Archive for September, 2016

As the Oracle at Delphi reminded leaders thousands of years ago, a Leader must ‘know thyself.’  Part of knowing one’s self involves coming to understand one’s ‘Thinking Style’ (among a number of ‘different styles’ that the Leader must come to understand).  Given his or her primary thinking style the Leader then ensures that the other thinking styles, via other individuals’ are utilized.

 Many years ago Robert Bramson wrote ‘The Art of Thinking’ and in it he described five thinking styles.  He also provided a questionnaire that when completed one’s preferred thinking style would be identified (‘preferred’ means that when the pressure is on this is the default thinking style the person relies upon).

Here is a brief description of Bramson’s five thinking styles (each Leader will probably have access to a number of them AND one will be his or her preferred style) – the following are not rank ordered; all are important.

According to Bramson, “Synthesists are creative thinkers who perceives the world in terms of opposites.  When you say black, they think white, when you say long, they think short.”  To connect with Synthesists, Bramson suggests “listen appreciatively to their speculation and don’t confuse their arguing nature with resistance.”

According to Bramson, “Idealists believe in lofty goals and standards.”  To connect with Idealists, Bramson suggests “associate what you want to do with these goals of quality, service, and community good.”

Pragmatic Thinkers
According to Bramson, “Pragmatic thinkers are flexible, resourceful folk who look for immediate payoff rather than for a grand plan that will change the world.”  To connect with Pragmatists, Bramson suggests “emphasize short-term objectives on which you can get started with resources at hand.”

Analyst Thinkers
According to Bramsom, “Analyst thinkers equate accuracy, thoroughness, and attention to detail with completeness.”  They are likely to gather data, measure it, categorize it, and rationally-methodically calculate the right answer to any problem you come up with.
To connect to Analysts, Bramson suggests “provide a logical plan replete with back-up data and specifications.”

Realist Thinkers
According to Bramson, “Realist thinkers are fast moving doers who know that reality is what their senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch – tell them it is, and not that dry stuff that one finds in accounting ledgers, or the insipid pages of manual of operations.”  To connect with Realists, Bramson suggests, “If you communicate with Realist bosses as if they were Analysts, you will never get their attention. Rather than gobs of computer-printouts and other detailed information, Realists want a three-paragraph “Executive Summary” which tells briefly what is wrong and how you propose to fix it. For rather complicated reasons, they will often take you at your word if they see you as a qualified expert. You become an expert in their eyes when they know that you’ve assembled a store of facts in which they are interested, and you have proposed a set of actions that they already believe are the best things to do.”

Thinking precedes Doing.  It is crucial that the Leader understands that people reason differently when they THINK about a challenge in order to understand it versus when they intend to take action.  Good Thinking entails engaging all five thinking styles.


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Consider that a person who is, by role-designation, a Leader in a complex system is charged with embracing complexity.  Many years ago I began to understand that there are a number of ‘Attitudes’ that the Leader needs to integrate in order to help him or her embrace and manage complexity.  There are eight attitudes that I invite you, gentle reader, to reflect upon.  During these past 40+ years I have found these to be indispensable for the Leader.

First, an insatiable intellectual curiosity – an interest in everything.  Why?  Because in a complex system ‘everything’ is related to and impacts everything else and therefore, ‘everything’ is related to what you choose to do or not do.

Second, the Leader demonstrates a genuine interest in what other folks think – he or she seeks to understand not only ‘what’ the other(s) think, he or she seeks to understand ‘why’ the other(s) think that way.  This attitude ties directly into attitude number one – curiosity.

Third, the Leader embraces a special response-ability and responsibility for envisioning an ‘evolving future’ or a ‘transformational future.’  The Leader might not be a ‘visionary’ and so he or she must ensure that ‘visionaries’ are identified and that their voices and visions are invited, considered, and valued: Where there is no vision the people perish!’ is more than a catchy statement.

Fourth, embracing an evolutionary or transformational vision is, among many other things, risky.  The Leader must be a ‘risk-taker.’  Managers are there to ‘maintain’ and Leaders are there to engender visions and take risks.  The Leader who avoids either puts the well-being of the institution at risk for, at minimum, mediocrity and, at maximum, ‘death.’

Fifth, ‘mindsets’ impact all.  For the Leader there are several mindsets that, today, are more important to have than ever before; here are a few of them: the mindset that crises are normal; the mindset that rapid change is normal; the mindset that ambiguity is normal; the mindset that organizational health is not an option; and the mindset that ‘Culture Matters.’

