As you know, I have been writing this book on leadership in times of change for little over a year now. Yesterday I completed the final section of the final chapter of inner leadership, and thought I would share it with you.
The first six chapters of inner leadership take us from making sense of the situation we find ourselves in to creating an inspiring vision of whatever we want to create instead.
The seventh chapter prepares us for the implementation of that vision and the inner emotional transitions that inevitably come alongside any outer change. In brief, it describes how to manage those transitions, how understanding them can help us to engage people more fully to follow our vision, and how ultimately to create ‘antifragile’ leaders and organisations: people and organisations that actually become stronger because of change rather than being damaged by it.
This penultimate section of that chapter, the last one to be completed, looks again at the whole time of churning we are living through and describes/explains how, with the insights of inner leadership, it is actually an opportunity to create whatever we most want.
I realise this section is out of context, but I hope you find it useful and interesting, and would be interested in your comments.
I am now switching my focus to a few ‘housekeeping’ activities, and then to publication!
The Churning Revisited
So far in this chapter we have seen how understanding our personal transitions brings the opportunity to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances, and to engage people more fully to support our vision. We have seen how understanding the way change happens in an organisation brings the opportunity to create antifragile businesses and leaders.
Let’s step back one more time to consider what it means when almost all organisations are changing at once. Let’s use what we have learned from inner leadership to reinterpret what this time of churning means for us.
Four hundred years ago Shakespeare’s Prospero spoke of how difficult it is to build anything that lasts:
“The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself. Yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”
Five hundred years before that Omar Khayyam was saying the same thing:
“The worldly hope men set their hearts upon turns ashes or it prospers, and anon like snow upon the desert’s dusty face, lighting a little hour or two, is gone”
And long even before Omar Khayyam looked out across the desert’s dusty face, Hindu legend told of the dangers and opportunities that come with change. (The box below tells the story of The Churning of the Milk Ocean.)
We might find ourselves knocked off balance or disturbed by this time of churning but it is really nothing new. Change has always been with us. The only difference now is the scale of changes that we face.
Alan Watts explained what it means when everything is changing:
“The meaning of the fact… that everything is dissolving constantly – that we’re all falling apart, we’re all in the process of constant death… [that it’s] all falling apart, everything is – that’s the great assistance to you. The fact that everything is in decay is your help. That is allowing you that you don’t have to let go, because there is nothing to hold on to.
“The principle is that any time you… voluntarily let up control… you have an access of power. Because [until then] you are wasting energy all the time in self-defence, trying to manage things, trying to force things to conform to your will. The moment you stop doing that, that wasted energy is available… You are one with the Divine Principle. You have the energy…
“So once you see that you just don’t have a prayer, and that’s it’s all washed up and that you will vanish and ‘leave not a rack behind’, and you really get with that, suddenly you find you have the power, this enormous access of energy… power with which you can be trusted.”
What Alan Watts is telling us is that although we might feel there is nothing to hold on to in this time of churning, there never was and never will be. And once we see that we “just don’t have a prayer” and “really get with that” then we receive an “enormous access of energy”.
Seen from this viewpoint, this time of churning becomes our greatest ally and opportunity. And inner leadership has already taught us how to do what he is suggesting.
If there is nothing external to hold on to then the stability we seek must come from inside ourselves. The tools of Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 have shown us how to achieve this: to centre, ground, make sense of the situation, identify what it will take for us to live a worthwhile life (leaving “not a rack behind”), and crystallise all that into our purpose and values.
Once we do this then we free ourselves to look beyond the challenges we face and see the opportunities, to choose the one that suits us best, and articulate it as a vision that brings energy to ourselves and others. The tools of Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 6 have enabled us to do this as well.
In this time of global churning, with so many interconnected changes happening at once, we cannot hope to escape or ignore change. In the language of Chapter 3 that leaves us with three alternatives: to fix, improve, or transform either the situation and/or our own leadership. The two volumes of this book provide a structured methodology for achieving whichever option you choose.
Which you choose is up to you. It doesn’t matter, so long as you actively choose the one that is best for you now. Because if you don’t, then as Seth Godin says, you have effectively chosen anyway. And if you do then you are starting to live a meaningful life, which is the only worthy goal.
Remember that the future belongs to organisations and leaders which are antifragile: groups of people who are able to work together on projects of shared meaning, in ways that use every so-called ‘challenge’ to clarify and develop both their purpose/values and their ability to achieve those things.
So make your choice, define a vision that inspires you now, and either form an organisation to achieve it, join one that already exists, or transform the one you are in already. There are billions of people experiencing the churning, seeking the solutions you can bring. The challenge is the opportunity.
Now that you have completed inner leadership you are ready to move to outer leadership. Before we do that, the final section of this chapter revisits some of the major landmarks of inner leadership and pulls them together into a sketch map to take with you on the journey to your vision.