Motivational Leadership: Embracing the Paradigm

Last week we examined the concept of a paradigm. This week we will consider what the value of shifting our paradigm is.leadership styles change photo

We learned a paradigm acts as an information filter that determines what we perceive as reality. What may be perfectly obvious to people with one paradigm may be completely invisible to people with a different paradigm.

Finally, and most important, our paradigm determines what we can and cannot accomplish. For example, if you take a piece of land measuring one hundred yards, mark off lines every ten yards, put goal posts at opposite ends, and then give everyone baseball gloves and bats, they will find it difficult to play baseball because the field isn’t set up for that game.

So it is in life. It’s important to understand that we live in a particular paradigm. It’s neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong. It is what it is. Yet the paradigm you and I live in today has as much impact on us as the 1400s paradigm had on the people who lived then. The current paradigm makes us be and act in a particular way. Like water to a fish, we can’t even see it!

Let me ask you a question: Are you clear that you have many beliefs? By the way, a belief is a thought you repeat to yourself over and over because you think it’s the truth. Have you ever asked yourself: how come I believe what I believe? Probably not. To drive home the point, you didn’t even decide to believe almost everything you believe!

You were born into a paradigm that had an already existing set of beliefs and you bought into virtually every one of them without any thought as to their validity or usefulness. If that’s not bad enough, the vast majority of what society trained you to believe either isn’t the truth or isn’t very useful, which is why for so many leaders, life is like looking for downtown Chicago with a street map of Detroit. It is why ninety percent of all businesses that start each year fail within the first ten years. It is why leaders often feel like they have shackles on as they attempt to lead their organizations into the future.

So neither you nor I are responsible for our world being the way it is. It was that way when we arrived and, just like everyone else, we were trained to operate in it. As we will discuss more fully as we proceed, the existing paradigm, the one we live in here and now, is not set up to create enthusiastic, confident, optimistic, appreciative and happy people working together on behalf of a future they have all committed themselves to. On the contrary, it’s designed to create pettiness, gossip, competition, conflict, arguments and righteousness. How do I know that? Because that’s precisely what we all too frequently have!

If we keep operating in the existing paradigm as we have in the past, we’ll keep getting more of what we already have. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while thinking we’ll get a different result.

Consider this story. A man was walking down a dark street late one evening. As he approached a lamppost, he saw a second man frantically searching for something on the ground. Not seeing anything, the first man said to the second, “Excuse me sir, did you lose something?” The second man replied, “Yes, I lost my keys.” The first man joined the search. After a time he said, “I don’t see anything. Are you sure you lost them here?” The second man replied, “Actually, no. I think I lost them down the street.” Bewildered, the first man asked, “Well then, why are you looking here?” The second man answered, “Because this is where the light is!”

The same thing happens in life. Even though we don’t find the joy, aliveness, fun and team spirit we want at work, we keep looking for it in the same place we’ve always looked.

What you need to do as you lead your organization into the future: Initiate a great change in the fundamental constitution of your thinking. Anything less is like putting a bandage on a broken arm. It might look good but it won’t get the job done. Forget the bandage solutions! It’s time to understand that if we stay as we are, we’ll only get more of what we’ve got

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