Does Developing Your Innate Leadership Improve Agility?

According to research, a top 5 reason for executive failure is the refusal to see and deal with reality.1 Imagine that. Executives can be so sure of their plan that they blind themselves to threats and forces that they could see if they were willing and open to seeing them.

I’m guessing this is not a shock to you.

Executive leadership is not the only place this blindness occurs. I see it as the leading (not just top 5) reason for people in all walks of life falling far short of their desires and potential. Yes, its our lack of looking, not our lack of brilliance, that keeps us from perceiving the real threats to personal productivity, achievement, and the ability to deliver value.

Consider this. Research also shows that rather than blindly following previous plans and habits, real leaders examine their own beliefs and assumptions about challenging situations and problems in order to see them for what they truly are. Only then can they mobilize an effective response2.

What does that mean? It means that real leadership is marked by facing oneself with the question:

“What is true here that I am not yet seeing?”

And this ability is innate in everyone of us whether or not we choose to use it.

Holding onto a lie is expensive. Seeing new truth is powerful.

Innate Leadership is a Gift You’ve Already Received

What’s in our way of seeing the truth in challenging situations? Anxiety, aka angst, anxiousness, and upset. That’s all. It is uncomfortable, and we have two choices: Cope or Grow. Here’s three ways we cope with everyday anxiety (there are more):

  • Denial. We close our eyes, cover our ears, and hum a comforting tune
  • LayBlame. We take the position that our problem is really “them”
  • Justify. We say that this is “just” the way it is

But these are coping mechanisms that simply keep us holding onto a lie but feeling momentarily better.

With the Leadership Gift, you can instead use your innate leadership to Grow. Just:

  • Commit to and trust your ability to respond
  • Stand in the fire and look to see what’s true
  • Own it–what to do will become clear to you

Agility in large part means the ability to respond successfully to change. Coping won’t accomplish that. Only growing will.


At Work: What’s nopt quite right that’s got your attention that’s waiting for your innate leadership?

At Home: What heat do you need to examine and turn into light?

Forget past mistakes.
Forget failures.
Forget everything except what you are going to do now and do it.
William Durant, founder of General Motors

  1. Sydney Finklestein, Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Lern From Their Mistakes (Portfolio, 2003)
  2. Noel Tichy, The Leadership Engine: How Winning Companies Build Leaders At Every Level (Collins; Harper Edition, 2002)
Posted in Leadership on 06/01/2010 03:49 am
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