Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Battle for the Mind

“If you believe you can,


if you believe you can’t …

Either way you are right!”

I came across this quotation recently and thought it warranted further consideration.

It is, of course, very true.

Almost every person is born with virtually unlimited potential in terms of their ability to develop. Not everyone can be (or wants to be) an elite athlete or a Nobel Prize winner, but almost anyone can mature to be the person that he or she wants to be. The problem is that, in many cases, this maturing is negatively impacted by our self-talk. And much self talk arises out of feedback we experience.

Unfortunately many of us have learned disappointment and failure. Growing up our parents, teachers, and other important influences told us “you can’t do that” – and too often punished us when we tried! At work we were told “it’s not your role to think. Just do as I tell you!” And so our attempts to be creative or to innovate were crushed and we learned not to try. Even when we knew processes and results could be improved, we learned to say nothing and to “fit in” if we wanted to get on or even just wanted to remain employed.

While it is true that, ultimately, each of us is responsible for the choices and decisions we make and it is equally true that we each have a significant impact on whether or not we achieve whatever it is we consider “success”, it is also true that the type of leadership we have received and the type of leadership we provide has a very real impact – either positively or negatively.

First Generation Leadership and Second Generation Leadership were pretty comfortable with followers experiencing learned helplessness. Where the emphasis was on compliance or conformance it was disconcerting and a threat to have followers who were thinking for themselves – after all, they might challenge the status quo and that could affect me.

Third Generation Leadership operates in a different mind space.

A Third Generation Leader wants people to think and to question. A Third Generation Leader knows that peak performance of an individual, a unit, or an organisation is only possible when everyone is fully engaged with their tasks and those around them. A Third Generation Leader knows that he or she doesn’t have all the answers – and, in fact, may not have many answers at all. But a Third Generation Leader knows that time and again the answers to problems and issues encountered are to be found in the collective wisdom and thinking of everyone involved. In order to harness this collective wisdom, a Third Generation Leader knows that it is essential to create an environment in which the battle for the mind is won by “I believe I can”.

And that requires a different sort of feedback and lots of encouragement.

Please let me know what you think of this. Make your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at

More information about Third Generation Leadership at

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