In the first two installments, we established that Awareness leads to Learning and, through Acceptance, releases our potential for Changing. But until we begin to work the change plans we’ve established, our potential remains unfulfilled. So in this installment, we’ll focus on Fulfillment: Action that enables Growing as we advance through the Leadership Enrichment LIFE-cycle (LEL-c).
When it comes to fulfillment, we truly need an ethical way forward. Here’s why: Leadership Enrichment is, of itself, a good thing, but to pursue it in the wrong way, by the wrong means or for the wrong reason is certain to get us off-track and corrupt/pervert the results. As Robert Wood Johnson of Johnson & Johnson once said: “Life has an overall purpose. Men must judge their conduct, not merely in terms of personal gain or convenience, but also as right or wrong.”
So, as we take and sustain action, it must always be preceded by four activities that, when performed in sequence, will ensure the change we are trying to make doesn’t get derailed and actually results in the kind of growth we’re looking for. Here’s a simple graphic of the action-sequence model I’m referencing:
Establishing Virtues as Values is critical for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to remember what is really important in your life. Second, it gives you the opportunity to recall any changes in your thinking that took shape during the first two enrichment steps (e.g., Life-long Learning and Internal Locus of Control). In all likelihood you made some adjustments. Finally, it ensures that motives (precedes action) and ends (follows action) are carefully considered before you engage the means (take action), and all three will place your actions in the direction of right or wrong.
We started change planning in the last Leadership Enrichment step, but Vision and Strategy is where we complete that plan so we can start taking action. This includes the selection of both long-term strategies and short-term actions to accomplish your Vision of Potential. In this step of the action-sequence, all actions are timed to be set in motion such that progress can be measured against specific targets along the way. In other words, this is goal-setting for goal-getting, the latter of which we’ll expand on in the next installment.
Ensuring the right systemic and structural fundamentals are in place to support the strategy and ensure your actions are effective and efficient is what the Support Structures step in the action-sequence is all about. This includes abandoning what doesn’t (or won’t) work as much as it means adopting new approaches. I find the failure to abandon ineffective habits, practices, methods and models, as well as useless theories more difficult, almost to a person. We tend to get hidebound to our own way of doing things and this holds us back. This is where, in specific terms, you get to decide on what you must stop doing, do differently or start doing in order to be successful.
Having the right Skills to pull off the changes we intend to make is important. The fact is, we’re just not equipped to take action without them. Identifying and resolving skill deficiencies, in a very real sense, improves our starting point and will ensure all follow-on activities are successful.
Following this approach will help us avoid the negative consequences of failing to think the process through before working it out. These consequences include false starts, missteps, confusion, frustration, anxiety, et al. It also ensures that the actions we take will produce real growth.
But there are some challenges. The first challenge is that, while growing is a natural process, the type of growth we’re after often doesn’t come easy. The LEL-c is specifically designed to make growth as real leaders easier and more systematic. And it requires that we adopt what Carol Dweck calls a Growth Mindset. According to an editorial review on Amazon by Publishers Weekly, “Dweck proposes [in her new book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success], that everyone has either a “fixed” mindset or a “growth” mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as…well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure. A growth mindset on the other hand is one in which you see yourself as fluid and adaptable; a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity.” I would replace the word ‘fate’ with ‘future’ but, other than that, I couldn’t agree more.
The second challenge is that the kind of growth we get isn’t always desirable. Edward Abbey once quipped: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” He is spot-on. We’ve likely all had occasion to observe in ourselves and in others, undesirable growth. If we cultivate the wrong things in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, things will continue to go wrong and we’ll grow in ways that do not enrich leadership.
Our growth is locked in a cause-effect relationship with the energy we cultivate through our actions. Growth in the context of enriching our leadership means we have acted rightly on worthwhile changes and, as a result, have grown in appropriate ways….in maturity, influence, acceptability and attractiveness. Following the action-sequence model and being mindful of the two primary challenges to growth will prepare us for the fourth and final step of the LEL-c: Excellence.