Tag Archives: selection process

Savvy Leaders Go with the Flow

We’ve all familiar with the phrase, “Go with the flow.” It’s another way of saying, “Timing is everything.” But how does it apply to the leader selection process? That’s the final, forth factor Mike Lehr of Omega Z Advisors invited me to comment on. Earlier, he wrote:

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When I look at events, I see four major forces: circumstances, flow, people and leader. From my perspective, you wrote about the last two. [See “Scientists and Sages Can Agree on This,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-8W and “How Bad People Become Leaders,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-9B.] I’m asking about the first two.

The third factor has already been covered in a responsive blog. [See “Do Circumstances Influence Leader Selection?” wp.me/p46Y5Z-be.] That leaves the fourth major force influencing leader selection – flow.

Though I often describe flow as timing, my view is more from the I Ching on this. So, my question to you is this: Would being at different points in the I Ching cycle produce different leaders?

To summarize, I often ask people this question: If everyone suddenly awoke not knowing who they were and not remembering how they came to be where they are (if we could reset life), would the same leaders arise that we have now?

In fact, the Book of Change was traditionally consulted as a method of telling time. According to Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide:

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. . . the I Ching works like a cosmic clock, telling us the time. In the Old Testament, King Solomon expressed the natural, rhythmic alternations of time in poetic form: “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

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The Book of Change puts its users in touch with these pulsating, alternating rhythms of life. It connects them with inner knowing – call it intuition or conscience – that anticipates approaching changes, the better to prepare for what is to come.

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The Common Sense Book of Change explains it this way:

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This text is called the Book of Change because its readings sum up the natural laws of change. They reflect stages through which daily events evolve in predictable cyclical patterns.

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These patterns can be drawn on any scale from smallest to largest. For example, they might express the seconds which add up to a minute, or the minutes which complete an hour on the face of the clock.

compass clock

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What most leaders fail to take into account, however, is that the different hands of this cosmic clock return to the twelve o’clock alpha-omega compass point of True North at different rates of speed. By analogy, successful leaders have an overview of the complex point in time where their organizations currently stand, as well as the ultimate direction in which they’re headed.

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Unfortunately, short-sighted leaders see only the second- or, at best, the minute-hand of the clock, mistakenly assuming they see the whole picture. They remain sadly unaware of the larger context, oblivious to the long-term hour.

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For example, the fast-moving second-hand of the cosmic clock may point due North towards the zenith point of twelve o’clock and the intermediate-speed minute-hand point to 12:15. All the while, unobserved, the slowest-moving hour-hand may point towards the nadir, due South at six o’clock.

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Short-sighted leaders miscalculate. Their timing is dangerously off. For example, when they act as if prosperity is never-ending (or else just around the corner) when in fact a depression of unprecedented proportions is looming ahead like an “unforeseen” iceberg, they’re unwittingly leading unprepared followers into a disaster of Titanic proportion.

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To continue with Plato’s earlier “leader as charioteer” image, successful executives must be capable of harnessing the opposite forces of expansion and contraction, the yin-yang pair of white and black horses. If these energies are not reined in and balanced, they can tear whole nations apart, steering them off-course into self-destruction, either consumed by the sun or else smashed to smithereens below. [See “Know When to Mistrust Inner Voices,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-aR.]

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Those versed in the dynamics of I Ching yin-yang opposites know that each extreme generates its polar opposite. For example, extreme inflation inevitably triggers an opposite and equal extreme of deflation. Extremes of extravagant waste on the part of a few predictably lead to wide-spread deprivation and misery for the many.

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But how do the basics of flow apply to leader selection today? As discussed earlier, it depends on who the selectors are. For example, in biblical times, when the Egyptian Pharaoh had disturbing warning dreams which he couldn’t fathom, he had the humility (prudence) to seek out those wiser in such matters. He took the advice of a cup-bearer, formerly a prisoner, whose release and good fortune was foretold by an unjustly incarcerated fellow prisoner named Joseph.

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Joseph not only recognized the meaning of the Pharaoh’s warning dreams, but proved to be a skillful administrator. During the sunny cyclical time of prosperity, he advised on how best to meet the approaching shadow cycle of downturn with its specter of drought, famine and starvation. Given the responsibility to oversee collection of grain during times of plenty, he steered his people towards survival. (Joseph was what in modern parlance is called a “prepper.”)

