Accept the idea that people are multilayered beings who sometimes experience discomfort with self-examination. View leadership as service to both organizational purpose and those who carry out organizational purpose. Remember that inherent in the process of leadership is the requirement that other people change and grow. With such attitudes, you can go about the business of validating, improving, or re-creating yourself and your approach to leadership. But, to reinvent or re-create yourself will require your constant desire to change and grow. How can you ask others to grow and develop without your being open to change and growth? To illustrate the problems of change and growth, consider the following joke from Woody Allen's movie Annie Hall.
A man walks into his psychiatrist's office and promptly says that the doctor needs to help him with his brother. He says to the psychiatrist: "Doc, it's my brother . . . he thinks he's a chicken." The doctor asks, "Why don't you just tell him he's not a chicken?" The man replies, "I can't, I need the eggs!"
There is much wisdom in this old joke. This anecdote illustrates the following: (1) people create their own reality, (2) people seem to cling to their realities because of fear of losing what they have, and (3) people confine themselves to their present realities because they do not usually envision other alluring and functional realities.
When two people observe the same event, they are likely to see different things and have different interpretations. This variability stems from differing views of reality, which are constructed from a combination of each person's distinctive personal experience and interpretation of life's events. No two people are exactly alike, and while there are broad patterns that are similar, everyone is unique enough to be somewhat unpredictable.
People sometimes change from one set of behaviors to another because of life-threatening circumstances. Yet, the moment the threat is past, most people return to their earlier realities. Profound, persistent behavioral change that is fully integrated into total being occurs only through the reexamination and reconstruction of reality. A reconstructed or "new" reality allows new behaviors to continue in the presence of shifting environmental forces.
Your reality is "created" or formed through interaction with the events and people of your experience. You form beliefs around these events and experiences. A common language and experiences with others help firm up these beliefs and "your" reality is formed.
Beliefs as the Basis of Reality
Everyone forms beliefs about the world, themselves, and their interactions in the world. These beliefs create an intricate web called a "point of view" or "belief window." This self-constructed point of view is a window through which you see events and people.
In other words, you experience the world--people, places, and things--and over time, form beliefs that allow you to function in the present and anticipate the future. The advantage of forming beliefs lies in being purposeful and reducing the time-consuming effort of understanding how and why each experience is connected to others. Your belief window can serve to reduce the uncertainty of life and particular circumstances.
Language and Reality
Your reality is both distinctively original and socially shaped by shared experiences with other people. Language is one shared experience that shapes your reality. A simple example can be found in the differences between the English and Eskimo languages. English-speaking people use one word for snow, while there are numerous different words for snow in the Eskimo language. The latter allows for the distinction between different types of snow and conditions, while the English language does not. The non-Eskimo language does not stimulate an individual to experience the different snow types. Even if the non-Eskimo could actually see, taste, or feel the difference in those snow types, he or she would not be able to express it.
An intricate web of common beliefs and common experience is confirmed through a common language; thus, your reality is connected to those with whom you live and love, work and play, nurture and protect. Just as beliefs and language are the keys to reality formation, they are also a basis for self-change. In the subsequent chapters, we offer some ideas and concepts to change your beliefs about leadership. These ideas and concepts also offer you the chance to create a new language about leadership so that you can create your new leadership behavior.
Clinging to Accepted Realities
Not only do you create your own reality, but you also cling to it because other people experience similar realities. Lily Tomlin's fitting quote, "Reality is just something on which there is consensus," helps to explain how you function in the social milieu. You reach intersubjective agreement about a person, place, or thing. Your reality is connected to others through language, and your needs are met with and through others by clinging to realities that other people support. You cling to old realities not only because others support that reality, but also because you are fearful of what others might think if you were to act outside those realities or "norms."
Family, social, and cultural norms create certain realities that define what is and is not; what is good and bad; and what the self can and cannot be. It is easier to function when operating by what others accept, because adherence to certain realities allows you to see yourself as acceptable and good. Yet, there is a hidden cost to following the crowd: Accepted societal "goods and bads" and other dichotomous cultural concepts often misrepresent, misshape, or deprive existence of a wider range of possibilities, as the example of Eskimo "snows" would imply. In other words, conforming to accepted realities can be confining.
