Inner Life, Outer Results – March Edition

A Brett Wood Blog exploring the relationship between inner work, performance and well being


“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” – Martin Luther King Jr

I’m writing a chapter for a book called “emerging trends in leadership”. Part of the chapter examines the inner work of leaders-particularly the ability to hold a creative tension between strong intention (I will cause outcome X to come about because I am the master of my life) and surrender (the life in which I participate is complex and way beyond my ability to control so I will stay open and see what emerges). It’s so vital that Leaders can pursue the plan, the strategy, the target. It’s also vital that they can respond and even surrender to the unpredictable, unfolding reality of the present moment, and yield to the chaos until insight emerges out of confusion.

This is very much inner work. We must face the shadow sides of intention and surrender (respectively, our inner “control freak” who just want to get her own way and our inner “doormat” who just wants to bury his head in the sand). Paradoxically, by recognising these shadow selves, we gain access to our better selves. The recognition that we are in “control freak” mode is the understanding that the situation is calling us to let go and relax into ‘allowing’. The recognition that we are in “doormat” mode is the understanding that the situation is calling us to claim our authority and step into ‘causing.’ Mastery comes with the giving up of the crazy notion that we’ll ever get the balance “right” but rather enjoy the ride as we veer from assertiveness to aggression, then recalibrate into healthy surrender, then slip into unhealthy passivity, then readjust back to reclaim assertiveness. It’s called ‘being human’ and it’s a wonderful journey.

Adam Kahane has written a book called Power and Love, and another, solving tough problems. They explore this balancing act of power and love. His writing is a wonderful mix of idealism and realism. Adam’s conviction has been forged in the fire of some of the world’s most complex and conflicted situations. He has facilitated dialogue in South Africa during the struggle to replace apartheid; in Columbia in the midst of the civil war; in Guatemala in the aftermath of the genocide; in Argentina when the society collapsed… and more. He shares his failures (misguided, well meaning and revealing) as well as his successes (emerging from the insights and adjustments made following failures). Highly recommended.

Here’s an excerpt from solving tough problems. It captures wonderfully the “surrender” part of the equation.

“My favourite movie about getting unstuck is the comedy Groundhog Day. Bill Murray plays Phil Conners, a cynical, self-centred television journalist who is filming a story about Groundhog Day, February 2, in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He despises the assignment and the town. The next morning, he wakes up to discover, with horror, that it is still February 2, and that he has to live through these events again. This happens every morning: he is stuck in reliving the same day over and over. He explains this to his producer Rita, but she laughs it off. He tries everything he can in order to break this pattern – getting angry, being nice, killing himself – but nothing works. Eventually he relaxes into appreciating the present, and opens himself up to the town and to Rita.Only then does he wake up to a new day and a better future.

Many of us are like Phil Connors. We get stuck by holding on tightly to our opinions and plans and identities and truths. But when we relax and are present and open up our minds and hearts and wills, we get unstuck and we unstick the world around us. I have learned that the more open I am – the more attentive I am to the way things are and could be, around me and inside me; the less attached I am to the way things ought to be – the more effective I am in helping to bring forth new realities. And the more I work in this way, the more present and alive I feel. As I have learned to lower my defences and open myself up, I have become increasingly able to help better futures be born.” – Adam Kahane

I wish you all well in the dance of intention and surrender!

If you like this post; You may also enjoy reading  Inner Life, Outer Results (October Edition)