To Learn Leadership You Need To Learn The Opposite

There are hundreds of courses in the marketplace on leadership, and most of them cover the basics well. Most leadership training tells a person what leadership is by contrasting it with management. My question is, why are these programs ineffective when it comes to creating new leaders or inspiring a shift in thinking? Management is complementary to leadership, so contrasting the two makes leadership more difficult to identify and understand. As someone who has researched leadership for over 20 years, I have discovered that one cannot learn leadership without first understanding its opposite—drama. Management is not the opposite of leadership, but drama is.

All human beings are born into an environment of dependency. Of all the species on the planet, we are most dependent upon our parents—we couldn’t survive without them. No other species is reliant or dependent upon external resources for as long as a child. We learn how to be dependent before we learn how to speak; it’s in our deep, long-term memory. This early learning provides the framework for how and why dependency can continue later in life, and this dependency directly leads to acting out drama patterns. We are all wired for drama—it comes as standard equipment with every human being. However, what is optional in our lives is leadership. Leadership development requires an intentional decision, and every person has to make that decision on his or her own. The leadership model that we have pioneered helps participants move away from drama as they choose more leadership in their lives. To be a leader, one first has to eliminate drama.

It is well known that the human brain is divided into three parts. What is less well known is that each part acts as an independent organ with its own cellular structure and function. In fact, our brain’s structure more closely resembles three mini-brains in one location rather than an integrated system. What we normally perceive as thinking is the activity occurring in the most recent evolutionary structure in our brain, the neocortex. This “new” brain is associated with higher thinking patterns. The “older” brains are the reptilian brain, named because we share it with reptiles, and the limbic brain, which supports our emotions. Researchers have long known that many of our decisions are made with the reptilian brain and the limbic brain, which both evolved millions of years ago. To effectively communicate with our older brains, we need to understand how they are influenced. They are best served with contrast, one idea contrasted against another. Furthermore, these two brains best understand something through visual cues, and they need specific types of input in order to acquire meaning and understanding.

The best way to learn a new concept using our old brains is to contrast that concept with something else. A person can contrast warmth with cold, excitement with calm, resignation with engagement. The law of contrast also helps us make decisions. For example, we contrast buying and leasing a car in order to better understand the benefits and weaknesses of both. The stronger the contrast, the easier it is for our older brains to make decisions. The old brain is triggered when it experiences a difference or when something changes; without some kind of stimulus, it can’t make a decision. It works best when it experiences a contrast. Sales people know to create the pain before they offer the solution. They are influencing others through the law of contrast. The Leadership Triangle/Drama Triangle Model creates many contrasting roles: Victim and Visionary, Adversary and Catalyst, Rescuer and Coach. This model also contrasts the feelings associated from each triangle, from resigned to passionate. Finally, this model contrasts the thought patterns that are associated with each role. Each aspect of this model is associated with a contrasting idea, and the difference helps motivate an individual or a team to continue on their leadership journey. By having the ability to contrast two concepts, our old brains can make a clear choice.

The second-best way to learn a new concept using our old brains is through the visual channel. The optical system is 25 times faster than the auditory system. What a person sees in an image has a much stronger impact on them than talking about a concept alone. Review the following image and ask yourself the following questions: How much drama is in my organization? How much drama do I create in my own environments? Sheppard Partners can aid you with helping your organization to become a drama-free zone. We will also help you unleash the full leadership potential of your team. As you study this image, examine where you still have drama in your life. If you want help with eliminating this drama, please know that we have a vast amount of experience with creating drama-free zones in organizations. We plant the seeds of leadership in your organization so that drama will not have a place to propagate and fester in the minds of your team members. We will also rapidly build your leadership competency at every level of your organization.


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