Buried in the word leadership exist two significant issues. First, in any one group, if we were to ask each individual to write down a comprehensive definition of “leadership” each person's definition would be different from all the rest. This means in any discussion about this topic every person in the group has a slightly different idea in their mind about what leadership is. It is no surprise there are so many struggles when having discussions about leadership. Essentially what we have in those discussions is many “right answers” but to problems differently defined because of different definitions of the word leadership. The second issue and even more surprising is the confidence each person has about not only their own definition of the word leadership but their assumption that everyone else in the room has the same definition. When thought through, one could easily decide it is surprising we ever do anything.
Because of the ambiguity of words organizations, struggle in almost every problem solving discussion. Most of the time members of the discussion blame the conflict on differing opinions about the solution rather than recognizing the differing views about the problem and the definitions of the role of leadership. I believe one of the major causes of conflict between people is the assumptions that everyone agrees on the word definition and understand the nature of the problem in the same way. Therefore I believe a solution to reduce conflict between people and within organizations is to assume we do not have the same definitions of our words or the nature of the problem we're trying to solve. Therefore if we want true success, leadership will begin by listening beyond the words spoken into the heart speaking those words. Leadership will spend more time in the development of clarifying and understanding the messages beyond the words.
Foundational to leadership development must include the opportunity for future leaders to learn how to listen past the words spoken or written into the heart of the speaker or writer. We must develop within future leaders a clear understanding of the continuous hazard of assuming we know all we need to know. We must also develop and understanding that we are all not necessarily agreeing about what our words mean and about the true nature and relevant issues of the problem we are trying to solve. I argue if we were to spend most of our time clarifying words and the nature and relevant issues of a problem the solution to the problem will often become self-evident. This means that leadership development must focus on that human nature tendency to assume everyone agrees with the fundamentals of a discussion.
The easy part of leadership training will be the skills needed to plan, organize, motivate, and manage projects and solutions. The more difficult task is to give leaders in training the opportunities to experience firsthand the need to listen beyond the words. I suggest this will involve role-playing, modeling, mentoring, and watching. This particular leadership training will be one of the most difficult training programs and organization could have. Removing the leadership training experience from a superficial and surface focus to the heart of many misunderstandings and sources of conflict. It means that many trainees may not have the heart to be willing to change.
As you can see, we are suggesting the idea of leadership is much deeper than just planning, organizing, and carrying out strategies and tactics. A leader must be is about self-understanding and understanding others especially where the heart and perspectives live. Because in many organizations we often ignore the views and hearts of others we end with what would be unnecessary conflict and other barriers to the future. Therefore I believe, for real leadership development, we need to use leadership training to develop a healthy lack of confidence in what we think we know and then develop a better understanding of the perspectives, definitions, and hearts of others.
Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart
When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world