Self-limiting Definitions

In the fundamental state of leadership, it is natural to think in both-and terms and to gain capacities that we normally split off as “not part of us.”  Consider an illustration.

One day one of my colleagues and I were discussing the four quadrants of the competing values model.  The model articulates contrasting leadership behaviors.  One quadrant of the model emphasizes the conceptualization of the future, and the quadrant opposite it emphasizes the detailed analysis of the present.  A third quadrant emphasizes task achievement, and its opposite emphasizes concern for people.  Most people think of the opposing quadrants in an either-or fashion.

My friend told me that he was really good at conceptualizing the future, good at task achievement, and sometimes good on concern for people.  However, he said, he was terrible at details and never performs well in that area.

I told him I disagreed.  He was a little offended by my willingness to intrude on his self-analysis.  Our conversation continued as follows:

“You love to write music, right?

“Right.”

“You told me that sometimes you get into ‘the zone’ and really feel that you are doing high level work.”

“That is true.”

“When you are at that high level of performance, you pay great attention to details of creating music, right?”

There was a protracted silence.  First my friend looked a little shocked.  Then he looked a little angry.  Then he said, “I hate it when you do that.” We laughed.

What became clear in that conversation is that when my friend is in the normal state, he dislikes and avoids details.  When he is in the creative state, he attends to details while hardly noticing what he does.  In the fundamental state of leadership, we are more complete and less split in both our thinking and in our behavior.  Yet when we return to normal thinking and behavior, we are limited in our ability to describe transformational reality.  Nevertheless, in the fundamental state of leadership, we reflect more, feel more, learn more, and achieve more.  We become liberated from self-limiting definitions and consequently become more dynamic.  We become more complex people.  We behave in ays that seem paradoxical.  We discover, for example, that it is possible to be simultaneously confident and humble, detached and interdependent, tough and loving, active and reflective, practical and visionary, responsible and free, authentic and engaged.

 

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