Read all of Chapter 2: Leading Without Controlling (PDF file)

Excerpt from Chapter 3, “From I to We” (pp. 68-70)

Excerpt from Chapter 7, “Values and Principles Show the Way” (pp. 179-182)

Excerpt from Chapter 8, “The Power of Purpose” (pp. 189-191)

Or Search Inside at Amazon: The Inner-Work of Leadership

Excerpt from Chapter 3, “From I to We” (pp. 68-70)

What do you think of when you hear the word wholeness? When I first mention the word in my seminars or classes, eyes glaze over. Occasionally, somebody jokingly asks if I’m going to make them sing “Kumbaya.” Others silently recall team-building seminars where they fell off a ladder into the arms of colleagues; they confess having wished to sneak out early. I don’t blame them! Nothing is worse than enduring a forced, contrived experience, one that does not arise organically from within.

So, relax. I won’t ask you to sing “Kumbaya” or to fall off a ladder. I’m pretty sure that practical leaders such as Ken Iverson and Jim Sinegal have no time for that either. What I will suggest in this chapter is far harder to do, yet far more rewarding. It is a journey that leaders like Iverson and Sinegal have already taken. You need no suitcase, no reservations, no tickets; all that you need is a change of heart. We are about to cross into a world of Wholeness—from “I” to “We.”

This journey is necessary because almost all of our ideas about organizations are built on a faulty premise: “I am separate from everything.” The goal of this separated “I” is to keep its identity intact, while removing the angst, isolation, anger, and anxiety it experiences. However, we cannot simultaneously keep our separated identity intact and be effective leaders. For that matter, we cannot keep our separated “I” and have happy and fulfilled lives.

Perhaps you have heard this parable. One evening while out for a walk, a person sees her neighbor looking for something under a streetlight. She stops and asks, “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for my keys,” replies the neighbor. They search and search under the streetlight but find nothing.

Finally, the person asks, “Are you sure you dropped your keys here?”

“Actually,” the neighbor replies, “I don’t think I dropped them here, but I thought I’d look here because here is where the light is.”

This little parable has universal meaning, because it reflects an aspect of the universal condition—at times, each of us has looked for something where it could never be found. At some point, if a manager is to make the shift from “I” to “We” the focus of attention has to turn to where the “keys” really are. They are not where we have been looking.

In Chapters 1 and 2, insights came to Michael, Ellen, and Justin when each saw that the problems they were dealing with were not separate and external to themselves. Here lies a key: Beyond appearances, there is an integrating Wholeness of which we are a part. At the heart of our capacity to give up control and forsake separateness is our reliance upon Wholeness. For most of us, the inner-work needed to begin to experience Wholeness is neither quick nor easy; barriers are in our way; and we are unsure of our destination.

The realization of Wholeness is a way to increase our spiritual intelligence. Stephen R. Covey in his book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness explains why increasing our spiritual intelligence is central to our leadership development. He writes that “spiritual intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences [Covey also identifies mental, physical, and emotional intelligences] because it becomes the source of guidance of the other three. Spiritual intelligence represents our drive for meaning and connection with the infinite.”

What does spiritual mean? It does not mean religious; although for some, practicing a religion is one way of increasing spiritual intelligence. In his book Thinking With Your Soul, Richard Wolman defines spiritual:

By spiritual I mean the ancient and abiding human quest for connectedness with something larger and more trustworthy than our egos–with our own souls, with one another, with the worlds of history and nature, with the indivisible winds of the spirit, with the mystery of being alive.

Wolman’s words point us in the direction of valuing and experiencing Wholeness. Yet, there are barriers to realizing Wholeness and barriers to leading from “We”. These barriers have their source in our ego. In the next chapter, we will deal in greater detail with our ego and the obstacles it presents to leadership effectiveness; but for now, let’s simply say that the ego is the part of our mind that believes it is separate from all else. In her book Soul-Kissed, Ann Linthorst explains that the ego defines itself based on separation:

Human identity is a sense of personhood, which is established by separation, location and limitation. Ask yourself who you are, and the details that come to mind will all be statements of location and limitation: “I am male or female, born there, to that father and mother, living here, in this house, with these people, doing this, having that.” This kind of self-identification, which I call “ego” automatically excludes all other possibilities. Being here we cannot be anywhere else. Having what we have and doing what we do means that we don’t have or do other things. Personal identity is determined precisely by separation, location, and distinction from others. I know that I am … by the differences that distinguish and separate us.

