The 7 New Principles of Leadership

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Transforming organizations requires developing leadership within individuals FIRST

Leadership is now a state of mind, not a position. In our rapidly changing interactive age, we will increasingly find ourselves in situations that demand that we exercise our innate capability to lead. It is imperative that each of us surface the unique leader within. We must fully develop our leadership capability, in order for our organizations and lives to reflect our highest aspirations. As quality and systems genius Dr. W. Edwards Deming noted, the path to leadership is one of personal growth and transformation, linked to a clear and positive aim. Unleashing the leader within benefits greatly from an understanding of 7 key principles of leadership, elegantly summarized here by Donna C.L. Prestwood and Paul A. Schumann, Jr.

1.   KNOW who you are

“Who are you?” the caterpillar asked Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. We are now confronted with this same question. Making the decision to answer this question is the beginning of the journey to becoming a leader. We must understand what we know and what we don’t know about ourselves — and what we “know” that isn’t so. We must assess our resistance to and tolerance for change, our fears, our preferences and our skills and abilities.

2.   LET go of what you’ve got hold of

In the Industrial Age, the first rule of “wing walking” was applied: Don’t let go of what you’ve got hold of until you’ve got hold of something else. In the Age of Interaction, progress cannot be made until you let go of what you’ve got hold of. We must discover the chains that bind us to our past and prevent us from understanding who we really are. Once we understand the chains that bind us, we must let go of them. Letting go puts us on the path to new experiences, from which we gain more understanding of who we really are. Letting go allows us to become responsible for our own actions and future.

3.   LEARN your Purpose

Each of us has a purpose. Not all of us understand what our purpose is. Even those who think they understand their purpose probably only have a glimmer of what their true purpose is. But if we define our purpose too soon, we may limit what we can accomplish with our life. We learn our purpose through lifelong introspection, coupled with interaction with others. It is also important that we develop habits of mind that allow us to filter through interactions and choose the positive ones that support us. Habits of mind are developed from the values that we have and daily practice. Values propel us along the path to discovering our unfolding purpose. As we discover more of our purpose, we can decide to upgrade our values to continue our purposeful, lifelong process of growth and transformation.

4.   LIVE in the Question  

In the Industrial Age, we learned to analyze a situation, isolate the problem, and administer a quick fix. In the Age of Interaction, we must recognize that everything is tied to everything else; all is connected. Therefore, we must live in the question long enough to understand the relationships important to a systems solution. For example, the temptation in the Apollo 13 mission was to turn the spacecraft around and fire the engine as soon as the magnitude of the problem was known. The flight director avoided this quick solution and instead asked his team to “live in the question” for three days, relying on their capabilities and team genius to get the astronauts home safely. As it turned out, the quick solution would have been a deadly one, as the engine was damaged. Flexibility is required so that we can be open to the vast potential of the unknown.

5.   LEARN the art of Barn Raising

“Barn raising” is a tradition of the pioneer culture where people came together to help someone build a barn. Individuals applied their unique talents, teams were formed to accomplish specific tasks, and a healthy community was developed in the process. Today’s emphasis on teamwork recognizes the basic need to work with and through others. A shared purpose and aim motivates individuals to contribute their energy, skills and abilities, towards the upliftment and fulfillment of one and all.

6.   GIVE it away: Ennoble, Enable, Empower, Encourage

A paradox of life is that the more we try to hold on to something, the more likely we are to lose it. Viewing people as abundant, renewable resources and giving away authority allows the full power of individuals to be realized. The potential of teams and organizations can likewise be multiplied. This is accomplished through Ennobling, Enabling, Empowering, and Encouraging ourselves and others. Empowerment fails if it is attempted without ennoblement and enablement first. And it will fail if people are not encouraged to learn from their mistakes. We must relentlessly pursue the release of Authority, Fear, and Control.

7.   LET the Magic Happen!  

The final principle of enlightened leadership is to let go of the demands of our ego. We must become a member of the team and utilize our abilities — joining in the shared purpose — to help the team and our organization achieve its maximum potential. There are always three choices lead, follow, or get out of the way. The wisdom of leadership in the Age of Interaction is to know which appropriate action to choose for each situation — and then to commit to it and follow through.

 Adapted from an article in The Futurist, by Donna C.L. Prestwood & Paul A. Schumann Jr.  ~

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