The Intangible Elements of Power

Excerpt from: The Alchemy of Power: mastering the invisible factors of leadership

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From The Alchemy of Power: mastering the invisible factors of leadership

A group of fit, adventurous, top-of-their-game geologists prepared
for a year to summit an Asian mountain peak. They
secured a healthy budget for gear and technology, adhered to
workout routines with professional trainers, stocked supplies,
hired the best-rated local guides, and were given paid time
to prepare themselves and to engage in advanced research
through their institutions. Their trek was planned and executed
with the help of an excellent support team and cutting-
edge technological capacity.

On their way up the mountain, they crossed paths with a
descending group of professional athletes and climbers who,
despite also being exceptionally well prepared, were forced by
circumstances to turn around before reaching the top. When
the scientists finally summited, their exhaustion and depletion
vanished, not just with the exhilaration of summiting, but also
with their astonishment at finding a thin man sitting there in
an amudaya, a kind of Hindu loin-covering. The yogi made a
welcoming gesture and asked, “What took you so long?”

The yogi represents the indomitable human spirit that is
capable of surmounting boundaries by means of metaphysical
capacities. He arrived at the same death-defying destination
with a tiny fraction of the geologists’ resources and yet he still
had the presence of mind to anticipate their arrival. The scientists
relied on physics, the science of things, to manage tangibles,
including temperature-tested fabrics, altitude-tested
gear, and weather apparatus for determining best climbing
conditions. While their sophisticated handling of the tangibles
gave them a powerful advantage, the yogi’s adeptness
with the intangibles reveals a different kind of power.

Metaphysics is the field of study that pursues scientific, philosophical, and spiritual understandings of causality. It is the
field of inquiry into what causes what. Metaphysics is the
exploration of the nature of being and beings, of existence,
time, and space. While physics focuses on things that already
exist, metaphysics is the science behind what causes things
to exist. While physical laws describe the finite, metaphysical
principles describe the infinite. The metaphysical field spans
across time and disciplines to explore the:
• invisible fundamental drivers of the human experience
• nature of existence
• mechanisms of causality, that is, of causing things
to happen.

Metaphysical principles get at the root of existence and of
causation itself. While the elements of physics, things like iron,
carbon, and oxygen, are accessible through our five senses,
the elements of metaphysics, like empathy, ethics, and will,
are only accessible through consciousness. Consciousness is
awareness by the mind of itself and the world. Adeptness with
alchemy, that is, the ability to cause unexpected outcomes, starts with tending to your own consciousness.

The metaphysical domain is generative, creative, infinite,
and inherently powerful. Current norms in industrialized
cultures mostly disregard, even disparage metaphysics, even
though it is fundamental to science, the workplace, and life
itself. However, there is no longer doubt about the gains made
by companies that consciously manage metaphysical elements
like values, culture, and goodwill.

Consider Facebook’s initial public offering flop when
almost everybody in the company lost money because their
compensation included shares of the stock. It happened right
around the time that Mark Zuckerberg was voted the top boss
in the US by 96 percent of his employees. His invisible cultural
context was strong at a time when not only were his financial
losses the worst they had ever been, but so were those of the
employees who had voted for him, because most of them were
vested in the stock that was tanking at the time. Zuckerberg
built organizational resilience that ran far deeper than the
company’s stock price because he had invested heavily in
Facebook’s values for employees to “be bold with risk-taking”
and to “stay fluid and transparent with information.” Values
are primal metaphysical drivers and Zuckerberg, like many
of his tech contemporaries, capitalized on prioritizing them.
Over time, though, Facebook’s values did get compromised
and losses ensued.

Mastery with metaphysics is the differential between two
leaders, both with comparable resources and training, who
produce vastly different results. Metaphysics is elemental and
primary to any process: Before action happens, there must be
motivation in the form of vision, values, principles, ideals, justifications, desires, objectives, convictions, beliefs, aims, or purposes. These key causal factors are invisible and mostly ignored.

But recognized or not, metaphysical principles are always at
play, including in everyday moments of interconnectivity, serendipity, intuition, inklings, creativity, good and bad vibes,
déjà vu, “aha,” and “wow.” Those metaphysical moments cause
change, sometimes barely perceptible, sometimes profound.

Although it is common to regard what we cannot see as
inconsequential, decades of studies done around the world
demonstrate that nothing could be further from the truth
because, statistically, there is no doubt that intangibles, like
values and culture, are primary determinants of outcomes (see
Meglino, Barrett, Miethe, Schwartz, Henderson). Just like it
was the yogi’s understanding of, accountability for, and facility
with metaphysical factors that gave him the edge, leaders who
consciously manage the intangibles have a strong advantage
over those who do not.

Some intangibles, like culture, are measurable. Some aren’t. In either case, metaphysical influences can be accounted for. Much of what our ancestors construed to be magic is now understood as basic physics, cosmology, biology, and chemistry— sciences that emerged from prior meta-scientific explorations. Contrary to popular cultural messaging, there is no reason to believe that hard sciences have dominion over metaphysics. If that were so, there would be no meta-field from which to dream science forward.

Standard economic metrics account well for physical things,
but we are now rediscovering what sages through the ages have
always known: having command of the metaphysics, the invisible
causal factors, is where the real power, which is sometimes
called “magic,” happens. As many researchers are concluding
now, developing the intangible aspects of leadership produces
significant quantifiable gains (see Liu, Collins, Flamholtz).

Metaphysics is a blend of science and philosophy, and alchemy
is the art of applying metaphysical principles to everyday life.
Alchemy is the art of causing unexpected transformation, creation,
or combination. While alchemy is mostly portrayed as
attempts to turn base metals into gold, that’s a limited definition
because it is actually the practice of producing more than
the sum of parts by way of adeptness with unseen elements.

While metaphysics is the study of what causes what, leadership
alchemy is the conscious application of metaphysical principles
for the purpose of causing specific outcomes. Alchemy is
the way that leaders mine metaphysical gold. Alchemy is what
transforms things like methodologies, strategies, and best practices
into outcomes that exceed expectations about goals and benchmarks. It is the domain of excellence and extraordinary results.

Alchemy in leadership can be understood as a means for
making the intangible tangible. Alchemy happens every day
in every competent leader’s life, yet it is rarely consciously capitalized on. But that’s changing as companies like Starbucks,
Zappos, Ikea, Google, and many more, as well as governmental
and nonprofit organizations around the world, are demonstrating
how paying attention to intangibles adds significant value to the sum of parts and labor. Western culture’s common definition of alchemy as a mythological art relating to metals is dangerously narrow because alchemy is one of humanity’s most formidable capacities.

It is almost beyond comprehension that scientists agree
that everything we experience only constitutes 5 percent of
reality, with dark energy making up around 70 percent and dark
matter being the remaining 25 percent. In other words, 95 percent
of what exists is invisible and beyond our current understanding.
Alchemy is a metaphysical dynamism that occurs in
the space beyond the 5 percent that we understand, yet it is
something that can be developed and consciously applied.

We all experience alchemy every day, like when two people
follow the same recipe yet one’s dish tastes better. Alchemy
is the domain of “green thumbs,” healers, intuitives, artists,
inspirers, and people who just have “good vibes”—all of which
are invisible and transformative capacities. In terms of leadership,
it is the “magic touch” that surpasses expectations.

The impact of metaphysical factors, although they do not slot
directly into standard spreadsheets and reports, can be measured,
developed, and taken to the bank. Alchemical artfulness
with metaphysical principles absolutely does show up in the
bottom line, but because it can be hard to see direct correlation,
the impact of alchemy is often overlooked. Alchemical
leadership creates results that are more than the sum of parts
and labor, so it necessarily cannot be accounted for by math
alone. But that’s no excuse for ignoring it.

