Insight article

“It has changed the way I think”

“Sometimes when a blind man is walking around, there is a hole in front of him. It takes a person with eyesight to stop him from falling in that hole.”

Those are the words of a Nigerian former miller, former religious radical, describing the deradicalisation programme he is participating in in jail. He gets training, education and religious counselling.

The gist of the story, reported today in the FT, is that leaders of radical religious groups attract a following of lonely, frustrated people, desperate to escape the monotony of their lives, by offering them a sense of purpose. The narrative empowers them, is intoxicating, and leads them to do appalling things with utter conviction.

The counselling programme is attractive because it recognises the existence, and power, of the inner narrative. And it realises that to shift behaviour, counsellors need to shift their subject’s inner narrative – to change the way they think and perceive the world around them. Even members of Boko Haram see that one way to bring the organisation down is for members to “sabotage it from the inside”.

Turning to the more pleasant climes of leadership in the workplace, you increasingly see this approach in action. Dr Steve Peters helps us to manage our inner chimp; good managers seek to coach their people, rather than direct them; and the current generation of visionary leaders are replacing autocracy with an approach based on inspiration and context.

Better environment, better outcomes, more human.

Enjoy your weekend.

Nailia Tasseel