..We talk a lot about leadership and we have created many different names or styles of leadership: servant leadership, spiritual leadership, transformational leadership, kinetic leadership, situational leadership, and transactional leadership it name just a few. Then we get into styles: charismatic, authoritarian, democratic, coercive, coaching to name just a few. Confused?
As a leader you are someone who has people reporting to you or you are leading or creating a company or you are creating a change through an organization or group. You have a vision and are working with others to make something happen. Even as a CEO with a stable paying position where you might feel you have the time and resources to delve into finding out what kind of leader you are and what kind of leader might work better in your situation, it can feel a bit like extra work and a deviation from your 'real' tasks - figuring out all this leadership stuff.
I've worked to make it simple for the folks I work with. What is the impact you want to have and then how do yo get there? It doesn't really matter what the form or style is called, what really matters is are yo getting the results, the actions from others, that you need to see? If not then maybe it's as simple as reflecting on the language you use.
We communicate in words, with the assumption that the words we use are understood in the same way by everyone. We know that's really not true. Add in tone of voice and everyone's history and family baggage brings in additional meanings that you have not even considered. The words we use make a huge difference! Fortunately, what we are learning about how our brains work through chemistry and neural networks, is easily translated into a more precise understanding of how people are impacted by words.
Our brains are hardwired in certain ways. When we feel the need to protect our selves, or when we feel distrust, our Amygdala is activated by the chemical cortisol. In this state we are only paying attention to the words that help us deal with the fight or flight responses we feel we need to use to be safe. Visioning doesn't cut it, but rewards or penalty's are relevant.
On the other hand, if we trust the situation and those around us then our Prefrontal Cortex is activated by the chemical oxytocin and suddenly information that was hidden or seen as irrelevant in the protection mode becomes available and we become innovative and willing to co-create. It is the words that we choose to use that enables us to 'up regulate' or 'down regulate' our brain chemistry.
So, think about the words and tone of voice you use. Are you stimulating a felt need for self protection or generating trust and innovation? The choice is yours...
Look at the image above very carefully. A lot is at stake in this election. America will rise again or sink based on the results of the next election. It will be years - maybe decades before we will have this kind of chance to make a difference. Nation-wide 87% of all government seats will be decided.
Being passive as Nazi beliefs, language, and attitudes become normalized is NOT an option. Watching as our health, safety and the longevity of our planet are compromised, is NOT an option. The moral decay of the Republican party has been shocking to see, and yes the Democratic party has problems too, but at nowhere near this level. Changing the guard NOW will give us time to make corrections all around. NOT doing so will limit or eliminate any chance of recovery.
A 'booming' economy is not what it seems. Are YOU any better off? The income disparity will implode and take everything down with it if it is not addressed. Money is flowing - to the top, so the benefits will be short lived and the consequences severe.
Vote - and make a difference!
Fear is old school, but you wouldn't know it the way its being thrown around today. The reality is fear is a tool used by uncreative folks who are fearful themselves. They use fear as:
Fear is a form of control as the need for safety limits creativity and experimentation. thus severely limiting the number of possibilities seemingly available. This ties in nicely with the next use - manipulation. When the range of options narrows it is easy to make suggestions that will be easily and quickly accepted, thus ensuring a desired outcome.
Generating fear in others means that people are too focused on their own safety to really see the limitations and weakness in those creating the fear. When people are afraid of you they are less likely to actually see who you are and only see the projected image that creates the fear. It is the old illusionists trick of creating a distraction so that you don't see what the other hand is doing. And so we come full circle.
Fear is old school because it never goes forward, but strives to take things backward into old patterns and old experiences. New requires the freedom to experiment and explore and yes, even fail. Innovation, growth and discovery require too much energy to be distracted by fear. Fear only results in old habits and old patterns, fear is not able to create.
What's Changed, for Me, In This vision
John and I are old friends, and as such we think in similar ways. When I first listened to his new video I was in complete agreement. Then I got to thinking.
Leadership is all of things he says it is. That said these are new and different times. One of my lessons in the past year has been an increased sensitivity to the pain almost half of our Nation feels that had been invisible before. Part of that pain has been fed by this wonderful vision that both of us share.
For some that vision has been received as an Earth quake. Something that has shaken the ground under them, something that makes them afraid. They see life as they knew it disappearing. they see things they believed being disparage by others. They have felt ashamed for being who they are.
