A reference is something people know and will refer to whenever they learn something new. It’s how differences become available. Without a reference in leadership style, for example, a leader would find it challenging to define for themselves what the leadership style is they want to be known for.
However, there are different ways to relate to a reference.
There is one that is called “I should”, often not far away is “I couldn’t.” Both are based on some sort of expectations the person established. It’s an idea of obligation or prohibition.
There is nothing wrong with these. It is the strength of belief, that is how much one assumes them to be true that will determine one’s behavior. It’s defining the perspective someone has of a situation and its opportunities.
A leader who has as a reference the story that he has to deliver answers may focus all of his doing on delivering that answer. And if doing so quickly belongs to the story, there will be little room to ask questions, be curious, or invite the other to do it by himself. It’s fixed.
References establish themselves easily and often out of awareness.
The first leadership style encountered is one of one’s parents and other relevant authority figures. The first culture lived in being one’s own family. Both establish the ground rules of power distribution, ways conflicts happen and are engaged in, as well as how people relate to one another.
Taking the new and different in with curiosity allows to use the reference with an idea of “I could” that is based on opportunities and possibilities. The known helps to understand the unknown. Curiosity allows engaging with it without expectations. Taking both assists in giving meaning to it. It’s expanding an existing meaning.
It’s comparing without assuming that one needs to be better than the other. It’s comparing to create a meaning that is not based on splitting between good and bad. It’s a way to compare that serves a different purpose than measuring or locating oneself in a status hierarchy.
It helps to let oneself be surprised.