The Knowledge Project – The Mental Habits of Effective Leaders with Jennifer Garvey Berger

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Key Takeaways
  • A hungry, exhausted, or stressed out body, is mostly likely not going to be able to produce your most developed self – so take care of yourself
  • So much of leadership ability, is about how other people experience themselves in your presence
    • A great leader has a presence that makes other people bigger
  • A leader that always feels certain, cannot be learning from other people
    • Practice asking yourself – “How do I know I’m right here?”
    • Always try to take seriously the possibility that someone else is right, and you’re wrong
  • Some good questions to think about:
    • “Do the voices in my head belong to me, or others around me?”
    • “How much of what’s in my head is related to my own set of principles and values?”
  • Young kids ask the real questions that make you think – ask more questions like them
  • “Newspapers today become bird cage liners tomorrow” – Try things without fear of failure or negative consequences
  • One of the best habits you can develop – the ability to be a good listener
Intro
Leaders Are Developed, Not Born
  • Wisdom develops over time, and through life experiences
    • It’s this wisdom, that leads to the development of a good leader
  • But the development of wisdom, can be accelerated, how?
    • Spend time contemplating
    • Spend time in self-reflection
    • Practice taking the perspective of others
    • Develop and practice the ability of being able to think bigger than yourself, and your own needs
Adult Development Theory
  • What is it? – A set of theories that state, over time, we develop an ever increasing view of the world
    • “Those things that earlier in our lives we took for granted, or could not see, become objects of our reflection so that we can make better choices”
    • The lenses we look through, become the lenses we can choose whether to put on, or take off, giving us a bigger view of the world
  • The Adult Development Map
    • Early on in our adult lives, we tend to have a “self-soverign form of mind”
      • With this, other people’s perspectives are very hard to grasp
      • Think of this as an “us against them” kind of mindset
    • Then, in the next stage of adulthood, we tend to be more absorbed by the perspectives of others and take on what’s known as a “socialized form of mind”
      • We look “outside” to see what to do, what success looks like, if we’re doing a good job – We look outside for the answers 
      • We switch from keeping out the perspectives of others, to breathing them in
      • With this, we try to get others to think highly about us, so we can in turn think highly about ourselves
      • Your sense of self esteem, comes from outside you
    • But as we age, we become more “self authored” and begin to write our own story
      • This is known as a “self-authored form of mind”
    • Then the “self-transforming form of mind” begins to develop within us
      • With this, we begin to to think in terms of a combination of our own beliefs, and the beliefs of others
      • “Together, we form a bigger whole, than we do by ourselves”
  • A hungry, exhausted, or stressed out body, is mostly likely not going to be able to produce your most developed self
  • Knowing the above – Take note, in each of life’s situations, we tend to take on one of the above 4 stages/mind states and let it control our thinking
How can you judge someone’s leadership ability?
  • “So much of leadership ability, is about how other people experience themselves in your presence”
  • A great leader vs. a charismatic leader
    • A great leader has a presence that makes other people bigger
      • The way the leader speaks to other people, brings out the goodness of whomever they are speaking to
      • The person getting spoken to, for example, may become more comfortable taking risks, or more comfortable saying something controversial – they’ll overall just feel better about themselves
      • “A great leader makes other people better”
    • A charismatic leader, on the other hand, makes you feel good about him or her, rather than about yourself
  • A leader needs to have a real curiosity about the world
    • “A leader that feels certain, cannot be learning from other people”
    • “The more sure you are, as a leader, the less open you will be to hearing you’re wrong”
    • History is filled with leaders who were told there was disaster ahead, but they were so sure about their own perspective, that they marched into disaster head on
      • A curious leader listens to whispers, and begins to make sense of them
Knowing about the adult development map, what can you do now?
  • Some good questions to always ask yourself:
    • “Is this my biggest self that I’m bringing to this issue?”
    • “Do the voices in my head belong to me, or others around me?”
    • “How much of what’s in my head is related to my own set of principles and values?”
  • Always be checking your location on the map, and think about how you could ask yourself a different set of questions in order to help support your growth
Simple Habits for Complex Time
  • There are 3 key habits discussed in the book
    • Ask different questions
      • Notice the questions you usually ask, and then adjust
      • Young kids ask the real questions that make you think – ask more questions like them
      • “So much of what we do in life, is just the answer to a question. Our lives are living out answers to questions we don’t notice we’re asking.”
      • Asking different questions allows us to live different lives
    • Take multiple perspectives
      • When making a decision, look at the problem from the lens of each person in a room
      • “It’s easy for us to take the perspective of others who are like us, but our natural response to people we disagree with, is to just search for the ways those people are wrong”
        • Instead – always try to take seriously the possibility that someone else is right, and you’re wrong
    • See the systems
      • Look across systems and realize that there are many competing factors and interactions which create certain phenomena and results – there is often never 1 single cause
      • Note from Podcast Notes – this isn’t really explained much
  • The way you think about things in life, or the world in general, is a habit
    • “Our blindness to our own thinking, creates problems for us”
    • If you can see a habit, you can change it – so you can change the way you think
Do the Little Things at Work
  • Often, one of them will have an outsized effect, for a relatively small investment
  • Often little moves, lead to big cultural differences 
    • Examples of little things you can do, that can have a big impact
      • Vow to only praise people behind their back
      • Vow to say something brave in a meeting
      • Vow to tell a vulnerable story during a meeting to increase trust within a group
  • Compare this to doing massive/big things which take up a ton of effort
  • “From small experiments can come whole new businesses”
  • “Newspapers today become bird cage liners tomorrow” – Try things without fear of failure or negative consequences
The Traps of Life
  • We as humans, always believe our thoughts as though they are true
  • “We struggle to find the difference between what we think, and what’s real”
    • Our brains tend to have a very hard time differentiating between opinion and fact
  • Our brains are designed to simplify things, without us noticing, so we can make sense of the world – Our brain does that by convincing us that the thing we’re seeing is true
  • Practice knowing what certainty feels like in the body – when you have that feeling, take one more step and question it. Ask – How could I be wrong here?
  • “Even when we’re holding on to an idea that’s mostly right, in the world of business and organizations, we’re rarely 100% right”
  • “It’s okay not to know. You can move forward in not knowing.”
  • “The core attribute is not how much you know, but how much you’re willing to learn and question what you already know”
Good Listening is a Super habit
  • “I am continually surprised by the power of genuine listening”
    • “People who are led by their curiosity and genuinely listen to the perspectives of others, learn like crazy”
    • It’s very hard to listen deeply, and well, to another person without the chatter in your head of what to say next
Too Much Safety is Dangerous
  • Humans are drawn away from change – we’re inherently conservative
  • Most companies eventually die, instead of involve
    • Why? – Change is demanding and stability feels good
    • “In a time where things are moving so fast, and entire business models are switching in and out of being, if we’re not willing to take the chance to grow ourselves and question those things that we’re unquestionable – we won’t make it”
  • “You need to figure out how to keep yourself growing and curious, if you’re going to solve the really significant challenges in life”
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