INsight/ Leadership for Life

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash


Brisbane, 24 July 2019 — Is your problem that you can’t find enough time for leadership? Time for a rethink.

Leadership is about change, and especially how to influence change. The more you get interested in leadership, the more changes—actual and potential—you will be exposed to. At least, that’s my experience.

Embracing leadership can, therefore, bring many new challenges into your life. As a result, your life will become more complex and it may also feel that you are in danger of getting more busy than ever before, being drawn more easily into more issues, problems, or simply more situations. Sounds familiar?

Leadership Overwhelm

If you are a high achiever, chances are that your plate is already full with challenges and activities. So, how can more be added to that? How can that be sustainable, if you also want to keep, or restore, a healthy work-life balance?

The way I have experienced this is that leadership has not become something that I need to create more time for. It’s not something that I can plan into my agenda. Instead, you could say that it has become my whole agenda. It’s a new way I now look at the world around me and, importantly, inside myself. Does that make sense to you?

When overwhelm threatens because you feel as if you’re simultaneously drawn into many directions—common among leaders—it’s helpful to remember that you are supposed to build up a leader’s toolbox so that you can focus on addressing the situation at hand as best as you can, before moving on to the next challenge or situation.

There’s a tool in my leadership toolbox that helps me focus on the situation at hand. It is called Three Leadership Meta-Questions, and I learned how to do this from Brett Thomas, an integral thinker and leadership trainer who has been one of my mentors several years ago.

Brett suggests that we can ask ourselves three important questions in whatever situation we find ourselves in. This can apply to any area of your life, including yet not limited to work. Are you interested?

First Leadership Meta-Question

“What is really happening” is the first of Brett’s questions.

This question prompts you to look 'under the hood’ to things that are going on in the situation you’re finding yourself in. That could be a meeting in your office, or a more complex situation involving office politics, or it could be a situation at home or in your community.

On the surface, you will observe what is happening with your senses, and your mind works hard to make sense of that, drawing on patterns it has created from your past experiences and education.

When you ask the question “what is really happening,” you are opening yourself to understand what is less obvious, less apparent, to things you don’t know yet, and even things that you don’t know that you don’t know. Do you follow?

Leaders use this question to think deeper, wider, more creatively, taking more perspectives, and putting themselves into the shoes of others too.

Second Leadership Meta-Question

“What is most important and needed” is Brett’s second question for you.

From the quick—or not so quick—situational analysis you conducted in response to the first question, here is where you start applying filters to converge to a key issue. You get selective, after your analysis.

By adding the word “needed,” the question also points you to identify a change. Remember, that’s what leaders do, they are always concerned about a change, rather than only optimizing the status quo.

So how do you single out the most important thing to focus on, and the change needed to get that result?

In my experience, you get better at this skill when you keep practicing, using a combination of cognitive reasoning with your conscious mind, and intuitive exploration that draws on your subconscious.

Third Leadership Meta-Question

Brett’s third question is of a different nature altogether. He posed it as “what is the most helpful action I can take?” and I often translate this into “what is the best contribution I can make in this situation?”

This question has the power to shift your attention from what is happening and what is needed to what you can do. It moves you from being a passive listener, analyst, observer, or well-intentioned participant, to step into the space of being a leader who takes initiative to make a contribution, to take a lead, and to do so based on your analysis resulting from the first two questions.

It also protects you from doing too many things. Remember that danger of overwhelm that we started with? Brett’s third question is about selecting on just one contribution for this moment, this situation.

I use the Three Leadership Meta-Questions everyday, sometimes consciously, and often in a process that engages my subconscious. It has become part of my operating system, you could say.

Summing up, leadership is, in essence, not about doing more or less. It’s more about living your life in a different way, with a new agenda, or with a new pair of glasses that give you a different view. That way, Leadership is for Life, not just for a part of your life.

Based on my experience, I believe that the more you engage in leadership, the more you will be challenged for change in yourself, not just in the world around you. Transformation starts with you, and you could say that as a leader, it’s always your turn to transform first, before others.

The Three Leadership Meta-Questions are a powerful and practical tool that you can apply to any situation. That has been my experience at least.

Answering the questions, and especially the third question about making your best contribution in a situation, require that you are open to transforming yourself first, for example by letting go of a limiting belief or a restrictive worldview, so that you’re actually ready to discover new solutions that you can contribute in the situation.

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Community of Leaders

Are you interested to build your leadership toolkit together with like-minded leaders, in a community?

Join the pre-launch discussions that are ongoing for a community of leaders that will explore how to use the Three Leadership Meta-Questions and many other tools, as part of a toolbox for the future of work.

Will that community be a good fit for you?

Yes — if you are passionate about sustainability and you are an executive, an expert, or an emerging leader with at least two years of working experience after your college degree.

Yes — if you are an engineer, city planner, water manager, social entrepreneur, or other development professional and you want to become a change maker.

Yes — if you are ready to get out of your comfort zone to take on the challenge of growing leaders around you while you work on your own communication and leadership skills.

After reading that, are you interested to join the discussion?

Membership of the community will be free of charge—not free of commitment. Sign up now so you can let us know what are you looking for in a peer learning community of sustainability leaders.

Join the pre-launch discussion for a community of leaders who learn collaboratively across generations to explore the future of work that is already in full swing today.

Welcome to Leadership for Life!