Shifts in understanding

What might often be quite hard to see is that your understanding of the world is much more expressed in your practices – what you’re doing again and again – than in what you say about yourself.

You could look into this topic by studying your relationships with others. What is it that you take to be true about you and other people in relationship? And what understanding is embodied by what you actually do?

Often, in my work in organisations, I come across leaders who sincerely wish to treat those around them as capable, responsible adults but who consistently embody in their practice an orientation of ‘better than you‘. Despite what they say, this orientation can’t help but come out in the way they speak, in the way they intervene to fix things, and in the requests and (more often) demands that they make.

Genuinely relating to other people as capable and responsible requires a whole set of interlocking practices that include both giving others the space and freedom to act, and sharing with others one’s own uncertainty and incompleteness. In contrast, ‘better than you’ involves acting as if you have all the answers, and subtly or overtly controlling others’ behaviour. And despite what we might say, most of us have – at least to start with – a strong ‘better than you’ understanding of leadership.

What is also often quite hard to see is that we don’t shift our understanding just by declaring our intention to be different – because our ongoing practices are our understanding, embodied in action. In other words, our practices don’t just express our understanding of the world. They also bring it into being.

And so a change in understanding always requires a shift in our actions, if it’s going to be a change in understanding at all.

Photo Credit: jonasginter via Compfight cc

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