It is for these reasons that I have come to believe that leadership is not just about vision, but about the ability to heal and nurture as well. Leadership is not just about the future, but also about the ability to look back, to slow down and to work to bring others along instead of just expecting everyone to follow along.
I see leadership as being able to translate that future vision into language that feeds the hear and now. Leadership, in these times, requires the skill of connecting the past and present to the future. Instead of 'breaking' with the past, the past needs to be intimately connected to the future. The language that expresses the new vision has to respect the past while clarifying its limitations in ways that do not disparage or denigrate, but explain the limiting implications without blame.
Blame is not the same as responsibility and taking responsibility is not accepting blame. Responsibility is responding with ability to shift and change in productive and healthy ways. If we can get past right and wrong and speak instead of healthy and thriving, whole new options become apparent. What is 'good' is what contributes to health. Thriving is different from growth, but it contains the learning that makes health possible. Making people feel bad does not contribute to health unless there is the support and respect that leads to healing.
Leadership has to evolve to address the needs of the times. We need a North Star, but we also need to care enough for each other that we don't make the journey alone.
Well - this past few months has surely provided a window into issues we didn't even know we had as a nation! Half the country favors an authoritarian style of leadership that isn't a great fit for democracy and more than half want change.
As a lover of change with some expertise in organizational change I can tell you that I've been fighting the false understanding of change (rearranging the chairs on the Titanic) for over 20 years. Doing different things differently - while more effective, is rarely the first choice.
We want change, but we want a change we are comfortable with. We want OTHERS to change - we are fine! We want things to change but we don't want to experience any discomfort. If you don't believe this - let's try a little experiment. You are going to have to DO this. Please cross your arms. I'm waiting....... Now cross them the other way. How does that feel? Did you find you had to think about what you were doing the second time? How long did you keep them crossed the second time? See?
I recently read an article written by a women who had spent many years in Appalachia working with the people there. She said some interesting things. One thing she said was that so many of the people there had had a hard time most of their life. They had never experienced any real success. They constantly tried to make things better, but with small success. The consequences of that consistent experiences were feelings of low self-worth (no one cared), and a disillusion that improvement was really possible.
If we apply that to the recent elections, could the same kind of situation and consequently world view apply? Many people who used to be 'middle class' have seen their jobs and career opportunities disappear. In many families both husband and wife work so time together, time with the kids is almost non-existent. In some families people work two or even three jobs and still they can't make ends meet. These are people who are trying, but still can't seem to create the kind of improvement they desire.
Maybe these people want change. Rearranging the deck chairs is just fine - after all success has eluded them, so why should this attempt be different? Wanting 'change' this much and not really believing in it at the same time might, just might, prompt people to take a risk - to place their bet on an unlikely source - just to see what might happen. Surprise.... Trump!
So now we are here. The real question, and the potential silver lining, is what do we do now? Things WILL be different, and even uncomfortable for some time. What will be our response to the anger, frustration and fear? Our response will determine our future. When things are destroyed there is an opportunity to rebuild. What will we reclaim? What will we create new?
This is a beautiful and scary video of what a year in the life of the planet looks like as the trees breath and inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Each leaf on every tree has millions and millions of 'lungs' that make this cleansing possible. Trees need CO2, but they are getting more than even they can use.
As they loose their leaves in the fall the CO2 in the air remains and builds up. You can see this happening in the video. Is planting more trees the answer? Here in Spokane we lost 2,000 trees to the wind storm in November 2015. The city is planning to plant 10,000 trees each year. i'm sure there are other cities in North America that are doing the same or a similar thing. is it enough?
I think that planting trees is a bit like dieting. When I work to lose weight I know that if I exercise I can eat more food and still stay within my caloric range. When we plant tress does that make us feel that we can keep on producing CO2 because the trees will mean it out of the air? Do planting trees ease our conscience and helps justify our resistance to change?
If you love the Earth - then commit to changing your life so that your life style produces less carbon. support organizations that work to change agriculture in ways that help increase the ability of the soil to absorb carbon. soil is one of THE best ways to cleanse the air of carbon. doing so also increases the health and fertility of the soil, so it's win-win. Take action, be conscious, be a leader!
