The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener” – Bill O’Brien – CEO of Hanover Insurance.

What counts is not only what leaders to and how they do it but also their ‘interior condition’ – that is their inner source. Bill was pointing at a deeper dimensions (the source) from which our actions, communication and perceptions arise, and which allows us to sense and connect with a whole new set of future possibilities.

The quality of how we pay attention is a largely hidden dimension of our everyday social experience – whether it is in organizations, institutions or even our personal lives. As we conduct our daily business, we usually are well aware of what we do and how we do it- that is the process we use. But if we were asked where our actions cam from, most of us would be unable to provide a clear response.

Infront of the Blank Canvas

To understand this point better, consider the work of an artist. We can look at art from atleast 3 perspectives:

  1. We can focus on the thing that results from the creative process – say, a painting.
  2. We can focus on the artist’s process in creating the painting OR
  3. We can observe the artist at the moment when she is standing in front of a blank canvas.

In other words, we can look at the work of art after it has been created, during its creation, or before creation begins.

If we apply this analogy to leading change, we can look at the change maker’s work from 3 similar angles.

  • First, we can look at what leaders and change makers to.
  • Second, we can look at the how, the processes leaders use.

We have many books on the first aspect in many books and we have lot of management and leadership research on the second aspect too.

Yet, we have never systematically looked at the leader’s work from the blank canvas perspective.

The question that we have left unasked is: What sources are leaders and change makers actually operating from?

e.g.: What quality of listening, what quality of attention, do I bring to a situation – and how does that quality change the course of action, moment to moment?

Above writeup is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

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