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The Science of Transformational Leadership, Part 4: Keep Listening

Image Credit: Brightside

Some leaders make change look easy. While most people strive to drive change through persuasion, they stoke our imaginations and inspire us to embrace daring new visions of what could be. How do they do it?

A breakthrough from the behavioral sciences called the Voice Code has answered this question, offering us profound new insights into the invisible levers of influence. These insights have now been made actionable through the LUCK cycle, the following four-step engagement sequence:

This is the 4th and final installment of a series to help you begin to master this inside-out social engagement sequence. If you missed any of the previous three installments, click the links above to get quickly up to speed. Here you'll learn about the first three steps of the LUCK sequence, unravel the first three unlucky beliefs that keep most people trapped in a persuasion-driven (outside-in) mindset and hear the story of "Bob" — a passionate sustainability advocate who is just now learning how to tap the magic that the LUCK process makes accessible.

Unlucky Belief #4: Uncertainty is dangerous

Over the weeks that followed Bob’s breakthrough, his inspiration gradually decreased until it seemed he was right back where he started. Then he had another breakthrough. After a short exchange with a very rude person, he lost his temper and slammed the phone down. In the past he would’ve just shrugged it off, but something stopped him. He was disturbed by the intensity of his anger. Why did he let a bad call get to him so much? His mind wandered back to his breakthrough a few weeks back — the emotional purging and the effortless thriving that followed. What if he had somehow created that good day by releasing all those pent-up emotions? Curious to see if he could replicate the experience, he closed his eyes, took a few deep breaths and did his best to feel into any buried feelings. A few waves of sadness passed through him. Not as intense as before, but enough to improve his mindset considerably. Afterwards, just like before, his day seemed to change. People were more receptive and events started to flow in his favor. Through this experiment, Bob gathered priceless evidence that the levers of power were within him. Thus began what would become an epic upward spiral as Bob devoted himself to mastering his inside-out mindset.

John Marshall Roberts
will discuss
personal evolution
as an enabler
of the good life

SB'17 Detroit

Bob is a fictional character. But the process he went through is based on real events that happened to me in a much more dramatic fashion over the decades that led to the discovery of the Voice Code. It was a journey of learning to listen and follow inspiration one problem at a time. The process is simple: First formulate a clear understanding of what you want. Make up your mind to find the solution and look for the right question that, if answered, would help you remove your own blind spots. Then leave the question open and keep listening, trusting that the solution will emerge.

It’s amazing what we can accomplish with this simple practice! The secrets of the universe will be revealed to anyone who implements it consistently. But sadly, most of us are too afraid of the unknown to keep our minds open. The belief that uncertainty is dangerous keeps us from asking questions that unravel our own blind spots.

Consider that the biggest danger today is not the unknown, but our unwillingness to admit not knowing. Uncertainty is not dangerous, it’s deliverance. Only when we release our preconceptions are we free to follow inspiration. Nature’s guidance system will solve any problem we pose in a way that far exceeds our expectations. Here’s the rub: To keep the channel open we must continually release our expectations and embrace the unknown without preconditions. This can be terrifying to our ego, but the payoff is extraordinary and well worth any discomfort.

My 24-year journey to crack the Voice Code and distill the LUCK sequence offers a great illustration. By the time I released my first book, Igniting Inspiration, in 2008, I was already 15 years into the adventure and assumed I’d “arrived.” Inspiration delivered the first beta Voice Code model in 1999 when I was in grad school. By the time I had a book out I’d already put many of these ideas together, including the prime directives:

Prime Directive 1. Be Authentic.

Engage others from a place of deep sincerity and inspired conviction, in a spirit of service and shared self-interest.

Prime Directive 2. Know your audience.

Speak to others’ deepest aspirations, framing our call as an opportunity to transcend fear and create a better future.

From 2008 to 2012, I presented these directives to thousands of corporate leaders and advocates at change leadership workshops around the world. When these events were over, people were bursting with enthusiasm to change the world. But, when all was said and done, precious few would move the needle without my help. “What am I doing wrong?” I wondered. “What am I not seeing that would help me close the gap?”

Inspiration spoke: Find a way to train the inner game! I knew this was right, but how? I was a scientist peddling an empirically derived market segmentation system to results-driven pragmatists. The inner practices I’d cultivated over the years were not appropriate for this audience. I needed something systematic, scientific and rigorous on par with my outer game framework. I had no idea what that would even look like, but I made up my mind to find out. Then I went about my business.

A few months later I cracked the Voice Code. I spent the next four years turning this equation into a new book with a full suite of battle-tested inner game mastery tools. But when I released the book, I had a new problem: My old audience didn’t seem to get it. They were so busy that they “didn’t really have time to think about the inner game.” I was frustrated at first, then I became determined. “There’s a big idea here. I’m just not seeing it. I’m going to do whatever it takes to find it.” So I pulled the plug on everything and listened within until my creative unconscious delivered the goods.

Two weeks later, I uncovered the LUCK cycle. Inspiration had sent me an actionable and intuitive way to deliver the whole enchilada in seconds — inner game, outer game and their relationship — using just 11 simple words:

Step 1. Listen for inspiration

Step 2. Understand the resistance

Step 3. Call to imagine

Step 4. Keep listening

Inspired, I shared this with a few old colleagues who weren’t yet on board with the whole “inner game” thing. They lit up immediately. Days later, I was back in the flow with old clients and colleagues suddenly calling out of the blue and inspired new opportunities to spread the word lining up without effort. Imagine that? After four grueling years of R&D and months trying to cram my book down people’s throats, I finally gave up and just listened. In that quiet place within, the solution gently emerged.

The moral of the story? Keep listening!

Mother Nature has it all mapped out. We just have to relax and let her lead the way. The more success we achieve, the more susceptible we are to believing that we have the answers. This is always a mistake, because it closes us to the creative urgency of now in which everything happens. Our inner guidance system is always speaking to us. Where will it all lead? We can never know. So what? We don’t need to — we just need to keep listening.

Practice LUCK: Keep Listening

Consider taking a few moments right now to listen to inspiration. Ask yourself, “What am I inspired to do?” Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and focus inside until you feel a joyful nudge. Then do whatever comes up and watch how things unfold. But before you go, please read once through the full LUCK cycle in the table below. In the week ahead, keep the LUCK acronym top of mind when you engage others. Let these 4 steps frame your conversations. Notice how people open up and offer support when you do this. Keep track of gains and enjoy the adventure. I look forward to hearing of your successes!

In coming articles I will focus in more detail on each of these steps. In the meantime, if you aspire to dive deeper, consider reviewing scene five "Behold the Poet" from the LUCK inner game manual, The Voice Code: Master Your Inner Game. It offers an actionable overview of the principle of Innocence and a 15-minute inner alignment exercise that you can use to align with this principle. For step 3 outer game support, consider reviewing the final chapters 14 through 16 of the LUCK inner game manual, Igniting Inspiration: A Persuasion Manual for Visionaries. You can also join my mailing list at to receive the follow up LUCK training articles and invitations to upcoming events.

John Marshall Roberts is an applied behavioral scientist, musician and leading expert on overcoming cynicism. An outspoken advocate for creative leadership, John has been busting heads for good causes since he released his first book, Igniting Inspiration: A Persuasion Manual… [Read more about John Marshall Roberts]

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