Now I’m a Believer – The Power of Beliefs in Leadership

The+Monkees+3

“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.” – Henry David Thoreau

I ‘m convinced that your thoughts shape your life and your beliefs shape your thoughts. You are where you imagined you would be, even if that isn’t where you thought you’d be. Normally these ideas are discussed in self-help books with a focus on the individual. We are taught to pray, visualize, to affirm and to be intentional in our thoughts so as to create the life of our dreams and/or change our circumstances. Most likely you have seen this power play out in your own life or in the life of others. To some the cause may be a psychological phenomenon and to others a spiritual principle but there is little doubt about the effect. If we are in sync up to this point then please read on.

Recently on a seven hour drive to a business meeting I listened to a series of audio recordings on this subject. I have been reflecting on my life journey quite a bit after an unexpected life transition that put me on a very different path. This new place somehow felt very right even though I didn’t recall seeking it. The more I reflected on the months leading up to this shift, the more I realized I had ended up right where my heart wanted to be.

As I listened, I began to wonder how collective beliefs and thoughts shape organizations…and how leaders impact those thoughts and beliefs.

I can’t say I have fully thought this through but the idea I am interested in discussing with you is that leaders can significantly impact the outcomes of organizations through the beliefs and thoughts they hold and inspire. Another way of expressing this idea would be to say that the collective beliefs about the organization and its mission, and the thoughts attached to those beliefs, are the power source for everything we aspire to achieve and the culture we want to create. Yes, that was a very long sentence but I think it captures the point. If this hypothesis is true at some level then the question we might ask is what beliefs currently exist in our organization and how are they being manifested?

You say you have a vision. Do people see themselves in the picture?

You say you have a mission. Is it worth their life?

You say you have core values. Are they manifested in actions?

You say employees matter. Do they feel loved?

You say put customers first. Do they get it?

 Is reality matching what you say you want? If not, it may have nothing to do with the words you are saying; it’s the fact that no one believes them.

Let’s just take vision as an example. Have you ever actually sat down with your team, asked them to close their eyes and envision what it would be like to be in that desired place? Do they connect with it deeply and feel the joy of that experience even though it hasn’t yet happened? I did this once with a team after we created our core values together. We talked for a while about what they meant and how it would change our relationships and our work. Then I asked them to close their eyes and imagine what it would be like to work in a place where everyone lived those values. After about 10 minutes of visualization I asked everyone to share what they saw and felt. Yeah it was kind of awkward at first but after a while you could feel the positive energy building in the room and everyone left with a clear picture of what we wanted to become.

They visualized it. They believed it. And then it became reality.

In another scenario the opposite happened. Despite pleas from leadership to adopt a new process that would help the organization operate more effectively and make everyone’s lives easier nothing changed. The message was strong, the reasons were clear…but nothing happened. During a discussion about why the effort failed I was struck with the realization that no one believed us. The team held a belief about the organization that was stronger than any words we had to offer.

We had to address the belief in order change reality.

I don’t recall much being said in leadership literature about the power of beliefs so I thought it might be a topic worth discussing. I wrestled with the concept and I still don’t know whether the ideas here made sense to anyone but me. Feel free to weigh in and share your comments to help me frame this more clearly. Maybe you have some great examples you can share or your own ideas about how these forces operate. In the mean time, I’ll keep “thinking” about it.

Tagged , , , , ,

9 thoughts on “Now I’m a Believer – The Power of Beliefs in Leadership

  1. Great Post!!!
    I agree that our thoughts shape our life and our beliefs shape our thoughts. What we believe is true because we act based on our beliefs, and our actions shape the world. What people believe is a blueprint for the kind of society they create. I’m a believer in the power of beliefs!!!

    Like

  2. [...] Now I’m A Believer by Scott Mabry [...]

    Like

  3. Scott, I believe in the power of beliefs! As leaders, we need to have core beliefs to drive and form a culture that delivers meaning and purpose in the work being done. Without the power of beliefs, it just becomes work, simple tasks that need to be completed by a certain time. Without beliefs, visualizing and realizing how we all fit together in what we are trying to achieve is almost impossible. We need to believe – all around the organization! Thanks! Jon

    Like

    • scott_elumn8 says:

      Thank you Jon – appreciate you sharing in this conversation. I wanted to see what other minds came up with on this subject. How do our collective beliefs affect the organization and how do leaders influence those beliefs? I have found visualization to be a powerful method for influencing beliefs and wrapping emotions into the words.

      Like

  4. Denise Bailey says:

    Great thought provoking ideas. What strikes me as “truth” In today’s management challenges is the lack of trust in business. People know more and expect more, and are exhausted with buzz words, latest management tool and some are cynical. You have articulated my background musing on why people don’t follow systems that will improve what they do. A light bulb moment when you said it struck you that they did not believe us.
    Thank you this is so valuable keep thinking :)

    Like

    • scott_elumn8 says:

      Thanks Denise. That really is what struck me as well. Do they believe us…and if not, why? What are the forces, internal and external, that we must be aware of as we strive to influence others for good.

      Like

  5. mikelehroza says:

    I would go deeper, Scott. Our beliefs are shaped by our personalities which in turn are shaped by our emotions. Emotions drive our beliefs and thoughts. Without them, we cannot decide, cannot take action. That’s why emotions are “e-MOTION.”

    Your best question is this: You say employees matter. Do they feel loved? You could pose this for all your scenarios. For instance, when you ask, “You say put customers first,” ask “Do they feel loved?” It’s not about what people think, or even what we think; it’s about how we feel. Yes, you can change your thoughts, and they will only temporarily change your feelings; but, in order to address core issues, we need to address our feelings and emotions.

    As to whether thoughts and beliefs shape our lives, that’s another question. Much of what is out there discounts hugely the influence of other forces in our lives, especially subconscious ones. It also discounts the importance of diversity. Yes, it’s possible to visualize something to happen, but that’s largely if it’s under our complete control. We cannot control others but we tend to attract those who are like us. However, when this happens we often miss out on diversity in our relationships. Diversity promotes change and growth far more than homogeneity.

    Yes, beliefs in leadership are important, but they are subservient to relationships. Those relationships are going to have many different drivers, especially in a diverse workforce, so it’s important to ensure that our beliefs don’t get in the way. When that happens, they become vices, prejudices, rationales and excuses to exclude those who are different from us.

    I enjoyed your thoughts, Scott.

    Take care, Mike.

    Like

    • Mike, I just read your comment and wanted to take a moment to pop in here and say YES to what you brought up about feelings and emotions. My topic on truth/beliefs yesterday was too long to cover every facet. However, what you are saying is correct. What LEADS me to becoming conscious of a negative or false belief is the feelings or emotions I’m experiencing in present time when I’m in a situation or interacting with someone. My feelings help point me to what I’m THINKING about it. And this serves to give me clues as to what beliefs might be operating in the background unconsciously.

      Scott, another great post as usual. : )

      Like

    • scott_elumn8 says:

      Great add to the conversation Mike. I agree that beliefs do not operate in isolation but they do affect many of our thoughts and behaviors…and certainly our relationships. Many of our beliefs our unconscious, no doubt. That’s why I struggled with how to wrestle this topic into a post that was digestible. What I ended up trying to do was start a discussion on how beliefs play into the the leadership discussion. Really appreciate your thoughtful post that sheds more light on this very broad topic.

      Like

Please join the conversation...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,426 other followers

%d bloggers like this: