The Covenant of Leadership

A friend, Ricardo Levy, recently taught me. He is a successful entrepreneur. Six months ago he had to make one of the most complex and difficult decisions of his life. He has since spent much time pondering the meaning of the difficult experience.

He called and talked through what happened. He shared a diagram of the process. He said he had to fearfully step into the unknown. He had to stay there until he knew what to do. Doing so was like entering crucible of transformation. Inside his lonely crucible, the anxiety was extreme. As he wrestled with his paradoxical tensions, a change took place. He knew what to do.

He said that the transformational moment brought understanding. Complexity reduced to simplicity. It was as if the crucible became a chalice, filled with life-giving refreshment.

In describing the transformative moment on the phone, this man of great analytic ability began to slow. He struggled to express all that seemed to transpire. He was, in real time, learning from his own observations.

He spoke of the transformational moment as leaving the analytic realm and entering the human realm and seeing the whole context. His fear turned to confidence, hope, and love.

He said that in that moment he also found a new voice, the voice of a leader. He could suddenly speak both logically and with genuine feeling.

He again slowed. I could tell he was doing sense making in real time. He mentioned the word covenant and paused again.

He said that when you find the leader within, you discover that you have a covenant. The people expect the leader to see the way. The leader must do his or her best to find the way. In uncertainty, this means entering the cauldron and suffering the process of deep learning. The commitment to learning is an act of carrying the people in love.

I was mesmerized by his notion of the leadership covenant. It is a sacred agreement we make with our best self, our dynamic, growing self. It is a promise to be whole, to be simultaneously analytical and human. It is a promise to engage the whole, to recognize that the other is a being of reason and of emotion, to recognize the organization is both a technical system and a dynamic, social system that needs to learn, grow, and adapt.

The emergent leadership covenant is a promise to pursue the common good of the system while loving and nourishing the people who comprise the system. Only when we keep this covenant do we continue to bring enlightenment or the simplicity from the other side of complexity. The understanding or simplicity from the other side of complexity is vision. Self-interest pulls every organization toward convention and decay; when we keep the leadership covenant, we can help rescue the organization from that natural path.

Reflection

  • What is the simplicity on the other side of complexity?
  • Why is it necessary to enter the crucible and stay there?
  • What do you believe about the emergent covenant of leadership?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


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