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.

 

A Theory About Leadership & Life – Part 1

Well as you can tell the model presented in the previous post was a working model.  The more I thought about the name “Enlightened Leadership” the more I thought it sounded too fluffy and airy fairy.  Maybe you thought the same way, I don’t know.  However, to retain the integrity of the original formula eL = f(iC*aC*iC) I have changed the name to “Emergent Leadership” as well as adding and refining some of the constructs.

Life, here on planet earth, presents its inhabitants with myriads of problems and life experiences.  As a result of these experiences and problems we create self-schemas which provide the scripts and rules we use to make sense of ourselves, our place in the world, along with the roles and functions we accept and internalize as part of our identity.  In many ways our self-schemas serve us well, and at times they don’t because limited notions of ourselves and others can often continue to perpetuate behaviors and beliefs that do not awaken the soul and spirit of man/woman into its greater potential(s) of why we are here on this planet and realizing who we truly are.  So on a softer note, researchers have determined that we have “multiple selves,” or self-schemas, and to simplify things I will mention two–the real self, and the ideal self.  The primary theory that is used in social psychology to describe the notion of multiple selves is called “self-discrepancy theory.”  To clarify, the real self is simply how you currently define and see yourself, as you are.  Since this post particularly pertains to Integrating Character and its four sub-constructs; the ability to see ourselves “as we are” is connected with honesty.  Now, although honesty is related to speaking the truth within the context of the intention to not deceive, placate, or bend the truth for self-enhancing ways.  Honesty also refers to the difficult work of being honest with ourselves; honest about our true feelings, motives and intentions, beliefs about ourselves and others, honest about the incongruency of our thoughts with our values, words, and behaviors.  If we are honest with ourselves we will usually notice a gap between what we say we value and believe, and the corresponding words, thoughts, emotions, and actions we take.  This is commonly called the difference between “our espoused values and our values-in-action.”  This carries the overtones of the past post “Blinded by Vagueness.”  Therefore, this leads to the other self, the ideal self, which is the person you would like to become.  The striving for personal development is a core motivation in almost every human being, and because of this the ideal self is a common factor in many peoples’ lives.

In addition to honesty, the construct of vulnerability represents the contingent factor or as I like to think of it as the ‘precursor to humility.’  In order to be humble we must be honest about the truth of ourselves, others, and the life each of us lead.  Vulnerability means the ability to surrender our pretenses, masks, self-aggrandizement, and quips – and take the “Risk” of being real and to honestly “see” despite the consequences.  Similarly, vulnerability also means our ability to open up and empathize with others.  Thus, when we think about life, the problems and experiences we face in our careers, family life, personal lives, groups we are associated with, and our spiritual convictions – we all can readily see how the system we live in, namely here in the U.S., is designed to maintain competition, consumption, and acquisition as noted by Parker Palmer and other global justice visionaries.  When I was considering continuing my education to complete a Doctorate, I thought of a theory I would create.  The theory was called, “Risk to Lead Theory” (RLT).  Although, at this point in my life another 4-7 years of school to obtain a Doctorate degree (Ph.D.) does not sound appealing.  However, the whole notion of Risk to Lead Theory is based on the premise of vulnerability.  It means we must be willing to take the risk of being vulnerable **first** in order to help others to drop their pretenses and other false notions of their self-schemas.  The research conducted on psychological safety, has found that when (a) people are valued for their unique skills and contributions, (b) no one is penalized if they ask for help or admit a mistake, (c) people are not rejected for being different, (d) people are able to bring up problems and tough issues, (e) people acknowledge and honor the dignity of each person as having intrinsic value, and (f) when people express genuine respect, care, and curiosity towards others.  Then people are able to feel psychological safe within the current context to engage and give more of themselves fully.  Thus, the precursor to psychological safety, is *Risk*.

The last two constructs of Integrating Character are discipline and resiliency.  In short, discipline and resiliency represent the “muscle” (i.e. mental, volitional, emotional, and behavioral muscle) to execute honesty and vulnerability.  Discipline is a form of self-mastery and self-regulation.  Discipline according to the classic book, “The Road Less Traveled” is the (a) ability to delay gratification, (b) ability to accept responsibility, (c) dedication to the truth, and (d) the ability to balance or embody the skill of flexibility.  Discipline also means the ability of intentionally choosing one’s values or goal pursuits, and resiliency relates to this “choosing” of one’s values in spite of obstacles, difficulties, and discouragement.  Therefore, discipline is the conscious intention of choosing our motives and values, and resiliency enables us to carry out the task despite the challenges or unpopularity.

To recap, Integrating Character (iC) is about the active pursuit of integrating our character, or bridging together our ideal self with our real self and vice versa.  For the purpose of generating positive social change by reinventing ourselves, we should realize that the ideal self should ultimately embody the qualities of service and contribution for the greater good of humanity – thus fulfilling the implicit command, “Yes, you are your brothers and sisters keeper…”  Values not only represent what each of us consider to be important, but they serve and specify appropriate behaviors that each of us deem worthy in order fulfill our need structures.  However, as a footnote, discipline as the intentional choosing of one’s values cannot be accomplished without mindfulness, which is the ability to maintain intentional awareness while honestly assessing how we show up for our life experiences and problems.

Does the model of Integrating Character seem possible to express in this world, or is it too idealistic?  Share your thoughts…

 

References

Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350-383.

Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review, 94(3), 319-340.

Peck, M. S. (1988). The road less traveled: A new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth. New York, NY: Touchstone.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.