Heretics are non-conformists. They are outside-the-box thinkers who rub authorities and protectors of the status quo the wrong way. And we need them.
In this episode of The Spirit of Leading I talk about some of the world’s better known heretics and the contributions they made.
I reveal my favorite heretic and what I take away from his example that will make for being a more INPowering leader. Listen, and hear what I mean.
Then, think about your favorite heretic. What are the qualities that person demonstrated in his or her experience and example?
Seth Godin wrote in Tribes, “Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements,” (2008, 11).
Heretics are trailblazers. They are unconventional leaders, and they cause a lot of anxiety for those who are trying to arrest change and keep everything within a narrow comfort zone.
The inertia of the comfort zone resists any side trips into unknown territory. It would rather keep doing the same old thing that doesn’t work than try something different that seems risky or is unproven.
Those who call themselves leaders to keep everything the same, to play it safe, to protect the status quo, are leading us to nowhere.
These are the INPowered.
The trailblazers are leaders who are looking for opportunities to make things better. Furthermore, they are creating those opportunities by rebuilding relationships among the estranged, buy pushing science and technology into new applications, buy reshaping communities so people can find common solutions to difficult problems.
History is dotted with many heretics in all disciplines–government, religion, medicine, science, business, technology, and others–who dared challenge the status quo or conventional wisdom. Many, whom we now revere, were originally ridiculed and persecuted as heretics for their outlandish and absurd ideas and philosophies.
Some of my favorite heretics are:
Jesus bar Joseph of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) for daring to bad mouth the written traditions of the Jewish religion that got in the way of observing the spirit of God’s Law (Mark 7:1-23). Jesus really went off on the religious legalists in Matthew 23. It got ugly. The Jewish religious leaders were able to have him executed over it and other heresies.
Socrates, the Greek philosopher, for holding the rulers of Athens accountable for their immorality and lack of ethics. He was tried and found guilty of corrupting the minds of the youths and for mocking the gods of Athens. He was executed.
Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer, for proving that Earth was not the center of the universe as the church leaders professed. His inventions allowing observing celestial bodies literally showed the sun was in fact the center of our solar system. But when it came to religious orthodoxy, seeing was not believing. The church put the pressure on Galileo to recant his findings. He did, but spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
Mahatma Gandhi, for challenging British rule over India and accompanying civil rights abuses and ultimately achieving national independence. His non-violent methods have inspired many other civil rights movements. While trying to heal religious strife late in life between Hindus and Muslims, he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist.
One thing more. The kind of heretic I’m talking about is the one who contributed something of substance to the welfare of mankind. I’m not talking about egomaniacal blowhards with a personal agenda.
Nicolo Machiavelli had it right when he wrote, “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”
Who would you add to this list?
Who are some of your favorite heretics who contributed something of substance to the welfare of mankind?
Will you join the ranks of the heretics who made a difference that outlived them?
And what will be your cause, your passion?
The preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America ranks among the most powerful political statements of all time, beginning with the simple, all inclusive phrase, “We the People of the United States.”
Our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag is another, concluding with the phrase, “with liberty and justice for all.”
The foundation concept that underlies these is front and center in our nation’s original Declaration of Independence, “WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights–that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
INPowering leaders are first, and foremost, inclusive. To INPowering leaders their focus is what can we do together, in the interest of all, to make things better for all.
I have seen this Spirit of Leading in action at every level–families, neighborhoods, communities, work groups, small businesses, and large corporations. When the spirit of INPowering leadership is working, leaders are answering these four questions from their followers:
- Where are we going?
- How are we getting there?
- Will I, and my loved ones, be OK?
- How will you help me get there?
When leaders are determined to make things better for all, the creative energy to find mutual solutions is unleashed.
- A common vision produces clear goals that all can get behind.
- Leaders are free to work on specific objectives and tactics that will move everyone toward a common destination.
- Buy-in will be higher, since people tend to support the goals they help to create. They can see themselves in the proposed future.
- Leaders are focused on constructive outcomes and collaborate to help everyone move forward together.
Leaders who build their power base on being divisive with, Us-against-Them rhetoric are actually dis-empowering and are working against the precepts of our founding documents and enduring principles. There will always be differences of opinion, but when those differences are cultivated into wedge issues designed to promote division, strife, and self-interest, they weaken the collective energy of We the People.
What do people say about you when you are not in their presence?
In this episode of The Spirit of Leading I discuss the power of images, and why symbols are more powerful than words, whether it’s a flag, or a corporate logo, a brand name or trademark, or your own personal brand.
Symbols convey powerful emotional connections to ideas, ideals, and leaders. We use symbols as shorthand to communicate a range of values and beliefs.
Your personal brand is symbolic of what others think and feel about their experience with you.
Links to resources mentioned in the podcast
The legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “Men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared, but only men of character are trusted.”
Trust and the appropriate use of power go hand in hand.
In this podcast of the Spirit of Leading, I explore power, the sources of power that we have to draw from, and why the right use of power is so important to building trust in relationships and organizations.