Sixth, the Leader must believe that certain mindsets are inherently detrimental to the institution’s health and the Leader must strive to ensure that they do not take root and that they are not nurtured into life.  Here are a few of them: Betrayal, Cynicism, Fear, Lack of Safety – Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual Safety, Mis-Trust, Subversive, and Mediocrity.

Seventh, the Leader must embrace personal and professional ‘unconditional response-ability’ and ‘responsibility.’  The Leader must believe that he or she is always able to ‘appropriately respond’—and he or she must strive to do so.  The Leader must also prepare him or herself so that when it is necessary he or she can appropriately react (always being responsive rather than being appropriately reactive when necessary can actually put folks at risk).  The ‘key,’ of course, is to be able to determine when it is crucial to be responsive and when it is crucial to be reactive.

Eighth, the Leader strives to develop an ‘optimistic attitude.’  Leaders who hold a ‘pessimistic attitude’ infect those in the organization with a dis-ease that, overtime, might well become cancerous.

I leave us this morning with two quotations – quotations that have helped me when it comes to the ‘attitudes’ that I hold.  The first is from the ‘Father of Stress Management’ and the second is from a holocaust survivor:

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one. –Hans Selye

 Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. –Viktor E. Frankl


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After I graduated from High School I spent a year in a Monastery.  This year held a number of ‘Firsts’ for me.  One of my ‘Firsts’ during this year involved my becoming aware of ‘leadership’ – the relationship between the Leader and the Led.  Today, more than 54 years later, I am still intrigued by this concept.  Recently as I was leafing through a pile of documents I found a piece I had written a number of years ago.  The focus was ‘Leadership Considerations.’  I re-read and re-reflected upon what I had written; I have been carrying it with me in my shoulder bag for some time now.  This morning I decided to share some of the ‘Leadership Considerations’ as one or more of them might be helpful to you, gentle reader.  As with most of my ‘notes,’ these notes are ‘incomplete’.

Gentle reader, as you might recall I am a ‘depth-educator’ and ‘thought-partner’.  As a ‘depth-educator’ I strive to help those I serve identify and/or affirm gifts, talents, skills, competencies, abilities, potentials, and capacities and then I strive to help folks develop them or develop them more fully.  As an educator (educare = to call forth), I strive to help the person I serve ‘call forth’ what often lies hidden deep within him or herself.

My major ‘tool’ for serving others in this way is ‘inquiry.’  In Plato’s ‘Meno’ Socrates demonstrates the power of inquiry to call forth that which is ‘hidden’ within a person (if you have not spent time with Plato’s ‘Meno’ and you want to know if ‘virtue’ can be taught then you might find the ‘Meno’ to be helpful).  Like Socrates, I believe that each person holds deep within him or herself many ‘potentials’ that are lying dormant and are waiting to be called forth.  For me, ‘inquiry’ is a major tool I use to ‘call forth’ the potential that lies dormant and deep within.

As a ‘thought-partner’ with others – especially with role-designated leaders – I help, again mainly through inquiry, the person (or persons if two or more folks are involved) think more broadly and deeply about his or her challenges, paradoxes, dilemmas, polarities and problems. There are three types of questions I offer: questions to respond to immediately, questions to respond to within a period of time and questions ‘to hold’ – or as the great poet Rilke notes, questions ‘to live’ so that someday one might live into the answer [by the by, consider that the most powerful questions are questions that come from a place of ‘not knowing’].

In addition to offering the person questions that stretch, challenge, and broaden the intellect I offer ‘considerations’ and invite the person to spend time reflecting upon them.  As we think together we engage in ‘searching conversations.’  These conversations are ‘searching’ because neither of us ‘knows’ the answer [by the by, a searching conversation might well emerge more questions than ‘answers’ and an ‘answer’ might not provide a ‘solution’ for the major of challenges a leader engages are not problems to be solved].

Speaking of ‘Considerations’ – that is, ‘Leadership Considerations’…

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Thus far, historians agree:  ALL who live in the United States are descended from immigrants, refugees or folks forced to come here (think: slaves, convicts and indentured servants, etc.).  Our Statue of Liberty is clear as to what we, as a Nation, are committed to: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

My father’s family immigrated to Massachusetts from England in 1635 (I am a descendant of Edward Winship born in England in 1613).  My mother’s family immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1872 (five years before Ellis Island began to register immigrants).  Gentle reader, do you know when your family immigrated (by choice or by coercion) to America?

