"Conservatism is the worship of dead revolutions."
Clinton Rossiter

Get Leadership Notes by Email

Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 306

Estimated reading time:  2:00 minutes



Hello from New York City! My brain is full! I’ve just spent two days with my ‘tribe’ at the annual Neuroleadership Summit. An absolutely wonderful experience once more.


One profound insight, that has really got me wondering, came from a breakout group with a panel including Lisa Son, PhD. the chair of Psychology at Barnard College. https://barnard.edu/profiles/lisa-son Son argues that contrary to the worries of minds like Stephen Hawking about how AI was making computers more human, her worry is that we humans are becoming more valued as machines.


We were expected to be quick, predictable, manageable and low or no cost to the organization. We are expected to be confident and correct. She said, “have you ever met a humble robot?”


I am going to be very prescriptive here: assuming Dr. Son is correct, (and I am terrified that she is right) we are moving towards a new kind of slavery. Do everything in your power as leaders to stop, look at each person on your team, in your organization first and foremost as a human being, not a human doing. 


Here are three things to support you in this vital work:


  1. Every human brain is wonderfully creative, given even half a chance; created space for people to flex their brains.
  2. Every person has a complex story, give us opportunities to tell our stories and to listen to other people’s stories
  3. Take time every day to reflect on your own learning, and invite others to do the same. That way you will be more likely to value mistakes as opportunities to learn.



I wonder what you think? What connections are you making as you read these words?


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 277

Estimated reading time:  1:45 minutes



Greetings from Winnipeg. I’ve just spent a couple of days working with a credit union board, about 2.25 hours west of here. I enjoyed a lovely drive to the airport here, listening to the Robert Kegan (et al) book, An Everyone Culture. It is a great book, inviting us all to consider that 21st Century organizations will be about the thriving and growth of human beings. Very powerful thinking, and I look forward to learning more.


What struck me on this sunny afternoon too were the Fall colours. Nothing like the colours we’ll see from the air this weekend as we fly over New England, but still lovely. We are close on to Canadian Thanksgiving. The farmers are harvesting, the trees are turning bright reds and oranges, and this part of the world begins to prepare for winter.


These two elements; the growth and development of human beings and the turning of the seasons collide in my mind to remind me of the importance of quiet and reflection. in the words of the ancient thinker, “to everything, there is a season.” There is a time to plant, there is a time to harvest, there is a time to grow, there is a time to rest. 



As leaders, assuming Kegan et al are correct, we need to ensure that we are creating time not simply to grow, but to rest, to reflect on our growth and to be quiet. To mirror the seasonal shifts of seed, growth, harvest and quiet in our own leadership practice.


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 210

Estimated reading time:  1:15 minutes


Good morning from a sunny Toronto where I am working with co-op and credit union leaders thinking about the future of the economy. I was reminded today of an interesting piece of etymology. The words ecology and economy are linked through the Greek. Both are rooted in the idea of household, the centre of Greek social structures. (Even their gods had a home on Mount Olympus). The word Oiko means household, and that is the root of “eco.” Nomia means management, and so the word economy is in this way about the management of the household. What is interesting is that the word Logos, means “thinking about” or l”earning about.” Ecology is then when we are thinking about or learning about the household.


I submit that as important as managing the household is, there is a vital earlier step and that is thinking about the household. Whatever your household, be that your department, your company, your social enterprise, your country, or the planet; it is vital that you think about it as a whole before you try to manage it.



I wonder what you think?


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 231

Estimated reading time:  1:40 minutes


Hello from Oakville, where I am again working with a great team and a cool group of learners.


Early in the week, I was thinking about criticism. I wonder if there is a continuum of criticism that runs from one end that is nothing but complaining and projecting to the other end that is about hope and development.  I wonder if we default towards the complaining and projecting because that is so much easier for us, and it is where great drama and entertainment comes. Movies and books would be pretty boring if all people did was criticize in a supportive way. Instead of saying, “how dare you say that to me” protagonists would be saying, “hmmm, thank you I had not considered that.” Pretty low box office returns if that is the focus of the script!


But in real life, when we consciously choose to provide (when invited) criticism that is based on hope and development, we can make a real difference. And when we choose to take criticism from a place of hope and development, we can make a real difference for ourselves.


It comes down to choice for you and I. Do we want to make drama or do we want to make a difference?

Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 343

Estimated reading time:  2:15 minutes


Greetings from a rainy Edmonton where I am working with the Alberta credit union system’s emerging leaders. Smart, curious and committed is how I would describe this group of young executives.


And I am learning as much from them as they might be learning from me. One moment today stood out as we were exploring ideas for the future. One of the group noted that they looked forward to the day when AI and big data would allow him to build relationships with his members, and not simply serve them. Another emerging leader spoke up, saying too much of her staff’s time is spent doing data entry, rather than building relationships. ‘What’, another suggested, ‘would it look like to have all of the member’s info stored already so that a retinal scan prompted gave all that information to the staff person right away.’


I love the way these emerging leaders are thinking. My inference is not that tech is replacing jobs, or turning member or customer experience into line-ups are automated checkouts. Rather, they are seeing the amazing possibility of real relationships between a credit union and its members, moving beyond “service” and towards relationship with individuals. Bringing the private banker experience reserved for the wealthy to the middle class. 


And yes, there are some creepy privacy issues that need to be addressed; retinal scans may not be the correct answer. And, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is clearly not working. It is one of the reasons I love working with emerging leaders; given an opportunity to challenge and provoke their own and other’s thinking they can identify fascinating ideas.



My invitation to you, from what ever industry or workplace you have responsibility in, what are you doing to create space for new ideas, from your own emerging leaders? What’s just one more idea to create more space for such conversations and ideas?


Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 190

Estimated reading time:  1:30 minutes


Hello from Toronto where I am co-leading a 3 day leadership development workshop with a client. My co-facilitator and I came up with a new word I’d like to share with you today.




It refers to someone who thinks s/he knows it all and is sharing that knowledge in a way that becomes annoying to the team. Here it is used in a sentence:


He was so sure of himself, he was aknowying.  


I’d like to suggest that leaders do not want to be seen to be aknowying.  It takes a certain level of humility and curiosity about other people to be a great leader. It takes a willingness to learn, and to be seen to be learning, to be a great leader. Our work in the current Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) times is about growing together, not knowing more than each other.



And so may each day this week be about learning, not knowing, and certainly not about being ‘aknowying’.