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Inflection Points

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A colleague of mine, who had a long career in her chosen vocation, described the day that she was let go. She described the dark day when she was handed an envelope and told that, after some three decades, her services were no longer required. I have witnessed some who broke a lot of glass on the way out, while others were more restrained and measured.

Scientifically, inflection is described as a turning: a bend, or a curve. In business, and in personal life, this term is used to describe a time of significant change—a turning point.

Turning points come in many forms; some chosen, some imposed.

Turning points can occur in the form of turning back when we realize that we’re on the wrong path, and need to get back to the place where the decision was made so that we can choose a new path. In my own experience these ‘wrong-path’ realizations usually occur around two a.m.!

In leadership, we are frequently called upon to be a change agent.

I have said quite often that leadership is about change, and change brings about violence, either in the form of an inward struggle to cope with change, or sometimes an outward violence that seeks to halt, or reverse, the change you are seeking to bring about (for a colourful example from British history, read up on the story of the Luddites).

These moments can be not only searing experiences for us, but they can also require what is perhaps a key cognitive discipline upon which self-awareness grows. That discipline is self-regulation. In simple language, I have heard this summed up in the expression leadership means giving up the right to be selfish. Whichever way you like to think of it, I offer that self-regulation is a critical trait for change leadership—when we are leading change, and when we are on the receiving end of change. Others are watching us closely. Our language, demeanour, tone and cadence are all outward manifestations of our inner self-regulation and reflection—yes, even when we’re driving at the speed limit and someone else is riding our rear bumper!

Leaders that manage through inevitable inflection points by using this mechanism of self-regulation are noticed for their maturity, moral judgment and stability. So, “Keep Calm.”

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