There is an inner and an outer world. Your inner world is composed of your thoughts, feelings, wants, and emotions. This inner landscape provides us with one type of information. The outer world is the environment in which we exist. It provides us with another type of information.
The outer world is what we see when we look outward and see the people, places, things that exist on Earth and beyond. In the outer world we experience the physical environment as well as the thoughts, feelings, wants, and emotions of others. The outer world provides us with information that seems to be easily quantifiable.
The information we glean from our inner world–although factual within its own context–often seems to lack the precision of the data we gather from the outer word. We cannot translate the inner world into the outer and then make statements about it; we must understand the inner world in its own terms or we will distort the original data. Then the latter is distorted by the former. You can’t study a fish out of its water. Context does matter!
The problem is because the data from the outer world seems fact-based, we place more reliance on the data received from the outer world than on data we receive from the inner world. Inner and outer data indeed are both facts. But their fact-appearance is different. There are outer facts and interior facts. We must describe them correctly and not change them by slipping in distortions of what we in fact do experience.
Effective leaders are aware of their inner and outer worlds and continuously scan these worlds for information from which they make decisions. They place equal value on the data they receive from their inner and outer worlds.
These leaders strive to understand reality by examining the data they receive from the inner and outer worlds. They seek to make sense of this data and then act on this information. They understand that the “facts” they receive from the outer world–reports, numbers, thoughts, feelings, wants, etc.–are interpreted in their inner space. These “facts” once received are filtered by their own feelings, thoughts, wants, and emotions. They also understand that although objective reality is difficult to ascertain, they must come to a conclusion about what is real and act upon it.
Both these acts–the quest to understand what is real and the decision to act upon that data–require choices which cause anxiety. When a leader’s anxiety is productive, leaders use their anxiety to understand to the best of their ability the reality they face and decide what to do. When their anxiety is not productive, leaders often rush to judgement, ignoring important internal and external information in their desire to reduce their anxiety. In other instances, they fail to act because their anxiety causes them to overanalyze the situation in search for the perfect answer and their anxiety about making the wrong decision prevents them from acting at all.
Being an effective leader requires an understanding of what is real for you and what is real for the other. When making a decision you must understand your own worldview, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and wants. In other words, you need to understand what is going on inside you as you are faced with a decision. At the same time, you must realize that the data from the outer world is being filtered by not only your own worldview, thoughts, feelings, and emotions, but by the worldviews, thoughts, feelings, wants, and emotions of others. This ability to be aware of and understand your inner world and outer world makes for leaders who are able to act with wisdom and courage.