95% of Leadership is Beyond Words

"In terms of the most astonishing fact about which we know nothing, there is dark matter and dark energy.  We don't know what either of them is.  Everything we know and love about the universe and all the laws of physics as they apply, apply to four percent of the universe.  That's stunning."

Neil deGrasse Tyson

We are groping in the dark to understand leadership 

Ninety-five percent of our universe is unknown to us.  It is beyond measurement, observation and understanding.

And it is just like leadership.

Ninety-five percent of leadership is simply unknowable.  For one really important reason.

The act of Leadership is beyond language.

We know that leadership energy (the ability to think and act intelligently) is the primary 'fuel' that generates organisational performance.

In the real world leadership is a continuous and unfolding sequence of evolutionary actions and behaviours, each of which occurs for the first time.

That which drives each of these infinite actions is largely unknowable.

Yet for decades we have claimed to know the unknowable.

Here are some examples.

Unknowable 'Values' 

For decades corporates have compiled lists of 'our values'.  You know the stuff.

Respect.  Integrity. Innovation. Employees. Customers.  Take your pick from an infinite list.

There is just one problem.  None of these values exists in the real world.  They simply float about in our imaginary worlds.  What does exist is action.  To what extent 'values' do actually guide behaviour is simply impossible to evaluate.

People are non-linear animals, complex and chaotic.  They can be good and bad, honest and dishonest, all at the same time.

My advice?  Ditch your company's silly linear lists of values.  Rather focus on real actions and behaviours in the real world.

In other words dig deeply into the world of ethics and philosophy and make this a key part of your leadership development.

Unknowable 'Culture' 

Organisational 'culture' is a classic example of unknowable dark energy.

In the past I have referred to wine tasting as a metaphor for culture.

We can all taste the same wine, but all of us will have a unique taste and emotional experience.  And despite the use of nice words it is forever impossible for you to share your experience with anyone else.

Your experience is beyond words.  It lives in the zone of dark energy.

Organisational culture is the same. In the real world we can only experience a series of unique 'for the first time actions'.  From these we attempt to find a pattern that gives us a story and a meaning.

Of course in the real world life is too random and chaotic to to deliver neatly packaged and linear 'culture'.  No.  Culture reflects nature.  Chaotic, Dynamic.  Complex.  Non linear.  

My advice?  Do not fall into the trap of thinking 'culture' is knowable and linear.  It is not.  It emerges.  It evolves.  It is driven by dark energy.

Forget misleading words like 'change management' and 'cultural transformation'.  These concepts assume that these things are knowable.  They are not.

Unknowable 'Leadership' 

There is a short current series on Netflix, The Anatomy of a Scandal.  A perfect example of the limitations of words to describe the complex world of human dark energy.

The story revolves around the accusation of rape by a young parliamentary researcher who has been having an affair with a member of parliament.  The court case does its best to use language to describe an event in a logical and linear way.  Unfortunately the event on trial was conducted with complex, chaotic passion, and feelings, all beyond the horizon of words, and all now lost in the mists of time.  And like wine tasting, impossible to share accurately with the jury.

But this is where all of life, including leadership, takes place.  In the unknowable world of dark energy. 

My advice?  Drop the tired old leadership tropes about leadership.  Dig deeper into the world of systems, energy and the science of evolution.  There is a whole new world to be discovered.

The Beauty, Power and Enchantment of 'Dark Energy'
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