by Andrew Blum, CEO & Managing Partner
Recently, I had the distinct honor of hosting a Dialogue on the Future of Leadership, a one-day conference featuring Joseph Jaworski and Byron Katie, two wisdom-holders in the space of leadership and human development. I asked Joseph and Katie to join me because I strongly believe that in our increasingly complex world, the new era of leadership must be about the nurturing and development of coherence – coherence first with oneself, then with others. This requires that leaders learn to get connected to themselves as a starting point for developing a coherent strategy. Coherence and connection are two areas around which Joseph and Katie offer great insight.
For years, CEOs and business leaders have attempted to develop coherent strategies through conventional, all too predictable means – collecting data, “crunching the numbers,” and then holding long, time-consuming meetings attended by countless executives with the intention of trying to decode and analyze an often unwieldy mound of information. Invariably, what emerged were stale, incoherent strategies, accompanied by poor results that fell far short of the hoped-for expectations.
These leaders eventually learned (the ones who were paying attention anyway, and remaining open to growth and change) that they weren’t nourishing or utilizing their systems properly; they were simply overloading them. The deeper, more important lesson, was that to nourish the system (ie., the organization), they had to nourish themselves first.
Data is important… don’t get me wrong… but it is never enough, especially when your primary goal is to conceive of and implement an effective, coherent corporate strategy. In my experience, the most successful strategies are always the ones that come from great passion, sparkling clarity and pure conviction. But how do we connect with our passion, clarity, and conviction? Glad you asked, because that’s where Joseph and Katie come in.
In Joseph’s work with organizations over the last several decades, he has encouraged leaders to recognize that they have “capacities within that are phenomenal.” They access these capacities by learning to tap into “Source,” Joseph’s word for the place of collective wisdom that contains infinite potential. Joseph coaches his clients on how to get still, while learning to become less susceptible to stress and pressure. Meditation, it turns out, is a very effective tool for achieving both these goals. Joseph also emphasizes the importance of learning to let go of prior belief systems, about which Byron Katie knows a thing or two.
Where Joseph has worked with teams and organizations to achieve clarity, Katie has done the same with individuals. Her work is based on the deceptively simple premise that when we believe our thoughts, we suffer; when we don’t believe them, we don’t. Katie teaches us how to stop believing our thoughts through a process she calls “The Work,” which involves a very clear and actionable method for questioning our thoughts. During the conference, Katie did The Work with several attendees, which proved cathartic for those on and off the stage – and how relevant this type of Inquiry can be for achieving clarity in the workplace.
Developing a coherent strategy must thus be thought of as an inside job, not one derived from outside resources and feedback, but from turning inside and getting clear. Rarely is missing data the problem; we certainly have more than enough ways of collecting it and analyzing it these days. Far more often what’s truly missing is access to the wisdom that’s already available within us. Only when we are able to access that wisdom and then present it to our teams from a clear and strong perspective, can we allow them the opportunity to better access their own collective wisdom (Joseph’s “Source”).
One of the challenges of this “get still/practice Inquiry” approach is that it requires leaders to become better managers of themselves. CEOs and senior executives are often much more comfortable pointing out the flaws in others than in looking at their own. Similarly, they recognize external conflicts within their companies more easily than the conflicts within themselves, which frequently are causing greater damage. The irony is that these leaders will become far more effective managers, communicators and strategists after they have learned how to more rigorously manage themselves. But once they have mastered this skill, they will experience Coherence (yes, with a capital C) as their own internal data begins to reveal itself.
I witnessed this phenomenon with a recent client, a CEO of a leading technology company who’d been challenged for years by an internal debate over the best direction for the company to pursue. Following some coaching that involved Inquiry and “getting still,” he had a breakthrough driving to work one day when the answer, in his words, “just came to me.” After he presented his breakthrough to the company, it was greeted enthusiastically by everyone, even those with whom he’d been vehemently arguing only days earlier. As he explained, it was as if they recognized the same undeniable and clear ring of truth in the idea that he’d felt in his car. What I helped him understand was that this idea hadn’t actually come to him magically; it was there all along. He just had to take the necessary steps to access it.
The bottom line? Coherent strategies come from coherent leaders. Likewise, incoherent leaders can only manifest incoherent strategies, no matter how late their meetings run, how many consultants they hire to analyze the data, or how advanced their number-crunching algorithms are.
This is wisdom, by the way, that’s come to me only after years of hitting my own head against the same wall – trying to develop effective strategies by thinking my way into a solution. It was only after I stepped back, looked inward, and began to examine the fears and beliefs beneath my thinking that I was able to experience what true coherence felt like.
I was helped, of course, by my work with Joseph and Katie… and by my discovery that their two approaches complement each other perfectly. For when we get clear and end our suffering through Inquiry (thank you, Katie), we are able to tap into Source and unleash our highest capacities (thank you, Joseph). Practiced together, the teachings of these two “wisdom-holders” is the perfect antidote to an increasingly complicated world, and can lead us to the most inspired and coherent of futures.
And isn’t that where we all want to go?
For those of you who missed it, here is a glimpse into this truly remarkable day:
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