Why do we still have a leadership problem?
The leadership dysfunctions I observed when I started my career 40 years ago still exist despite a leadership industry totaling billions of dollars annually, an army of consultants and coaches, countless leadership articles, and books.
My leadership journey began early in my professional career when I worked for a high-technology manufacturing company.
The company had high expectations for a new business planning system (MRP II) they implemented when the people running the project were suddenly no longer with the company.
I was tapped on the shoulder to get the project back on track and enthusiastically accepted the challenge.
The company first sent me off to be educated by Oliver Wight, widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on implementing enterprise software systems at that time.
I learned from Ollie that companies failed to implement systems like this because they had a leadership problem. You couldn’t just invest in a system, turn it over to the employees, and expect it to happen. The leaders had to be more intimately involved.
Well, that turned out to be the case. We made a few minor adjustments, and six months later, we successfully implemented the new system.
This company had some of the best executive leaders I have ever worked with. The fact that they were so open to making changes was a testament and credit to their leadership.
Over the next 30 years, I was involved in dozens of more implementations as an employee and consultant. And the story was always the same. There was a leadership problem.
Even when I advised companies they had a leadership problem, they didn’t believe me. They had to fail tragically before I could get their attention. “Our employees are highly motivated and will get the job done. There are no problems here,” they said to me.
Then in 2009, I successfully turned around another project when suddenly we had a different kind of leadership problem. Corporate headquarters replaced the leadership team and no longer wanted anything to do with the previous group’s priorities.
That’s when I quit and started on my quest to find better ways to improve our organizations.
I can’t help but notice all the attention and money invested in leadership over my career. Yet, we still see the same leadership problem — over and over.
We still have a leadership problem because more leadership training and coaching aren’t the answer. We need to become less of a human robot running on autopilot because we were all born leaders!
Updating the structures of our mind
Tolle’s quote represents a fundamental challenge we encounter on our inward leadership journey. The important part we often overlook is that real solutions require an inner transformation of the “structures of the human mind.”
We need to engage in the deep internal work necessary to alter our mental frameworks before making meaningful progress. New thinking only keeps us stuck because our thinking comes from what we’ve done or experienced in the past. We need to learn how to step outside those boundaries.
But what does Tolle mean by “structures of the human mind”?
While Tolle doesn’t explicitly define the “structures of our minds,” we can deduce his meaning from his writings.
Tolle’s “structures of our minds” refers to our habitual thought patterns, values, beliefs, and perspectives. These are largely fixed structures firmly established by social conditioning and our educational system.
These mental constructs — our recurring thought patterns, values, beliefs, and viewpoints — shape our perception of reality and govern our reactions and interactions with the world and others.
Until we revise these mental structures, we’ll keep recreating the same world and shared reality.
When Tolle says “recreating the same world,” he’s referring to the shared reality we as a society experience. We’ll keep creating the same world if our mental structures persist unaltered.
For instance, if our minds are governed by fear, anger, and scarcity, our actions will mirror these emotions, perpetuating a world dominated by these sentiments. We see this play out every day if we watch the news.
Tolle’s reference to dysfunctions concerns society’s negative aspects, like violence, greed, inequality, environmental devastation, etc. He tells us that these societal ills mirror our collective mindset. Without a shift in our perspective, these negative elements will continue.
Instead of operating from ego, fear, or scarcity, we must nurture mindfulness, compassion, and abundance. As more individuals transition, our shared reality and the world we create will transform accordingly.
However, such a transformation is complex and challenging. It demands conscious effort and self-awareness, often contradicting established societal norms and personal habits.
Tolle’s quote is a rallying cry, urging us to examine our mental structures, consider our assumptions and beliefs, and make the necessary inner changes to influence and positively lead our world.
Bill Fox, Founder @ LeaderONE, Space Beyond Boundaries, and Forward Thinking Workplaces
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