Given the current intolerance for immigrants and refugees that many of those in our country embrace I thought it would be helpful to remind us of both our heritage – we are truly a country of immigrants and refugees – and our commitment to embracing them – which is literally written in stone on the Statue of Liberty.  Our ‘heritage’ became our ‘commitment’ and our growing intolerance puts both at risk.

Now, I am going to up the ante for those of us who espouse to be Christians.  Jesus-The-Christ was crystal clear that we have an obligation to live into and out of our ‘in-stone-commitment.’  I will provide us one example which comes from Matthew, Chapter 25.  Jesus-The-Christ leaves us no wiggle room when he offers us The Judgment of Nations [‘Nations’ is a key word]

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them [the Nations] one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”   

The ‘Good Christians’ who are refusing to invite and embrace those immigrants and refugees who are seeking safety within our Nation – especially, I think, our elected officials who are ‘Good Christians’—are in for a rough time when their leader, their God, their Savior arrives for the ‘Final Judgment’ – the ‘Judgment of Nations.’  Jesus-The-Christ was clear; He did not mince words.  ‘Let He Who Has Ears’ heed His words.  By the by, ‘Good Christians,’ your self-judgment speaks volumes.

When I share Jesus-The-Christ’s words with ‘Good Christians’ I often hear these words bursting forth from their lips: ‘But we are afraid for our lives!’  Lest you forget: The three words most often repeated in Scripture are: ‘Be Not Afraid!’  Your ‘fear for your human lives’ reveals your lack of trust in God; it exposes you for a person of little faith and less belief in Jesus-The-Christ.  Perhaps your ‘fear for your human lives’ also reveals your ‘non-belief’ in a ‘final judgment’ and in an eternal ‘life-here-after.’

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Ever since we humans began to record our history we have noted the violent acts of the revolutionary.  With the advent of certain technologies we are now instantly made aware of a revolutionary violent act that occurs almost anywhere in our world.  Violence has always been one revolutionary way.  However, there is another revolutionary way.  This ‘way’ has also been with us since we began to record our human history.

This revolutionary way seeks to transcend our human predicament.  Within this ‘way’ we humans become aware that the choice is not between ‘this world’ or a ‘better world’ but, today, it is a choice between ‘no world’ or a ‘new world.’  This revolutionary way is better than world-suicide.  This revolutionary is convinced that our world is heading for the edge of the cliff, that Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Syria are but a few of the names that indicate how we kill ourselves as a result of our own absurdities and illusions.

For this revolutionary, no adaptation, temporary cease fire, or ‘victory’ can help.  For this revolutionary the progressives and the conservatives, the left and right-wing radicals are fooling themselves by seeking to make an intolerable suicidal situation a little more tolerable (think: ‘Peace in Our Time!’).  This revolutionary is weary of pruning trees and clipping branches; this revolutionary wants us to pull out the roots of a sick society and of a sick world.

This revolutionary no longer believes that more peace talks, that more corporate pressure against air and noise pollution, more anti-poverty programs and equal-rights legislation will save our world that continues to be dominated by extortion, oppression, greed, self-serving, and exploitation.

This revolutionary’s goal is not a better human being, but a new human being.  The new human being will be supported, not by ‘weapons’ (technological, economic, or militaristic) but will be rooted in and motivated and supported by compassion, empathy, and love.

Perhaps it is too late for us to evolve – or is it ‘to transform’ – into this new human being.  Perhaps our current, and growing, suicidal tendencies, visible in the growing imbalance seen and experienced in our national cultures (think: more fear, more suspicion of the ‘other,’ more war-like posturing, less compassion, less understanding, less empathy, and less love) have taken us to a point of no return.

Thankfully, this ‘new’ revolutionary believes that all is not lost, there is hope; the ‘situation’ is not irreversible and that a total reorientation of mankind is just as possible as is a total self-destruction.  The ‘new’ revolutionary does not believe that this reorientation of mankind will occur in a few years or even in a few generations.  The ‘new’ revolutionary bases his or her commitment on the conviction that it is truly better to give your life than to take a life, and that the value of one’s actions does not depend upon immediate results (this idea alone is a challenge to we humans who are seeking immediate gratification; our growing addiction to our IPads, IPhones, computers and ‘tablets’ feeds our growing need for immediate gratification).

The ‘new’ revolutionary lives rooted in a vision of a ‘new’ world – one more just and more caring – and he and she refuses to be sidetracked by the many addictions running amok in the world or by the trivial ambitions of the moment.  ‘The Revolutionary Way’ transcends our present condition and moves us from a passive fatalism to a radical, life-giving, activism.

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