In today’s culture of high-speed communications and and nano-second response, we have lost an ancient distinction. This is the distinction between concept and experience. Many times in coaching I hear the statement made” he mistakes the map for the territory”. But why should this matter? Here’s the reason.
The whole essence of coaching and indeed leadership, is to utilize concepts as pointers to a real experience. The stories that we all share about leadership are simply a window on the world that really demands our participation. If we confuse looking through the window with executing on the ground that our leadership will be incredibly diluted. Why is that? The reason is concepts that are utilized as pointers to experience should originate in that experience itself. That is to say that if I am a leader with experience I should be able to look into my own sense of experience. And from that deliver a concept that operates as a pointer for those whom I lead. However, the opposite is not true. When leaders simply learn concepts and then deliver those as though concepts are executable on the ground, typically the results reflect a lack of leadership.
Remember the allegory of the cave as told to us by Plato. He postulated that certain men in the cave whose backs were to a fire would extract the entirety of their knowledge from the shadows that the fire created on the wall they watched. This would be rather than looking at the actual subject matter of experience. So if one of those wall-watchers were your leader you would be depending on their cognition of the shadows they interpreted. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t fill me with confidence.
As leaders we must stand in our own experience and find a way to sweep those around us to the obvious response. When we distribute well worn concepts, the energetic sense that calls others to follow simply isn’t there. How does it get there? It comes through the dedication of leaders to their own maturation. In that process they will rediscover the distinction between concept and experience.
So my question to you is : Are you doing the work necessary to recapture this distinction for those who follow you?