Does it Really Have to Be This Way?

Many associate leadership with long days of problem solving and self-sacrifice, all done for the good of the organization. Such a leader is driven to catch and correct the errors that others make. They spend the day firefighting problems. Perhaps they believe they are smarter than everyone else; or perhaps, they fear what might happen should they relinquish control. They end the day exhausted and dispirited, paying what they think is the price of leadership. For many, leadership means little more than management, and management means little more than controlling or manipulating others. Many well-meaning and dedicated leaders agree: They spend long, exhausting days firefighting problems. But does it really have to be this way?

What if you could transform your leadership journey by sincerely considering the ideas presented in this book and becoming more aware of your current and often invisible beliefs? Suppose your time at work could be taken up less by firefighting problems and more by facilitating the efforts of engaged, intelligent, and motivated employees? I can imagine your skepticism. Already, your shelves may be lined with leadership books; you may have already attended seminars that promised too much and delivered too little. The fault is not just in the books or seminars. Many of us look for ten new ways to communicate or six new ways to fix problems or eight new ways to create highly functional teams. Many of us believe that we are just one new technique away from solving our problems.

It is natural that such books and seminars proliferate. Those who lead confront a never-ending stream of problems. One problem is solved, and almost instantly, another appears. Just when we turn the corner and experience a period of relative tranquility, other crises arise. A diverse set of constituents with various interests call to us.

If you have ever harvested a new technique from a book or seminar, you already know what happens. After the initial enthusiasm wears off, the new technique or method is quickly forgotten. We wonder why? Almost all techniques assume there is a problem, external to the leader, waiting to be “fixed.” Usually the new leadership technique cannot touch deeply embedded organizational problems; and in any case, the new technique never quite fits our circumstances. No wonder we are exhausted and disheartened. It cannot be that our fate is to expend ever increasing time and energy in attempts to control the people, events, and forces that seem to shape our organizations.

In The Inner-Work of Leadership, we are not searching for new techniques. As long as a leader’s dysfunctional beliefs go unseen and unquestioned, there will be no lasting improvement in that leader’s performance.

If we take this to heart, we can relax. Our success as leaders does not depend on super-human efforts or exceptional, personal brilliance. It does not depend upon mastering a new set of techniques. We have too many already. Real relief—indeed, lasting change—begins when we explore our assumptions and beliefs.

Your success as a leader has everything to do with uncovering and then relinquishing false beliefs that you hold. As you read this book, you will learn about false beliefs held by many leaders. You will learn how to explore your own personal set of beliefs, some invisible to you now, that create misery for you and those around you. You will learn of alternative realities waiting to be grasped. You will find that an exploration of beliefs simultaneously affects your efficacy, not only as a leader in your organization, but also as a citizen of your community, as a spouse, as a parent, and as a friend and colleague.

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