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OptimaLearning and Leadership

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by Charles B. Gompertz

OptimaLearning® may not seem to be associated with leadership as clearly as it is with training, teaching and transferring information quickly and gracefully from teacher to student. Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline speaks of the leader as fulfilling the roles of Teacher, Designer of the Organization and Servant of the Organization. It is in this context that OptimaLearning with its emphasis on seeing the relationship between the teacher, the material being taught and the student positively and in terms of growth and development can be a vital asset for the leader.

As leaders teach their visions to their people they must communicate clearly, openly and with enthusiasm. One of the best ways to do this is to follow the principles surrounding the OptimaLearning Triangle. Each corner of the triangle assists the leader in his or her mission of communicating a vision in a very powerful way to the people he or she is leading. The Triangle is most simply described as a short hand way of describing the major stimuli involved in the learning process.

The three corners of the triangle are: Rational Stimuli, Emotive Stimuli and Psychological Stimuli. On the Rational corner the leader can explain the theory and background of their vision; on the Emotive corner he can set exciting elements to music, tell a story or dramatically present ideas in song, verse, colorful poster or brief TV spot. On the Psychological corner the leader must be aware of his or her image, prestige and the conscious as well as unconscious messages being expressed. The OptimaLearning triangle is a very powerful model for helping leaders pattern their behavior in an effective and constructive way to win the hearts of their followers.

The vision of the leader comes from deep within their individual experience of learning and living. It is the purpose of the leader to develop an individual vision to the point where it is ready to communicate to others. How many times did Martin Luther King, or for that matter, Isaiah, the Biblical source of the "I have a dream." text, tell of their dreams. It was one special telling that captured the hearts and minds of their followers in such a special way that forever after that moment things were different. A new reality was created in the telling. Others could see, feel and touch the dream so personally as to make it their own.

This is the communication and teaching of the vision at a very high order. This is the basic characteristic of the leader - forming and effectively communicating a vision to others. This vision can be either positive or negative. Examples of positive leaders have been Gandhi, Helen Keller, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Examples of negative leaders have been Hitler, Genghis Khan, the Rev. Jim Jones of Ghana notoriety and various cult leaders down through the ages who have used and manipulated their people for less than positive ends. Visions can be tonic or toxic. The tonic visions build people's dreams towards a positive goal state that will change their lives for the good, allowing them to grow and develop to their highest potential. Toxic visions poison people, pollute their dreams and stop their growth and development, keeping them children forever.

The second characteristic of the leader is that she challenges the system, she is not afraid to make changes, and clearly sees what must be done to create a new reality out of the existing situation. One need look no further than the framers of our own Constitution to see leaders, meeting as a group, developing, crafting, forming a new order from the ashes of the old. The old monarchical system, based as it was on the feudal model, was not to be the mold for the new nation. It had to be rejected and a new form developed to take on the role of governing a free people.

Leaders are learners, unafraid of new ideas, new concepts and new realities. OptimaLearning fits right in with this way of thinking as it is the process of assimilating new ideas and displacing the old. Making new ideas attractive, clothing them in a framework where learning is fun and positive, not rote and stultifying is the stuff of making change happen. When our ideas flow effortlessly, are embraced and enhanced by dialogue and open debate we learn to see ourselves and our world in new ways. This is the purpose of leadership and the aim of the leader.

The best leaders lead by presenting people with a new, positive "inner set" that displaces the old. This "inner set" has been defined by Dr. Ivan Barzakov, founder of OptimaLearning, as "an internal, mostly unconscious attitude-predisposition". This new "inner set" or model of the world, speaks of harmony between people and a new paradigm of growth, development and maturity that allows each of us to embrace a potential above that which has captured us in this moment.

We are often reluctant to let go of our old "inner sets" for they have served us thus far, teaching us what we have needed to know and helping us to survive in the world of our own inner thoughts. But we outgrow them just as a snake outgrows its skin in our need to develop and learn new things. There is nothing sadder than an adult who still clings to the world view of the child, expecting others to take care of him and seeing himself at the center of his little world.

The relationship between a people and their leader can be seen in the dynamic model of the wheel. The leader is the hub, that almost motionless pivot point around which all turns. The vision and challenge of the system are spokes under tension linking the hub and the outer rim, drawing them together, keeping the whole unified. The outer rim is the people who do the work of the organization, who move it forward and who accomplish the work to be done. Each element in the model is very important, none can function without the others and each depends for its reality upon the others. This dynamic model of the wheel or ring is a very old symbol for wholeness and completeness. It is the karmic wheel, the spiral, the Mandala and the circle of heaven all rolled into one.

The leadership wheel is superimposed upon the circle of the organization, one becoming the other, one defining the other and each connecting with the other, to teach and learn one from the other. The tension is real, just as the positive tension between teacher and student can enrich the learning process, so the tension between the leader and the organization can lift both to a new dimension.

The relationship between the leader and his or her people can be compared to a parent and child relationship. This is often an unfortunate metaphor for the relationship between a leader and his people, as it carries with it the hierarchical and dependent aspects of the age and experience differential as well as the differences in power between parent and child. When the model is positively applied, however, there are some aspects that can be present in the best of leader/people relationships. Trust in the leader and affirmation of the relationship that exists can be very fundamental to the development and growth of the leader and the organization.

A metaphor that might be more useful is that of the gardener and his garden. The gardener is the leader and the organization is the garden. A gardener prepares the ground, plants the seed, nurtures it to the harvest, takes in the fruits and prepares to repeat the cycle again. This is the approach of the sound leader. The leader prepares the people for his vision, spreads the vision and facilitates its spread. He nurtures the vision and the people, bringing them to an inner set where they had not been before. The harvest comes in gaining new understanding and accomplishing the vision, making it a new reality. The strong leader does not stop there but is open to new visions, new aspects of the old one and new levels of accomplishment. This is the historical spiral of growth and development of people, organizations and nations.

The positive leader (could there be any other kind in the OptimaLearning world?) will see results in the growth, development and in the new forms created by the people led to the new reality, focused in the vision. The organization will change, it will be made new and constantly renewed. New opportunities and new abundance will flow to it. New people will be attracted and they in turn will change the organization yet again. This is a very positive trend of growth, development and learning. It is, if you will, organic in that it mimics the growth of life itself.

This is at root the essence of the OptimaLearning process: affirmation and positive attention will build and develop individuals and organizations, empowering and opening them up to new learning, new hope and a new reality.

The techniques and principles of OptimaLearning: Reading with Music™, Educative Feedback™, the Triangle of Stimuli — each of these are as much the tools of the manager and leader as they are of the teacher. It is when leaders and managers begin to understand their role as teachers and "affirmers" of individuals and organizations that a new paradigm of growth and well being will bring a surge of productivity and competency to our work and to our world.

Charles B. Gompertz is a management consultant and corporate trainer with international experience.

©1995 Charles B. Gompertz, All Rights Reserved.

This article appears in The Essence and Impact of OptimaLearning, 1995, published by Barzakov and Associates, Barzak Educational Institute, Novato, CA.

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