Leadership masters a positive attitude. It doesn’t see the world in short comings, problems or defaults. “The boundaries we create in life are imaginary; they don’t exist, but we create them. Then we feel trapped by them,” as Joseph Jaworski puts it[i]. Judging people is trapping people. Default thinking is one of the huge obstacles in todays HR and organisational efforts to develop people. People are caught in competency analyses and talent evaluations. They are pushed to work on their shortcomings. This only reduces intrinsic motivation to grow. As Wouter Degeest2 puts it: “Do not look exclusively at the deficits of people. Stimulate them in what they are good at.”
Several authors distinguish levels of leadership. Jim Collins[ii] defines level 5 leadership as a combination of humility and professional will. Logan, King & Fischer-wright[iii] also define 5 levels. The two highest levels are characterized by inclusion & connection. Charan, Drotter, & Noel[iv] define seven leadership stages. Somewhere in the middle is the turning point between ‘i know how to get things done’ into ‘i don’t know anything and i need all the people i have to work together.’ Same goes for Otto Scharmers u-theory[v]: opening up, real listening is important for higher level leadership. Not taking fast decisions or judging instantly. Other authors link these levels of dealing with complexity to stages in adult development. Kegan & Lahey[vi] define 3 levels. Level 3, the self-transforming mind “is aware that it lives in time and that the world is in motion”. It doesn’t judge easily. It’s appreciative.
[i] JAWORSKI, J. (1998). Synchronicity. The inner path of leadership. San Fransisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, p. 56.
[ii] COLLINS, J. (2001). Good to great: why some companies make the leap, … and others don’t. Harper Business, 300 p.
[iii] LOGAN, D., KING, J., & FISCHER-WRIGHT H. (2002). Tribal leadership. New York: HarperCollins Books, 297 p.
[iv] CHARAN, R., DROTTER, S. & NOEL, J. (2001). The leadership pipeline. How to build the leadership-powered company. San Fransisco: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 248p.
[v] SCHARMER Otto C. (2009). Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges. San Fransisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 533 p.
[vi] KEGAN, R., and LAHEY L. (2010). Adult developmentt and organizational leadership. In NOHRIA, N., & KHURANA, R. (eds.), Handbook of leadership theory and practice. A Harvard Business School centennial colloquium. Harvard Business Press, p. 769-787.