Personal Leader Transformation in a Post Trauma World:
Part 2 – The Doing of It.
By Charles Grantham, PhD, MSH, FAIS, APF
*This is an article from the Spring 2021 issue of Contentment Magazine.
This is the second and last article in my series of why and how leaders must change to accommodate the post COVID19 pandemic’s reality. I think now, over a year into the systemic shock we have all felt, we can see that the pandemic has laid bare several social system fault lines, previously hidden, ignored, or “gaslighted” as an alternative reality.
In the introductory article, I spelled out the ‘why’ of the needed change and the overall story narrative. Now I turn to the ‘how.’ Before the mechanics, we need to step back, set a context and a social psychological foundation. Then we can dive into the seven-step process and conclude with some discrete action items you can put into play tomorrow.
Focus – Purpose Embedded in Person with Energy Coherence
How do you get from here to there? Before we start that journey, you need to get ready and aim correctly. The fracture in our everyday work and living routines brought about by the pandemic has a bright side. It has given us time to pause, reflect, and re-orient ourselves. Let’s begin with a base assumption about human behavior.
I assume that a person can’t effectively be a leader of a transformation until they have made the shift in beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors required to move into the future. So, what will these leaders look like? There are three characteristics:
- Present – in the moment and openly receptive to signals from the environment. A person who is present is not suffering from delusions of alternative realities that have characterized the social world of the COVID19 pandemic. And those present seek out non-judgmental conversations and collaboration based on a shared sense of purpose.
- Awake – conscious and self-aware. In a nutshell, ego or selfless. Leaders’ actions are of a servant nature and in service to ideals larger than themselves.
- Intentional – moving with foresight and action designs. The intention is why we do things; the purpose is the way we do things. This may sound paradoxical at first. But think about it. Having a motivation (the why) without action (the how) leads to inaction, the status quo, frozen in time and space.
To accomplish all these simultaneously, people need energy coherence. That is, there needs to be a dynamic balance of the head, heart, and hand. In the Eastern philosophical traditions, this takes the form of alignment and flow across the chakra centers of grounding, life force, power, compassion, soul, knowledge, and oneness with universal energies. This concept of Chakra energies is a topic in itself, a bit beyond the range of this article. For the curious, there are many excellent resources.
Grounding – What’s Shifting?
Earlier I posited that major societal trends were creating a context for significant shifts in how people relate to their work, our beliefs about human nature, and the bedrock from which these beliefs emerge.1 Historians of geopolitics (e.g., cultural context) note that we have two changes, and the synchronicity of these changes are unprecedented in modern history.
There is the 50 year “socio-economic cycle” tied to business cycles and generational experiences that we know as the Great Depression and the rise and fall of the “boomer generation.” But there is also an 80 year “institutional cycle” or re-alignment of global power and questioning of political legitimacy – an ending of the USA predominance after WWII.
But what is the social psychology underlying these cycles that mandates a transformation of leadership? The answer, I believe, lies in shifts of power and status. In the fading paradigm, people were the center of emotional qualities – our sense of ‘being.’ Organizations gave us a sense of purpose and identity. Lastly, technologies begun in the industrial revolution were the tools with which we lived out our intentions.2,3
The developing world is turning this upside down. Technology (personified by social media and artificial intelligence) gives us our sense of being through connectedness and relatedness with other humans. Organizations become our instruments of action for service to life-affirmation, more fluid and specific. Lastly, people are becoming the fountain of willfulness through awareness and known purpose. Putting it all together, it looks like this:
Pretty heady stuff! However, it still leaves an unanswered question. How does a person make this cognitive and psychic shift? In the last article, I laid out a seven-step outline of the process a person can journey through to make the transformation – or, more correctly, a metamorphosis.4
Process Map – Expanded Sequence
Now for the deep dive into the process. This process follows a storytelling format akin to Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.”5 I should note that this is a process that I have gone through, so I speak from not only knowledge but direct experience.
It’s a circular process that repeats itself with each evolution stage of “awakening.” In the interests of brevity, I present here as a picture. Each step follows in order and must be completed before journeying to the next. You might think of it in mathematical terms. For example, before mastering calculus, it is necessary to learn algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
Each stage centers on a person wholly and profoundly answering a fundamental question. Answering the questions requires mastery of new leadership skills that I will present next. For now, list the questions as a pattern of waypoints along the path.
Launch – What is it that I am so anxious about? A critical self-talk about the pressure/pain/stress points you are confronting. List them in priority order if you can. Once you have named these emotions, it is easier to deal with them.
Connection – This is about context. “Is it me, or is everyone around here nuts?” You probably will discover you are not alone. This ‘social environment’ scan starts to identify members of your ‘guild’ and fellow artisans of thought.
Dividing – What is the dividing line between your self-ego and something larger than yourself. “What community do I want to serve?” This question begins to build the thought process of being self-reliant but within a larger social context.
Agreement – What mental state do I want to be in? What does that ‘flow state’ feel like? Now is the time to start planning how to get there. Meditation? Counseling? Coaching? A Zen practice?
