Written by Jonathan Reems, Associate Professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology and co-founder of the Center for Transformative Leadership
We’ve all heard it before: the world and organisational life with its leadership challenges is constantly changing, becoming not only ever more complicated, but also more complex.
As individuals, we grow up and learn to be good enough at something to get a job. Eventually, we can get promoted to a leadership role and then find that what made us successful is no longer enough. We may try at first to simply get better at what we already know, yet sooner or later we come up against a wall. What’s on the other side of the wall?
The idea of transformation is used a lot today. It is a way of hinting at what is on the other side of that wall. A bigger brighter world awaits us there, yet in order to perceive it, we need to shift the lens of our perception.
Transformation is just this – shifting our lens of perception. The nature of these shifts has been studied extensively, and the pattern is an evolution towards being able to take in more breadth and scope of vision, as well as a greater capacity for perceiving patterns within the complexity around us.
That is what is on the other side of whatever wall we are facing. Yet how can we get there?
First of all, be clear that this is not a quick fix. Changing the lenses we see the world through to reveal deeper meaning, more effective leverage points for decision making and a clearer vision for realising our most cherished goals, demands work on areas we may not even know existed in us.
That given, here are three tips for making progress on the journey >>>
Question your Assumptions
This is an ongoing process, uncovering layers of stories we have taken in or told ourselves to make sense of the world and find our place in it. One common core assumption is we start the process of growth into leadership from scratch. We develop leadership skills like building blocks from life experience.
Based on this assumption, we often fear that the next building block might topple us and prefer to stick with what we know.
But what if we questioned this assumption, and used a lens that said we come ready made with potential for great leadership within us, and the process of transformation is more of an unfolding and realising this? Questioning our assumptions can help us let go of limiting beliefs that no longer serve us as leaders.
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Daily Awareness Practice
Practice makes perfect – or at least can lead to greater mastery. The key to transformation is awareness.
Studies of leaders who have made it far down the journey of transformation show that almost all of them have some kind of daily awareness practice. To gain mastery in any domain, we need to practice, to build our sensitivity to the finer points of the field we are looking to excel and lead in.
With this practice, you will gain the ability to recognise the skills and capacities within you that are already available on the other side of the wall you are facing.
Take Time to Make Time
The most common complaint about undertaking transformational work as leaders is there is not enough time.
The way past this is to do the counter-intuitive – stop, stand still, and take a deep breath. When we are caught up in the complex swirl of competing perspectives around and inside us and cannot sort the wheat from the chaff, we end up losing time.
Stopping to reflect, to get “up on the balcony” and get some distance from the swirl of complexity,creates time by enabling us to let go of what we don’t need to be doing. This creates a virtuous cycle, and the best leaders always have time.
Regular practice of these three things will begin to sort out the competing assumptions and energies driving you up against the wall. You know what you need and want to achieve. You have a vision, even if tarnished by experience, of what is possible, if only things would go your way.
What it actually takes to transform your vision into reality is taking the time to shine the light of awareness on your assumptions.
About the Author
Jonathan Reems is a keynote speaker at the 3rd Annual conference for The Leadership Circle Asia Pacific in Sydney on 16 May 2013 where he will be presenting on leadership transformation.
About The Leadership Circle Asia Pacific
The Leadership Circle’s leadership and development program is the first to offer integrated assessment and development tools with workshops, training, research and support technologies that provide a pathway to evolved leadership. The Leadership Circle believe that business leadership will set the agenda for the planet’s future. Its clients are in government, finance, technology, legal, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, media, consulting and not-for-profit sectors, including the largest apparel, hotel and fast food chains in the world. www.theleadershipcircle.com