It isn’t possible, Robert E. Quinn writes in The Deep Change Field Guide.  

We cannot “teach” someone how to be a leader.  Except by being what we wish to inspire in others.

We can only develop leaders by being a leader.  Which requires authenticity and risk.  Great leadership is great teaching which gives rise to great relationships.

This week we’ve been exploring Robert’s concept of the “fundamental state of leadership.”  Which changes how we think about developing leaders.  Leaders who enter fundamental state of leadership invite others to transcend the ordinary and recognize their greatness.  They become leaders.  

Most institutions seek to turn managers into leaders.  Normal teachers share theories of leadership, analyzes cases, and seeks to develop leadership skills.  

These programs don’t work because those who teach leadership rarely stray outside their zone of comfort or ask their students to do so.  They fail because these activities do not create crucibles of character development.

There is a different path.  Great teachers turn secular conversations into sacred ones by asking the right questions.  

“Can you identify deep change experiences in your lives or the lives of other people you know?” asks Larry Peters, a professor of management at TCU. 

By asking people to share their stories instead of telling them what to do, we create a sacred space where people can share their authentic selves.

“In authentic conversations, trust grows,” Robert observes.  “The group pays attention, adapts, learns, discovers, and generates knowledge.  When we participate in such a group, we feel consciousness expand and gain more faith in our potential.”

So, what do we know about the fundamental state of leadership?

1: It is fragile.  It is difficult to get ourselves into this state and hard to stay in it once we enter.  

2: We move into and out of the fundamental state of leadership.  Each time we enter it, we must meet and conquer new fears and overcome once again those we have faced in the past.  

3: We acquire learning and confidence that make that state more accessible in the future. 

4: In time, we learn to transcend our normal assumptions and make the shift toward increased consciousness.

Each entry into the Fundamental State of Leadership is both terrifying and exhilarating.  Deep change exists just beyond the edge of where we feel comfortable because “the place of uncertainty is a place of learning,” Robert writes.  

Here, we let go of telling and forcing.  

We are challenged because it is easy to live in the normal state.  But this path leads us towards personal entropy and slow death.  

When we choose deep change, we enter into a creative state and live in ever-increasing integrity.  We are centered in the present and are open to the emergent future.  Into the creation of the new result.  We “learn our way forward” challenging our old assumptions and trusting ourselves to learn in real-time.    

Everything changes when we choose to focus on purpose, integrity, connection, and learning.  Instead of self-interest, disengagement, and a lack of excellence which characterize slow death, we embrace excellence and see new possibilities.

Along the way, we develop adaptive confidence: “a belief that we can move forward into uncertain situations and learn what we need to know as we need it,” writes Robert.  “Building the bridge while we are walking on it.”

In this state, we experience exponential growth.  And, we attract some of those around us into the same state.  As we do, we grow and they grow.    


Reflection: What are the deep change experiences in my life?  How does it feel to build the bridge while I’m walking on it?

Action:  Start building and walking!

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