— Dee Hock, founder and CEO emeritus, Visa
The leadership dysfunctions I observed when I started my career 40 years ago still exist today despite a leadership industry totaling billions of dollars annually, an army of consultants and coaches, countless leadership articles, and books. Many ask, Why do we still have a leadership problem?
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 were implementing 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.
The critical thing I learned from Ollie was that companies were failing at implementing 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 both an employee and a 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 current leadership team and no longer wanted anything to do with what the previous group had changed.
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
We need to be less of a human robot running on autopilot by updating the structures of our minds for the 21st century!
I don’t have all the answers on how we update our minds’ structures, but I do have living proof of what works — my own leadership journey.
The following six areas of growth are key and the focus of my work here at LeaderONE:
1. Forward thinking. Forward thinking involves thinking, planning, and actions that consider the future and the present. In today’s fast-changing world, the future is already here. That means we need to look beyond traditional ways of living and working based on Industrial Age thinking and practices.
2. Conscious/self leadership. Traditional forms of leadership are grounded in command and control and in doing the things that good leaders do. Traditional leadership is often thought of as the domain of a select few individuals with the “right stuff” at the top of the pyramid. We are now discovering that insight for leadership resides not only in the “other” but is accessible to everyone through newly honed sensibilities of looking and listening within.
3. Inner awareness and intuition. By enhancing our ability to look and listen within, we access greater awareness and creative power to shape our world and be a force for good. If you don’t know what awareness truly is and how to use it, then your awareness is random. When we learn how to direct our awareness, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
4. Inner-leader journey. The inner-leader journey is a personal journey where there is no path. However, there are guides to help us better understand the nature and challenges of the journey.
5. Questions, listening, and dialogue. We can learn to ask new questions that harness our more powerful intuition, helping us discover surprising new answers. A new understanding of how the mind works quiets the mind and opens us up to deeper and more effective levels of listening. In dialogue, we move beyond discussion and championing our point of view to learning how to suspend our opinions, listen more deeply, and then see what that all means for breakthrough vision and action.
6. Understanding how the mind works. A new understanding of how the mind works from the inside out is based on mind, consciousness, and thought principles. With this new understanding, we realize our experiences and feelings are created by our own thoughts, not our circumstances. This new understanding lifts us up beyond where we find ourselves and gets us closer to our wisdom and deeper intelligence.
Insightful comments from others on the leadership problem
In a recent related post I wrote for SpaceB, colleague Liz Guthridge made the following insightful comment on the leadership problem:
“Terrific post, Bill Fox! And we’re going to continue to have a leadership problem until we realize we’ve got to stop cramming people’s heads with more stuff to learn and instead start helping them build more mental, physical, and spiritual capacity to deal with all the increased complexity in our businesses, communities, and world.”
“Outer complexity demands leaders to do inner work, as you’ve discovered for yourself. And so many leaders and those who provide leadership development aren’t fully aware of this, are committed to the current types of training, and are in denial or something else.”
My work at SpaceB has been an ongoing revelation and accounting of how I have changed from the inside out and updated the structures of my mind and continue to do so.
In the coming year, I will focus more on my mission to educate, inspire and empower humans for the 21st century at LeaderONE.
I’ll be making some announcements soon on what I have planned for the coming year. If you’d like to be the first to know, you can join the waitlist at LeaderONE.