How often, when you first meet someone, do you ask, “What do you do?” In her definition of ego, Linthorst helps us understand why we jump to this question. Our ego defines itself by the categories it places us in; and to feel comfortable, it categorizes others as well. Looking through ego eyes, a manager categorizes people. She assumes that she is seeing correctly and that her categories are meaningful distinctions; but ego eyes are limited eyes. This manager will fail to use all of the intelligence inherent in her organization. Geoff Colvin, in his book Talent is Overrated, observes, “In business we constantly see managers redirect people’s careers based on slender evidence of what they ‘got’.”

As much as the ego thrives on separation, in each of us there is a “right mind” which I call the True Self. This True Self is beyond all beliefs, identities, and memories. It knows separation is not reality. Here lies a key: Accessing our True Self is at the heart of the “quest for connectedness” on the journey from “I” to “We.”

Excerpt from Chapter 7, “Values and Principles Show the Way” (pp. 179-182)

This is a story about a leader living his values: A mother was concerned about how much sugar her son was eating. Seeking advice, she took her son to see Mahatma Gandhi. She asked Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating sugar. Gandhi replied, “Come back next week.”

The following week, the mother and son returned; and Gandhi told the son to stop eating sugar. Puzzled, the mother asked Gandhi, “This was an arduous journey for us to come to see you. Why couldn’t you have told my son last week to stop eating sugar?”

“Last week I was eating sugar; this week, I gave it up,” Gandhi explained.

This story illustrates a central tenet of Gandhi’s leadership philosophy: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Gandhi was a great leader because he led with integrity—he was an authentic leader. Authentic leaders inspire others because they are true to their core values.

Reed Hastings is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Netflix. We first met Netflix and their reliance on minimal rules in Chapter 2. In an essay in Fortune, Hastings tells a personal story about the CEO of a start-up company he had worked for over twenty years ago. Hastings reports working many nights on software projects; in those late hours, coffee was his fuel of choice. Half-empty mugs would pile up. Now and then he would find them clean, set neatly on his desk; he assumed the janitor was doing him a kindness.

One day Hastings arrived early to work and stopped in the men’s room. Hasting writes,

There inside, by the sink, was my CEO, coat off, sleeves rolled up, scrubbing a large collection of nasty-looking coffee mugs. As the shock of the image faded, I realized that those were probably my mugs—and through that whole year, it was probably him, not the janitor, cleaning them. Embarrassment, guilt, shame, and gratitude all pulsed through me as I stammered out a question: “Why are you cleaning my cups?”

“Well,” he replied, “you’re working so hard and doing so much for us. And this is the only thing I could think of that I could do for you.”

The point of this story isn’t that you should be cleaning the coffee cups of your employees. What Hastings is conveying is the attitude of mind of his former CEO; the man was a living example of humility. Throughout his career, the living example of that CEO has inspired Hastings to live his own values and to help facilitate an organizational culture that is steeped in values. And this, Fred Kofman observes, is perhaps the essential job of a leader. Kofman writes, “The most important function of the leader is to encourage everyone to see him or herself as a member of a larger system, pursuing a common vision, holding common values, and cooperating with each other in an environment of mutual support and respect.”

With Hastings at the helm, Netflix employees are guided to align their behavior with nine values: judgment, innovation, impact, curiosity, communication, courage, honesty, selflessness, and passion. Hastings writes,

Lots of organizations have lofty value statements; but sometimes they are not reflective of what the organization actually values. To understand the real values of a company, watch how people interact with one another, who gets promoted, and who is let go.

At Netflix we value—and reward—the … nine behaviors. The more these sound like you, the more likely you are to thrive at Netflix. Feedback on how employees can improve in these nine dimensions is frequent via online 360 reviews. We do our best to push each other to embody these values fully.

The particular values of Netflix are not the point; the organizational culture of Netflix supports employees living the organizational values, and that is something to emulate. Valuing values has worked for Netflix, and the results are impressive.

