Johnnie Moore

Planning as drowning

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Antonio Dias offers a fascinating description of what goes wrong when drowning:

What separates a swimmer from someone drowning is the way a swimmer acknowledges and respects the limitations of immersion in water. A person drowning rejects them. It is this rejection of their situation and its constraints that puts them in danger. A swimmer is immersed. A drowning person is not just in denial but actively rejecting where they are and insisting that the same “rules” that work on land should apply. They attempt to climb out of the water. They close themselves off from any possibility of learning from their situation, from learning how to adapt to what almost any human body will do on its own if left to its nature. A body floats. With little trouble it can float in such a way that one can maintain breathing and maintain life. A drowning person for whatever reasons that lead up to their being overwhelmed by their condition closes themselves off from these possibilities.

The real kicker is that he offers this as a metaphor: when we become over attached to planning and stability, we are in effect making the same error:

Solid ground, under the most stable of circumstances is still at most a convenient fiction. We are all, always immersed in turbulent flows that will overwhelm us if we lock-up and refuse to engage, to recognize the fact of our immersion. The habit of turning away from our direct experience, looking for “leadership,” for directions, for some plan to show us how to proceed; will only get us drowned as they divert our attention from the turbulent flow.

So in leadership development maybe we need to ask more often, are we leading or drowning?

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