Confinement emerges when you formulate beliefs that preshape your response. It occurs when your beliefs are not supported by your experiences, yet you act as if those beliefs are supported. "Assumed constraints" result when you fail to examine an experience because of the beliefs you hold. Moreover, confinement results when cultural or social acceptance runs counter to your experiential understanding, yet you choose behaviors that gain acceptance rather than new, more experientially appropriate behaviors. Although accepted realities may be confining, it is difficult to form new realities. Too often, fear arises when you act outside accepted norms or reality.
Fear and the Shadow Self
Like the onion seed, you start less developed but, at least, relatively whole. Your experience is seamless and whole--whole in the sense that your experience of existence is not limited by concepts or notions that are segmented, parted by time, divided into good, bad, future, present, past, self, or others. You are whole, in the sense that you contain a myriad of untapped response possibilities that allow you to express your humanness. Whole also means that you are capable of responding with flexibility to environmental requirements, using a wide range of behaviors.
As you develop, the world changes: Objects, experiences, and people become separate. You begin to judge and divide everything you experience into good and bad. You select what is acceptable to your significant others, group, or society. You learn what thoughts, emotions, and behaviors must be suppressed or put away. You begin to create your shadow self. Of course, some of this sorting is necessary for societal functioning, but that which is "put away" does not go away. The nonacceptable (according to others or society) parts of yourself take on a life of their own--your shadow self. Your shadow self is the unfulfilled, illegitimate, and almost despised parts of yourself.
Through language, experience, and association with others, you form beliefs concerning what is true and not true, what is acceptable and unacceptable, and what is possible and impossible. You learn what not to do in order to be loved; you learn what to do in order to not be rejected. To be unloved or constantly rejected is painful. Pain produces fear of future pain. Gradually, you associate fear with certain behaviors and learn to fear certain socially unacceptable parts of yourself. Often, you become what you least fear becoming. Often, what can and does happen, through a trained incapacity, is that you develop a less flexible self, a less understood self, and a less self-accepted person.
For example, there are many executives whose shadow selves are afraid to lose. They fear growing old and being weak, soft, and caring. They are afraid to relinquish control, slow down and reflect, or face the conflict that is the natural by-product of human interaction in organizations. There are many other executives who are afraid to take charge, be strong, or generate conflict.
At first, it is not the fears that limit; rather, it's the failure to explore the fears that limit. To use our chicken analogy, people are "chicken" to face their fears. It is the "care and feeding" of an unexamined "shadow" that you must seek to change.
Me and My Shadow
In Jungian or Freudian language, the shadow self is mostly unconscious. That which is unacceptable from a cultural, organizational, or family point of view becomes what people do not devote much conscious energy or time to. You block your self-acceptance and development through conscious avoidance and nonexploration. You eventually deny certain possibilities in your self. Thus, the shadow self is not explored. It is seldom identified, discussed, or managed in the habits of life. Unlike other cultures of the past or present, in today's society there are almost no rituals or healing ceremonies to accept or integrate your shadow self.
However, this shadow side or aspect of self does not go away. You still have the capacity to be and want to be these unaccepted aspects, but it will take energy not to use or act on these capacities of self. It is quite possible that the shadow side of yourself can, at times, manifest itself behaviorally in place of more rational self-control.
Societies throughout history denied and controlled the shadow side by "projecting" or assigning that which is not socially or culturally acceptable to other groups or races. This technique of projection resulted in the annihilation of six million Jews, the genocide of Native Americans, and the enslavement of blacks, to mention a few real and frightening examples.
The implications of the shadow can be easily seen at an organizational level. There is a shadow side to every organization.17 Ask yourself, "How important and reliable is the rumor mill in your organization? What is not openly addressed in meetings? Who are perceived as the `second-class citizens' of the organization? What are people saying in whispers? Who gets blamed for system errors?" The avoidance and nonconfrontation of issues feeds the organization's shadow. Certain unacceptable human/organizational issues are forced into the shadows and require perpetual energy to keep them there.
