2013 Black Rock to Rehoboth Beach Ride
(seated, left to right: Geoff, Glenn, Jay, and Ralph; I have no idea who the guy is standing)
The Big Surprise
In 2013 I was participating in the Black Rock to Rehoboth Beach 125-mile bike ride. I had ridden this ride with my buddies several times before and had always enjoyed the camaraderie and physical challenge of riding 125 miles in one day. This ride was different.
South of Newark, Delaware, I found myself in the middle of a group of 30 riders. As we approached an intersection, the traffic light started to count down and someone called out, “Let’s stand on our pedals,” meaning “Let’s get going.” So, I stood on my pedals – just as the guy in front of me decided to stop. I crashed into the back of his bike and started to go down.
It was a perfect fall. I knew not to reach out because that’s the way you break a collar bone, a wrist, an elbow, or an arm. I held onto the handlebars and executed a perfect roll to the ground – except that the first thing to hit the ground was the side of my helmet. And my helmet cracked. And my head was inside the helmet.
I was more angry than dazed. My friends quickly came to help me get up, asking me how many fingers they held up. I told them I was fine, but my front wheel was out of alignment and I had to open the brakes until I could get to the next rest stop about ten miles away and have the bike mechanic work on my bike.
My friends soon found that maybe I wasn’t all right. We resumed the ride and they noticed I was riding faster than usual – about 4 mph faster. I also noticed I couldn’t turn my head to the left and that when I did move my head, it took a second or two for my eyes to follow. But I finished the ride.
Can You Spell…?
That Monday, I saw the doctor because I was concerned about internal bleeding. She ordered an MRI and called me with the results. I jokingly asked if they have found nothing – that there was just an empty shell. She told me there was no apparent damage from the fall, but that they had discovered a meningioma – a small tumor found between my brain and skull. I went to the neurosurgeon, who assured me these were more frequent than most people were aware and that in most cases, nothing needed to be done unless it started to grow.
When I looked at the MRI, I didn’t judge myself (“How could I be so stupid to have this?”) or blame anyone (“Why would my mom put me through this?”) or carry a burden (“Will this kill me?”). I simply saw it as a picture of what was going on in my head.
The “Inner Game” of Leadership
In October of 2019 I went to certification training on The Leadership Circle Profile (LCP). “Based on the work of Bob Anderson and paired with the work of Bill Adams, the LCP focuses on the development of people from the inside out – with the goal to help people grow and develop emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.” This “inner game” approach focuses on what Fred Kofman calls the “I” and the “We” – understanding self and our relationships with others – in order to play a more powerful “outer game.”
Most leadership development seems to focus on the outer game – the tools and techniques that you can use to deliver “better” results. But as Anderson and Adams point out, there’s a “development gap” between our inner game and the environment in which we operate. The environment we operate in as leaders is more about VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) than about “predictability” (stability, certainty, simplicity, clarity). What does operating in a VUCA environment imply for leadership?
One way to look at this is through the “stages of development,” popularized by people like Maslow, Piaget, Erickson, and Kegan. Anderson and Adams have built on this research by renaming and simplifying these stages into Ego-centric, Reactive, Creative, Integral, and Unitive. The Reactive Stage (where approximately 80% of all people find themselves) is where you define yourself based on what you think others think you should be or do. No one ever expressly tells you; you just kind of figure it out. We enter this stage around adolescence when we’re trying to find a “tribe” to join. Where do we fit in? How should we dress? What should our speech sound like? How do we want to be known? Kegan calls this the “Socialized” Mind.
Leaders who are stuck at this stage (estimates are about 70% of all leaders) are incapable of effectively leading their organizations through VUCA. Their “leadership threshold” is only capable of dealing with issues that are more “predictable.” They are stuck in the “I get things done” way of being where they’re “Controlling” (I get things done), “Complying” (I’m all about fitting in and not rocking the boat so I can get things done), or “Protecting” (I’m the smartest person in the room, and that’s how I get things done). But it’s difficult to get things done as your organization grows, your leadership responsibilities increase, and your marketplace and work environment become more VUCA-filled. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in Reactive/Socialized Mind because, as work expands, you still carry the mindset that says it’s up to you to get things done – and you alone. You most likely can’t delegate effectively because it’s a threat to your identity to give away work you “know” you must get done.
Creative/Self-Authoring leaders (estimated at about 15%) are those who have developed a compelling vision for their lives and their organizations, are able to build effective teams of committed people to achieve that vision, are self-aware, act from integrity and courageous authenticity, and are decisive in order to achieve results. These are the leaders whose threshold begins to address what’s required in a VUCA world. As Anderson and Adams write, “… first, we shed some old assumptions that have been running us all our lives; and second, we initiate a more authentic version of ourselves as we shift from Reactive to Creative. By shedding well-patterned assumptions, we start to see the habitual ways of thinking that we adopted while growing up that were socialized into us… we ask new questions… Who am I? What do I stand for? How can I make my life and my leadership a creative expression of what matters most?” (Mastering Leadership, p. 75) Creative Competencies include Relating, Self-Awareness, Authenticity, System and Awareness, and Achieving.
The Leadership Circle Profile
The LCP measures the two primary leadership domains – Creative Competencies and Reactive Tendencies (Strategies) – and integrates this information so that key opportunities for development immediately rise to the surface. “Creative Competencies are well-research competencies measuring how you achieve results, bring out the best in others, lead with vision, enhance your own development, act with integrity and courage, and improve organizational system.
Reactive Tendencies are leadership styles emphasizing caution over creating results, self-protection over productive engagement, and aggression over building alignment. These self-limiting styles over-emphasize the focus on gaining the approval of others, protecting yourself, and getting results through high control tactics.” (LCP Brochure, p.3)
The LCP shows the difference between the Creative Competencies and the Reactive Tendencies with a horizontal line separating upper and lower halves of the circle. It also shows how “balanced” the leader is in regard to Relationship or Task orientation with a vertical line, dividing left and right halves of the circle. In this way, you begin to see the different ways of relating (Complying or Relating) as well as achieving (Controlling or Achieving).
When I went in for my MRI, I had no idea what a meningioma was or that I had one. The MRI was a helpful tool to uncover something that I needed to know about so that I could monitor it and take corrective actions when and if necessary.
The Leadership Circle Profile is the most powerful, research-based, statistically valid tool to promote self-awareness and chart possibilities focused on becoming a more capable, complete person and more effective leader. It reveals what we don’t know we don’t know (cognitive blindness) and begins to open understanding of self and others in ways that are non-judgmental, place no blame, and carry no burden. It’s the start of a leadership journey that has tremendous potential to deliver what we need in our organizations and communities – effective leadership prepared to face the ever-increasing VUCA environment.
© Geoff Davis, 12/13/19