This is an impressive, beautiful, and instructive short video. It captures a young man climbing a 2,500 foot, sheer face, with no ropes. He has only powder on his hands and what amounts to slippers on his feet.
What does this have to do with positive organizing? The climb illustrates something about the process of positive leadership and organizational deep change.
If management is about preserving equilibrium, then leadership is about transforming the existing equilibrium. It is about “building the bridge as you walk on it.” You plan and prepare with rigor but then you engage a deeply challenging task with total commitment. Often this deep change process plays out so there is no turning back. You can only move up the rock.
The rigorous plan is a good influence but it basically becomes of secondary value. You pay great attention and you figure out the next move in real time. Each move has implications for the following move. Disaster is always lurking and the stakes are astronomical. So you pay intense attention.
A manager, like a solo climber, climbs for his own intrinsic reasons, but the leader climbs for the good of the group. This motive is crucially important because he or she must take the group along on the climb. Everyone has to be totally committed to the task and to each other. If they are, their unity gives rise to collective learning and collective intelligence and they perform beyond their own expectations. If they reach the top, they reach it together. They not only achieve success they are bonded forever.
Managers have difficulty accessing this notion of leadership because it violates the conventional mindset. If a manager has the good fortune of having a transformational leader, then the manager gets invited on such a collective climb. The experience challenges tightly held, conventional assumptions and cracks the conventional mindset.
If the manager never has the benefit of such an experience, then the manager has two other alternatives. The first is crisis. In a crisis the manager may commit to climb a great rock out of necessity. This experience also cracks the conventional mindset and opens the manager to a new view of the world. The second is the clarification of personal purpose, commitment to move forward, and constant, deep reflection.
When have I totally committed to something, and what did I learn?
When have a climbed a sheer face with others, and what did I learn?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?