As previously discussed, the socialization process serves a purpose. Socialization prevents anarchy or self-oriented, indiscriminate, socially harmful behaviors that pander to the possible destructive side of every person. However, it is the authors' opinion that certain antisocial behaviors, such as murder, rape, theft, lying, and so on, should be labeled as undesirable, unacceptable, or unhealthy, and therefore should be prevented. Still, it is unfortunate that when certain behaviors are labeled as unacceptable, they have major negative consequences for the wholeness of self if not integrated and accepted by the individual. Integrating these less acceptable social capacities does not always mean acting on them. However, it does mean acknowledging them and understanding the implications for a wise choice.18
An excellent example of the formation of the shadow self can be found in the cultural meaning and expression of masculine and/or feminine psychic aspects. Many people have written about the different socialization processes that males and females experience. Many authors have reported the stereotypical behavior required of men and women in this culture.19
The cultural meaning and expression of these masculine and feminine dimensions has also been explored extensively in a leadership context.20 The socialization of males or females results in a set of widely known, acceptable behaviors for males and another set of acceptable behaviors for females. Both cross-cultural studies21 and U.S. studies22 confirm that males are more commonly socialized to assume individual, independent, aggressive, task leadership orientations, while females are shaped to assume nurturing, collectivist, compromising, caring, relational leadership orientations. The point is that each individual, regardless of gender, possesses the capacity to learn these two sets of behaviors and therefore can have the ability to respond to events and opportunities using either set of behaviors.
Normally, genders are not expected to show behaviors outside these orientations. For example, recall the impact that crying had on Edmund Muskie's presidential campaign or the implications given to Hillary Clinton's assertive, aggressive, controlling role when lobbying for health-care reform. The fact that each individual is capable of both orientations, yet socialized toward one, results in the development of latent aspects of self that need to be explored and perhaps capitalized on when appropriate.
People possess the capacity to understand and express both orientations, even though socialized toward one. The socialization process results in both self and others valuing some behaviors while devaluing others, whether intentional or not. A second confounding element arises when the devalued behavior may be natural to the individual and perhaps even more functional in specific role situations. It may be fitting that a woman manifests an independent, assertive, task leader approach if the situation warrants it. It also may be more effective for a man to use nurturing, caring, compromising, relational leader practices. The free and frequent use of the undeveloped and less socially accepted shadow-self behaviors takes courage and persistence. It takes courage and conviction to act in the face of disapproval, rejection, and, in some cases, even social punishment.
Fear--Your Emotional Brakes
Fear is an emotional brake on possible alternative actions. It is normal and, of course, healthy in some circumstances. Fear of falling from a precarious perch or publicly making a speech in front of a hundred people may "feel" the same. Sweaty palms, the flow of adrenaline, and body chemistry may reflect a heightened state of readiness. But the potential negative consequences are different. In most situations, it is life preserving to have a fear of falling from a precarious perch, but this is not necessarily so with making a public speech. Fear in life-threatening situations may be life preserving, but fear in learning situations may be "life" threatening or, at least, limiting. A better understanding of self requires the exploration of thought and feelings, which may stimulate old and new fears.
It's All Part of the Game
Do you think that people can and do change? Do you believe that you can change? These questions are important because to grow means that you must believe people can and do change. Because your reality is in some ways self-constructed, it follows that you can alter it. If you change your thoughts (realities), then you will eventually change your behaviors. Individual change means the shift from one set of patterns or behaviors (realities) to another over time, but an absolute prerequisite to change is the belief that you have the potential to change.
The belief that you can change is essential to your future. If you believe that you (or other people) cannot change, then you become trapped in your present limitations and strengths. On this issue, the experts tend to disagree and the battle rages.23 Consider this: What are the implications for you if you were to live as if you cannot change your patterns of behavior?
This book is based on our findings that most people can change. People can and do change major patterns of behavior--with effort and education. Read no further if you believe that you cannot change. However, if you want to change, the ideas within the following pages will help.
