Age Old Wisdom On Leadership: The West Way
In my last entry, we made it half way around the Medicine Wheel and revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the South way. A person with South medicine is characterized by his or her deep respect for the individual and an ability to make others feel safe and valued. However, if lacking balance in the other 3 directions, they can too often avoid conflict, enable others who need to take care of themselves and accommodate, rather than lead with independence of thought and action.
Here’s a visual cue to remember the South Way:
Today, we are going to talk about the West Way. The Lakota Sioux call this “The Place That Looks Within”. The time of day is sunset, always a good time to reflect on what has taken place during the day, and the animal totem is the Black or Brown Bear.
The bear represents the West because they are both very goal focused. However, like those with great West Medicine, they are constantly discerning and analyzing with an eye towards perfection. Bears are focused on their goal, which is often food. When they go into the berry bush for their dinner, they will discern and discard the sour berries and pick only the ripe ones. The way of the West is always to “measure twice so you only have to cut once”.
While those with strong East power move quickly and even circularly towards goals, those with strong West power move methodically and in a linear, step-wise fashion towards achieving those same goals.
Furthermore, while those with great East Power may actually speak to what they think they know and fare well in a spontaneous setting, which values in the moment wisdom, a person with West power would be reluctant to speak up at that same meeting without having done some due diligence research.
For West’s, quality is their main priority. West are maximizers at heart, which means they like to improve things. They are uncomfortable with loose ends. They find every typo and seize every opportunity to better something. Which gets us to a well-worn phrase we have used over the last couple of weeks: one’s greatest strength can quickly become one’s greatest weakness.
While others are soaring with ideas and possibilities, the Wests can’t help themselves from thinking about how this might all fail. When others are ready to move forward with a breakthrough strategy, Wests are saying, “I think we need more time to analyze, pilot and evaluate. “
In fact, in an imperfect world, the Wests can be stuck with what we call analysis paralysis: waiting for more proof when time is ticking and opportunity will be missed. In short, the West in us sometimes has to learn how to lead in times of ambiguity and uncertainty without all the data to make the right decision.
There is one more potential pitfall worth mentioning. Those with strong West medicine have the power to remain objective longer than everyone else. This is a great gift, as they are unlikely, for example, to be captured by a trendy idea and more likely to go for sustainable long-term solutions. Yet while they are thinking things through, it is common for their faces and body language to go flat. As they think deeply, they appear cold and insensitive. They are less likely to smile, nod and affirm things right away, and more likely to spend the most time contemplating.
The stereotype of being unreadable combined with a tendency to want to pick out a plan’s flaws can make them tough partners for those who tend to be relationship-based. They may be listening deeper than anyone in the room, but they can be perceived as cold and judgmental.
As you will learn as we continue on the path of the Medicine Wheel, one of the challenges is to not take things personally and learn how to partner across our differences. For now, just take note.
In summary, a person with West power is a masterful critical thinker and a reliable problem solver with a capacity to engineer projects and produce long-term sustainable solutions. When out of balance with the other directions of the Medicine Wheel, the danger is analysis paralysis and being seen as judgmental, too focused on the details and missing the big picture.
Over the next three weeks, we will review one more place on the wheel: the North way. Then, we will pull it all together to help examine our road to better balance. Stay tuned!
To read about the other Medicine wheel positions, click the following links:
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