Leadership Catch 22

In conversation recently, someone asked me how it was possible to improve the performance of their team. That certain people in particular just didn’t seem to ‘get’ what was required from them, they were frustrated that nothing seemed to be making a difference. I was instantly reminded of a Leonardo da Vinci quote:

“There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.”

It’s a useful analogy with nurses caring for unconscious patients. The patients who are alert require less care than the patients who are semi-conscious, they require help to wake and become independent. Then there are the patients who are in a deep coma, who show no signs of waking. These patients require a lot of care and attention whilst we wait patiently for them to wake. Many do wake but a small number do not.

In essence, leadership courses are often full of awake and engaged professionals, self-selecting the personal work required for transformational leadership. What about the people who we perceive just don’t ‘get’ it?

The common approach to ‘change management’ that seems familiar to us represents an outside in strategy. Someone comes along and instructs you to do something differently, because they are in a position of power, change just happens – this is a short-term strategy. It works for a while but when they stop asking they stop getting.   Transformation is an inside out approach to how we work with people and businesses that builds effective long-term sustainable change.  Transformation is about shifting something internally, whether sub-consciously or consciously, that changes how the workforce approaches a solution. Change happens because it is intrinsically motivated. This results in a sustainable shift in how the workforce approaches their day-to-day business and their interactions with other members of the team and clients. There is ownership and responsibility. More importantly the workforce experiences a sense of accomplishment associated with achievement. This is missing when we ‘impose’ change on individuals or businesses.

The catch 22 is that transformation requires time, commitment, investment and faith in people. This is the hallmark of leadership. It requires the care and attention that we give to unconscious patients, we can’t just tell them that waking up would be in their best interests, they are just not going to hear you. What we do know is, that when people open their eyes, they really get to see what awake looks like. Life, as we know, gets to be so much better with your eyes open.

 “Common sense is that which judges the things given to it by other senses”

Leonardo da Vinci


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.