Potential-Based Leadership

When it comes to leading, there are four basic approaches available to leaders.

The path of least resistance is to simply choose another leader we are willing to follow. In this case, we decide to get behind someone else and support that person’s leadership.

A second approach is to choose to lead ourselves. In this approach, we decide to lead by example as we pursue what we believe is the best path forward without attempting to directly enroll others in our cause.

A more direct approach to leading is to become a leader of others. In this approach, we set expectations and create accountability for others to achieve the strategic vision we’ve set for our team or organization.

A fourth, and often overlooked, approach is to recognize the potential that wants to be, and to then invite others to come with us as we pursue that potential.

This fourth approach, the Potential-Based Approach, is taught by Alan Seale, Founder of the Center for Transformational Presence.

I recently had the opportunity of spending a week with Alan Seale and 17 others in Banff, a spectacular national park situated in the majestic Canadian Rockies just outside Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

According to Alan, transformational presence creates the best possible conditions for change by expanding our capacities for awareness and understanding.

While many leaders focus on getting something done and achieving some quick result (fixing things), transformational leaders look for the bigger picture and for the shift that needs to occur.

Rather than starting with “What do I want to happen”, leaders pursuing the potential-based approach to leadership look for the greater potential and ask instead “What wants to happen?”

Once these leaders determine what wants to happen, transformational leaders next ask, “Who is that asking me to be?” Do I need to be courageous, playful or creative? Do I need to be serious, contemplative or honest?

Only after we have discerned what wants to happen, and who that is asking us to be, can we truly answer, “What is that asking me to do?”

Too often, we get paralyzed by attempting to fix things as quickly as possible, avoiding the time to discover all of the possibilities.

Potential-based leadership is a refreshing alternative to our fixation on speed and our suboptimal decision-making and planning processes.

As you evaluate your approach to leading others, consider the potential-based leadership question, “What wants to happen”? and use this question to explore what’s truly possible.