A Theory About Life & Leadership – Part 4

Well this is going to wrap up some of the ideas and concepts I have been germinating over the years.  This post will refine some concepts and clarify potential confusions, as well as update the Emergent Leadership concept to my initial title of “Risk to Lead Theory” (RLT).  Although the name Emergent Leadership does correlate with the concepts I have been seeking to convey, the notion of taking a “risk” in order to “lead” better signifies this theory structure.  Risking in order to lead presupposes that we take a risk in being “real” and “genuine” in a world where honesty, compassion, and honor are not highly prized values.   The leadership I am referring to is first and foremost “leading yourself” to walk, talk, and breathe the values you espouse – and extending this out into all relationships and encounters you may have with others along the path of life.

I also changed the name of “Inspiring Communication” (IC) to “Reviving Communication” (RC) in order to avoid the inherent confusion of “Integrating Character” (IC), hence the double IC-IC.  Additionally, I also changed a sub-factor within Integrating Character, namely, “diligence” was replaced with “commitment.”  I changed this because I consider “commitment” to be more foundational, while also encapsulating the essence of diligence within itself.  For example, to be committed to someone or to something means that (a) you will naturally take the time and care to properly understand it or them, (b) you will organize your life in such a way to tend and cultivate what you are committed to, and (c) you will follow through on your commitment despite various costs and difficulties.  Therefore, commitment entails understanding, attentive care, and sacrifice.

This question is for any leader in any field, and can be translated into any situation…

How can you train someone for a leadership role in the absence of commitment?

Just think, how can you maintain a marriage in the absence of commitment?  How can a teacher effective teach their students, if their students lack sufficient commitment to mastering the material?  The reality of this principle is so pervasive if we think to consider its applications.  How can you educate a community to better themselves if they are not interested in help?  How can you effectively help get someone off drugs or alcohol if they are not committed to the change?  How can you effectively teach and train disciples in the absence of their commitment?  Commitment is central to our lives on many levels.


Now I am going to give a brief recapitulation of this theory in its practical context of life.

Integrating Character (IC) is the core foundation for which we build our lives.  Honesty is the most fundamental aspect of humility.  There is a saying in 1 Peter 5:5 that says, “Be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  The potent power of being honest with ourselves gives us the ability to examine who we are, why we are here, where we are going, what life is all about, what we stand for, what we don’t stand for, what our goals in life are, what our dreams, desires, failures, motivations—thus the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Unfortunately, the American culture does not support such a radical honesty, because if we were to step outside of ourselves and take an accounting of our souls we would be surprised.  Now I recognize there are different depths of this accounting, because for those of you interested in spiritual and moral transformation we must go deep down the rabbit hole (pun intended).  This would include taking ownership and eventually mastery of our emotions, our thoughts, our words, and the energies that are processed through our body-temple.  This is no small journey, but this journey of self-leadership begins with radical honesty with ourselves and seeking to see others and this reality for what it is.

Once we begin the process of investigating our intentions, motives, and why we speak and do the things we do – we need to add the element of commitment.  We must commit to this path, because without doing so we will simply give off the perfume of hypocrisy.  You have inherent value, and this gift of life that you have been given is most precious and deserves your deepest commitment and passion.  In our discovery of “coming to ourselves” (cf. Luke 15:17) we should exercise vulnerability because we honestly recognize our weaknesses.  Every human being on this planet has issues, no one is exempt from this reality.  In fact when you begin to look deep into the eyes of humanity, the inherent suffering that each of us have is clearly witnessed.  Therefore, vulnerability and compassion enables us to extend this open hand to others, in the silent honor that all the pretenses we hold up—just need to be dropped.  Let go of the facade, let go of the pretenses, the false projections—it is unbecoming.

So with our honesty and our commitment to refining our character by integrating ourselves so that we are whole beings living consistently in all situations, relationships, and communications.  The vulnerability to properly engage others respectfully will open our eyes and give us the resilience needed to successfully adapt ourselves by constantly learning, growing, and giving.  The aspect of resilience naturally leads into Adapting Competence (AC), because we must continuously seek to learn from the experiences we have in life.  You take yourself where-ever you go!  If you find yourself repeating unfavorable patterns in your relationships it would be wise to take heed, and examine yourself.

