Archive for October, 2014

Let’s begin with a paraphrase from the great Spanish poet, Antonio Machado: ‘What have you done with what has been entrusted to you?’

As a Leader, what has been entrusted to you? Consider the following.

Yourself. Nosce te ipsum. ‘Know thyself.’ If you want to understand and lead others begin by looking into your own heart. Here are two questions that might help you know yourself as a person and as a leader:
Person = What are three choices you have made during your life thus far that have powerfully contributed to your being the person you are today?
Leader = What are three choices you have made during your life thus far that have powerfully contributed to your being the leader you are today?

Seeking to understand your character strengths, limitations and growing edges (your virtues, your vices, your core values, you guiding life principles, your philosophy of life and leadership, your deep tacit assumptions, your stereotypes and your prejudices)

The relationship you have with yourself. On a consistent basis, do you nurture more than deplete your P.I.E.S.? [i.e. the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual Dimensions that help define who you are] Do you identify and develop your ‘natural’ skills, talents, and abilities? Do you identify your virtues and vices and emphasize your virtues more than your vices? Do you forgive yourself when you stumble or fall? When you are ‘wrong’ do you recognize it and do you admit it? When you break ‘trust’ do you seek forgiveness, reconciliation and healing?

The relationship between you and those who have freely chosen to follow you; the by-product of this relationship is ‘leadership.’ Consider the tap roots that nurture and sustain this relationship: trust, caring, support-accountability, clear agreements, core values, core guiding principles, the ethical and moral use of power. Do you help one another grow and develop? When trust is broken is there forgiveness, healing and reconciliation?

The by-product, leadership [i.e. the relationship between the leader and those who freely choose to follow], can be health-full, dis-ease-full, functional, dysfunctional, effective, ineffective, faithful to…, unfaithful to…, high achieving and distinctive, or low achieving and mediocre.

Developing and building your capacity for certain disciplines, including but not limited to: Reflection, Listening, Inquiry, and Dialogue.

Developing your skills, your use of the tools, and your capacity in order to engage and address: Problems, Paradoxes, Polarities, and Dilemmas.

Developing the skill and the capacity to persuade and influence (and to employ these more than coercion and manipulation AND to understand why you choose to coerce and manipulate when you do so).

Gentle reader, there are more ‘Considerations’ but for now, I invite you to spend some time reflecting upon these (you might invite a leader you know to explore them; perhaps even to explore them with you).

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Today gentle reader we will conclude our brief exploration of ‘The Leader’s Charge. . .The Leader’s Challenge. . . I invite you to consider the following (please see Part I for the context).

Learning. . . In order to keep up, the leader’s learning must be equal to or greater than the rate of change (the rate of change is increasing as is the complexity of change – technology is just one of the areas where this continues to occur). The individual leader will need to continue to learn and this ‘individual’ learning will not be enough. The leader must learn to learn cooperatively and collaboratively. The leader must also champion ‘systems learning.’ Cooperative, collaborative and systems learning are daunting challenges for most leaders – why? Because most leaders have been rewarded for their individual abilities, talents, skills and learning.

Balance. . . The leader is charged with and challenged to maintain a balance between ‘being effective’ with ‘being faithful.’ Leaders and the led too often focus on ‘being effective’ and neglect or dismiss the importance of ‘being faithful.’ Leaders and those led are charged with and are challenged to embrace both with equal vigor. What does this mean? Well, perhaps an example will help (it is one I have used in previous postings).

In the early 1980s there occurred in the Chicago area the ‘Tylenol Poisonings.’ The President of Johnson & Johnson (the makers of Tylenol), James Burke, brought together folks from law enforcement (including the FBI), attorneys, and senior level Johnson & Johnson executives. It appeared as if the poisonings were confined to the Chicago area and so the advice of many present in the room was to pull the product from the shelves in those areas. This was the ‘effective’ thing to do they said. Another reason this advice was given was that at the same time a new product, Datril, was being introduced in direct competition to Tylenol.

Burke took two actions. First he said that there would be ‘complete transparency’ as to what was unfolding (an action that was not supported by many in the room). The second was to take some time (it turned out to be 10 hours) and think deeply about their options and the rationale for each of them. Since he would be held responsible he said he would make the final decision. As the conversation continued Burke kept referring back to Johnson & Johnsons ‘Credo’ – a written document which delineated their commitment to their stakeholders, including their end-users. The ‘Credo,’ in effect noted that they would not put their end-users in harm’s way.

