Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change

Leadership By Resting

I've started reading Tim Hurson's book on productive thinking, Think Better. It's fascinating so far. One of the most interesting points has been the concept that we react first, feel an emotion next, and become conscious of both last. Our conscious minds are bringing up the rear of the parade that is us.

I encountered this same idea several years ago in a wonderful book by Tor Norretranders entitled The User Illusion. Norretranders' book is a step-by-step walk through (then) current research in neurology and psychology that comes to the same conclusions as Tim does. Simply stated, our conscious mind is not in charge. Its belief to the contrary is the illusion in the title.

Tim goes on from the research to observe that our preconscious mind thinks in ways that can suppress truly new ideas. He shows how we can use conscious techniques to get out of the ruts of thinking that our preconscious minds keep us in. I can't wait to get to that part of his book. This is a very important and effective strategy in developing new ideas, and he's had a lot of deserved success with it.

But I think there's another implication of the research cited in Norretranders' book that is equally profound: we know more about what is going on than is evident to our conscious minds. After all, we function pretty well most of the time, mostly (apparently) unconsciously. If that's the case, it might be smart to take the reins of leadership away from our conscious minds every once in a while in order to reconnect with the full depth of what we know

We have instincts and gut feelings about our activities, at work and in our personal lives, and they come from a deep wisdom. One of the principles of real creativity is to stay in touch with that wisdom and honor it. That principle is also the essence of a leadership strategy I practice that you might call Leadership By Resting

Leaders tend to think their job is to find ways to keep noses to the grindstone and grindstone in good working order. Leadership By Resting encourages noses and grindstone to let it go for a while. Giving it a rest permits us to appreciate the outcomes and products of our labor and to put them in their true perspective. And that appreciation and perspective open us to our deep wisdom about what are the real needs (and what are not). The clarity of that wisdom, and the inspiration and motivation it provides, keep the wheel of activity rolling much more reliably than the grindstone, and with more useful and creative results.