Leadership beliefs and the Dao Factor
A buying into the values and beliefs that drive the behaviour that is consistent with the chosen path or strategy of the leadership
In the words of Sun Tzu, “To assess the outcome of a war, we need to examine the involved parties and compare them in terms of five fundamentals.” The very first of them he lists is Dao - (The Way). By this he means the moral influence or that which causes people to think in line with their leadership, so that they will follow them through every challenge, to live or die, without any fear of mortal danger.
From a business perspective, this implies the ability of each employee to align him\herself to the organisation’s vision, its cause, even if that means feeling the pain associated with actions that move them out of their comfort zone. It is a moral issue, a buying into the values and beliefs that drive the behaviour that is consistent with the chosen path or strategy of the leadership, that has been created with a view to ensure success over the competition. It addresses the “why” aspect of an organisation, the shared purpose, the raison d’etre ( the reason for being) that is driven on the back of a common belief system passionately communicated and inspiring in the way it addresses each employee’s motivations.
By institutionalizing the appropriate culture (based on values and beliefs that drive behaviours) across the organisation, the leadership seeks to set itself apart from the competition, and in this process creates a differential advantage that is difficult to emulate. The extent, to which the members of the organisation are willing to commit themselves to the leadership's strategy (driven by the common beliefs) and implement it, represents Dao or - The Way. It addresses the mindset, the attitude of the people, and their trust in the leadership, which will bring them the fulfillment they seek.
Building a winning culture is an inside out process, starting with individual self-awareness and addressing inner beliefs to understand who we are being. What is my motivation, what makes me tick, what is my default setting, what is my world view, the lens through which I see the external world? This is Conscious leadership, which when combined with critical competencies will deliver the balance that will facilitate strategy implementation.
Strategic thinking is in essence a way of aligning beliefs not about creating plans. One of the greatest challenges of leaders is to get their people to articulate why they are doing what is being asked of them. If they are driven by their beliefs, their shared sense of purpose, they will do it through intrinsic motivation and will not need any carrots or sticks to shape behaviour. This will become the critical difference between them and the competition. It will ensure that their colleagues have the self-esteem and the confidence to make the changes in their behaviours and take actions that will align them to the Way (Dao) of the leadership and bring them their desired outcomes. More importantly, it will integrate every function with the overall strategy of the firm and help play a crucial role in its implementation.
Many years ago, I had read David Ogilvy’s ‘Confessions of an ad man’. It still resonates, because he had written about the great Greek orators and how when they spoke, people said ‘how well he speaks’. But when Demosthenes spoke, they said ‘let us march against Rome’. People don’t buy what you do but why you do it. Providing rational arguments will not cut it. Look at any successful leader and you will find that they are appealing to feelings, giving their people a reason to believe, and not offering rational arguments. This is the first belief that all leaders need to embed into their subconscious mind, for when they are able to passionately communicate their beliefs, their people will decide if they share the same, and if they do, they will follow that way, the path to success.
(The author is Chairman, Thought Perfect Pte Ltd., www.thoughtperfect.com)