The following illustration is told in different ways. We give our own version. It is called Joe and the Mountain.
Joe was climbing the mountain. It was one of his dreams to climb this specific mountain. The wind was gusting strongly but Joe persevered by himself. After several hours of grinding hard work, he reached the top. He was delighted and stood with his arms outstretched as he viewed the vista below him.
Suddenly the wind gusted strongly and Joe was swept off the cliff. He managed to somehow twist his body and found himself hanging with his fingers on the edge. He had no footing and was in deep trouble. Joe prayed fervently for help. He heard a voice:
‘Joe, do you believe I can cause the wind to blow you back to the top again?’
Joe was adamant: ‘Yes, Lord, I believe!’
The voice responded: ‘Let go!’
Some tell the rest of the story in different ways. The one version is that he could not let go and was found the next day frozen to the side of the cliff. Another version is that he let go and found he landed on a ledge that led to the top of the mountain.
But the point of this story is not really about Joe, it is about the voices we listen to as leaders and those that we do not listen to.
In leadership conversations we have with top leaders and international thought leaders on the Leadership Platform Show we find various patterns emerge.
One of these patterns is the passion that great leaders often feel about being true to themselves and in doing the right thing and letting the consequences follow. Some of the thought leaders express the conviction that we should listen to our inner voice, and they call this by different terms such as intuition, inner instincts or values based conscience. Neil Froneman stated on our show that leadership is about a balance between two things –character and strategy. What we call character has much to do with our levels of trust in our inner voice.
Experience from years of research and interviewing hundreds of leaders and performers over the years, tells us that people respond to different voices. The voices we respond to have a dramatic impact on the nature and quality of our leadership.
Going back to the story of Joe and the mountain: Would you or I respond to the voice and ‘let go’?
Our response depends on the nature of our experiences in the past. As Rich Simmonds says: “Our successes of the past determine our confidence in the present”, or words to that effect. If we have had authentic experiences with this kind of voice in the past, we will probably respond with faith. If not, we will probably keep on clinging for dear life.
It is about our levels of trust
If we have learnt to trust our intuition or inner instincts then we will not find it all that difficult to respond to our inner voice. If we have slipped away into a reality where we only trust that which we see and feel and can prove logically, then we may have lost our trust in our inner voice. Leaders such as Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk and General Constant Viljoen trusted in their inner instincts to a remarkable degree and this contributed along with other great leaders to an arrangement that most probably saved us from much bloodshed.
Sources of voices
All great leaders learn to trust certain voices in their lives. In many of them it becomes clear on speaking to them that they built great trust in the voices of their parents, often their mothers. Many of them have great faith built on their trust in scriptures and the words of God. Many have trust in the voice of universal principles that work and are authentic.
Do we trust our inner voice? Or have we allowed the other voices around us, loud and clambering voices, to dull our inner voice of conscious and values?
It is said that there are three kinds of conversations people hold:
- Some discuss things (possessions and positions)
- Some discuss people (judging others mostly)
- Some discuss ideas (governing principles of human behaviour and performance).
It is ideas that move our world in a positive direction. It is the voices of self-indulgence that dull our inner voice.
What voices do we listen to?
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