Last week I sat with one of our leaders and we discussed an opportunity regarding several associates on his team. His analysis of the situation was thorough and included a few of the models and tools from our Values Based Leadership work. I walked away quite impressed with the leaders assessment and didn’t think twice about next steps given his seemingly clear understanding of what had transpired. Actually I had not given it another thought until this weekend when I was reading (for the third or fourth time) Robert Greenleaf’s The Servant as Leader.
In the book Greenleaf talks about our “total preoccupation with criticism and that not much thought is given to what can I do about it.” My thoughts go back to the conversation and my own preoccupation with the analysis of the situation and critique of the individuals involved. Unfortunately, I don’t recall discussing solutions or next steps or even doing my part to encourage such a dialogue. Greenleaf goes on to tell us – “Criticism has its place; but as a total preoccupation it is sterile. In a time of crisis, like the leadership crisis we are now in, if too many potential builders are taken in by complete absorption with dissecting the wrong, then the movement so many of us want to see will be set back.” The movement Greenleaf is referencing is a shift to “servants as leaders” where care is taken to make sure other people’s highest priority needs are being served; and service requires action.
As Chief Leadership Officer there is little I would like to see more than the current course of leadership change globally. The crisis is widespread putting the future of work at risk and more importantly, the extraordinary potential of our associates left unattended to. As the workplace becomes more educated, more technical and more informed, and the airwaves continue to fill up with talking heads and pundits, the danger as Greenleaf describes it is for us “to hear the analyst too much and the artist too little.” Artists are best defined by Daniel Pink as “creators, empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning-makers.” These are the people, the leaders who naturally can and will give the analysis much thought, and in turn actually do something about it.
Society today favors the analyst’s, the critics who make us feel better through their preoccupation with what is wrong (misery loves company). Moving away from the current state will require leaders to model the way, being the change they want to see.
So let’s listen more for (and act more like) the artists, the creators and meaning-makers who as analysts seek to understand, and as leaders actually do something about what they have learned.