Saturday, March 29, 2008

Going Deeper

The terms vision, ethics, reality and courage are relatively easy to understand. When we hear the words we quickly understand what they mean and can readily bring to mind images that provide a context for each concept. We know what it is to have vision, to behave ethically, to be connected to the real world, and to act with courage.

However, over the ages many wise and thoughtful authors have challenged humanity, both as individuals and collective societies, to examine this tendency to live life at the surface. They have taught those who chose to be students that it is necessary to think more deeply about our values and assumptions, to study our beliefs, to question facts, and to carefully inspect our fears, our motivations, and the very core of our being.

This all sounds very ominous, dark and a little frightening.

But, there is hope. Taken in small doses you can get in touch with your inner being, and see into the nooks and crannies that make you who you are, without having to hire a psychiatrist.

What you gain from this introspection is a better understanding of what drives you, what you value, what core beliefs shape your thinking, and why you react the way you do in certain situations. (This is a way for you to "Get into the Balcony" on a more personal and intimate scale. See the post below for more information.)

What you lose is the ability to live at the surface. You can no longer mentally hide out. You will find yourself examining your thoughts, what you say, the things other people say, and the world that is presented to you by others at an entirely new level. Admittedly, this can be a little scary because you find that you hold yourself to a new standard that can be difficult to maintain.

To help you on your journey, I would like to recommend a few resources:
  • Leadership from the Inside Out, by Kevin Cashman, is a great book for introspection, and self-examination. If you follow Cashman through the process, and do the exercises he describes in the text, you will discover many things about yourself, and gain a new understanding of what drives you, what makes you behave the way you do, what you value, and how to put this new knowledge into action. If you click here you will find a short article from Fast Company magazine from 1999 that talks about Cashman and his approach to developing a leadership mind.
  • Organizational Culture and Leadership, by Edgar H. Schein, gives you some insight into the culture of organizations. Although Schein's approach is very different from Cashman, the ultimate goal is the same - to gain an understanding of what drives an organization, what it values, and what beliefs and assumptions the organization as a whole makes about itself and the world around it. The first couple of chapters will give you the flavor for Schein's approach to understanding organizational culture. Click here to see a quick overview of Schein and his concepts.
  • The Philosophic Consultant, by Peter Koestenbaum, is probably the best of Dr. K’s books on leadership principles. He covers all aspects of the Leadership Diamond model, and the deeper meaning of each concept in a way this is accessible to all. In 2000 Fast Company Magazine did an article on Dr K that gives you a feeling for his philosophy and his theories, as well as his desire to look deeply into the concept of leadership.
  • The Answer to How is Yes - Acting on What Matters, by Peter Block, briefly touches on the idea that the inward journey is a necessary part of being able to do meaningful work. It is an easy read, with a perhaps a less easy message about the need to focus on purpose rather than methods, and on doing what matters rather than on tools and techniques. You can read an interview with Peter done by the National Staff Development Council by clicking here.
  • The Heart Aroused - Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, by David Whyte, is perhaps the most philosophical of the books on this list. David is a poet, author, and lecturer of some renown. In this book, David invites you, the reader, to bring your fears, loves and dreams into the workplace. Of course, this cannot happen without first discovering what it is that you fear, love and dream. I recommend this book for your more reflective moments, when you are not in the mood to do the work that Cashman puts you through.
If any of you have recommended books or articles, please post a comment with the information. Maybe I can add a new post with additional resources based on your suggestions in the near future.