Thought of the Day

by Brian Brittain on March 24, 2016


Good morning Leaders,

I came across this quote this morning and it inspired this short piece on leadership development. We spend way too much time and effort on developing outer leadership skills, and not enough attention on unearthing the inner sources for bad leadership habits, releasing the hold those habits have on us, and developing more useful ones. In order to learn, you likely have to unlearn first.

Thought for the day
Skills have methods, habits have sources
– Gilbert Ryle

1. Leadership skills have methods: We can teach leadership skills, through methods. This is informational learning or what is sometimes called horizontal learning. It is about adding applications to our personal operating systems (our mindset) or filling up our toolbox with additional skills, knowledge and competencies. It addresses the outer game of leadership, or “what a leader does”.

2. Leadership habits have sources: This is a different beast, as these habits are there to protect an image we have had of ourselves. These habits are like an immune system that protects us from change or developing and sustaining new skills. We have to discover the source, and this source likes to hide deep within us. This source is usually in the form of a big assumption or a belief, that maintains the “bad” habit. We then have to question or test its validity, or accuracy, in terms of today’s world. Does this habit still serve me, or only get in my way? If in the self-reflection and testing process, we see that the belief or assumption is no longer accurate, than we can begin to release the habit without threat to our identity or integrity. This is transformational learning, or what is sometimes called vertical learning. You can’t do this through adding applications to your personal operating system (mindset). You have to change or evolve the operating system into something bigger or more complex. This vertical journey addresses the inner game of leadership or “who a leader is”. The process is like discovering how we have the brake on and then learning how to release it, so that when we apply our foot to the gas (developing a new leadership capability) the adaptive progress won’t be sabotaged by that hidden foot on the brake.

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