We are in a situation where those who are paying attention are terrified and those who are not are resistant to change and even in denial about what the future holds. As humans it is very hard to see something that is not within your experience. That is why they say, “You can only teach what people already know.” That does not mean that what cannot be seen is not real, only that the framework for seeing and understanding the new and extraordinary has not yet been built.
When a young child is found wandering in the street, we yank it out of the street, we don’t engage on a program to teach it about cars and the effect of an impact. You can’t do this with adults, especially adults who think: they already know what they need to know; that they are right; that they are too embarrassed to admit that they don’t know. Add to that the timetable for change that the planet has versus the timetable it takes to educate learning phobic adults, and you have some understanding of the issues we face.
I’m part of the ‘yes we can’ crowd and I’ve spent years learning the subtleties of natural systems, so I have some grasp on the crisis we are facing, enough to be very daunted by the task at hand. I vacillate between committed enthusiasm and dejected despair. The task of rebalancing the planets natural systems so that we can return to the regular and comfortable environment we have lived in for the past 65,000 years, appears to be impossible now. It still appears that we may have the ability to slow down the shift and re-balance those systems at a slightly higher temperature range than we have experienced in the past. This is a hope and desire, I’m not sure exactly how real it is, but assuming that we can do that, the implications for the rest of the life on this planet is not at all clear.
Most life forms (us included) live within a fairly narrow temperature range. We are already seeing the migration of birds and animals and in a few cases plants toward the cooler regions of the globe. There are now robins in the arctic. The Eskimos do not have a name for the bird. We may be looking at a decimation of life at the equator as life pushes toward the polar-regions. The impacts on farming and our ability to produce enough food are at particular risk. What to do?
As Dylan Thomas said, I do not expect to ‘go gently into that good night’ but to rage, rage on. It is to that end that I write this book.
Systems thinking is the ability to see patterns, the dynamics formed by the interaction of wholes with each other. We are trained to see only parts and pieces of things. We see ourselves as separate and distinct objects with little or no connection to anything else. Yet we claim to be ‘all one’ and we claim to be a part of a species (humanity) that appear to have some similarities between all of the various objects we call human. We float in and out of wholes and parts when we think about people, or the environment, but for the most part it is pieces we pay attention to. This is very misleading. Because we do not see connections, dynamics or patterns, we are often surprised by our experiences. There is no place where that is truer than in the realm of ethics and values.
What I see most needed at this time in our existence is a love of Life. We are so caught up in fear, or in trying to ‘get it right’ or in ‘success’ that we have forgotten the why. Why are we here? Why do we even care about anything? It seems to me that everything is screaming for love. Everything is seeking love, but we are looking in all the wrong places.
When I look at how we have managed to understand ethics and morality, most of our approaches have been anchored in fear. Fear of others, fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of punishment, fear of appearing silly or unimportant or…. You cannot be in fear and still love Life. In fear you rationalize behavior under the pretext of becoming ‘safe.’ Love is letting go of fear. Christ very famously said, “You can’t serve two masters” and that is true. We cannot serve the ‘master’ of fear and still serve the ‘master’ of love. The only ethic that serves love of Life is the same ethic that nature uses to develop more and more complex life. It is an ethic that makes more important the relationships between life forms, than the life of the individual life forms themselves. The health of the whole is more important than any small part or piece. It is through the health of the whole that the pieces and parts find their health and well-being.
Seeing values as systems is an unusual approach to ethics. This piece is the introduction to my new book, the Evolution of Values. If exploring ethics and values form this fresh and provocative pain of view interests you, then join me. If you would like to help me write by offering feedback as I write, then join me. If you are interested in reading this book as it takes shape and form, being among the very first to engage with these ideas, then join me! Sign up here and let's get started!
In our rush to ‘rethink’ our world we must not forget to think!Robert Reich is making several insightful statements about where we are going and where we may end up if we don’t think ahead. Entrepreneurs and young folks, in general, don’t think about being sick, old, or at the effect of a shifting economy – mostly because it is outside of their experience. The trouble is that all of these will be in their experience, at some time in the future, but if accommodations are not made now they won’t be available then.
