Henry VIII put the King in Kingship. All the kings before him, in my opinion, were just mere warlords. Henry, on the other hand, with his giant ego and belief that God personally anointed him to rule brought new meaning in what it meant to be King of England. Seriously…. this was a guy who had his own personal butt wiper entitled, “The Groom of the Stool.” Which, by the way, was one of the best jobs to have in his court because you were closest to the king (albeit a crappy job (pun intended).
Henry was not originally meant to be King. He was the second born to Henry VII but with his brother’s untimely death; was put at the forefront to rule. And, after the death of his father in 1509, Henry (at the tender age of 17), assumed the role of King, dutifully married his brother’s wife, Catherine of Aragon, and set on a (nearly) 40-year path that changed the trajectory for the country and all of its inhabitants.
With all of his ego-induced faults, I think that Henry has gotten a bad rap over the years. Sure, he was a letch. Yes, he over indulged in sins of the flesh. True, he absolutely was absolute in his divine rightness to rule. Even with all of his gluttonous faults, he was a trailblazer and a master at instituting change. How did he do this? Henry was able to harness the power of “NOT!”
Anytime you put the word “not” in or out of an assertion or statement, it changes the dynamics of that assertion or statement. That is the power. It allows us to challenge our beliefs, see things from a new perspective and get out of our own human induced rut.
There are a glut of things we, as leaders, don’t want to learn from Henry but knowing how to harness the power of not is not among them. We, as human beings, love the status quo. We love our routines! We might step outside our comfort zone once in a while but we always gravitate back to what is comfortable…. to enjoy the homeostasis that comes with everyday life. This can keep us firmly entrenched in what is versus what could be.
Is your team deeply entrenched in what is? If so, take a few lessons from Henry on getting to different by harnessing the power of not!
First, Know What You Want
Henry, after being married to Catherine of Aragon for 15+ years fell prey to the wants of his heart and fell in love with a lovely young woman named, Anne Boleyn. Anne’s dark hair, fair skin, and intellect captivated the King in such a way that he knew that, above all things, he wanted Anne. He wanted her to be his queen and provide him with a long awaited male heir. In this, he was clear.
What do you want to achieve or where do you want your team to go? Clarity of purpose is paramount in moving forward. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t be upset if you don’t go anywhere.
Second, Challenge The Absolutes
Henry’s want for Anne to be his Queen posed a bit of a problem. (Mainly, because he was legally married to Catherine). In order for him to fulfill his dream he would need an annulment from the Pope of his first marriage in order for his second to be legal. At that time, the only person who had a “step up” on royalty was the Pope.
Henry made his case to the Pope. He sent letters, arguments and envoys to Rome, repeatedly, to get his marriage to Catherine annulled on the basis that, since he married his brother’s wife, it was an abomination to God and, therefore, not legal. He even tried to convince Catherine to acquiesce and go live in a nunnery. And, even though she knew he was a letch and a bit of an ass, she liked being Queen and basically told him to bug off.
No matter what Henry tried to do, it didn’t work. The Pope said “No” and that was an absolute because he was the head of the Church.
What are the absolutes that are keeping your team where they are? Is it the boss? Is it the budget? Is it the bureaucracy? Identify the absolute that’s keeping you stagnant!
Lastly, Insert The Not
Henry, although frustrated, was not dismayed. That’s when it happened. Henry harnessed the power of “NOT” and thought, “Hmmm…. what if the Pope was NOT the head of the Church? What if I was head of the church? Then I, Henry, could do anything I wanted!”
That’s when it happened. Henry created a new church, made himself the head of it, got rid of his wife and married Anne Boleyn. That’s the short version.
What do you currently view as an absolute that you can you insert a “Not” into? If it is the budget, what if that is NOT the case? If it is the bureaucracy, what if that was NOT a factor? Most absolutes are not absolutes at all.
Granted, I am over simplifying history and making light of a situation that was very serious at the time but it was 600 years ago so I think I’m safe. It’s easy to hate on Henry but he was just doing as a King would do in those days. This was just one example of his ability to harness the power of not. He made many more changes…some good and some that weren’t.
Regardless, the fact is that we, like those in medieval England, get in ruts. We get used to the backdrop of what is and have trouble seeing what can be. Harnessing the power of not can help us get the perspective that is needed so that we can challenge what see as an absolute and move forward. Because, when we don’t know something, EVERYTHING is a possibility! Challenge the absolutes, harness the power of not and lead forward!