Leadership Speaker Lance Secretan

Why Leadership Needs To Embrace People (Not Frighten Them)

excerpt from Lance Secretan‘s The Bellwether Effect

From Classical to Quantum Leadership

Classical physics invites us to measure matter and energy through observable human experience, analyzing the separate parts, and this is largely the way we explain science and technology today. Newtonian Mechanics, electrodynamics, thermodynamics and the laws of special and general relativity form the toolbox of scientists practicing classical physics. This way of seeing things works well with physical objects ranging from the level of atoms, molecules and larger, but at the atomic level and below, these tools and laws become ineffective, failing to provide a correct description of life. Using these crude tools, we mistakenly believe that all observable objects are separate from each other. So we see competitors, colleagues, vendors, customers, media, unions, regulators and shareholders as separate entities and as separate from us. But when we investigate the essence of matter, from which all physical objects are made, we find that everything is one, not separate, and that we need different scientific tools with which to measure this “oneness”. This includes quantum theory and relativity.

Without going down a scientific rabbit-hole here, we have learned that the theories and models of classical physics do not adequately describe the universe, and that, in reality, the newer science of quantum physics informs us that there are no separate entities—everything is connected—that separateness is an illusion. Within quantum theory there is a concept called, “quantum entanglement” which describes the phenomenon where a pair of sub-atomic particles cannot be described independently of each other, even when those particles are many kilometers apart, but instead, can only be described as a whole. And just as intriguing, the act of measuring one thing determines the possible quantum state of another—the so called Heisenberg Principle, which I will refer to later.


How We Got to Separateness

It doesn’t really matter whether you are a creationist or an evolutionist, or even if you don’t really believe in anything at all—whatever your personal explanation for the origins of the Universe may be, you will probably agree that it was born out of “something” that was, at one time, one. The creationist believes a few days passed between the oneness that existed between “the beginning” and the introduction of a human, and a few more days before the fall of man. The evolutionist believes billions of years passed between the oneness of the beginning and the evolution of man, but both refer to a mystery—the moment of oneness from which all this emerged. From there, depending on your philosophy, the world evolved. The creationists and the evolutionists disagree about how the world began, but agree that at the beginning, there was stillness—or oneness.

In those early prehistoric, prescientific days, we believed everything was one. Partly this was because we couldn’t see anything beyond our immediately observable environment. The myths and legends by which we explained our existence were universally shared, even though we did not communicate—just like particles do in quantum entanglement. For example, the circular concept of time was the belief shared by Native Americans, ancient Hebrews, the Inuit of the Artic, the Maoris of New Zealand, the Bantu of Southern Africa, the Aboriginals of Australia, and many others. How could they have known and shared the same perspective and understanding of time being circular without any means of communication, unless they were one—in other words entangled at the quantum level? We believed in the same concept of time because we were all one.

AloneIt is understandable that we have now come to view the world as if everything were separate, and this completely revised perspective has evolved over millennia. Twenty-five hundred years ago the Greek philosophers, among them, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, were among the first to reject the early explanations of the phenomena they saw around them, which were based on myth, mystery and magic, in favor of more rational explanations. They began to use reason and observation to reveal the true nature of the world as they saw it, and they used rational argument to explain and promote their views. They showed us how to separate the parts that make up oneness so that we could more easily understand the world. On these shoulders stood philosophers, mathematicians and scientists like Copernicus, Galileo, Machiavelli, Newton, Descartes, Hume, Hobbes, and others who gave us the early versions of what we now call, the “scientific method”, which we have since refined as we continue to deepen our embrace of separateness.

Our entire education system is built on the notion of separateness. We teach different subjects, models and theories; we grade students and stream them by separating them into learning abilities and performance; we provide access to higher education by separating students using their GPA scores, we even educate separately through private and public systems and the entire conventional teaching paradigm is built on the platform we call the “scientific method”, a methodology which teaches complex ideas by separating them into the smallest parts so they can be more easily understood. And so we enter the world with an operational mindset that has been trained over many years to look for separateness. In fact, we have been genetically modified over several modern millennia to think in terms of separateness instead of oneness.


The Fallacy of Separateness

Although the physical objects which we can observe appear to have separate boundaries, it’s not true. To make this more concrete let’s use a specific example: I could be rude, curt and demeaning to you, and then turn around and, within earshot, be graceful, charming and elegant with your neighbor, and with our respective eyes, we would all see this, and describe it, as two separate acts.

But at the quantum level, the level of subatomic particles, it is very different. If a particle is split and one half remains where we are and the other half is transported to a distant location, both will retain the same properties regardless of their distance from each other. In another phenomenon, known as the Heisenberg Principle referred to earlier, the state of that particle will not be known until it is observed—the act of observation being the agent of the change. Let’s go back to our example: I could be rude, curt and demeaning to you, and then turn around and, within earshot, be graceful, charming and elegant with your neighbor, and while we might all observe this as two separate acts, in truth, each party receiving and experiencing the different styles of communication will be affected by both, and therefore, to a greater or lesser degree, both parties will experience the separate behaviors as one. While our churlish behavior may be directed at another, we will vicariously experience it too.


