Leadership in the Present Moment

leadership in the present momentOne of the most remarkable misunderstandings in today’s leadership thinking is the instant, automatic, and unexamined assumption that going faster and faster, doing more and more in less time, leads to success. This is something author Susan Cain refers to the corporate bias to “act first, think later.” A question worth examining is - does this continuous acceleration lead to anything meaningful or lasting being accomplished? Speaking recently at Vistage International’s All City meeting in Seattle, David Whyte, the masterful poet, naturalist, and management consultant, pointed to one of the most obvious flaws in such an approach. As he so eloquently said, "One of the great tragedies of velocity is that after awhile you can't see anything that isn't moving at the same rate you are."

Think of all the people, perspectives, knowledge, insights and data that are left out at your velocity, (whatever it is). What about the person who thinks carefully and deeply about most everything before they act? What about the experience and ideas you are running over and ignoring as you rush to outdo your competitors, whether they be co-workers or another firm?

I can’t remember the source, but the point of the following statement is right on: “the person who is most present to the way that it is and the way that it isn’t will emerge as the leader, regardless of position.” Being present and only seeing things that are moving at your velocity are mutually exclusive, especially since your velocity is much more in your own head rather than out in the world. It is a home game, so to speak.

A couple of months ago I attended the Western Region Finals of a “cowboy” sport with horses known as “cutting.” In the event the cowboy and his/her horse has 2-1/2 minutes to work two, (and ideally three cows), in a particular ways that is scored by a group of judges.

The competition is intense and unforgiving for that 2-1/2 minutes. It is a physical contest but winning is mostly mental. I asked my 12 year old granddaughter, Olivia, who was competing in the youth category, how she managed herself and her answer was revealing. “When I enter the arena, I am absolutely present in the moment. I deal with it the way that it is.” She took fourth overall as a rookie.

Watching hundreds of cowboys compete over the weekend, it was clear that many of them, even though they had reached the region finals, were the victims of their “head trash,” as they say. How much of your leadership velocity is your own “head trash” rather than being present to the way that it is and the way that it isn’t?

If you adopted Robert Heifitz’s view that "Mastering reality is the central function of a leader," might you slow down to being present? Is it possible that you and your team would actually go much faster and more sustainably if you all focused your attention on being present to reality each moment?