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Transformation, Courage and Leadership:  At the core is Free Will

Leadership and transformation requires perceiving the world from multiple perspectives and operating within the tense reality of what IS and what is POSSIBLE.  Writing for Fast Company, author Polly LaBarre describes the leadership perspectives of philosopher Peter Koestenbaum in this excerpt from “Do You Have The Will to Lead”:

The best leaders operate in four dimensions: vision, reality, ethics, and courage. These are the four intelligences, the four forms of perceiving, the languages for communicating that are required to achieve meaningful, sustained results. The visionary leader thinks big, thinks new, thinks ahead -- and, most important, is in touch with the deep structure of human consciousness and creative potential. Reality is the polar opposite of vision. The leader as realist follows this motto: Face reality as it is, not as you wish it to be. The realist grapples with hard, factual, daily, and numeric parameters. A master in the art of the possible, the realist has no illusions, sees limits, and has no patience for speculation.

Ethics refers to the basic human values of integrity, love, and meaning. This dimension represents a higher level of development, one ruled not by fear or pleasure but by principle. Courage is the realm of the will; it involves the capacity to make things happen. The philosophic roots of this dimension lie in fully understanding the centrality of free will in human affairs. Courage involves both advocacy -- the ability to take a stand -- and the internalization of personal responsibility and accountability.

The real challenge of leadership is to develop all four of these often-contradictory modes of thinking and behaving at once. Leaders tend to operate on two dimensions at most -- which has more to do with a lack of insight into human nature than with corrupt intent. Reality dominates, and the second-most-common attribute is ethics: Consider the statement "People are our most important asset." Unfortunately, those are often empty words -- not just because too few people make the connection between profits and human values, but also because there is no adequate understanding of what it means to be a human being in a brutally competitive environment. "Vision" might be one of the most overused words in business, but in fact vision -- in the sense of honing great thinking and fostering the capacity for ongoing inventiveness -- is rarely practiced. And courage is demonstrated even more rarely.

Aristotle believed, correctly, that courage is the first of the human virtues, because it makes the others possible. Courage begins with the decision to face the ultimate truth about existence: the dirty little secret that we are free. It requires an understanding of free will at the archetypal level -- an understanding that we are free to define who we are at every moment. We are not what society and randomness have made us; we are what we have chosen to be from the depth of our being. We are a product of our will. We are self-made in the deepest sense.

One of the gravest problems in life is self-limitation: We create defense mechanisms to protect us from the anxiety that comes with freedom. We refuse to fulfill our potential. We live only marginally. This was Freud's definition of psychoneurosis: We limit how we live so that we can limit the amount of anxiety that we experience. We end up tranquilizing many of life's functions. We shut down the centers of entrepreneurial and creative thinking; in effect, we halt progress and growth. But no significant decision -- personal or organizational -- has ever been undertaken without being attended by an existential crisis, or without a commitment to wade through anxiety, uncertainty, and guilt.

That's what we mean by transformation. You can't just change how you think or the way that you act -- you must change the way that you will. You must gain control over the patterns that govern your mind: your worldview, your beliefs about what you deserve and about what's possible. That's the zone of fundamental change, strength, and energy -- and the true meaning of courage.”

I highly recommend that you look into Koestenbaum's work; his website is at:  www.pib.net.


Francine R. Gaillour, MD, Business Consultant and Executive Coach for Healthcare Leaders francine@physicianleadership.com, (206) 686-4205



Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
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Francine R. Gaillour, MD   ©2006 Ki Health, Inc.