As mentioned a few weeks back, I’ve been in hiding so that I can write (It’s hard to find peace and quiet sometimes here at SEALFIT HQ with the barbells clinking and tires flipping;) One of the pieces I’m working on is called The Way of The SEAL. My team and I thought it would be fun to share an excerpt with you….enjoy!
Leadership is a Chameleon Theory
Much effort is spent in the corporate and academic world trying to define leadership, but leadership is a chameleon theory like many other social sciences.
These “sciences” make meaning out of chaos by dissecting a subject into its most microscopic elements and studying them in isolation. This reductionist strategy kills the patient (the authentic leader) in a well-intentioned effort to see what makes his brain work.
The result of this approach—which has dominated the fields of social science, human resource management, and politics for the last forty years—is a straight-jacketed, anxious work environment where political correctness, collectivism, and risk avoidance have been institutionalized over authenticity, individuation, and risk taking.
Those in power positions have been seduced into a feel-good, low-performance mediocrity. Our unhealthy obsession with upward mobility bypasses an honest desire to grow professionally and motivates us up the ladder regardless of whether or not we’re ready for the expanded scope and accountability. The resume replaces character in today’s hiring process.
There are even services that will help people make simple job experience seem like elaborate and hard to replicate skills and accomplishments. Employee review processes have been “PC’d” into uselessness, abysmal character failures too easily obscured in a glow of bullshit.
We’re all victims of a social studies project gone awry.
Cookie Cutter Theories Often Fall Flat
I’ve been fortunate, like many of you, to study leadership as well as observe it “up close and personal” from multiple perspectives. I’ve attended seminars and taught them myself at a major university. I have led and been led in large corporate and military settings as well as small businesses and teams. What I’ve noticed is this: Aspiring leaders typically learn a particular model at a leadership training event or by reading the latest book and think it applies to everyone, everywhere, at all times and in all situations. They think, all I have to do is act as I’ve been taught and I’ll be fine.
When their model proves inadequate, the budding leader loses faith and starts looking for the next best model. Servant Leadership, Situational Leadership, Visionary Leadership, Gung Ho! Leadership…these are popular cookie cutter theories. Valuable perspectives, yes, but just models nonetheless. We wonder why things continue to feel wrong when we spend so much time seeking the Holy Grail of leadership theories instead of looking within.
If the would-be leader lacks an underlying commitment to self-mastery and deep introspection, then even the best-intentioned theories will fall flat when executed.
Leadership Kokoro: Merging the Heart and Mind
Embracing the Way of the SEAL requires a new approach. I believe authentic leadership stems from the heart of an individual, regardless of (and sometimes in spite of) the organization or system he or she is enshrined in. For success, we need to develop a concept of Leadership Kokoro—the merging of heart and mind with action.
Then we must integrate this Leadership Kokoro into the “I,” “We,” and “It” spheres of experience.
We need leaders who are committed to leading from the front and pushing from the rear, who are willing to stand up and step out, risking more to enforce integrity at all levels—self, team, and organization. We also need our organizations to support the efforts of these authentic leaders and teams (a kind of circular situation, since change often arises from within).
This sea change in thought and behavior won’t happen because of any one book, course, or event. There’s no magic bullet model. It will only be executed through developing one authentic leader at a time.
Hooyah, Mark Divine