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?
Kathryn Alexander, MA: futurist, speaker, author coach, her systems thinking approach to values and ethics enables deep change by impactful leaders.