The Unconscious Landscape of Leadership

by Sari van Poelje

The Unconscious Landscape of Leadership

Leadership: The unconscious landscape of leadership

I’m a business consultant. I help businesses innovate more quickly then their products. Often people innovate their products a lot faster than they innovate their business, which means that they keep a traditional business with hierarchical leadership, siloed cooperation, separated commercial and innovation functions, and little regard for the customer.

My experience is that doesn’t work. The time to market becomes longer and longer, until they call in people like me who help them innovate their business.

One of my fascinations is leadership. I want to talk to you about leadership in the world today. It’s a particular concern of mine. We can clearly see the rise of different types of leaderships in different countries and the tension that causes.

One of my favourite books as I was growing up was The Hobbit, or more particularly the Lord of the Rings. When I was a little girl, what fascinated me was this band of people journeying on a quest against all odds and bonding with each other, despite their very human tendencies to be selfish or to be angry or to be jealous.

I loved the idea of having a mentor on a white horse, who guided from a distance. I love the idea of good fighting against evil. And especially the fact that the good won.

Nowadays, my concern is will we win, because the forces of Mordor seem to be gathering in the world today.

Thankfully, we also have lightness of leadership. People who focus on building community, apologizing, building bridges. And I often wonder what the difference is, and can we make a difference as team coaches?

As a leader you are a symbol

Leadership is not only a position and it’s not only a relationship. As a leader, you are also a symbol. And as that symbol, you have a wider responsibility than just being in rank or creating a relationship where other people will work for you. We also have a psychodynamic responsibility – what force do you represent in the unconscious landscape of leadership.

Being a symbol in the unconscious landscape of leadership

Who do you represent in the culture of the business you work in? Are you someone who is benevolent? Are you someone who is charismatic? Are you someone who is autocratic? Are you someone who represents someone else in the life of your employees?

This sounds a bit vague, but if you think of those employees who react to you in ways that you don’t understand. Sometimes you may say something and they take everything you say as truth, or they resist everything you say.That is the psychodynamic at work. At the unconscious level you are a symbol, you represent someone thing in their lives.

I’m telling you, we also represent something in life as a whole. And I really invite us as leaders to think together, what do we want to represent in the world today? Are we the forces of Mordor or are we the band of brothers and sisters who will destroy the ring and create our own bond in the world today?

Read more: Creating cooperation & belonging: Are you living up to your promise?

 
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Sari van PoeljeSari van Poelje has 30 years experience of innovation on the interface of leadership and organizational development, executive coaching and transactional analysis both as a director within several multinationals and as an international consultant. Specialization in creating agile leadership teams and business innovation! She is the author of numerous articles and books on leadership and change.

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