A Theory About Leadership & Life – Part 2

In part 1 of this series a model on leadership and life was discussed – focusing upon the first core construct “Integrating Character.”  Now, the next general construct in the model Emergent Leadership refers to “Adapting Competence.”  Adapting Competence can sound like a fancy way for doing the things you already do, and in some way it is, but in another context it refers to the mindful application of effectively engaging the life situations, problems, demands, and needs of your life experiences.  I am specifically referring to your life experiences in the framework of intra-personal, that is, how you relate to yourself; and inter-personal, that is, how you relate to others.  When we are honest with ourselves, we can begin to identify a clear momentum in our lives, and this momentum is the comfort and almost habitual drive to do things the same way.  Some of you may say…no, no, not me Ra; or some of you may say, yes I can see what you are saying.  Let me clarify, this habitual momentum to do things the same way (relatively speaking) gives us predictability in our lives – if I do this then that will happen, or if I say this then they will probably say that…This drive for consistency is useful (at times) because it allows us to have some relative control over our outcomes, and this good; however, the ability to do something different or say something different opens us up to uncertainty and ambiguity.  Again, at times the ability to do or say something different is not useful nor needed; yet if we can step beyond the often mindless habit of consistency and certainty – then we may (a) learn new things, (b) make new distinctions, (c) have different experiences, and (d) form new competencies such as curiosity, creativity, and a general inquiry into the awesomeness of life.

Adapting Competence has four embedded sub-constructs or sub-categories that form this construct in action; therefore the pragmatic use of Adapting Competence as an ideal idea can be applied in life by exercising and flexing between these sub-constructs.  These sub-constructs are (a) various cognitive styles, (b) continuous learning, (c) knowledge management, and (d) self, social, situational awareness & management.  The latter (d) refers specifically to the working model of Emotional Intelligence (EI) with the added dimension of situational awareness and management.  Emotional Intelligence (EI) is often framed as four quadrants — (1) self-awareness, (2) self-management, (3) social awareness, and (4) relationship management (see above link).  Each of these quadrants are further elaborated upon to form a robust structure for explaining personal and social effectiveness.  Although EI as a great model and has been shown to produce results – it is important to remember that the utility (or usefulness) of any model depends on an individual’s willingness to experiment and utilize the information in order to build new habits.  In most leadership literature (of which EI is one of many models), and in particular change management literature spouts that over 75% of developmental programs fail.  So millions and up to billions of dollars are wasted each year on training programs that fail.  Interesting…Well the simple answer goes back to the first consideration at the beginning of this post – the momentum for immediate comfort and the habitual drive to do things the same way because the results are relatively predictable.  If this is the primary momentum in our lives, how do we change it?  Do we even want to change it, maybe you like where you are and perceive no need to adapt or reinvent yourself…?  Either way, the decision is yours, and the simple answer to how we change it – is commitment to change it.  This ‘begs the question’ well what is commitment, and how is commitment enacted.  This echoes back to the first primary construct of Integrating Character – with discipline, resilience, vulnerability, and honesty as the operative conditions or qualities to build new habits.

What is important to remember is that your beliefs, ideas, and worldview are not only cognitive functions free-floating around your head; but they are built into your very neurology–your nervous system.  Therefore, to behave in a new way it can feel in-congruent (in essence – IT IS), this is because to behave, think, feel, or speak requires specific neurons to fire in your body in very specific ways – and to engage in a new behavior there is no habitual neurological pathway to travel through; thus it takes time for a new neurological pathway to be formed.  This is another reason why change programs and training programs often fail, because what is learned in the “program” is not built into the day-to-day context of life-as-it-is experienced by the individuals undergoing the training.  And, another reason why these programs fail is because of the deep grooves built into the organizational culture or the situational variables that also drive behavior.

Back to the sub-constructs of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, and situational awareness.  Self-awareness hearkens back to honesty (Integrating Character) and being mindful of our biases, beliefs, opinions, ethics, values, habits, actions, words, thoughts, feelings, needs, motivations, and desires.  Self-awareness is dependent upon self-inquiry, self-knowledge, and mindfulness.  (a) Self-inquiry is about questioning oneself in all of these areas, (b) self-knowledge is about becoming clear on the answers we discover from our inquiry, and (c) mindfulness in the context of self-awareness merging into self-management is about “consciously choosing” to enact the values, beliefs, actions, words, thoughts, morals, feelings, and motivations that are aligned with your core sense of self—–core sense of self will be a future topic of dialogue…   Thus, self-management is a crucial step that requires commitment in order to actively manage oneself until new mental, emotional, and behavioral patterns are created.  This is where lip-service will not suffice, this is where mindful discipline is required to live and act from a place that is connected with our deepest values of respect, love, and dignity.  If a bias arises in our consciousness, then we redirect it; if an impure thought arises in our consciousness, then we redirect it; if anger or other negative emotions arise in our consciousness, then we redirect it.  For some people, the above suggestions are not practical nor useful – and I respect that, but for those who will not settle in life for anything but expressing their best selves in a life of service and love towards humanity – then this work is for you.  All of this carries overtones of spiritual development……

Social awareness and situational awareness have close correlations together.  Additionally, social awareness and relationship management become the most effective when you or me as the individual are able to put other people first.  Again, this is nice and fluffy in words, but the actual experience and expression of this in action requires that we know our true identity and mission in life.  How often do we ask our loved ones, “What do you expect from me as _____(your role)______?”  “How can I better serve or love you?”  “What has to happen for you to feel respected/loved/appreciated by me?”