Power is the ability to cause things to happen. The quicker one can make things happen, the more power. The bigger the change, the more power required.
- Position power
- Referent power
- Expertise power
- Celebrity power
- Personal power
Everything is personal. Each and every one of us takes everything personally. You know this is true by your reaction when someone gives you bad news, then says, “It’s not personal.” If an action or a decision affects you in any way whatsoever, it’s personal.
INPowering leaders know their decisions will affect others personally. Yet, as followers, we want to know that we are safe in the care of our leaders–that they would never intentionally do anything to harm us.
Empathetic leaders are able to build this bond of trust with followers simply because they do care and are able to demonstrate it in word and deed.
Here are three things you can begin doing immediately to strengthen this bond by being more empathetic.
1. Practice resonate listening
Resonate listening is engaging the speaker to get on their wave length. Too often, we try to bring them onto our wave length and totally miss the meaning of what they are saying. Listen to understand and to help them express their meaning fully and authentically. Then, and only then, are we in sync with their message.
Resonate listening also helps us imagine what it’s like to be the other person. We can get inside them, in a sense, and grasp what they are feeling and experiencing. We can comprehend their reality.
2. Be curious about others
The empathetic leader seeks out others to learn something about them beyond their name, rank, and serial number. Failure to get to know those we lead reduces our connection to what they can do for us rather than how they will be affected by our relationship.
Take time to ask about their hopes and dreams, their family and friends, their hobbies and interests, and their experience of being part of your team or your organization.
3. Give full time and attention to your interaction with others
Friends who have met former President Bill Clinton personally have told me that when he spoke to them, they felt they were the only person in the room with him. He devoted his full attention to what they were saying. They felt a connection.
We all have experienced what it’s like to be talking with someone who is not really paying attention or has lost interest in what we are saying. The conversation is shallow, and no connection happens.
If you are always in a rush to get someplace else, you can’t fully be present in the moment. Sometimes, all it takes is a moment to engage someone personally and fully, but the memory of that encounter will last. Be fully present in each and every interaction.
One thing all effective leaders have in common is their ability to be empathetic. Their power comes from the way they connect with others, which fosters bonding and loyalty.
How do you feel when you suddenly, or finally, get it–when you clearly understand something that had been perplexing? For me, it’s the a-ha moment when the light comes on and I feel like a mystery has been revealed.
The Greek scholar, Archimedes, shouted, “eureka,” when one day he noticed the water level rise in his tub as he stepped into it. It was his sudden realization that the amount of water displaced by his foot and leg equaled the volume of his foot and leg that was submerged. Eureka means, I found it, or I find. Archimedes had an a-ha moment.
There is an INPowering energy in a-ha. We experience a surge of enthusiasm that propels us even further into exploration and discovery. The more we learn, the more we want to know.
An INPowering leader helps make that happen for you. A dis-empowering leader wants you to think like he does and spends a lot of energy trying to keep you from learning on your own. That leader wants you to take their word for it and check your ability to think for yourself at the door. Beware of that so-called, leader.
The enemy of a-ha is propaganda
I had a recent encounter with a new acquaintance over a difference in opinion. They would hurl an opinion they had heard at me as if it were a fact. I would go research the opinion and, where warranted, cite facts refuting what they claimed. This happened several times, and on a couple of points I gave them back a fact providing information that either directly contradicted their assertion or revealed their conclusion was more exaggerated than the facts logically allowed.
When they objected to my replies, I simply asked them to provided the facts that supported their opinions. Our discussion ended with them insulting me and accusing me of being closed minded. No “a-ha” for them.
You are under no obligation to agree with me
To be an INPowering leader, you are obliged to explain your conclusions with verifiable facts. And you can take it to the next level by insisting others go learn for themselves.
A fact is verifiable. You can seek independent information that affirms the fact or dispels it. An opinion is one’s conclusion about what a fact means to them. You might disagree with my conclusion about a fact, but the fact should, itself, be verifiable.
Propaganda is information that has been intentionally slanted to promote a point of view. They spin the information, often distorting facts, to convince you of their opinion. Just know that most of the information you hear on cable news is spin.
Be an “a-ha” maker.
Here are some ways to promote a-ha possibilities:
Be a guide to knowledge instead of a propagandist. Point others to information. Ask them what they think the information means to them. Have discussions about what they learned from the information.
Seek counter points of view. Just because you are willing to listen to contrary information does not mean you are wishy-washy or flip-flopping. Others might cause a shift in perception and open your mind and eyes to other possibilities.
Take the fear out of changing your mind. It’s not a character flaw to shift your opinion or conclusion based on learning something new. Celebrate revised opinions as a sign of vibrant thinking.
To INLarge the expectations of living in yourself and in others, you must be an “a-ha” maker. The greatest compliment I ever receive as a teacher is, “you made me think today.” They might even say they are not sure they agree with me. That’s OK. They are thinking, and that’s what matters most.
Promote the power in “a-ha,” and be