Leadership and Choice!


One of the defining characteristics of the human species, apart from almost all other animal forms, is the capability of choice based on conscious thought.  Notice I did not say rational or logical thought, because choice about our actions can be based on numerous types of thinking and as we all know, not all our choices in life are wise, rational or logical. But they are still the result of choice.

It is choice, of what to think, what to dwell upon, and how to act (behave) that determines the quality of our lives as human beings. If you somehow believe that you have no choice, that your life is ruled by outside events, that circumstances control your destiny, then I have some very good news for you! That’s not the way it works! You are in control.

edl-22crime-t_CA0-articleLargeEverything we do, think and feel is a product of  choice.  We experiences an event and our thinking creates a feeling or impression about that event.  Proving that this is the way it works is simple: no two people experience the exact same event the same way.  For example: two women are walking down a dark street and suddenly a figure lurches out from the shadows right in front of them.  One woman screams for help for fear of being mugged, the other asks the stranger if she can help him.  One has thoughts about muggings and street crime, the other about the welfare of someone who appears to be hurt.  Thoughts create our reality. And we choose our thoughts, even though they may be unconscious or seemingly spontaneous.  The real problem is that most of the time we aren’t aware of our thoughts, we let them form from habit or prior conditioning.

Now comes the good part of how we humans are wired.  Our thoughts are based on choice.  We choose what and how we think about everything.  While many of our thoughts are subconscious, they come from us, not from the outside.  It’s all choice!

Okay, so where is this lesson in human neuropsychology heading?

Leadership is choice!  “Leader” is a title given to us by others, usually within the context of an organisation.  For example: “She was promoted to VP and now is the leader of all IT operations in the EMEA Region”. How she behaves in this role defines her “leadership”!

Leadership is the actions and behaviours leaders choose in response to events and requirements.  And as we just learned above, actions and behaviours are based on choice.

The quality of leadership is based on the choices made. The most effective leaders pay attention to their thinking and consciously choose their responses and actions.  Too often, ineffective leaders just react, their thoughts and choices based on habitual or preconditioned habit patterns. Or worse yet, clouded by thoughts and feeling of anger or fear.  Allowing thought habits, past preconditioning, anger or fear to determine our leadership actions and behaviours is not very effective, but at the end of the day it is still a choice!

Mike Myatt, in his new book, Hacking Leadership, opens with a little story about a plaque on his desk that reads: It is what it is!  After looking at this phrase for some time, he suddenly realised that this type of thinking is not based on choice, but on passive acceptance of the situation.  He then took a marking pen and added an additional set of words.  The plaque now reads:

It is what it is, until you decide to change it!

Leadership is a choice!  Choose wisely.

John R. Childress

Author of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture, and FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution, available from Amazon in paperback and eBook formats.

See the review of LEVERAGE in The Economist (January 9, 2014.

John also writes thriller novels:  novels.johnrchildress.com


About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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