Approaching – What help do I need, and where do I need to go to get it? Admit that you will need others to help.
Dismissal – How do I get rid of old psychic baggage? Let loose old assumptions about ‘what is supposed to be,’ mechanical patterns of thinking, and perhaps, toxic people in your social network.
Achievement – The first leg of your journey is complete. Waking up!!
Consciousness comes to us—the realization of your part in the universe, a spiritual awakening. I can see clearly now. The fog of delusion has been blown away.
Now that you have a map and a compass to guide you along the personal leadership transformation journey, what are the things that you need in your mental ‘backpack’ as resources?
Skills Required – Overview of 10 Critical Skills
After 20+ years of doing leadership development work, I’ve distilled the required skills down to a set of ten. One could quibble from other academic perspectives that there are ‘four,’ ‘seven,’ or even ‘twenty-five’ skills and competencies. I won’t digress into a discussion of validity. I’m just presenting what I know works effectively.
Further, these ten can be grouped into the three pillars of the new paradigm presented above. They look like this:
Future thinking: The ability to anticipate events in the larger context of your business. The ability to do “what if” scenarios in the three to five-year timeframe.
Drivers of change: Recognition of the multi-disciplinary nature of change. A broad perspective, which includes technology, economics, politics, and cultural aspects, which shape human behavior in both rational and irrational ways.
New patterns of action: An ability to move beyond simple “cause and effect” relationships.
Design processes: An understanding of design as a process that can be consciously applied in changing situations. Knowledge of how to move from a wide array of configurations to a smaller set of options using functionality, cost, and aesthetic filters.
Asking questions: An ability to engage in critical thinking. Knowing what the vital questions to ask as you move up a hierarchy of “unreflective thinker” to “master thinker.”
Systems thinking: Seeing the pattern that connects. Systems relationships including feedback, feedforward, attenuation, amplification.
Balance, flow, and circularity: Understanding the pattern to the flow of energy (including information). The need for a balance of positive and negative forces and their reconciliation.
Living out leadership: Everyday living out the principles of leadership: integrity of action. Empathy, loyalty, discretion in action.
Spirituality and change: An understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of the spiritual aspects of life. Service in the interests of others and a community of which you are a member.
Presence of self: Understanding how others view you in action. Living in the moment. A sense of the dramatic and ability of actions and words to influence others’ attitudes and shape their behavior.
Path Forward – Plan your next ten plays.
Now comes the hard part. I’ve laid out the ‘why’ of personal leadership transformation previously. In this installment, I’ve presented a focus for change, a grounding in the forces that are shifting, a seven-step process map, and lastly, a set of ten new skills and competencies required to make the transformation.
Just like every good coach has a ‘playbook’ of tactics to be employed given a set of circumstances, you need to construct your playbook. What are the next ten explicit actions you will undertake to begin and complete your own “Hero’s Journey”?
Everybody’s playbook will be different depending on where you are now and where you want to go. I can’t give you a complete list. When I guide people through this development process, we construct a bespoke playlist. However, I can offer you two initial plays.
1. Build your purpose statement
Be patient with yourself here. This is difficult language meant to slow you down. This is not an exercise you complete in 15 minutes. You should think about it deeply, walk around with it, write something down, and then go back to it and iterate until you feel comfortable. Ultimately, you want to boil it down to no more than three words. For example, my purpose is Teacher.
TO: (what is the ideal transformation you need to make to live out your purpose?)
IN A WAY THAT: (what is the benefit of this transformation to those you work within living out your purpose?)
SO THAT: (what enables those you interact with to achieve ‘their’ purpose?)
2. Design and set up a Personal Board of Directors
I think all of us need our own ‘Personal Board of Directors.’ A place where we can go and seek counsel and get advice or new knowledge to help guide us in our transitions. So, you may ask yourself, “What’s the difference between this and just my friends?” Well, the essential difference is that this is a small group of people, usually 5 to 7, that you have deliberately sought out and brought together to help guide you in periods and times of transition. It’s not necessarily based on family, physical community, the workplace, or historic accident.
Now you have a rationale to drive your personal leadership transformation. You also have a familiarity with what to focus on, knowledge of what is shifting in the larger environment, a seven-step process, and an introduction to ten new skills. In summary, I’ve given you the first two steps in your journey.
Good luck and Godspeed. Oh, one final thought. It really is much more than a transformation; it’s a METAMORPHOSIS. There is no going back.
- Communities of Commerce, McGraw-Hill/CommerceNet Press, New York, NY S. Bressler and C. Grantham (June 2000)
- “The Three Faces of Human-Centered Design”https://workdesign.com/2016/04/the-three-faces-of-human-centered-design/ April 2016
- “The Future of Work: De-centralization and Access to Information Resources,” C. Grantham and J. Carr,Reference Librarian Journal, special issue on Terrorism and Information Resources, Fall 2002, William Yurick (ed)
- …a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.
- “The Heroes Journey”Combat Stress Magazine, Volume 8/2, https://stress.org/wp-content/themes/Avada-child/lib/3d-flip-book/3d-flip-book/?mag_id=16470, Fall 2019.