November 20, 2017

What do you get when you blend leading and following?

Conductor and orchestraYou can only either lead or follow at any given time. So says conventional wisdom.

You have to choose: Follow for a while to build connection; then perhaps lead to achieve an outcome. The issue then is have you built enough connection for the influence you hope to achieve. (Of course, you might have enough authority just to lead all the time. Maybe.)

We might switch very quickly from leading to following and back again but still, at any given time, we’re doing one or the other but not both.

So says conventional wisdom. Recently, I realised this isn’t right.

The most influential people lead and follow at the same time, or so it seems to me. Somehow they both are influenced and influence simultaneously. And of course, it’s an unconscious process both for them and the other people involved.

The funny thing is…

We don’t have a word for that, not in English anyway—for that process of leading and following at the same time.

Back in 1933, Alfred Korzybski in his work on “General Semantics” said that the English language often has words for opposites but not the middle way. The language often gives us convenient single words for the extremes, but no words for “the great in-between” e.g. good or bad, happy or sad, right or wrong. So our language limits us by focusing our mental models on the extremes. This causes us all sorts of problems.

One of them is understanding the process of influence properly.

And we need to find alternatives.

So what lies between the extremes of leading of following?

What words are there for that great in-between?

What do you get when you blend leading and following?

Whatever that is is what we need.

North Korean leadership – irrational or just not understood?

North Korean leadership – irrational or just not understood? And a suggested takeaway (no, not a Korean carry out (!) – an idea to use).

North Korea’s leadership is frequently referred to as “irrational”, but maybe it only seems irrational because we don’t understand its way of looking at the world – a very different viewpoint and values. Would the Chinese call the North Korean leadership irrational? Probably not. Being that bit closer, they may see how North Korea’s actions make sense in Kim Jong Il’s “map of the world”, frustrating though they may be for the Chinese, and dangerous for everyone.

At a slightly less dramatic level – only slightly, mind – somebody recently called “irrational” another party in a dispute. Same applies. Unless a person is mentally ill (perhaps Kim Jong Il is), there’s really no such thing as “irrational”. If somebody’s decisions don’t seem to make sense, it just means we don’t understand their perspective, and instead are trying to evaluate using our map.

Here’s the takeaway I suggest…

If you think you’re dealing with irrationality, accept instead you don’t understand the other’s perspective, and look for the explanation – it’ll be there. You don’t have to agree with it, just accept their right to have their own perspective. Then you’ll stand more chance of figuring out what to do to solve the problem.

And the underlying principle…

“The map is not the territory” – so said Alfred Korzybski in 1931, with echoes by NLPers since. Our model of the world is a pale shadow of the world itself. Mine is different from yours and neither are the same as the world itself. You have as much right to your model as I have to mine, and we both know much and yet also very little.