To be more illustrative, let's examine a real management example. One of us was advising a baseball coach for the Major League Chicago Cubs. The discussion centered on reprimanding a player for not adhering to a bunt sign. The coach had previously reprimanded the player in front of the other players.
When the coach was asked to share his rationale for the public reprimand, he said he did it to teach this player and, more important, the other players, what not to do in the future. Further inquiry led to the coach actually disclosing that he didn't want the others to think he was soft. He was indeed the boss and was to be respected through compliance to his directives. Let's grant that the player should have adhered to the bunt sign. However, what alternatives to the public reprimand would produce better results for the coach, the player, and the team?
There are very few circumstances where public reprimands are advantageous. In this case, negative consequences are appropriate, but not a public reprimand because it creates a defensive, resistant, fearful individual who feels violated (even if he is wrong). The player's natural reaction to a public reprimand may be to make excuses, blame the coach, or defensively shut off any constructive feedback that may accompany the public reprimand. The onlookers are not thinking, "Oh, I guess I'll be careful in the future." Typically, they are thinking, "That poor teammate, I'm glad I'm not him . . . that coach is not being fair . . . he makes mistakes as we all do . . . if he ever does that to me . . ."
Instead of producing a learning experience for others about the need to adhere to bunt signs, the coach reduced his own credibility, introduced fear into a learning situation, and produced sympathy for a teammate--probably the last thing that he wanted to do. Indeed, what the coach succeeded in doing was transferring his fear to those around him--disguised in the name of teaching and authority. What makes matters worse is that the shadow side of the coach was not acknowledged or explored. His shadow side was revealed by his fear of being soft or losing control through softness. Those fears blocked his capacity to explore other behaviors.
One common solution known to work in this type of situation is to pull the individual aside (out of earshot of others, but not necessarily out of eyesight) and, after exploring the individual's point of view, to deliver the reprimand if it is still warranted. Using this approach, the player's dignity is still intact, and he also hears the message without the tension of a public reprimand. The other players see that consequences result from missed directives, and they also feel that they will be treated with discretion in similar circumstances.
When the coach heard this alternate solution, he said, "Maybe so, but now the players know who is boss." The coach said being the boss was what was important, and he probably would not use the alternative. It seemed that, in the reality he had created, he needed the eggs!
Stop for a moment. Given that you may not know all the facts behind the example, do you find yourself agreeing with the coach? Do you believe that public reprimands are effective and appropriate? If your answers are yes, what would it take to change your point of view? What emotion is connected with such a change? What is preventing you from using the suggested alternative? You must acknowledge your fear of change and loss of what you presently do as an individual and as a leader. Then, in the spirit of learning, you must courageously go where you have not gone before.
If you confine yourself to unquestioned, "created," familiar realities, then you act in that confinement. You can peel back the layers by understanding that you act in the presence of other alternatives, and consciously acknowledging your fears. As you receive feedback from those you seek to lead, you must face your possible weaknesses. You should cherish your weaknesses, not hide them from yourself. Your weaknesses can be a pathway to new and more growthful possibilities. You can recognize and use your fears to change to better alternative realities.
Alternative Realities and Behaviors
It is said that true insanity is repeating the same ineffective behaviors over and over yet expecting different results. The fear factor is one reason people do not change behavior, however a second and more debilitating reason is the lack of alternatives. Some people possess almost no sense of different alternatives. As you read further, you will gain a clearer understanding of potential alternatives. Try them, use them, and make them your own as you become more versatile.
Collecting information and having the willingness to look at the effect of your behavior is a beginning. You must seek to understand and acknowledge the patterns that you presently use. Understanding presently used behaviors is the first step, but the "true" work begins in "bypassing" the fears of the shadow self, and then using other, more functional possibilities. Repeating the same ineffective behavior over again, yet expecting different results, will not enable you to grow or develop. To grow requires that you become more versatile. Thus, the second step is finding and using suitable alternative behaviors that will achieve better results for you. To use other possibilities requires the reconstruction of your reality in light of real and ideal results.