Embracing Oneness

Our approach to running organizations and leadership (and just about everything else too) continues to use a “classical” approach even though we now understand that this will not give us the answers we need, and that we need to use new (old actually, but newly discovered) “quantum” tools.

Today, our culture is rooted in the concept of separateness. We organize every aspect of our lives into tiny segments of separateness. We showed earlier the example of separateness in academia. We also have the tools to separate into categories and specialties in almost any field including religion, politics, beliefs, gender, income, status, generations (X, Y, millennials, etc.), demographics, skin color, ethnic background, countries, health and well-being, education, income, and more. We deepen this separateness-thinking daily as “big data” and digital algorithms take an increasingly central position in influencing our lives.

In companies, we practice separateness by creating specializations, functional departments, corporate hierarchies and bureaucracies, tenure and seniority, ageism, union and non-union, tenured and non-tenured, divisions, markets, and many subtle and insidious methods to separate one group from another.

The outdated approach of classical physics, and some aspects of “the scientific method”, is what we have been using to study and teach leadership—as a subject consisting of separate parts—leaders, followers, organizations, contexts, goals and more. We have even succumbed to the false belief that behavior displayed and exhibited within an organization is separate from, and sometimes not even appropriate for, life outside the organization—for example, at home. As I described in Chapter 2, we behave with one set of learned attributes at work, and an entirely different, and separate, set of attributes at home. We falsely believe that defeating our competition is a separate act that will not affect us, or that self-dealing will benefit me while not affecting the whole, or that CEO pay can be hundreds of times larger than the average employee’s earnings without repercussions, or that my organization can poison the environment without it affecting anyone else. But these, and many other examples of separateness, are an illusion—everything is connected and everything is one.

Lance Secretan speaker on onenessThere is a growing awareness, even if the practice lags behind, that inclusion leads to inspiration and oneness. Separateness—when we are excluded or made to feel separate—is uninspiring and painful, leading to the epidemic of disaffected employees and dysfunctional organizations. Gandhi said, “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive”, and Jesse Jackson said, “When everyone is included, everyone wins”—advice for corporate leaders to live by.

Sometimes, what prevents us from seeing the whole is our hurry to implement, and move on to the next project. It is quicker, and sometimes, even easier, to view the object in front of us—often a person—as separate from everything else—a project that we need to get done now. As Emerson reminds us, “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”. It can take a little longer to slow our thought processes down sufficiently to allow us to consider how the decision we are about to make may ripple into other parts of our world. No decision is ever made in isolation, even if we believe otherwise.

The connections are everywhere—at the level of the universe, and at the level of the tiniest subatomic iota, and everything in between. Amazon introduces a new way to sell books, and traditional bookstores go out of business. A boss harangues her employee and both take their anger, frustration and resentment home and share it there. An employee gives poor service to a customer, and the customer tells other people not to shop there anymore. (According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, dissatisfied customers will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people). A company exploits loopholes to avoid paying taxes, and the plummeting respect and loyalty that results, adversely affects their sales. If we squeeze one part of the balloon we cannot avoid affecting the rest. There are no separate waves, just one ocean; no separate water, just infinite numbers of sub-atomic particles working in “quantum entanglement”.

In the quantum organization leaders (and everyone else) consider the whole, knowing, that there are no actions without reactions. Life is energy, and everything we do has both intended, and unintended consequences. Every decision we make needs to be filtered through that awareness—the awareness that there are wider implications beyond the obvious for all of our actions.

“Whenever we experience pain or sadness, it is because we have become separated from what, or whom, we love. And whenever we are inspired and joyful, it is because we are one with what, or whom, we love. All human challenges and successes can be explained through this awareness.”

And this also explains why some organizations are great and some are mediocre. The ability to understand the power of oneness is one of the greatest single opportunities for a leader to transform a corporate culture into an inspiring one. When we separate functions, departments, teams, hierarchies, markets, divisions, we become uninspiring. And when we see these as one, align the organization behind a unified, inspiring dream, remove hierarchies and distinctions, and become one team—then we build levels of greatness that are distinctive and remarkable. Inclusion leads to oneness and oneness is inspiring because it helps us to understand that we are a part to the whole and of something bigger than just me or my department. We all are inspired more by a higher purpose, a larger idea, connection and collaboration than our own little territorial box. There is passion, magic and excellence in oneness.

We have the Internet of Everything. Now it is time to work on the Inclusion of Everyone—oneness.


Lance Secretan is the former CEO of a Fortune 100 company, university professor, award-winning columnist, poet, author, and popular leadership speaker.