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Unfortunately, most leader selectors have less humility. When they have bad dreams, they’re less likely to seek out the modern day equivalent of a Joseph to reap the benefits of inner signals. [See “Therapists as Agents of Positive Change,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-bA.]

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Disregarding disturbing signals coming from every direction, they’re more likely to listen to feel-good gurus who get rich by telling them whatever they want to hear. “Everything will be okay. Be Happy. Don’t Worry.”

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Unfortunately, repeating positive mantras can’t alter the patterned flow of events. As irresponsible leaders across the globe continue to lead their followers into war, playing political chess from their plush, comfortable offices, eating, drinking and making merry at others’ expense, the Titanic ship of Planet Earth continues on its fateful collision course towards disaster.

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In fact, as Old Avatar warns, at this late date in the flow of time, we’re not only approaching a Near Extinction Level Crisis (NELC). We’re already in its midst. The extreme outcome will surpass even the dangers foreseen by Plato or dreamed of by Pharaoh — more along the lines of the four-horsed apocalypse of biblical prophecy.

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Today’s savvy and responsible leaders — those with the prudent humility of a Pharaoh to recognize that they aren’t equipped to analyze warnings and prepare to survive approaching dangers — would do well to seek out and select those wiser than themselves and heed their prepper advice. The survival of their beloved children and grandchildren (which, as Einstein warned us, can no longer be taken for granted) hangs in the balance.

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Mike asked, hypothetically, If we could reset the clock to the zero hour and make a clean start, would the same leaders emerge? The ones he’s hoping might arise are already there, allbeit waiting in the wings. I’ve been hinting as much in recent tweets. “The presence of true masters is only suspected. Lao Tze 17.”

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The introduction of Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change quotes Passage 18, which echoes the Bhagavad Gita’s premise that at the nadir of historical cycles, true leaders come forward for the instruction and deliverance of troubled truth seekers:

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When countries degenerate into strife, / anarchy sets in.

When danger peaks, however, / heroes emerge / and come forward.

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In this context, the more realistic question is, Would a better leader selection process produce better results? That’s the immediate challenge facing today’s leader selectors.

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As for how timing influences leader selection, Lao Tze gives this answer:

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78.

Nothing under heaven is as soft,

receptive or pliant as water;

but when amassed,

nothing withstands

its tidal wave impact.

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As water penetrates

and dissolves the hard,

erodes and absorbs the rigid,

those who yield and encompass their foes

prevail long after evil doers

have disappeared.

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Like water,

the sage takes the world’s suffering

to heart,

endures its hardships,

and responsive to the times,

becomes the catalyst

of collective action.

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So it is that the low and high trade places,

and the forceful lose their influence;

this is known by many,

but practiced by few.

Do Circumstances Influence Leader Selection?

Continuing our conversation about the leadership selection process, Mike Lehr of Omega Z Advisors forwarded another set of questions:

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The Premise

When I look at events, I see four major forces: circumstances, flow, people and leader. From my perspective, you wrote about the last two. [See “Scientists and Sages Can Agree on This.” wp.me/p46Y5Z-8W and “How Bad People Become Leaders,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-9B.]

I’m asking about the first two.

Mike’s Comments about Circumstances

In regard to the conditionality of leadership, I welcome your thoughts on the influences circumstances have on leadership.

For example, just as terrain influences the type of battle to wage, there are market forces, technological influences and timing issues at play. All of these influence the selection of leaders.

For example, I often ask folks this question: Which dog would you prefer, a collie or a pit bull? Most usually indicate a collie. However, when I add the qualification that you now live in a very dangerous, crime-ridden neighborhood, they tend to revert to the pit bull.

Relating this to business, a firm in high-growth mode is a different situation than one in trouble or growing incrementally. Market forces and competition are also circumstantial influences.

My Response

The leadership selection process depends largely upon who the selectors are. The formal process in small business and corporate sectors varies, depending upon ownership, mission, size and by-laws. Similarly, who many participate in the selection of political leaders differs by location across the globe.

What all have in common, however, is the principle of natural selection. As Mike suggests, people instinctively gravitate towards those best suited to protect the flock and ensure group survival. For example, during war times, women prefer mates with mechanical, farming and martial arts skills over impractical, unskilled intellectuals. Conversely, during prosperous peace times when basic survival items like food, clothing, and shelter are widely available, intellectuals with the high earning power to purchase them are favored.

