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LEADERSHIP w


hat is free will? Tis question has been around since the beginning of time and we do


not claim to provide a clear, straight- forward answer to it. However, we would like to highlight some of the leadership implications and challenge you with some contradictory ideas. To begin with, we can see three major concerns leaders should have


in relation to the question raised:  Are leaders pre-determined?  Can leaders change?  Should leaders address their


weaknesses or not? Tis article is intended to be


controversial in the sense that both writers will present different views in response to these three questions. It is up to the reader to decide which of the two views is more accurate, or alterna- tively, come up with their own view. As to leadership itself, our positions are neither mutually exclusive nor collec- tively exhaustible. Paradoxically, both could be appropriate under specific circumstances in the ever changing context of dealing with people. Te main objective is to encourage leaders to reflect on the following question: How free are leaders, and those people with whom they are work- ing, to change and adjust to or- ganisational expectations?


Are we pre-determined?


Position 1: Despite the fact that scien- tists from various disciplines disagree, I strongly believe that all human beings are biologically and fundamentally pre-determined. Free will is an il- lusion that we entertain because it is more comfortable to believe so. From a leadership point of view, it implies that a leader should know the basic strengths and weaknesses of the people with whom they are working and assign jobs accordingly. It means that we can all be happy, enjoy life and perform well as long as we experience an alignment between what we are deep down inside ourselves and our work expectations. Our DNA has a very strong impact on what and how we can contribute in our organisations. My research clearly shows that great performers are those people who are able to find, or create, a good match between the requirements of the job and their natural motivations.


36 | june 2016 | Position 2: Te ability


to lead others is not part of our DNA but is the result of acquired skills, knowl- edge and attitudes. Research on the hereditary nature of leadership is scarce and inconclusive. Studies reveal that only 30 per cent of the leadership role occupancy can be attributed to genetic factors. Once we level out this small impact attributa- ble to DNA, it is the work experience that determines progression to the leadership roles. So we are in charge of our own leadership, and such belief is critical for career success. Carol Dweck calls it ‘growth mindset’. People who believe that they can grow are also better organisational leaders.1 Moreover, let us not


confuse pre-determinism with pre-disposition. Our free will defines how much time and effort we put into our own development. It does not matter where you start, you can always get better. Compelling purpose, motivation and personal values guide us in a spe- cific direction. Tey are not in our bloodstream but acquired and learnt. It is our brain that drives our development, not determinism.


Can we change?


Position 1: Yes we can, because our pre-determination is based on a range within which we can transform ourselves. What this implies is that we can build on our strengths and become more effective at what we do well. To be pre-determined does not mean that we are stuck and cannot develop our capabilities. Te art of being can be de- scribed as the process of self-discovery. Leaders should reassess their


performance appraisal systems be- cause they do not acknowledge the pre-determination factor and they are based on what we want people to be and not on what they actually are. As leaders we should also acknowl- edge our strengths and surround ourselves with people who are strong


where we are weak. We are what we are which is plenty if we are pre- pared to acknowledge and accept it. Position 2: Yes, we change all the


time, even if we do not recognise it. We form new synapses in our brain on a daily basis with as little as two hours of dedicated learning. We can change the way we process information, our behaviours and even habits. Any competency can be developed. Organisations must focus on building the skills neces- sary for business success. Strength- based development is unfounded and can do more harm than good to the organisational performance. In the leadership context, the


primary assumption should be that anyone can change. Te role of every leader is to find the right motivation for development to get the best out of people for the greater good of the organisation. Willpower and resil-


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