The ‘sharing economy’ was construed to create work, which it does. But the deeper ramifications have not been thought through. The rise of both Uber and Airnib have made it clear that there is a dark side to some of these new business models. Designed for young singles or retired folks they are huge traps for anyone trying to create a life! By removing all the support frameworks, as Reich points out, they undermine the very life’s they are purporting to support. We are growing without building the infrastructure that will support that growth over the long-term. This leads to collapse and is unsustainable!
We need to rethink growth, in any case. The issue is NOT about getting bigger, but about getting better, and a large part of better is the creation and maintenance of a sustainable foundation and infrastructure. Innovation is GREAT, but let’s not let greed interfere or undermine our ability to create the world we to live in!
Why are we spiritual? What’s the point? Could it be that the need to connect with something greater than our self and the need to be authentic – to ourselves and each other, is a key driver for humanity? It used to be that one followed a spiritual path to ‘get away from the world.’ In fact, really working on your spiritual development takes time – lots of time, so trying to work, raise a family and also do spiritual practices is really a bit much. Perhaps that is why we moved to religion; practicing a religion keeps the spiritual door open, so to speak, without overloading the system.
Over time the general trend to practice religion as a set of rules worked to separate the emotional/experiencial aspect of spirituality from the emotional/ritual aspect of religion. This means that we have learned to act – if it feels good – without the balance gained from paying attention to the impacts of our actions. So it has become easy to kill others who don’t believe as we do and dismiss the horrible experience of war as just the price we pay. Ruining the environment so ‘people’ have a job seems to make some sort of logical sense, but not much moral sense.
When there were few people and when humanity didn’t have the power it does today that separation didn’t have the consequences it has at this time in our history. With great power comes great responsibility, but we have come to see responsibility as obedience to something outside of ourselves, instead of honoring our own internal experience. I think so much of what we see as PTSD is just that. The consequences of trying to manage the dissonance between what a soldier is being required to do to be a ‘good’ soldier and therefore a ‘good’ person, and what that soldier’s soul is crying out for. Killing women and children is bad – except when they are…(Syrians, Muslims, Kurds, black, Jewish, etc.) the mind understands, but the soul does not.
We have begun to institutionalize this separation, here in the West through our ‘it’s just business’ business practices. Our mind understands profit and loss, but our soul keeps different kinds of accounts. We know that sacrificing others for personal or corporate gain is NOT correct, but our mind and our culture encourage and even reward us for doing just that. We know that water is more important than oil or uranium, our minds know that, but our minds find it easy to rationalize the immediate desire for money, prestige, and social acceptance, over the long-term benefits of health – but our souls know the difference. We are starting to see the consequences of this separation as every system we have put into place is beginning to unravel. The massive upheaval we are experiencing may be giving us pause as we look around and see the world collapsing around us. Maybe.
Our first reaction is usually a band-aid. The education system, for instance is busy using testing to force teachers to teach and students to learn. It’s a bit like yelling at the baby to get it to stop crying. We really, really want things to change, but yelling and forcing, while immediately gratifying, only make matters worse. Rearranging the chairs on the Titanic is not the way to save the ship. Yet what are we to do? We try and force folks to follow the rules, we write new rules and we increase the punishments for not following the rules, but the problems remain. Albert Einstein said it first, “ We cannot solve today’s problems at the same level of consciousness that created them.” In short, we need to think differently about our situation in order to find new and different solutions.
Thinking differently – nice to say and hard to do. I’ve spent my whole life trying to understand how to do that. Spiritual practices are one way, systems thinking is another. I have come to see that value systems are a third. There are ways of learning to see the world with new eyes – eyes so new that our understanding shifts and what seemed difficult becomes easy, what seemed confusing becomes clear. Learning to think differently is not a quick fix. Dr. Deming of Total Quality fame, created user groups so that people could discuss their experiences and learn together how to mange the challenges that came with thinking differently when everyone else was practicing the same old, same old.
When the rules of religion support our ability to listen to that ‘little bird’ inside then they help us create a healthy and sustainable world. When those rules justify actions that make our souls cry out in pain, then they speed us toward social and environmental collapse. The alignment of our values with our actions, noticing the congruence between intent and impact are skills that foster health and create vibrant life-seeking experiences. This is a path that allows us to be authentic and spiritual in today’s world; that is being effective – by any standard.