Here, observations made by a mentor at the Wisconsin School Board Association serve as a useful example. He told me that the selection of a school district administrator starts with the search for a harsh disciplinarian to force teacher unions and unruly students to “toe the line.” This works for a while. But then heavy-handed administration gets old. Abuses of authority are resented. So opponents mobilize to “throw the bum out.” They search for a mild-mannered replacement who is who is teacher-friendly and soft on discipline.

However, in due time, this lax approach starts to rub other factions in the community the wrong way. Yet another selection process is initiated to bring in a tougher new leader who will restore “law and order.” Opposite and equal challenges continue to generate an ongoing succession of new faces in the administrator role.

The senior School Board Association officer had witnessed this process long enough to recognize a repeating pattern. Elected, short-term school board members in local communities probably didn’t.

These pendulum swings between extremes are natural, but not optimal. Instead of repeated, disruptive shifts between between contrasting leadership styles, it’s possible to sustain cultural continuity by harmonizing contrasting opposites. An alternative, I Ching-savvy approach balances the demands of different groups within the community.

In this worldview, the sought-after leader is keenly attuned to fluctuating economic / political as well as technological changes in the environment. Such a leader isn’t driven by circumstances, but rather has an overview of the directions in which they continuously change. With an understanding of natural law, this leader has the ability to steer followers safely through every stage of the organization’s life.

Thus, in the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze advises leaders to adjust with the times to maintain long-term tenure as well as organizational stability in all circumstances:

Adhere to principle / while adjusting to circumstance.

Goals are secured / by remaining flexible and open.

Caveat: When working with the I Ching, it is essential to keep its place within the larger scheme of things firmly in mind. Otherwise, it is subject to dangerous abuses. The abode of Natural Law in the Positive Paradigm Context is the middle level of the Unified Wheel. It stands as the gatekeeper between Human Law (legislation and custom) on the surface and Divine Law at the center. Its powerful applications are equally effective regardless of whether the user’s motives be for good or evil.

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While good (meaning responsible, competent and compassionate) leaders are sometimes wary of working with the I Ching because of its potential for abuse, bad (meaning irresponsible, selfish and cruel) leaders who have no respect for either Human or Divine Law feel free to use their understanding of human dynamics to manipulate others for antisocial purposes. [See “Know When to Mistrust Inner Voices,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-aR.]

For example, I have warned repeatedly about the disaster looming ahead in the next U.S. election cycle. Extraordinarily extreme abuses by the political left may have been deliberately orchestrated by behind-the-scenes puppet masters, as if to precipitate an opposite and equally extreme reaction. [See “To Push a Man Right, First Push Him Left,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-9K.]

I’ve also hinted at the urgently necessary antidote to this potentially deadly outcome. [See “What’s More Important–-Nature, Nurture, OR . . ,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-8k.]  In that blog, I conclude:

Leaders who intentionally live true their conscience and succeed in linking the levels of life are key to a viable future. The rest of us will depend on them to out-think, out-maneuver and succeed long after pretenders with no substantial connection to the center of life have been blown away like dust in the wind.

To Be Continued:

The next installment will include responses to Mike’s comments about the fourth factor, “flow,” as well as what he calls “non-cultural” issues.

 

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Democracy Is a Myth

Another installment of Reinventing Democracy must include my basic conclusion that today, for many reasons, democracy is a myth.

For starters, in Rethinking Survival, I draw on the key observation made by legendary comparative religion expert Joseph Campbell.

In his opinion, current myths (meaning creation stories and paradigms of how the world works) no longer serve us well. He called for a new paradigm, one that allows us to recognize the humanity of people living on the other side of the hemisphere.

Anticipating the Positive Paradigm of Change as the embodiment of Einstein’s long-sought Unified Theory, in The Power of Myth, Campbell wrote, “I’ve often wondered if some of the notions coming out of quantum physics, quantum interconnectedness, don’t express that.”

Historically, a belief in democracy is fundamental to the American world view. However, what I inadvertently proved in my dissertation’s statistical research study is that the existence of democracy in America is also a myth in the slang usage, meaning “false and fictitious.” Excerpts from Rethinking Survival explain.

