Leadership as a Paradigm
Having a paradigm is not a choice. In that sense it is a bit like having a creed. To say, “I don’t have a creed” IS actually your creed. Therefore, we might as well pay some attention to our creed and form one with which we want to live. The same with one’s paradigm; it is unavoidable.
Our paradigm is how we see the world, our eyes to the meaning of things. More importantly from our paradigm come most of our life assumptions, and from our assumptions come most of our decisions. So, our paradigm is one of the most-important pieces of who we are. Therefore, that said, it would seem that we are prone to spend a significant time being in touch with our paradigm of the world, right? Well, not so fast.
Paradigm As Auto Pilot
An interesting feature of paradigm is that one generally takes all of this for granted. We pay little attention to our paradigm and therefore are not really in complete charge of who we are.
Do I have your attention yet? A paradigm is a programming of our attention to the world, based upon assumptions from which we live and make decisions. We formulate our paradigm by a history of influence, through parents, friends, mentors, life conditions, and the like, from both external and internal sources.
Our lifetime of decisions, for our personal wellbeing, is generated from the rationale that our paradigm provides. And again, while we seldom question our paradigm we are actually running on an equivalent auto-pilot.
Revisiting Our Paradigm
If assumptions that we bring into our life are generated by our paradigm then it makes sense to revisit both our paradigm and the resultant assumptions. In a cause/effect relationship our assumptions are directly shaped by our paradigm. The challenge with assumptions is that in many cases they can be wrong, or at least may have changed through time.
There is no guarantee that just because we assume something, it is true. But if we are making important decisions in our life based upon a false assumption, then just maybe this can be traced back to a problem with our paradigm. In either case we are facing change. Oh yes, change.
How difficult is it to change? Well at least as difficult as having the skills to tweak our assumptions, to adopt assumptions that better reflect new truth, and to relegate the former assumptions to the cemetery of myth.
Let’s revisit. Paradigms are largely given to us, and from our paradigm unfold our assumptions upon which we live our life. Assumptions are the source for decision- making. So, the more truthful our assumptions, the better our decisions.
However, since we seldom question our paradigm, we also seldom review our assumptions. And I propose that this is why personal change is relegated to the status of “supremely difficult.” Stephen Covey calls such an understanding of the relationship between paradigm and assumption, and the practice of revisiting these inherent characteristics, the habit of being pro-active (italics are mine).
The Paradigm Paradox
To formulate a habit we first differentiate the component demands of the habit, and then strategically work to integrate the discipline of the habit. All of this effort moves along from a good intention to useful practice. The apparent paradox of a paradigm is that we don’t generally look to see the paradigm that is, in fact, how we see the world.
This is an encouragement to revisit both paradigm and assumptions. It is not intended to be a mind twist of complexity or depth of black-hole proportion. For those who contemplate this is the context of life and work, and especially leadership, perhaps it is a reminder. For others who are new to this discussion you may wish to add Stephen Covey to your bucket list.
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