives, empowering people to run their own brains and manage their own states, these are the areas that we have to “walk the talk” in order to make the talk credible. This is our vision and mission in Neuro-Semantics.