Human capacities cover a vast spectrum, ranging from
spectacular physical accomplishments to complex invisible
experiences like imagination, and from our technological
capabilities to the mind-blowing faculties that metaphysical
adepts have used for centuries to mysteriously thrive in
challenging conditions, to have prescience of others, and to
produce results that exceed expectations.

The story about the yogi and the climbers is a metaphor for how leadership mastery is an ever-unfolding journey that has always transcended our beliefs about what’s possible. It illustrates what quantum physicists claim—that everything is, first and foremost, a matter of consciousness. The degree to which you are conscious of
intangible factors is the degree to which you can master them.
That mastery is alchemical capacity.

Most successful people would probably object to the idea that
their work is alchemical, but few deny that pivotal career moments
have come in inexplicable game-changing flashes of transformation,
creation, or combination. Quantum physicists have proven that
the theory that alchemy is too esoteric to matter is deeply,
unequivocally flawed by exposing the link between consciousness
and being, and between the observer and the observed.

Scientists now confirm what has been articulated forever on
cave walls and in hallowed halls: consciousness and intentionality
matter in that they are causal of matter itself. Alchemy happens
in a range of consciousness that yogis and saints have always
called our attention to. While much about that range of consciousness may always be mysterious to us, we know plenty
about how we access it and about the benefits of tapping in
to it.

Metaphysics defines the principles by which alchemy
operates, and you can use those intangible factors to your
advantage. Leadership studies consistently demonstrate that
intangible drivers, like values and volition, outperform tangible
rulebooks and strategic plans every time. Still, modern
success models typically disparage alchemy and marginalize
metaphysics by disregarding both concepts as inconsequential,
mythological, fluffy stuff.

The Fluffy Myth
The largest portion of an iceberg, about 90 percent, is beneath
the surface. What can’t be seen determines the size and stability
of what can be. Likewise, invisible workplace factors, like
culture, for example, have far more impact on processes and
outcomes than the factors that can be seen and measured with
standard metrics. (see Barrett) It is not that intangibles cannot
be measured. They can. It’s that relatively few companies are
bothering to adopt new metrics that account for metaphysical
realities, despite what we know about their enormous impact
on outcomes. That’s because there is endemic cultural buy-in
to what I call the “fluffy myth,” which is the mistaken belief
that intangibles are inconsequential.

Fluff mythology reflects systemic disregard for the evidence
that intangibles have a far greater impact on success than tangibles.
Today, the fluffy myth still prevails in the business world
despite the strong verification for how undeniably risky it is to
ignore the so-called “soft” indicators, and to neglect the metaphysical factors that are causal in making things happen, which
although invisible, are as real as real can be. A lack of accountancy
for intangibles constitutes leadership malpractice because,
contrary to fluff mythology, investing in metaphysicalities yields
high returns, while ignoring them can result in financial and
organizational losses (see Barrett).

When we categorize metaphysical realities as fluff, we are,
in effect, disregarding the “bottom of the iceberg.” But just like
denying the reality of the base of an iceberg is even riskier than
just ignoring it, actively denying the value of unseen causal factors has the effect of further inflating risk. Put another way,
disregarding intangibles is dangerous enough. Unconsciously
deflating the value of their influence compounds the risk.

Raising your capacity to cause outcomes requires overcoming
social prejudices that disregard metaphysics as fluff. Accessing ageless keys to causality requires breaking through myopic cultural lenses that are blind to profound intangible influences. Using the filter of metaphysics will help dilate and then more finely focus your leadership lens. That dilation and refocus, that expanded consciousness, gives you greater capacity for causing alchemy.

The power of alchemy has two components:
• Metaphysical awareness of the underlying forces that
cause things to happen
• Alchemical adeptness, which is the personal capacity
to consciously cause things to happen
From The Alchemy of Power –
by Dr. Joni Carley, Consultant & Speaker,

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