This article is about our most powerful enemy. Along with the privilege of working with leaders and their development is the opportunity to study the obstacles that stand in their way. Obstacles can be defined in two categories: Inner and perceived outer obstacles.
Outer obstacles are those that come from outside of us. These come in multiple forms and intensities. They may include perceptions of unreasonable expectations of our superiors; they may include the passionate opposition of competitors, or awareness of being in constant physical danger. For some of us the escalating price of petrol is a real enemy to our peace of mind, we may be threatened by excessive debt and fears that we may be retrenched. The list of possible outside enemies goes on and on.
During the past few weeks I sat down in personal leadership conversations with about twenty leaders in several large organisations. Several of these leaders were managers in the high intensity gold mining industry where the rapidly dropping gold price provides a real threat to their business viability. The resultant pressures in the work place are significant and it would not be surprising if some leaders simply cannot take the pressure.
In intimate discussions with several of these pressure leaders I was once again aware of the immense importance of differentiating between perceived enemies from without and the enemy from within. A month ago several of these leaders felt seriously burdened by the pressure put on them by senior management to perform in the face of the serious threat on profitability and even viability as a result of the falling gold price. As a result they were investing many long hours of overtime and were estranged at home. They were being seriously deprived of a personal life. Several of these leaders were considering resigning. Some of them were top performers over a long period of time and felt that their record was being ignored in the face of the present emergency to perform at a higher level.
The enemy from within is the dangerous influence of a negative attitude.
In the situations discussed above, the managers involved felt that their lives were being significantly disrupted by perceptions of unreasonable senior management interventions. These managers are strong people who have a track record of performing in a very difficult and even dangerous gold mining industry often working up to about three kilometres underground. They are responsible for the overall safety of hundreds of mine workers as well as having high achievement goals resting on their shoulders. When I saw them a month ago they felt they were under severe personal pressure by management and several resignations were not all that unlikely at the time.
I looked forward to once again evaluating the situation upon my most recent visit. With the exception of one of their more inexperienced colleagues who was leaving I found an amazing turnaround in attitude. Those fine leaders who harboured strong feelings of resentment that they were not being understood and appreciated had done courageous personal evaluations and as a result changed their attitudes completely. They came to the conclusion that their greatest enemy was not their bosses or even the severe working conditions they were experiencing, but it was the real threat to their heritage of a positive and courageous attitude. As a result of changing their attitudes they were passionate once again about their job and their relationship with senior management was back on an even and positive footing. I found the interviews with these leaders to be a thrilling and highly satisfying experience! Our country is blessed with many such great souls and we need them to grow and lead the rest of us.
The imperative of facing negative feelings
I don’t know of any more important issue in good leadership than the imperative to face and process negative perceptions that are so keen to latch onto our hearts and minds. On the other hand, I know of no greater pleasure than to relate to people who refuse to allow negative perceptions to clutter their lives and to corrupt their attitudes!
Every situation we face in life is probably accompanied by opposition of some kind or other. All movement is accompanied by resistance. This is the nature of life.
The Destiny Chain
The ability to develop a positive attitude towards life in general is not a fleeting act. It is the result of compliance to a disciplined process that we call the Destiny Chain process. This is a universal process that calls upon us to identify and face all our perceived negative feelings and then follow a process of pondering possible positive consequences and steps. The nature of our perceptions tend to change into a positive mind set as we follow this discipline and commit to believable plans and supporting structure. As I sat down with the fine leaders mentioned above, we could trace how they followed this universal process in facing their inner enemy, changing their attitude with the resultant change in their perception of outside threats.
The power to move barriers
It is probably true that we may not be able to change all outside threats in our life. However, the only thing we can determine for sure is our attitude. A positive attitude is based on authentic beliefs and values. All positive movement starts with a positive attitude that we can control. As taught us by that great teacher, Thomas A Monson, the abundant life is obtained by a positive attitude, belief in others around us, belief in universal principles and the courage to act.
My experiences during the past few weeks have once again strengthened my passion to help others to face negative perceptions and to refuse to be bound by negative attitudes.
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