Episode #11 - Interview with Howard Hansen and Steven Geske

Ed and Ron interview Howard Hansen and Steven Geske, coauthors of the groundbreaking book Healing Leadership - A Survival Guide for the Enlightened Leader. Here is how they explain the thesis of their groundbreaking book, in a summary titled “Healing Leaders Manifesto”:

What is “Healing” Leadership?

We see leadership as primarily an emotional process, rather than a strategic one. It is about courage and being oneself, rather than strategies and techniques to change someone. It is being the one who says what he or she sees ("The emperor has no clothes.") and letting people make their own choices accordingly. We call “bullshit” on traditional models of leadership and advocate for a rational approach to leadership that will not hinder meaningful change.

Quite simply, the “Command and Conquer” style of leadership does not work, long term. What’s more, it ultimately proves to be toxic. Therefore, Healing Leadership is about giving up the irrational hope of trying to change others, and instead focusing on one's own courage, growth, maturity and functioning. This is a rational decision to move from what does not work to what does work; from Command and Conquer to Cooperate and Nurture.

How is Healing Leadership Nurtured and Maintained?

We have developed a model, called the “Energy Management Model” that provides a kind of "Leadership GPS" to help leaders as they navigate the emotional process of leading. It has 4 dimensions that are based on 4 "big questions" every person must wrestle with in his or her life:

Self-Care – Who am I? (Focus on health, the courage to be ourselves and the ability to build personal energy)

Self-Dare – Where am I going? (Focus on personal values, mission and the courage to follow one's heart. This is how we invest our energy)

Self-Aware – Who will go with me? (Focus on how we get caught in futile or abusive relationships and learning to protect our energy, rather than waste it)

Self-Share – How am I connected to all things? (Focus on the Source of our energy and the energy of everything. A spirituality, if you will)

We believe this is a process and a life long one at that. We don't teach these in "4 easy steps." Instead we offer the Energy Management Model as a kind of "Leadership GPS" that allows leaders to organize and monitor their own functioning as leaders. It gives reliable information from our environment without giving up internal authority. As such, it is a tool for building courage and maturity as a leader.

We have been hearing from people that this book has changed their lives and their way of looking at everything. We know this works. The best favor you can do for a struggling leader is to point them in this direction.

We are glad to offer it to support people who dare to step forward as leaders in their relationships, their families, their organizations and the world.

Ron was honored to write the Foreword to this book, and here is part of what he wrote:

They say any writer should be able to sum up the purpose of their book on the back of a business card. I can do that for this book by using another author’s book:

"The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. If you want your child, spouse, client, or boss to shape up, stay connected while changing yourself rather than trying to fix them."

As with most ideas and relationships, it is no coincidence that the above was written by Edwin H. Friedman, in his masterful book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. I read Friedman’s book back in the summer of 2007 because my good friend and colleague, Ed Kless, highly recommended that I do so.

Healing Leadership takes a totally different approach, and one that is not very comfortable for those of us used to reading business books. How many books on leadership have you read where the central message is you can’t succeed at affecting change in the people you lead? That you need to get out of the business of needing others to change? The authors even admit they won’t get rich by dispensing this type of advice.

Rather than assaulting the reader with endless platitudes and checklists of “do this and don’t do that,” this book advocates a “way of being,” recognizing that leadership is an emotional process, not a mechanistic science that treats humans like machines.

You are about to explore some very profound, powerful, and simple concepts. But please don’t confuse simple with simplistic. Virtuoso bass player, accomplished pianist, bandleader, and composer Charles Mingus said: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

Three creative concepts from Healing Leadership have permanently altered not only my worldview, but my behavior. The authors present the “Energy Management Model,” which teaches how we could have greater success in achieving our goals if we tried not so much to control time—an impossibility, as it is outside us—and instead tried to control energy—eminently possible, as it is within us. Commitment is best measured not by the time one is willing to give up, but more accurately, by the energy one wants to put in, by how present one is.

You’ll learn the difference between episodic and chronic anxiety, along with the 10 tell-tale signs of someone who is chronically anxious, and what to do about it.

Finally, the concept of Emotional Triangles—what the authors call “the weather of human relationships.” This framework ties everything in the book together, while offering an enormously effective way to lower your anxiety. After reading about Emotional Triangles you’ll wish you had understood them in elementary school.

But don’t confuse simple with easy. These frameworks are very counterintuitive, and they will no doubt cause some confusion. Don’t despair. That’s a leading indicator that your understanding is deepening. You simply must wrestle with the concepts in this book if you want to achieve real change—transformations that will truly make a difference in your life. Indeed, the struggle and bewilderment might be the most important part of this journey.

One of my favorite definitions of the role of leaders comes from business consultant Peter Block: “The real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom.” In Healing Leadership, Steven and Howard do exactly this. It’s not comfortable, it’s vexing, and it goes against everything you were taught in business school. The difference is: it works.

Friedman's Theory of Differentiated Leadership Made Simple