The way I pay attention shapes how the social reality around me unfolds.
I attend (this way), therefore it emerges(that way).
Energy follows attention.
Wherever you put your attention as a leader, as an innovator, as a change maker, or as a parent, that is where the energy of the system around you will go- including your own energy.
We need to cultivate and focus our attention.
We all live in a culture where technologies and multi tasking inhibit our capacity to sustain focused attention.
The biggest enemy of our capacity to sustain attention is of course our smartphones.
Energy follows attention means that the key to great leadership and breakthrough innovation lies in our capacity for sustained attention.
We have to focus on not only on the what- what we pay attention to, but even more son on the source: the place from which our attention originates.
There are 4 different types of listening, each of which operates from a different source.
- Habitual Listening: From my past experiences.
- Factual Listening: From my Open Mind
- Empathic Listening: From my Open Heart
- Generative Listening:From my Open Will
If the essence of leadership lies in our ability to shift the inner place from which we operate, then this means that we need to develop the collective capacity to operate from all four types of listening as required by the circumstances.
How do we develop this capacity to operate from all four types of listening?
Practicing every day.
- Downloading: Whenever you sit in a meeting in which everything that happens confirms what you expected, then you are downloading. Downloading is neither good or bad. It may be appropriate in one situation but not in another. It is just one type of listening. But if it is the only way you listen, then you are headed for trouble.
- Factual Listening: Moving from downloading to factual listening is quite doable: Just pay attention to what is most surprising, most unexpected, or most interesting. Cultivate your curiosity and pay attention to everything that deviates from your earlier expectations (i.e. to dis-confirming data). Capture these observations in a journal to ensure that you don’t lose them and the habit becomes stronger.
- Empathic Listening: Moving from factual to empathic listening requires you to step into the perspective of another person. Taking this step requires you to love the other person to activate the intelligence of the heart. Love begins by accepting people the way they are and the way they are not. You could also find things to appreciate about them. Get interested in them.
- Generative Listening: Moving from empathic to generative listening is the most challenging. It is something that you cannot force. You can create conditions for generative listening. The most important intervention at this level is : DO NOTHING. Do not intervene. Do not disengage. Just STAY WITH and hold the space for what wants to emerge.
Like a flame when applied to metal, nothing happens. But if you keep the flame ON for a while, the metal begins to change from solid to liquid. Similarly, as you continue to apply deep listening, over time the conversation will drop to a deeper level, to a different state. That is the leadership expected from all of us.
This write up is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer