Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

“Life is difficult”
- The Buddha

M. Scott Peck, begins The Road Less Traveled with these three words, taking the reader past the first step of an eternal journey.

Most people would classify The Road Less Traveled by as a psychologically based, spiritually centered, self-help book. And, that is a good start. However, I like to think of it as something bigger; something with a more important calling than a simple self-help book.  I see it as a primer for the development of leaders. In The Road Less Traveled, Dr Peck speaks of Will, Discipline and Love. I believe these three attributes provide the foundation of every successful leadership-followership relationship.

Will: desire of sufficient magnitude to generate action.

Will is achieved when you have found a point of alignment between your mind and your heart; a monumental task that requires discipline and Love.

Discipline is easy to understand; at least we think it is easy? In Peck’s view, discipline is a set of tools that enables us to work through the difficulties, the suffering, of becoming complete people. Discipline consists of Delaying Gratification, Accepting Responsibility, a Dedication to the Truth and Balancing.

We have all heard the motto, “I will do today what others will not do so that I may have tomorrow what others will not have.” You would be hard pressed for find a better way to state the principles of Delaying gratification.

Accepting responsibility is perhaps the most difficult aspect of discipline. Unless you take responsibility for something, you will not own it. If you do not own it, you can’t do anything with it. Accepting responsibility ensures that you own the things that you are responsible for so you can do what you need to do.

Dedication to the truth is a willingness to accept a life of being personally challenged, to live with the knowledge that you will not always know what is best, necessary or important. A dedication to the truth requires that you live a self-examined life, a life worth living, and that you adjust your worldview when you receive new information.

You achieve Balance when you transition from a life governed by rules to a life governed by principles. When the rules no longer constrain you actions, the challenge becomes to achieve balance between competing priorities within the framework of principles; balance provides flexibility.

Love? That word “Love” confuses many people because they mistakenly believe it is the “in love” feeling they have experienced when they were attracted to someone. When Peck says “Love”, he is not talking about the blind emotion that people feel when they are “in love”. Rather, he is talking about the action and commitment required to become fully developed to fulfilling individual potential. He is talking about a sobering love that does not always feel good, that requires hard work and a willingness to bypass the immediate for the future and good for the great.

Discipline and Love provide the tools necessary to find the answers that say yes to both your mind and you heart, answers that enable you to achieve the will required to do great things.

You can directly relate the majority of your successes, the achievement of your desired outcomes, to the application of your will. Further, you can directly relate the majority of your failures to your inability to apply your will in the area under consideration.

The ability to develop your will and focus your effort is the single most important skill you can acquire. Let me say that again. Developing your will and focusing your effort is the single most important skill you can acquire.

If developing your will is the single most important skill you can acquire, the second most important skill you can acquire is the ability to lead. Fortunately, once you developed the self-discipline required to harness your will, you will have the foundation required to become a capable leader.

Leadership: the process of generating desire of sufficient magnitude within followers to generate action in the absence of the leader.

In other words, leadership is the act of developing and transforming the will of the follower so that it matches the will of the leader. Like developing your own will, developing and transforming the will of others is a monumental task; a task that requires the same tools: discipline and Love.

Because leadership depends on discipline and Love, all leadership opportunities are an act of developing a relationship. The sole objective of this relationship is the alignment of the heart and mind of the follower with such clarity that when they exercise their will, the actions accomplished will support the will of the leader.

Most leadership sucks because when faced with a leadership opportunity, most people refuse to accept the full responsibility of the opportunity and fail to exercise self-discipline, maintain a dedication to the truth and a sense of love. When faced with a challenge, most people fall back to the rules of conventional wisdom and lace the flexibility required to achieve a balance between competing interests. In short, most leadership sucks because most leaders do not exercise the will required to be great.

Did I mention, “Life is difficult”?

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Take care and enjoy...

John

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