Two ‘camps’ emerged. The majority felt that it was best to remove Tylenol from the shelves in the Chicago area. The minority (and it was a small one indeed) led by Burke believed that if their Credo was to be meaningful then ALL of the Tylenol EVERYWHERE must be removed from the shelves. Burke was adamant. As the leader with ultimate response-ability he chose to have all Tylenol removed from every shelf everywhere. The story does not end here, but this will suffice for our example today.

James Burke chose ‘being faithful’ to the Credo rather than simply go for ‘being effective’ (in fact, he put ‘being effective’ at risk by choosing to ‘be faithful’). Each leader and the led must decide when ‘being faithful’ trumps ‘being effective.’ This is truly a daunting charge and challenge; perhaps it is the most daunting of the many challenges a leader will encounter.

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As a preface to this topic I offer us two quotes attributed to the great Chinese sage, Lao Tzu:
‘To lead people, walk behind them.’ AND: ‘A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.’

What will help a leader live into Lao Tzu’s first statement and experience those led repeating Lao Tzu’s second statement? Gentle reader, consider the following.

Connect. . . Co-create trusting relationships with those who choose to follow. ‘Leadership’ is a by-product of the relationship between the leader and the led. The leader and the led provide support to one another; they hold one another accountable; they help one another develop their skills, abilities, strengths and talents; they help one another become unconditionally response-able and responsible; they help one another nurture more than deplete their P.I.E.S. [P.I.E.S. = each person’s Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spirit(ual) dimensions]; and, they help one another develop more fully specific capacities [e.g. capacity for reflection, for listening, for inquiry, etc.].

Care. . . The leader and the led demonstrate caring for one another. They offer one another empathy, compassion, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. They invite and honor one another’s voice. Caring occurs when it has been acknowledged; that is, the one cared for acknowledges that caring has actually occurred. Caring is also reciprocal; that is, each demonstrates caring for the other. People who experience being cared for function at a higher level and with more distinction than those who do not feel cared for. People who experience being cared for are more willing to give their discretionary energy to their work (this is the energy that money cannot ‘buy’).

Commitment. . . Among other things, the leader must be committed to ‘quality,’ ‘high achievement,’ and ‘distinction’ (versus ‘mediocrity’). Many years ago W. Edwards Deming provided us three ingredients that must support and complement one another in order for ‘quality,’ ‘high achievement,’ and ‘distinction’ to be realized. His quality concept was, mostly, a failure in our country. Why? Although the reasons were many there was one that was consistent: organizations refused to embrace Deming’s ‘third C.’ We fell in love with the first two: ‘Customer’ and ‘Counting’ (Statistical Measurement) – although much of our ‘customer care’ was anything but. We ignored, or denied the importance of, his ‘third C’ – ‘Culture.’ Culture Matters…period. Culture (and her younger sisters, ‘Climate’ and ‘Environment’) is the key ingredient; it is more important than Customer or Counting. An organization’s ‘Culture’ powerfully affects its members, their relationships with all of those they serve, and their ‘work.’ Just as powerful, and at times even more powerful, are the many sub-cultures that exist within organizations. These sub-cultures are composed of the different ‘divisions,’ or ‘departments,’ or ‘teams’ or ‘disciplines’ (for example). They are cultures within the Culture. Too often the sub-cultures are in conflict with other sub-cultures or with the Culture itself. These conflicts are frequently rooted in values, needs, wishes, wants, desires, goals, or ‘politics.’

Commitment is also different from ‘Loyalty.’ Historically the led are ‘Loyal’ to the leader and as we well know this can lead to great harm being done. Commitment means that the leader and the led intentionally and purposefully emerge clear agreements that all embrace. Then, because of their commitment and their agreements, they are more willing to hold one another accountable when an agreement is not kept.

Remember, I say to myself, ‘Commitment’ is not a word, it is an act. As the author Arthur Gordon noted: “Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them day after day.”

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The human Species consists of human persons. This person is an individual in his/her own right AND yet is not an isolated or solitary individual. Each person has a fundamental link, tie, similarity with all human persons. What is this link? It is our common humanity.

The nature that each of us shares with all other humans is a ‘natural’ communality into which we are born. We are born, we come into life, as members of a Species. One of the major characteristics that separates us, that sets us aside, that distinguishes us from all other beings is our capacity for altruistic love, for friendships of a certain kind. Of course, we have choice and so we can choose to overlook, or even deny as we sometimes do, our kinship with the other(s) and refuse our kindness.

