Trying to make Psychology easy! There are 3 spaces, and only 3 that matters:
Within us: how can we get inside us, understand what is going on? Psychoanalysis tried and created an internally consistent, super-logic, super-explanation, ‘this is how it works’ concept of Man. Unfortunately, provision of comfort is not guarantee of truth, and the truth is that psychoanalysis is very close to faith. Personally, I don’t have any problem whatsoever with faith. Just things need to be properly re-allocated to the right shelf in the library. I hate misfiling.
Cognitive sciences tell us a lot. Neurosciences tell us a lot, but we are hooked on Technicolor graphics and ‘love molecules’. Many things tell us a lot. Google maps tell us a lot (is Geography equal to Google maps?). I can’t imagine any serious leadership development that does not include or is seriously based upon, reflection, old fashion introspection. Yet, many leadership development models are about how you deal with people in mode A when confronted with X, and, of course, how B is much better if in front of Y. A sort of if raining use a raincoat, if in the beach wear shorts. Contingency leadership is great in advice. It makes sense, I mean the raincoat thing.
Between us. Ah, the space between us! So many things going on there that you could be forgiven for ignoring any other space and using the Social Psychology lenses only. Transactions and relationships sit here. A whole Psychology industry takes care of this space. How much do we know? Well, we do know about influencing others, triggering behaviours, engaging others and so on. A leadership development approach needs to look at this space with the interest of the anthropologist. Just seen a video of people looking in the eyes of refugees, in silence, intensively for 3 minutes, person to person. That space between two human beings. The human transformation at minute 3.01 is simply spectacular, worth a year of Psychotherapy. No Social Psychology manual required. Try at home: executive to executive, executive to staff looking at each other, eye to eye, three minutes. No manual.
Around us: How little sometimes we see or hear or smell. We can go around not-noticing, not conscious of the broader context, of our minutia roles, yet uniqueness as fathers or brothers or friends. Old cliché, there is no other like you. Not a duplicate. Not a me-too. I can’t imagine a leadership development programme that does not include windows totally open to the world, even remote worlds that we think have little impact on us. Here we are, our only me as me and a world of incredible complexity.
On the whole, my main worry in leadership is the abundance of ‘this is how you do it’ models and the scarcity of ‘what are the questions’ models. Introspection, reflection, going inside does not require going back to Psychoanalysis (too late), or Cognitive Neurosciences (yes, those colours and molecules go up and down depending on whether you make love or buy cereals, and?).
What about a mirror? And perhaps a friend, coach, mirror experts? I don’t have a good answer. But I just know Psychology is not that difficult. It only has three chapters.