Notice that frequent feedback is built into the values initiative at Netflix. In his book The Science of Success, Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, explains how his employees are also evaluated on how consistently they demonstrate the stated values of his organization. Koch Industries “requires a culture that has specific attributes” which are articulated in guiding principles. These attributes and principles are actively cultivated and “set the standard for evaluating policies and practices, measuring conduct, establishing norms of behavior and building the shared values that guide individual actions.” Charles Koch understands that the culture of an organization “may be created intentionally by the organization or inadvertently by other forces. In either case, an organization’s culture is determined by the conduct of its members and the rules set by its leaders and governments.”

As I read Koch’s book, I couldn’t help but recall what students tell me about so-called high-performers who bring skills to their specific roles but operate at odds with conventional or stated values. I say conventional because many of the organizations they describe have no stated values or pay only lip service to a values statement. My students tell of watching as colleagues with poor attitudes get ahead, leaving behind broken relationships within the organization and damaged relationships with customers and corporate partners.

In my field of higher education, one does encounter wonderfully wholehearted administrators, staff, and professors who place a high value on serving students. Unfortunately, I have also known administrators whose chief concern is growing the bureaucracy—and staffers, so dispirited, they barely go through the motions of working. When students express frustration about professors, I know the well from which it springs. I have encountered professors who care little about perfecting the art of teaching. They are ineffective in the classroom, and they fail to contribute in other ways. How can this be? Certain skills are evaluated by administrators, while values are ignored. Administrators set the rules for pay raises and promotions. In most institutions of higher learning, these rules are heavily weighted to reward research. Frequently, few people read these research papers. The time dedicated to trivial research comes on the backs of students who suffer through mediocre courses; commitment to perfecting the art of teaching is not valued.

It is not uncommon for organizations to evaluate employees solely on the skills they apply to their jobs while ignoring the values they live by. This mistaken practice is rooted in what I call the 40 home run fallacy. In baseball, as with other sports, players are evaluated on their skills. As important as skills are, so are a player’s values. Often we hear stories of prima donna players with bad attitudes who fight with teammates, go through the motions without heart, and play cards in the clubhouse while the team is fighting to win an important game. Such players have a corrosive impact on their team. What do they add to the team? Their worth is far less than the number of home runs they hit or the number of winning games they pitch.

Excerpt from Chapter 8, “The Power of Purpose” (pp 189-191)

Shakespeare’s Henry V provides a profound lesson in leadership. The story takes place at a terrible time in medieval Europe. It is 1415, near the close of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France—a war which was fought over complex, territorial claims. The centerpiece of the play is the Battle of Agincourt.

England has invaded France, yet they are hopelessly outnumbered. The English soldiers are hungry, exhausted—having marched 260 miles in two and a half weeks—and ill with dysentery. Just before the battle begins, in his famous St. Crispin’s Day speech, King Henry responds to those who are understandably lamenting the situation and wishing for more men:

What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

Henry wishes for “not one man more.” How often, when faced with tough circumstances, have you and I believed more resources were the solution? While resources are important, intangibles are even more important. In One From Many, Dee Hock explains:

To the direct degree that clarity of shared purpose and principles and strength of belief in them exist, constructive harmonious behavior may be induced. To the direct degree they do not exist, behavior is inevitably compelled … The alternative to shared belief in purpose and principles is tyranny.

Henry V understands the power of shared purpose. He sees himself as an integral part of, not separate from, the fighting force he leads; by joining with them, he establishes shared purpose. He cares about his men, seeks their counsel, and has real bonds with them. In his St. Crispin’s speech, Henry promises that, however humble a soldier’s birth, participating in this exalted purpose will grant them nobility.

But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.

With his army united by shared purpose, there is no need for Henry to compel behavior. Indeed, in his speech, Henry offers to release any soldier who does not want to participate in the coming battle; he even promises to fund their trip back to England. Henry recognizes that fighting with fewer men who are united in purpose is better than fighting with more men who have no shared purpose:

We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

In all of literature, Henry’s St. Crispin’s day speech may be the most compelling on the power of shared purpose. Their purpose is so exalted that Henry makes a promise to his soldiers: When they are old and have forgotten all else, they will remember this battle.

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.

It is difficult not to reflect on contemporary organizational problems when reading Henry V. Organizations flounder while their leadership cries for more resources and neglects the real issue—the leadership and the employees are not united around a shared purpose.