6: Embrace What's Next

The author speaks of her experience taking improvisational acting courses, which she did to help her as a public speaker. There is a considerable difference between writing about theory in a book and presenting to an audience, and she recognized a need to be more animated on stage to engage her audiences.

The problem was: she was still very wooden on a stage. An instructor took her aside and mentioned that in the moments between formal activities, she interacted naturally with her classmates and was quite well-liked, but the moment she got on stage and became conscious that she was being observed, she became entirely mechanical.

After that, her instructor put her on stage before the class and told her to "just be yourself." Do not try to be inspirational, do not try to be interesting, and do not try to have an effect on the audience. He asked her a number of rather mundane questions. And what she noticed was that, even though she was not trying to be entertaining, the audience was captivated by her "performance." She was natural, realistic, and very engaging.

To drive home the point, she was not engaging "even though" she was not trying to entertain - but "because" she was not trying to entertain. The lesson here is the value of being genuine, and being yourself, rather than trying to put on an act. When you seek to influence others, you often behave in unnatural and mechanical ways, which turn other people off.

This is an important lesson for leaders because many of them are trying so hard to "act like" a leader that they fail to be one.

In the present day, we recognize that anyone can practice leadership. There is no singular set of qualifies of character that a leader must possess, but that ordinary people become effective leaders while maintaining the integrity of their character. Leadership is not what you are, but it is what you do - regardless of who you are. And focusing on "are" to the neglect of "do" is detrimental to performance.

What leaders do is motivate people to be effective in their roles, and to help them understand how they contribute to the creation of value.

The people they influence are often also feeling a bit unnatural - focused on "being" a good employee without "doing" the things they must to be effective in their own roles. Most people feel very uncomfortable in their roles as employees as well, and feel herded into doing things that are unnatural for them and assuming a role that does not quite fit who they are.

The best kind of leader helps people to reconcile this conflict - to be who they are, do what they do, and recognize that the two are aligned. This sounds difficult, but actually makes the role of the leader much easier than having to constantly browbeat and dragoon people into doing things that feel wrong and unnatural to them.

If you can align perception and behavior, then people become highly motivated and highly effective. But doing so requires getting them to consider two very fundamental aspects of their personality - "who I am" and "what I do" - which requires some time and introspection.

Expanding Who I Am

To influence human behavior, you must challenge people to reconsider the framework by which they define themselves and their occupations, to recognize their blind spots and consider changing habitual behaviors in which they feel both comfortable and justified. This is a necessary step to arriving at a new definition that gives them a more enlightened "sense of self" going forward.

Challenging preconceptions and habits can be uncomfortable. People prefer to cling to what they believe even when their beliefs are counterproductive. But when a person is encountering practical difficulties, they are more likely to recognize that these beliefs are harmful, and more open to changing them.

A difficult conversation arises from a situation in which their current patterns of behavior are not producing the results they wish to achieve (or that others wish them to achieve). The easiest way to solve the problem is to give them instructions that they must follow, regardless of whether they understand them. And if you are correct in your instructions and if they follow them perfectly, it will fix the problem quickly, but temporarily.

The long-term benefit of a difficult conversation is evoking a long-term change in behavior. This requires making a change to the perceptions and conceptions that support their habitual patterns. This requires confronting their frustrations and fears, discovering what they really want, and getting them to understand how the changes you propose are beneficial to their success.

(EN: after this rousing pep-talk, the author falls back on case studies to try to make the point a little more clearly. And as before, the cases that are presented are a bit sketchy and stilted - I'm not able to derive anything useful from them.)