In addition to Emotional Intelligence (EI); various cognitive styles can be employed to think and reason on various levels.  By utilizing various cognitive styles in action, it allows us to have multiple levels of perception.  If your child or friend tells you, “life is hard,” “people are mean,” “I don’t like school,” “I hate my job” – then by engaging in multiple cognitive styles you can think about not only (a) what they are saying, but (b) what they are not saying, or (c) what has to be going on in order to say that, or (d) what they are expecting from you.  Cognitive styles in particular represent various ways of seeing, interpreting, and making sense of experiences – and when multiple cognitive styles are enacted together it allows deeper decision making to occur because more information is pooled together in our consciousness to reason on multiple levels of analysis.  A common cognitive style is called conceptual complexity, which signifies the ability to think upon a range continuum of abstract to concrete unto concrete to abstract (cf. Kozhevnikov, 2007).  This can easily be expressed by the example…”I want peace, prosperity, and a sustainable future for our children.”  On an abstract level, most individuals on this planet would probably agree and say something like – “Yeh, I want that too.”  However, on a concrete level of interpretation, we must ask ourselves, “What does the speaker actually mean when he/she says ‘peace, prosperity, and sustainable future’?”  On an abstract level of interpretation everything looks happy and peachy.  However, lets say that the speaker’s true intentions for peace, prosperity, and a sustainable future actually means engaging in genocide and eugenics, for the purposes of population control to ensure ‘this future for their children’, not yours.  Now the picture completely changes.  This one particular cognitive style beckons us to “think.”

In addition to cognitive styles along with self, social, situational awareness and management, we come to the aspect of knowledge management.  The use of knowledge management is usually undertaken in business operations, but the principles can be utilized in our own lives.  The ultimate purpose of learning is to apply.  Thus, whatever is shared on this blog it is ultimately designed to be put into action and applied to our life experiences.  Knowledge itself is usually broken into two broad categories, namely, (a) explicit, and (b) tacit.  Explicit knowledge is what is usually taught in the schoolroom – math, history, and scientific formula.  Explicit knowledge can be easily transmitted between individuals because it can be placed into a textbook, it can be read, memorized, and duplicated.  On the other hand, tacit knowledge refers to lived-experiential knowledge.  This again, is why leadership programs or most developmental programs fail, because the knowledge that must be conveyed is tacitly learned, that is, it is learned via direct experience.  How do we teach another person to love unconditionally, or to express empathy, or to effectively teach our children, or to lead a department or company?  Sure, we can explicitly teach certain principles, but ultimately it depends upon experiential knowledge (tacit) and receiving feedback that teaches us these things.  However, some researchers have noted that there are ways to convey tacit knowledge in verbal format.  To clarify, tacit knowledge has two sub-categories (a) technical tacit knowledge–personal skills and crafts, and (b) cognitive tacit knowledge–beliefs, values, schemata, and mental models (Nonaka, & Konno, 1998).  The ability to manage these forms of knowledge for yourself and when trying to teach others becomes an essential part of what you already do, but my goal is to make these distinctions apparent so they can be better utilized in your life.

The final sub-category of Adapting Competence is continuous learning.  Continuous learning is primarily self-evident, and it represents the sub-category that overlays all sub-constructs.  This is because, by continuously learning we are curious about ‘what is’, ‘what could be’, ‘how things can be better’, ‘how things could be different’.  By continuously learning we remain as open systems that adapt new learning with existing mental models, or we eliminate outdated mental models that do not serve us or others.

Implicit in all of this is the willingness to discover anew or new patterns of perceiving and enacting in this world — in the pursuit of challenging the status-quo of ourselves, our relationships, our communities, our institutions, our educational systems, our religious systems, our scientific systems, our healthcare systems, our economic systems, our political systems, and our ecological systems.

 
References

Kozhevnikov, M. (2007). Cognitive styles in the context of modern psychology: Toward an integrated framework of cognitive style. Psychological Bulletin, 133(3), 464-481.

Nonaka, I., & Konno, N. (1998). The concept of Ba: Building a foundation for knowledge creation. California Management Review, 40(3), 40-54.

 

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