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The Essentials of Leadership – Part 3;

October 15, 2015

Insight, Inspiration, Impact

A leader’s authority to lead emerges from the reach and breadth of his/her vision. Leaders see into the future and doing so they perceive an as yet unmanifest reality and report back their sightings with clarity and detail. The clarity and detail give rise to a new field of endeavour inviting the inspiration and enthusiasm of those who adopt the vision and participate by contributing their efforts to bring the vision to reality.

Insight

The word “insight” refers to a sudden and whole seeing otherwise known as a gestalt. Through insight the leader:

● Sees a path toward the understanding and solution of a problem in a new way and that sighting opens the way for others to follow and participate in the solution;

● Creates a solution–pair by identifying a connection between the problem at hand and another relevant problem expanding the scope of what is being looked at and drawing from the juxtaposition new avenues for solution that were unavailable before the connection was made;

● Clears away principles and experiences that have been used and relied on in the past that, given the parameters and demands of the new problem, can no longer be applied;

● Situates the problem in a new and coherent context that allows for different angles of approach and a wider array of options.

Because the leader’s insight is so penetrating, cutting through superfluous and blurring issues that clutter the way toward a solution, it appears as though he or she did not have to reason in order to find the underlying truth of the new way forward but possessed knowledge that is somehow instinctive, a hunch or a gut feeling, a second sight, or sixth sense. However the powerful gestalt is the result of an extended period of time, perhaps years, invested in thinking deeply about and becoming clear to what appears in the gestalt.

Seeing to the core of the problem and by understanding the relationships among the elements involved and the dynamic movement between them, the new field emerges from and through the new field the leader’s insight makes manifest.

Inspiration

The new field revealed through the leader’s vision compels a followership to develop---not by coercion or even persuasion (although the latter is sometimes needed) but by those who recognize the value inherent in the new field and are excited by its possibilities. They don’t have to be brought along but are willing to join and serve based on their own assessment of the value of what they will be doing and where they are going.

Their excitement is quickened, their ambition is amped up, and their creativity is expanded so that the leader moves them by laying out an opportunity for growth and accomplishment that was not available before. In short, they are inspired. Not by being shown, which is only the first step in the leader’s task, but by connecting their personal needs and values with what the leader is proposing. Connecting is an act that arises from within the followers out of their own sense or degree of alignment. The success of the large vision aligns with their own personal vision of success---material, financial, but mostly spiritual---so that their involvement serves both the larger as well as their personal ambition. The only difference is a matter of scale.

The act of inspiration is equivalent to capturing the imagination of those who join and in that sense a oneness is created---a non-manipulated, organic unity of spirit and effort.

Impact

Historically leadership has been defined from a muscular point of view: the one who can overpower and subdue the other is seen as being the leader. In the past 100 years the United States has been acknowledged as the world’s leader very much based on its military/industrial capacity and its economic superiority. Granted democracy has been a beacon for many around the world but that democracy is very vulnerable without the strength to back it up.

However, it is becoming progressively recognized that muscular leadership does not work well in the workplace. This is not to say that it is entirely inefficient. But it’s become increasingly clear that the most effective capacity of a leader is to enhance the flow of positive emotions which leads to an increase in performance.

No matter how technical the task, underlying the technical output is the constellation of personal thoughts, feelings, and relationships of the people involved, the so-called “soft qualities”---the non-conceptual, non-linear dimensions. The leader’s most profound impact comes from focusing on the well-being of his/her followers, harnessing the flow of emotional as well as unconscious content of the group.

I write this on the 50 anniversary of the day President John F. Kennedy, assassinated in Dallas, Texas, was buried. He is remembered and revered as someone who inspired the nation and the world. Surely there are those who can list the impact of his national and international accomplishments---the resolution of the Cuban crisis being just one---but that would be a tiny group when considered against the massive emotional appeal and impact he had that is felt even today.

A leader not only has a message he/she delivers in words but in spirit even more profoundly.

Recap

Through his/her insight a leader makes manifest what is not yet visible by those who will eventually follow. What is manifest energizes followers not by coercion, the “muscular” approach, but by making obvious the value inherent in the new direction. He/her captures the imagination of followers and an organic unity of spirit and effort emerges. The leader’s most profound impact is emotional, harnessing the flow of conscious as well as unconscious content of the group.

Jim Sniechowski, PhD

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