Principle 11: Rules - What Rules?
"In the beginners mind there are only possibilities, in the experts mind there are few."
- Shunryu Suzuki
Leadership is about change, about providing opportunity for change, growth and development, about doing things differently. To Leaders, the rules of others apply to others, not to them. Leaders are looking for a new world to inhabit with new rules and new modes of operation.
In this quest, whilst existing rules may help to guide, they can be a block or blinkers to the full realm of potential and possibilities that are open to us, all of us. Those rules may be as much in our head as any real, concrete rule laid down in stone, or at least in writing on paper, or even implied rules.
Those rules in our head are our beliefs, and it takes as much, if not more, strength and courage to challenge those beliefs as any written, established beliefs. To look beyond them and accept that there are other options and possibilities, even more strength and courage to be willing to explore those other options and possibilities, to seek them out, and try them on.
We need rules to bring order to chaos, for society and our various “tribes” to operate. To give credence, clarity and security to the changes we aspire to make and to follow. But, it is necessary to continuously challenge the rules and beliefs to the day if we wish to evolve and develop as individuals, as cultures, and as humanity.
Leaders throughout the ages have fought to break and make new rules, often at the expense of their own livelihood and even lives. A few example of such are:
- Abraham Lincoln and slavery
- Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement
- Emily Pankhurst and the Suffragettes
But probably more frequently are the examples in the sciences such as Galileo and his views on Heliocentrism, and in the field of medicine in particular such as Ignaz Semmelweis attempting to introduce the now seemingly obvious practice of washing hands between carving up dead bodies and delivering babies.
In all of these examples those concerned suffered either with their livelihood or with their lives, or both, for they strive to change the rules of the day. These are just a tiny, miniscule example of the courage, vision, intelligence and foresight of those leaders that have dared to see past and break existing rules in the quest to create new ones, using what Jack Welch (former CEO of G.E.) calls “Boundarylessness”. Looking through and beyond the superficial (Omote) and the established to a new, better, brighter future (Ura).
Whilst I am not one for condoning breaking the rules of law, in many cases the change required has necessitated doing so, particularly in the cases outlined above with the Civil Rights Movement and the Suffragettes, and many others like them.
Leaders are frustrated by the retort of followers: “We have always done it this way”. It takes the courage of a warrior to go against established practice to achieve a goal that is ultimately right, good and true.
The difference between Leadership and Management is that Leaders create the environment and rules in which we work, Management administers the rules in which we work. Or as Steven Covey describes it, Leaders create the paradigm, followers work within that paradigm.