Working on the "Self"
If the baseball coach wants adherence to the bunt sign and respect as a leader, if he wants performance and motivated ballplayers, then a change in his reality is necessary. His reality must be re-created to allow for other attitudes and behaviors that could produce the desired results. This advice holds true for you. First, note your patterns of frequent behaviors. At the same time, note those patterns you do not use frequently. Those infrequently used behaviors are the key to your fears and growth.
The redefinition of your reality--who you are--may be accomplished if new possibilities can be found in your shadow side. Those different alternatives can be found in behaviors you fear to use. In the case of the coach, his shadow side had within it the belief that it is unacceptable to be seen as weak and not in control. Those beliefs, those fears of the shadow side, prevented him from acknowledging and using alternative possibilities.
The work comes in realizing those other possibilities when necessary. In the coaching example, the coach must understand that his values and disposition at that leadership moment evolved into a need for others to see who has the "power." This need took precedent over the coach's need to have the player understand the conditions that led to the bunt sign, the impact that not bunting had on the status of game, and the impact that noncompliance had on the team.
Assuming the bunt sign was the best strategy at that moment in the game, it is desirable for the player to see the same conditions that the coach saw, which prompted the bunt sign in the first place. Will the leader's actions produce "that reality" for this player?
This example may seem a bit extended, but there is a tendency for all people, at various times, to act on familiar realities instead of looking for a wider range of more effective alternatives. This is especially true in times of stress or pressure.
Personal "Why" of Leadership
As we consult with managers, we often ask if they like managing people. More than half of the managers say no. The results may cause you to wonder why people end up in positions of leadership. What psychic rewards do you receive from being in a leadership position? Is it to be of service? Is it because it is the only way to earn more money or achieve more status? What motives keep you going? As you read the subsequent pages of this book, they will provide you with insight as to what drives you to seek positions of leadership.
Underlying your leadership growth and your purpose as a leader is the issue of your organization's social purpose and your ability to provide leadership in light of its social purpose. Is the first organizational purpose to provide "value" that adds to the lives of others through your organization's product or service, or simply to make money? Can you envision the advancement of social purpose while business goals are being reached, and not the converse? The furthering of social purpose mandates caring about followers inside the organization, as well as the customers outside.
Too many business leaders see their goals only in terms of organizational profits. Profits are necessary and desirable, but remember that profit is a by-product of a greater, broad-ranging vision. Profit is an indirect result of the organization's interaction with a public or a society that wants or needs the organization's service or product. To improve organizations, you must deal with people (both internal and external to the organization), and their individual and collective actions that relate to achieving the organization's social purpose. Of course, capital and fiscal resources are important inputs, but labor and people are still the most potentially defining resources in organizational output.
Being a profitable organization (or fiscally responsible in the case of a noprofit organization) is not at issue. Those who try to argue for either profit over people or people over profit are limiting their capacity to lead. Profit is absolutely essential to maintain growth, provide jobs, and meet the demands of the marketplace. How people are treated and grow while the organization is profiting is the issue. In the long run, making a profit and treating people humanely are not mutually exclusive.
Change and Failure
It is essential for leaders to understand the multilayered self as it is brought to the moments of influence and within the context of furthering the organization's social purpose. Your personality as "it" seeks to meet the requirements of the situation (as you see it) will result in the demonstration of your character. Each moment of leadership can be either well met or poorly executed. All great leaders fail at times, so why not allow yourself that possibility? An examination of the lives of great leaders, such as Gandhi, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill, Golda Meir, and others, confirms the early failures of those we know changed history.24
Your challenge is to know yourself well enough to change yourself. You must learn to "read" the situation and sometimes use behaviors with which you may not be comfortable, if you want to meet the requirements needed to be more effective. For example, the baseball coach needed to be more flexible in his private self-reality so that he could be more behaviorally effective. However, most leaders want others to change behaviors for certain organizational results; they much less often meet the challenge of changing their own behavior with the same gusto they expect from others.