Let Go & Lead
Meg Wheatley Author
Co-Founder of the Berkana Institute

Leaders must be curious (4:18)

MEG WHEATLEY:
I can always tell which way a leader will go with his or her leadership style. If I can discern how they feel about other people’s capacity. So you can’t talk to a leader about high engagement strategies or letting go to lead effectively, if they have a deep distrust of other people. Or if they feel special, you know. I’m a leader because I am better than you. And you know I worked hard for this position and I deserve it and now that I’m in a position of power and authority you will listen to me because I am better. Now this is all subliminal but it’s very clear and you can sometimes it surfaces its ugly head and makes itself visible. But it’s this do I trust that other people are as competent, self-motivated and creative as I am? That’s what I look for when I’m really trying to discern a person’s approach to leadership.”

MARIL MACDONALD:
And when you come across someone that your sense is that they don’t hold that view. They don’t believe that other people are as competent or as motivated as they are, do uh is there a way you are able to help them shift that frame.

MEG WHEATLEY:
Yes by giving them a direct experience.

You know, so that’s the humbling part of your willing to be humbled. But you have to discover this first hand. I mean I could talk to you about human nature forever but it’s right there in front of our faces and I mean I’m not describing behavior from another planet, I’m describing what’s available in our organizations and communities day to day. We just have to be willing to look and see it and then interpret it because one of the problems when you’re trying to shift something as deep as a world view is that we’ll look at the same evidence, the same behavior, but we’ll give it different interpretations. So I’ve been with leaders who I see, you know, another leader who’s working very hard to engage everyone. To give them accurate information and an open access to information and their boss, this is a true story, is only seeing, well he’s just being a “hardass” here, you know. That’s just our usual leadership son and he’s missing everything else that this one leader is doing. And that is the nature of seeing the world through different lenses that we only take the bits of information that confirm our existing worldview. And so we miss all the other information that’s out there.”

MARIL MACDONALD:
So what advice would you have for a leader who might be hearing this discussion and thinking ooh, you know, I resemble that comment.

MEG WHEATLEY:
I just encourage people to be curious like I, the question I ask a lot, like, if you went on a voyage of discovery to find out who’s really in your organization, what would you discover? So who’s innovating, you don’t even know about it. Who’s creating good work around to stupid policies and you don’t even know about it. Who’s going the extra mile to support a colleague who’s dealing with a difficult family situation? If you went looking for generosity and innovation and just be curious about it and ask questions, you would discover a richness of resources. I mean I feel more and more that the last resource we have in our organizations, we don’t have more money, we don’t have time, we don’t have constancy and stability, but we do have people. And people are the invisible resource right now. We need to make them visible because that’s where the real capacity and resilience lies.