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  • What plan of action should we take?
  • What leadership book should we read?
  • What are the five steps we need to follow?
  • What are the right answers?

It is important to note that questions like these have two underlying and unstated assumptions:

  • Assumption #1:The many people in the world who have learned before me possess knowledge and skills that would help me in my life.
  • Assumption #2: If I knew what those learned people know, I would be more successful; the answers I need are out there somewhere.

But are the answers really out there? Where do we look for solutions to our leadership challenges: “in here” (inside ourselves) or “out there” (outside of ourselves)? Where does the work of leadership take place: “in here” (at an intimate, reflective level) or “out there” (in deed and action). Where do we look for the answers to our important questions? Does “deep change” spring from “in here” or “out there?”

When the answers are “out there” all we need do is access the right information, technical knowledge or learning and we will have what we seek. If someone is preventing our access to the information, technical knowledge or learning, we end up searching for answers in a world that somebody else controls, and playing a role in someone else’s game. When the answers are out there, we often dream of a world where access to an unlimited amount of funds will deliver what has the power to really change us: an expensive class, a consultant’s fee, or just the time and freedom to do something.

If we are looking for personal and professional growth the benefits of the outside answers are clear and hard to dispute, but in truth they are not enough and merely a step in the right direction! Though we can learn a lot from out there, we will surely end up not having found all the answers we seek. Why? Because the answers are simply not all “out there.” It’s time to declare the end of “best practices,” an “out there” concept used by someone else, and look for our own “next practices!” This is a key leadership unlearning.

The path to our own “next practice” starts with an internal search that sounds like:

If I learn more about that inner self, I can become a more aware and confident person; I could use my abilities more effectively. When I explore my inner self, I find there is much to learn. I have important and undiscovered answers still within me.” – Geoffrey Bellman

This approach is central to professional growth and to leadership development. In fact while not all of the answers are “in here,”, that is still a vital place to look which is often ignored. We don’t mean that there is nothing to learn “out there,” only that “out there” takes on new meaning when you bring it “in here” and consider it within your life and your work purposes. The bigger game becomes a part of your own personal life game: and that empowers you.

Please note the implications of a search for answers in your leadership predicament that starts “in here:” If the answers are within, then I am taking responsibility for my actions and growth, seeking answers from inside myself and living a role in a game of my own design. I play by my rules, toward my purpose, and I work toward building a better understanding of the context in which I operate.

What can you gain in your organizational struggle from a search for answers that starts “in here?”