"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – English proverb
In a way, the quote above says it all. However, I would like to peel this conversation in layers, like peeling an onion. I will take this opportunity to uncover why some people are only comfortable with smooth seas or situations. And others will comfortably sail into the storm.
How we see the world will dictate theactions we take. Some see tough situations as life threatening. Others see the same situation as an opportunity to demonstrate their power or show what they are really made of. What does this have to do with leadership? Everything! Anyone can lead an organization when everything is going well. It is the person who can lead in the face of breakdowns, disruptions, problems, economic crisis, etc. that will make the best leader.
On paper, it would seem all people are equal. In reality, that is never the case. For some, whether they encounter a person or situation, they add their interpretation to what is occurring. What am I saying? Every moment of our lives something occurs. Let’s call the occurring reality. Reality is what is actually happening without the addition of our interpretation. We add a fable to the reality. The fable is a representation of something that has happened in our past or it is what our environment taught us to believe. For the most part, fables are made up of judgments, opinions, assessments, presuppositions, etc. We combine what is occurring – the reality – with the fable in our minds. In effect, we have created a new reality. The new reality does not exist, except in our minds. Yet, we react to it as though it is actually happening.
For example, if the boss says good morning at work, we interpret what his or her good morning means. We add a fable and say ‘did you hear how he said good morning? He is in a bad mood.’ We add the fable to reality and respond to the new manufactured reality as though it is a fact.
Now, you may say ‘so what’. Well, if you are a leader and you constantly interpret reality based on a fable, you may have a misrepresentation of what is actually occurring. That misrepresentation can cause you to poorly manage people and money. In other cases, it can cause you to misjudge people and hire the wrong talent.
The leader who interprets reality with a fable attached may perform well when there are no problems. When the pressures from problems arise, that same manager may rely too heavily on fables. For that manager, they will believe they have made the right decision, even though their decision is based on something that never happened. In fact, they will defend themselves and justify why they made their choices. What they won’t see is their blind spot – an inimical behavioral pattern that is hidden from self – and how it causes them to misjudge.
Before you add a fable to your perspective about this article, take a step back and examine the times you misjudged a person or situation. You may find a fable at the source.
For those who aspire to be a leader, it is wise to find someone you trust. They should be someone who is insightful and committed to your success, like an executive coach or mentor. They could be invaluable to your ability to uncover blind spots and develop yourself as a great leader. They will help you develop the skills to sail through smooth or turbulent waters.
While it is safe to say all people add fables to reality, there are some people who do it very often. For those who do it often, their leadership could be dangerous to the organization. They may head down a path that may serve self-interest. Needless to say, their decisions may not be in the best interest of others. To be a great leader, it takes, development, practice and a high commitment. How will you develop your leadership skills today?
What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.