We can also choose to recognize our kinship, we can recognize the other(s) as naturally connected to us and together we can then choose to create friendships. Depending upon our motivation – and the other’s motivation – we can choose to form friendships in two ways. (1) We can form friendships for our own sake, for our own use, for our own pleasure. (2) We can also together form altruistic friendships rooted in altruistic motives. These friendships are the tap roots that nurture, support and sustain what some have called ‘true community.’

BUT, how does one’s altruistic motivation tie people together; how does altruistic love enable people to deeply connect in ways that egocentric love does not?

One key to altruistic love, Rumi reminds us – as does Aristotle, is the process of identification. Consider that in order to love another altruistically, I must identify with that person as MY OTHER SELF. Rumi, a Sufi mystic, suggests that ‘A man hasn’t truly loved until he looks at another and says, Hello Myself!’ The root of ‘identify’ means to ‘make the same as.’ For Aristotle a true friend sees the other as his other self. He makes the other’s welfare his own, loving the other in his very identity as a unique person, wish him for his sake, to flourish fully as the person he is called to be in the world. The welfare of the other becomes his own welfare as well.

There is an example that we are familiar with. There is the loving parent who seeks the child’s welfare for the child’s sake, expecting no return in kind. The child will probably never know all that was done on his or her behalf by the parent. The healthy development of the child as a unique human being rooted in the community that is the family is the parent’s goal. I am thinking of the parent who has received custody of a child after a very nasty custody battle; within a month the custodial parent realizes that the child needs to live with the other parent and then ensures that this occurs.

Aristotle and Rumi are clear: friends love each other for each other’s sake.

When I then wonder whether I have friends, and who they are and how many, I find myself pausing and asking not whether others love me, but whether I love the other(s) and how well do I love? The love may be reciprocal – and deep down I want it to be so – but the act of loving the other(s) is the tie that binds. Paradoxically, when I love this way I am loved in return.

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Yesterday I was about to putt. I had a five foot, downhill, putt that broke sharply from left to right. If I made the putt our team halved the hole. As I was looking at the line I heard my self say: ‘Hit it firmly and softly.’ I stepped back and laughed. The other 3 players looked at me. I said, ‘I just gave myself some advice.’ My partner asked: ‘Was it good advice?’ Ah…gentle reader that is the question. Later that afternoon I began to think about ‘Advice. . .Good is it?’

I recalled a story (remember, one never lets facts interfere with a good story). The great Red Sox player, Ted Williams, was once asked what really irritated him during a baseball game (an interesting question in and of itself). His response did not have anything to do directly with him – and this is why the story has stayed with me. He said that what irritated him was when the following occurred; which it did often during the long baseball season. It is late in the game, there are men on base and the other team’s ‘big hitter’ is coming to the plate. The manager calls ‘Time Out!’ and walks to the pitcher’s mound. The catcher follows and the third baseman comes over. The manger takes the ball, looks intently at the pitcher and gives the following advice: ‘Don’t give this guy anything to hit.’ He pauses and adds: ‘Don’t walk him either.’ The manager gives the ball back to the pitcher and walks away. WHAT?! Williams noted that it was obvious to the pitcher that he should, in this situation, not do either of those things; of course he doesn’t want to give him a pitch to hit AND of course he doesn’t want to walk him. The pitcher already knew this. ‘Advice…Good?…Not!’

Consider that ‘Advice that is Good’ is clear and specific and addresses the specific situation. Yesterday, for me, the clear and specific information that emerged into my consciousness was: ‘Spot’ (if I roll the ball over this spot I have a great chance of making the putt) and ‘Speed’ (the pace is crucial). There is no guarantee that the putt will be made (yesterday it was, by the by).

The baseball manager might have said: ‘In THIS SITUATION it is more important to throw a strike because we don’t want this guy walked.’ Or… ‘In THIS SITUATION it is better to walk him than to give him something to hit.’ The manager assess the situation from a focused and from a broad point of view (the pitcher must remain focused on this batter and on this pitch).

As I did with my initial putting advice, too often in giving advice we want it all (e.g. ‘hit it firm and softly’ or ‘Don’t give him anything to hit AND don’t walk him’). The best advice doesn’t always get us what we need, want, wish for or desire; it does, however, increase our chances of getting some, if not all, of what we need, want, wish for or desire.

Organizations offer themselves this type of ‘want it all advice:’ ‘Be creative but don’t take risks!’ ‘Experiment and make sure we get (good) results.’ ‘Be Innovative and Be Stable.’ I’ve heard managers give the following advice to a team that has been charged with hiring a new member for the team: ‘It’s your team, make the hire. Oh, before you make the hire check with me to get my o.k.’

‘Advice. . .Good is it?’ Gentle reader, how is your Advice…Good is it?

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