In the first installment of this 4-part series on Leadership Enrichment, we addressed the idea that elevating our awareness and increasing our openness to learning can produce higher levels of knowledge through a commitment to Life-Long Learning…step one in the LIFE-cycle. Here is where we will focus on using the knowledge we’ve gained to make decisions regarding what aspects of our personal and organizational Leadership Platforms can and should CHANGE. This is vital because, at the end of the day, we can gain a ton of knowledge and still have nothing to do (e.g., the knowing-doing gap). Ever been there?
If you have, you know that the inherent challenge we’re addressing here is related to the sheer difficulty of change. In fact, it has been said that “no one likes change except a wet baby.” – Anonymous. Regardless, initiating and planning change is inescapable if we are to enrich our leadership.
To do this, we need to understand what precipitates change. One antecedent is necessity, which is a forcing function that reduces our intrinsic motivation to operating from desperation. Another is contingency, which is a freeing function that enables us to operate from inspiration. Sometimes, change is a matter of both functions. As William Pollard observed, “Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”
So here we are concerned with initiating and planning worthwhile changes based on what we have learned about our current level of leadership thinking, behavior and/or performance. This automatically places us in the area of operating from contingency, not necessity, which is far better motivation.
Spend any time in or around the high-performance/high-precision world of defensive tactics for law enforcement or military (MOUT) applications, and you’ll inevitably learn they are driven by a common belief that, in a crisis situation, no one rises to the occasion; rather everyone defaults to the level of their thinking. As a result of this belief, they initiate and plan a lot of activities for developing mental toughness and the right combative mindset through adrenaline stress conditioning and force-on-force (i.e., live-action, reality-based situations) training in order to be better prepared for the worst that their jobs/ missions regularly throw at them.
Personality psychology suggests that this level of thinking and training captures the essence of individuals with high Internal Locus of Control…the second step in the LIFE-cycle for Leadership Enrichment. These are people who believe that events result primarily from their own behavior and actions—that individual efforts count—while those with high external locus of control believe that powerful others, fate or chance primarily determine events.
And this is empirically verifiable. As a United States Marine, retired Airman, former Public Safety Officer and current Combatives Student (always) and Instructor (sometimes), I’ve had the privilege of being around men and women who have incredible control of their thoughts and behavior…so much so that they have removed the words “luck,” “fate,” “chance” and “magic” from their vocabulary. But this characteristic is not unique to law enforcement or the military. I’ve seen it equally present in a few corporate athletes that I’ve had the privilege of working with over the past 30 years.
When considering the litany of attributes these individuals have in common, certainly among the highest on the list is their ability to change…to improvise, overcome and adapt in ways that produce growth in all the right areas. And if we are genuinely interested in developing this kind of change-ability, we need to get serious about embracing the idea of Acceptance.
This is more important than space here will afford, but I do want to underscore that the idea of acceptance doesn’t mean we have to change, it means we can change. It means our energy is available to us, when we need it, to change what we want about ourselves and our organizations. To that end, here are a couple of guidelines from the Human Synergistics International® (HSI) Life Styles Inventory™ (LSI) Self-Development Guide; guidelines they suggest are essential to our change-ability:
Acknowledge and accept all aspects of yourself. Remember, the question is not “Am I a good or bad person?” but rather “What is preventing me from being more effective, and what can I do to improve?”
Recognize that your sense of self-worth is not connected to your scores. You are worthwhile because you are a human being—tying your self-worth to outside factors can limit your ability to make positive changes in yourself.
Acceptance will demand great courage if we are to change in worthwhile ways on the basis of what we’ve learned about our leadership, whether from a formal LSI or from less formal feedback mechanisms. Personally, if we are committed to closing the leadership knowing-doing gap, we must reject the lies that we are tempted to tell ourselves, begin calling into question our long-standing values, presuppositions and beliefs and go about the hard work of initiating and planning changes. If we are committed to closing the leadership knowing-doing gap organizationally, we must recognize the leadership—culture connection, hardwire improvement as a strategic priority and incorporate both elements through a systems approach into our change strategies.
But stay tuned! Now that we have exercised the courage to accept what we have learned and have initiated and planned the changes in our platforms that are worthwhile, in the next installment we’ll need to address the vital third step in the Leadership Enrichment LIFE-cycle that moves us from thinking to knowing, from knowing to doing and from doing to performing.