Sunday, December 04, 2011

Becoming A Leader

This book excerpt moved me so greatly that I featured in my December newsletter. We need everyone to step up to their leadership potential now. Read Clinton Callahan's words, and be inspired:

Distinction: To be a leader does not mean to be the best, or to be perfect, or to know how, or to be in control.

You have a unique destiny to fulfill for the evolution of humanity. Part of you thinks that you can fulfill that destiny alone. Sure you are very capable alone. Yes you can complete things alone. Clearly it can be easier alone. Of course you can take on unexpected challenges and succeed alone. Certainly you can be happy alone. That we already know. But if you have gotten this far in this book, working alone is no longer the way for you.

Look around with refocused eyes. There are people around you who are attracted to what you are doing. These people are hungrily waiting for you to lead them. These people cannot do it themselves. They want what you want, but something stops them from taking responsibility for going first. They need you to go first. If you do not responsibly lead them forward then the world that you both want to give birth to will die in the womb.

Sure, you have failed before. Sure, you have made mistakes. The decisions you took may have caused harm to those people who trusted you. Perhaps you vowed that you would never again put yourself into a position where others could suffer as a result of your mistakes. Please consider that that was then and this is now. The people around you now are alive and well. They are asking you to try again. These people are responsible for their decision to go with you. The universe needs you to go ahead and do the jobs placed on your bench. The universe begs for you to start again. Pick up where you left off. Bring people together. Keep encouraging the embers in their souls to catch fire and glow again. Do what you can even if you think it is not much.

You do not have to be the best to be a leader. Guaranteed there are other leaders more skilled and capable than you. If they were in your position they could turn your project into a major success with a tenth the effort you are putting in. But there is something you must come to realize: those other leaders are already busy! They are not available. Those leaders are somewhere else working full out on their own projects. In your present circumstances, you are it! There is nobody else but you here to do the job. You are the best leader to be had. Do not wait around for someone else to rescue you. They cannot help because they are busy somewhere else. You have a job to do. Just do it. Forget about being the best.

You do not have to be perfect to be a leader. One of the greatest paradoxes of the human mind is that we have the ability to conceive of perfection. For example, thinking of a mathematical sphere is simple. The paradox comes from the conflict between the conceptual and the actual. Spheres do not actually exist in reality. There are no perfect spheres. There are approximations of spheres, spheroids, things that look like perfect spheres. But they are not perfect. Nothing in the physical world is perfect. So how could a leader be perfect? We are human beings, not robots. Forget about being perfect.

You do not have to know how before you can be a leader. The idea that we must know how before we can lead died with the twentieth century. Change is happening way too fast now, in every arena of human endeavor. Nobody has the luxury of certainty anymore. The answers to the complexity of today’s problems lie encoded in group intelligence. In a rapidly evolving environment a leader succeeds by joining with his or her team and committing to an outcome first, before any of them know how. The team's commitment to produce results no matter what obstacles arise creates enough necessity for the knowing how to be discovered. Liberating and harnessing group intelligence is the core method of Possibility Management’s new meeting technologies. Forget about already knowing how.

You do not have to be in control to be a leader. Old style leadership pivots on control. New style leadership accepts and navigates chaos. Control is a desperate attempt to avoid fear. We describe control as desperate because the price of control is so dear. Control eliminates access to so many unexpected but useful nonlinear options. Nowadays, if fear is not your friend, you will not be responsive and flexible enough to navigate your team through unknown territory to effective results. Forget about having control.

Experiment: Upscale your commitment to leadership. Bring your people together this week. Have a new kind of meeting, one where the outcome is unknown. Announce that you wish to take more personal responsibility for leading and ask what people need. Ask for what they miss or would like to have from you as a leader. Ask where people are yearning to go. Do not interrupt the flow of the conversation. Do not mix critical thinking with creative thinking. Let the creative thinking flow ever bigger and fuller. Save critical thinking for another time. Your job is to keep the meeting safe by steering away from discussions or debates. Instruct people to say what they want rather than contradicting what someone else says. You take notes on a flip chart paper so that everyone can see the map of where you have been, and can deduce where you might be going. Do not edit what people say with clever questions or sideways comments. Do not be surprised if the project gets bigger than you expected.

Give your meeting a name. Have the meeting each week. Keep figuring out ways to empower your people to implement the ideas that they want to suggest to you. It takes time for them to step into their own bigness. Part of your job is to midwife your people into their next level of responsible creating in the world. You help them most by demonstrating that leadership is fun and possible, and that you do not have to be best, be perfect, know how, or be in control to be a leader!

All the best,

Next Culture Research & Training Center

© World Copyright 2010 by Clinton Callahan. You are granted permission to copy and distribute this SPARK for personal or non-profit use as long as this author, website and copyright notice are included on each copy. All other rights are reserved.

SPARKs are excerpted from the Wild Thinking books. To get your own email subscription to SPARKs click on the PUBLICATIONS / NEWSLETTER button of Thanks for experimenting!

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