 

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THE SELECTION PROCESS: Democracy is a Myth

Graduate school years were another mixed blessing. While earning a Ph.D. in Educational Administration didn’t lead to career advancement, it was highly therapeutic: another opportunity to divest myself of unconsciously held programming.

One day I would read in the research literature about the mistakes women new to administration make, being unable to read the hidden cues of old boys’ club colleagues. The next day, I would fall kerplunk, right into the same traps. Ouch! I would read about female stereotypes, and almost immediately find myself playing them out. Aha!

Another upside was the presence of exactly the right people in the right places to tell me what I needed to know to survive. . . . Howard Wakefield, the Department Chairman, took on the role of thesis advisor. His sense of humor and down-to-earth attitude saw me safely through the Ph.D. credentialing process. We spent long hours talking philosophy. Howard was a practicing Christian. He gave me a pocket Bible from the stash he kept in his center desk drawer. I treasured this gift.

The dissertation topic was as challenging for him as for me. Stereotype issues literally hit home. He began to see relationships with his wife and teenage daughter in a new light. But, he told me, it worked both ways. The job of his dreams had been to be a school district administrator.

But he was a short and small-boned. With thick glasses, he didn’t exactly project an athletic image. Muscular football coaches capable of nailing unruly teenage boys to the gym wall were the candidates of choice. He became a professor because, like it or not, that was stereotype he matched.

The Dissertation

Ethnology was ruled out for thesis projects. I was required to use statistical methods in my 1978 Ph.D. dissertation, “Women Principals in Wisconsin Elementary Schools: A Support-Success Theory.” With 99 percent statistically significant results, this study proved that public schools in Wisconsin are an inbred, insider’s closed shop.

No one enters the selection process who hasn’t first been identified and groomed by current school administrators. No one enters graduate school to earn a school administrator degree or applies to the Department of Public Instruction for credentials who hasn’t already been promised a job. The unwritten, informal rules of the pre-selection process require that job candidates mirror the values, beliefs and interests of current power-holders.

Dissertation research surveyed four distinct groups with the same set of questions. Each population had radically different perceptions of the same selection process. Men principals, those who benefit most from the process, responded with a remarkable 98 percent return rate, insisting the process is fair and unbiased.

Men teachers, however, those whose expectations and ambitions had been thwarted, were angry and cynical, certain that the process is stacked and unfair. In one respondent’s words, the chief qualification is “a willingness to screw teachers.”

Women teachers were oblivious to the existence of a selection process. Their mantra was, “I am not aware . . .” Only women principles were ambivalent. As boundary spanners, they had succeeded in being selected, but still recognized bias and injustice in the selection process.

What separated principals from teachers, regardless of gender, was the combined support received in their personal and professional lives. Those who got the most support succeeded accordingly. Those who received little support were least likely to succeed.

Interestingly, my research of the literature found that convenient myths are easily forgotten when they suddenly become inconvenient. A paradigm shift occurs, for example, during war time. When the men are away and there’s work to be done, then women are suddenly seen as perfectly fit to function as factory workers or school principals.

By extension, it’s only when the times make skewed rules of the knowledge and power-distribution game sufficiently inconvenient that the public will become receptive to the Positive Paradigm of Change and Positive Action ways to identify and support more effective leaders.

Applications: the I Ching view recognizes that patterned events repeat smallest to largest. Thus my research findings can be applied to the selection of government officials at every level. It applies to the selection of the CEOs in leadership positions within businesses and corporations. It also applies to political leadership, even on an international scale.

Conclusion: the American dream of a democratic, meaningful choice in leadership is but an illusion. In an informal process that proceeds the formal one, candidates are pre-selected and effectively owned by insiders. The sorry absence of innovative, effective leadership is explained by the documented filtering process which for the most part excludes creative, natural leaders.

What are the long-term survival consequences? To our detriment, the Western linear progressive theory of history puts in-bred leaders operating on dysfunctional paradigms at a loss to foresee cyclical down-turns in order to prepare for them in time.

Ancient Egypt’s pharaoh had his Joseph to interpret warning dreams and oversee the timely storage of grain during seasons of plenty to off-set famine during seasons of drought. Who prepares or listens to such boundary-spanning advisors now?