Adapting Competence contains the elements of Emotional Intelligence (EI), knowledge management, continuous learning or Kaizen, and various cognitive thinking styles.  These aspects relate to the cognitive and emotional building blocks that are necessary to (a) properly evaluate information [i.e. knowledge management and cognitive thinking styles], (b) understand and regulate our own internal states [i.e. EI], (c) properly understand boundaries and levels of relationship engagement [i.e. EI], and (d) to continuously grow [i.e. Kaizen].  Adapting Competence encompasses much more than these aspects because to flesh out Emotional Intelligence in its various categories and sub-categories is enough to keep us busy for some time, because it paints a usable model for examining ourselves and our relationships – so to not reinvent the wheel a link has been embedded to give you a good overview of the model.  Another reason why we need various cognitive styles is because language can be used to edify, tear down, or deceive—thus its necessary to learn reasoning skills, cognitive fallacies, and communication skills.

Reviving Communication (RC) simply means to bring life into your communication and into the relationships you find yourself in.  What are you passionate about?  Why?  Why?  Why?  We should be able to answer each of these “Why’s” because we should know what we stand for – inside and out.  We communicate this via our vision of the big picture, the overall strategic intent, and how this relates systemically to the rest of life – and we do this by being able to communicate on various levels from the global and abstract to the concrete and specific.


Risk to Lead Theory (RLT) is about you becoming self-defined by leading yourself and extending this humility and confidence in such a way so as to embody respect, honor, and dignity for each human being and their uniqueness.  You take the risk first, in order to lead the situation in such a way to create the space for psychological safety to take root for others to open up so they can express themselves more completely.  We all know the feeling of “walking on eggshells” but when you take the risk to lead—you create the tone, tempo, and space for greater possibilities to emerge.



Peace be with each of you – as you learn to harmonize the energies of your life…..



Risk to Lead Theory

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.


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…



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.

Leadership & Life

In looking at my life and the lives of others – I have come to discover that all life is about relationships, communication, and perception.  Relationships with family, friends, co-workers, children, colleagues, finances, career, God, oneself, health, government, groups, etc.  Since communication (verbal, nonverbal, and internal dialogue) serves as the primary interface for connecting with our relationships; then it naturally follows that perception is the primary filter for (a) what we see and (b) how we see it, and then (c) how we generate meaning and express ourselves [i.e. communication] in our relationships.  So you may say, “that’s great Ra, all life is about relationships, communication, and perception….so what.”

Well, yes – in a very abstract sense all life is about relationships, communication, and perception; however, in a practical and concrete sense life is about much more than this.  Having studied leadership theory and practice for nearly two years now, it has become clear that leadership and life are inextricably wedded together.  For example, the fundamental aspect of all leadership practice….is dun, dun, dun (drum beat…………….) Self-Leadership.  Below, you will see a model that I have created which in some ways is a culmination of leadership theory and practice.  This model has not been empirically tested, nor have double-blind experiments been conducted to determine the validity or reliability of this model in order to determine its robust nature.  One caveat to remember is that something does not have to be true [or at least proven true] in order for it to be effective and useful.

Below you will notice the formula… eL = f(iC*aC*iC).

This formula is written in light of Kurt Lewin who was responsible for the famous theorem of B = f(P,E), as noted in the mission and for many formulas and theorem’s in his writings.  Essentially, eL = f(iC*aC*iC) stands for Enlightened Leadership [eL] is the function of Integrating Character [iC], Adapting Competence [aC], and Inspiring Communication [iC].  I specifically left these modifying verbs in process formation [ex. -ing] in order to indicate an ongoing process of unfoldment.  Now what does all of this have to do with life, relationships, communication, and perception.  In short, it has to do with our personal ability of leading ourselves, while being able to effectively engage with the world and the situations we find ourselves in.  In the following posts, I will be expanding on these concepts – so share your thoughts and ideas.