Evolving Yourself As A Leader: Tapping Your Brain’s Plasticity

In Leadership: Defining Moments (March 2005), I write about the power of defining leadership, which creates a vision for yourself and a performance benchmark:

One of the extraordinary things about language is our ability to make distinctions—distinctions that define and clarify. We recognize the value in using language to define our organization’s mission, to create a vision, yet the concept of “leadership” rarely gets addressed in the same way. By taking the time to define leadership, you make explicit your values, actions, and outcomes. You create a personal performance benchmark—one that you can use to increase your leadership skills and improve your performance.

Recently I was reading Evolve Your Brain by Dr. Joe Dispenza, who appeared in “What the Bleep Do We Know?”, a thought-provoking movie featuring quantum physicists and a few New Age gurus. In Evolve Your Brain, Dispenza, drawing on medical research, describes the plasticity of our brains and our ability to actually grow our mind.

It is the habits of our body/mind—the thoughts and the chemical baths these create in us—that keep us in limiting patterns and feelings (see Dr. Candace Pert’s Molecules of Emotion: The Scientific Basis Behind Mind-Body Medicine [Scribner, 1997]), and keep us from thinking “outside the box” or “growing our box.”  In his book, Dispenza describes the functions of our brain’s frontal lobes and how we can harness their extraordinary functions to break these self-limiting patterns.

In one of the later chapters, Dispenza describes how we can build a model of who we want to become or an attribute we want to live more fully. He then guides us in the use of daily contemplation to engage our frontal lobes and turn that mental model into reality.

But before all this—before defining leadership, before developing a model of who and how we want to be as leaders, before engaging in his recommended practice—there is a critical step. Dispenza mentions it and I want to emphasize it as it applies to evolving ourselves as leaders.

That step is assessing the “As Is” state by posing powerful self-reflective questions framed in curiosity. This serves the same purpose as any corporate or organizational business process improvement initiative that has a desired outcome of improved efficiency and quality.

These questions are designed to reveal the inherent structure of the habits of thinking, behaviors, and environment that sustain and maintain your personal status quo. In effect, these are your strategies for getting the results you are currently getting—for who you are and where you are now.  Take any area of your life or any aspect of yourself that you would like to change, and subject it to rigorous inquiry to elicit useful data:

  • What am I thinking, doing, or being that gets the results I’m getting?
  • What is my strategy (intentional or otherwise) for getting these results? How do I know when to execute this strategy? Or, what triggers it?
  • If I had to teach someone else, step by step, how to get the results I am getting in this area, what are those steps? What would I tell the person he must say to himself, think, feel and do?

The next step, whether you take it within a day or weeks, is to develop the “To Be” model. Be sure to consider the data from assessing your current state as informative but not predictive for building your model.

  • Who do I want to be as a leader? As a person?
  • What attribute do I want to live more fully?
  • What state-of-mind do I want to live in more often?
  • Who demonstrates this attribute or state of mind?

For further reference, be sure to read Springing Forth: What Do I Want? (February, 2006); Creativity: Disney Had It Right (November, 2004); and Stumbling Block to Stepping Stone (July, 2005, and August, 2005).

My next step is to go to a serene place—a secluded mountain cabin by a stream—to answer these questions as they relate to leading my life. How about you?


U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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