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How to Use NLP Meta Programs to Lead with Distinction

Leading With Distinction

Over the past 7 years, here at The Coaching Room we have deeply explored leadership development. Our “Unleashing Leaders” and “Women in Leadership” programs have become our Flagship Corporate Trainings. The programmes immense success and pragmatic effectiveness is intertwined with the key methodologies of Integral Theory, Neuro-semantics and NLP.

‘Leadership’ Does NOT Exist. You have only ever seen or experienced someone ‘Leading!’

Leading As A Leader

Over this period, it became clear to us that the cutting edge of ‘doing leading’ is strongly influenced and accelerated by two key factors: 

1. the intentional management and
2. application of an individual leader’s attention placement (i.e. where they put their attention)

In other words, where we place our attention, context by context and moment by moment, demonstrates our capacity to lead. It also informs our ability to connect and to relate to the people who are following us.

World-Class Leaders are magicians with making and communicating ‘Meanings’ to the people who pay attention to them. And as such, the task of leading people is to focus on ‘meaningfulness’. 

To do this skillfully, requires awareness of how people are ‘making meaning’. More importantly it tells us what they are valuing. This is apparent through their job functions, projects they are working on, and in their day-to-day productivity.

Here at The Coaching Room we realise people pay attention to what they value, and therefore ignore or discount insignificant and seemingly less valuable aspects of their reality. This is a profound insight when you discover what people are doing with their attention. Think of it this way: where someone puts their attention, it tells us what they consider to be important.

We have now identified several distinct differences between where attention is made for a) Managers Managing, and b) Leader’s Leading.

As leadership scholar Warren Bennis says, “Leading is doing the right things and Managing is doing things right”. 

Primary Attention Filters

Attention is governed by patterns and habits. In NLP these are modelled and recognised as the ‘primary attention filters’ governing each persons experience. These ‘Meta-Programs’ filter in significance and filter out insignificance.

Interestingly, there are some key differences in what Leaders filter in and out –and what managers filter in and out.

Have a read through the following to identify for yourself your preferences, or tendencies.

Leaders Profile Managers Profile
Leaders are interested in the future Manager’s focus on the present
Leaders are interested in change Managers prefer stability
Leaders are grounded in Long-term thinking Managers are grounded in shorter term thinking
Leaders get caught up in the vision Manager’s focus on instructions
Leaders empower subordinates
to find answers
Managers control and command
Leaders value and look for simplicity Managers value and enjoy complexity
Leaders use their intuition Managers rely on logic
Leaders value inclusion and social concerns Managers value corporate concerns

Now you have some idea of which qualities and behaviours you are displaying in relation to each column – leader, and manager.
Let’s now take a look at the difference in the nature of the ‘attention process’ for each one:

The Attention Process

‘Leaders’ Driver Meta Programs ‘Managers’ Driver Meta Programs
Global attenders Detailed viewers
Look for options first Value procedures to follow
Intuit their responses Attend to what they can see hear and feel with the senses
Attend to possibility Focus and attend to necessity
Attend to their own authority in decision-making Attend to external authorities for decision making
Attend to being in their role Attend to doing their job
Attend to Perceiving Attend to Judging
Attend to being in time (unaware of time passing – in flow) Attend to being through time (aware of time and are constantly trying to manage it)
Are strong mismatchers, looking for what is not right, looking to challenge the status quo Managers are matching, seeking agreement, looking for how things are working
Leaders focus on the why (purpose/meaning) Managers focus on the what (the actions and behaviours)

So how did you get on? 

To help you understand a little more, answer the following questions:

  1. How much of your attention is on Managing, and how much of your attention is Leading? 
  2. How much of your Managing versus Leading is cultural? Cultures are full of metaprograms! Cultures govern and direct what people collectively pay attention to.
  3. How is your organisation going?
  4. Do you need to Lead it into a brighter future, envisioning a healthy balance of attending to Managing and operating, and envisioning and challenging the possibilities and the potential of yourself, your people and your organisation?

The insight you will gain through this exercise can transform your daily work life, and support the people with whom you work. The next step is to take a look at our in-company leadership program called “UNLEASHING LEADERS. Sound good to you?

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