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A New Class of and for Leaders

Posted By Stephan Polomski On July 26, 2010 @ 06:21 In Leadership | Comments Disabled

During a recent leadership training running for four days I asked myself as a participant once again the everlasting question what leadership is? We were trained to function in a framework of conflicts and to serve existing structures with its rules and paradigms. The training dealt pragmatically with the cruelty of today´s business and showed us, how to survive therein applying certain communication methods and business models.

When J. P. Kotter published “Leading Change” in 1996 he differentiated between management and leadership. He understands managing as work on things which are and leading on things to come. What the training did was to enhance us to reign as executives the status quo of the present. What it dismissed was to open up a reason beyond survival and function; it dismissed a meaning why I should undergo that rat race of profit maximization, functionality, and conformity – if not for the sake of setting the status quo in concrete.

The training was tough and challenging sensibilising us for the pitfalls during organizational crisis – and our trainers were of the highest psychological and professional rank. However, at the same time, it was meaningless to me, as we did not operate on a meta-level seeking for solutions going beyond dysfunctional structures or interfaces. It was like drinking from a turbid font, no deeper insight, no refreshment.

Of course, everybody has to find the reason behind his professional doing within her- or himself – however, what happened to me was: I got lost as I could not identify a deeper meaning – a vision and purpose – and through that true responsibility for people and true authority out of awareness which went beyond functionality in business. In other words: I don´t want to be trained to be a soldier or officer, but a leader!

And then, I was asking myself, what, if this is the general, the mainstream way, executives are trained? What, if executives are reduced to function and efficiency? Obey and behave. Support existing structures. Support existing mind sets. Although everybody pretended openness and diversity, deeper change was not fostered.

Remembering my time as a student of economics and marketing – this was just the way professors set benchmarks and measures. Of course, there were exceptions, professors, who – within their roles – had another inner mind set. However, new horizons were set only within the golden cage.

And actually: isn´t that the way how HR-departments execute their recruiting; looking for a match of expertise and cultural fit in terms of functionality; my own way? Making sure that candidates are willing to fit and obey and support? How can people give their best: inspiration, creativity, motivation, excellence, belief for the purpose of your and my company if they are not free to explore, to try out with courage and apply pioneering spirit beyond functionality? Breaking rules, breaking mind sets and thus truly innovate.

Questions here: where do you serve? – In a rat-race-company? Why do you serve? Making money? – Compassion? Inner calling? – Deploying personal vision and life purpose? Deploying your full potential?

Functioning and being quick and efficient is important for executives. I know. On the other hand, this is not enough.

In my own company, we will start leadership training with a new group of young potentials in September. So I am grateful for the experience I underwent recently during the mentioned training being a student of leadership on my own. Back to my office as person in charge for our company´s leadership development I will rethink our existing curriculum and focus on both: functionality within the structured business framework and individual deployment of inner vision and excellence.

“Apparently, you need two wings to fly.”

Apparently, you need two wings to fly.

The sleight of hand is to unite both seeming polarities. The magic word is integration. The challenge is its execution.

How to?

J.P. Kotter offered a model with the two notions “management” and “leadership” with separate definitions.

Taoism offers a model with the notions of yang and yin, an earthy (pragmatic) and a heavenly (philosophical or spiritual) approach to life which only together form the circle of entity.

Celtics offer the metaphor of a tree of life. They believed that the cosmos is a giant tree: its roots enter deeply into the earth and its branches loom deeply into the sky. Man is mediating in between both aspects through his life.

I like all three approaches as deeply inspiring young (and seasoned) leaders to position themselves and to change business life socializing those they are responsible for. Fostering innovation with goes beyond, fostering deployment of potential, fostering care.

All three approaches help me as leadership trainer to keep up my own vision and enhancing people to choose how to deal with the existing business setting using both wings. Dealing with what I call rat race by – may be – deploying compelling joint experiences.

Both latter symbols stand for the balance of two aspects of only one world, each of them with two sides, they stand for union. They also stand for change and constant renewal and thus: they stand for life.

Leading change – as Kotter´s book title reads –also stands for leading a company´s life.

How to live and integrate both necessary sides of entity as human being and as executive? Some ideas are:

- Work on your personal mastery intrinsically, constantly, disciplined

- Get feedback (mentor, coach, colleagues, family, friends)

- Apply self-directed learning according to your personal purpose and inner calling

- Look for the right teachers and trainers to guide you through your process

- Face what you deny

- Then: use your two wings to fly and enjoy the voyage towards your own accomplishment

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