I’m working on an online course – “We Are Not in Kansas Any More” as an introduction to four strategies that help us think differently. I want to awaken our latent spiritual sensibilities and offer suggestions for methods that might, just might, make a difference in how we see and understand some of the issues we are facing. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, please shoot me an email and I’ll let you know when the course is ready.
The map really isn’t the territory, so when we insist on following the map – even when presented with a mountain that ‘isn’t on the map’, then we are in deep, deep doo doo!
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I went to see Spy with a friend the other day. This is not a movie I’d have chosen and truthfully, I knew very little about it, but I loved it! It was funny and clever and it was a very nice model of pushing women forward. The language, however, was full of F bombs. Now that sort of fit the content, but both my friend and I felt the need to comment on the rather excessive use of that word. I, for one, have always wondered why an act that gives such pleasure would be used to show such disrespect.
Sharon Ellison, in her book Taking the War Out Of Our Words: The art of powerful non-defensive communication gives example after example of how we seek to hide and ‘protect’ ourselves through our choice of words. She demonstrates how our choices of words (tone and body language too) can cause lasting harm, prevent us from achieving what we say we want, and put us on a path of no return as we engage in power struggles instead of co-creation. Words matter!
So many young people use ‘bad’ words to make a statement about their ‘freedom’ and ‘adulthood’. They use the constant stream of epithets to declare that they are big, bad and powerful, at a time when all of those things are up for grabs. I remember doing just that at a certain time in my life. I stopped because I didn’t want people to think of me the same way as I thought about people who used foul language. I also sensed the weakness inherent in using language to demonstrate power when real confidence was lacking. After all, if I was really big, bad and powerful why would I need to use slang and cursing to prove it?
Relationships and Words
Martin Buber in his book, I and Thou, held a rich discussion on the damage of using ‘it’. He described how distancing that word is in relationships. The word ‘it’ objectifies the world and makes everything an ‘other,’ an other that is less than, one that can be/should be ‘managed.’ Robin Wall Kimmerer of the Anishinaabe tribe makes that same point in a more lyrical and heartfelt way in her article, Alternative Grammar: A new language of kinship in the 2015 spring issue of Yes! Her solution, however, is one I find thrilling and very clever. There is no word for the ‘other’ that is relationship-based, in the English language. We need another word to replace ‘it,’ she writes. Her choice is ‘ki’ to refer to living things. Her example, “Oh, that beautiful tree, ki is giving us sap again this spring.” Makes me feel warm and close to the tree. For me the difference is profound – and that’s the point!
Words Impact Climate Change
We ask ourselves what we can do to end global warming and climate change, but language is not the first place we look. Yet we will not make this shift without changing our relationship to the natural world and a good first place to start would be language. I challenge you to take this up in your own life. Replace ‘it’ with ‘ki’ – the plural is ‘kin,’ her example, “Look kin are flying south for the winter, come back soon.” (nice or what?) in your own speech. By doing this you will do a number of things. You will become a warrior for the Earth as you risk the taunting of your friends; you will engage yourself in your own reframing and in a rebuilding of your own awareness of your relationship with life; you will become a bright light – showing the way into the future; and, you will become a model for the kind of deep and lasting change we need to make – as a people – to ensure that we can live on this dear Earth for generations to come.
If you find this small task too daunting, then ask yourself how likely is it others will make the changes you see they need to make? Look into your own commitment and see what it lacks to make the difference that needs to be made. Listen to your own rationalizations about how this is ‘not important,’ too small to make and ‘real’ difference, or what other ‘reason’ you give yourself to not take this very small step.
Climate change requires behavior change, but we won’t change our behavior if WE don’t change our behavior. We gripe about changing light bulbs, about using alternative – anything, and we have ‘real’ and easy excuses about why our actions won’t make an impact, so we can justify our own reluctance to change. At the same time we desperately hope that someone else will make those changes, that someone else will do what must be done, that someone else will save us.
Change your language and change your relationship with all the other beings on the planet. If we can change that, then changing our actions will be a piece of cake. We will find it offensive to do harm to what we love. We will find it outrageous to kill a tree to make a parking lot. We will reduce our own water use so that fish and wildlife may live, as see that action as an obvious one. The first value of the sustainable Values Set is: All actions create the conditions that support Life. Our language should reflect that!
Kathryn Alexander, MA: futurist, speaker, author CIQ coach, her systems thinking approach to values and ethics enables deep change by impactful leaders.