"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
Mother Teresa

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

Word count this issue: 495

Estimated reading time:  2:30 minutes


Since last week’s tragic murders in Orlando, and the reactions on line and in person have been fascinating to observe. Whichever side of ‘life or gun’ debate you are on, or quite frankly any of the issues centred, binary choices we engage in, we fall into a trap. As an example, examine how I framed the gun issue; as a binary choice, you support life, or you support guns. I frame it as a choice and off we go, defining and defending our positions. These binary choices are all around us; right or left, conservative or liberal, politician x or politician y. And these binary choices serve to define us as on one team or another. What frustrates me, and I’m curious about your thoughts, is that my experience is that all of these “issues” are far more complex than simple choice x or y. You and I as humans are far more complex than such binary notions give us credit for.


My colleagues at the Neuroleadership Institute hold that the Pre-Frontal Cortex, the part of the brain that holds our conscious reasoning and logic is about equivalent to a cubic meter of processing power. Meanwhile, the non-conscious brain, that is responsible for everything else we do, is equivalent to the Milky Way galaxy. We are indeed far more complex than we often give ourselves or others credit for.


As leaders especially we need to be very careful about falling into the binary trap. And the most effective way to stay out of the trap is to ask yourself and your team questions like; what do we want to have happen? who do we want to be?  A focus on an envisioned future will help identify desires and opportunities rather than fears and problems. My friend and sometime colleague Avril Orloff, a great graphic facilitator http://outsidethelines.ca tells her clients, “I can’t draw what you don’t want.” I have come to realize her statement is perfect for moving us out of binary traps. If we are simply saying ’no’ to each other and our positions, we will never be able to imagine a new and better alternative to the the status quo. We keep digging our trenches deeper and deeper and sniping and dropping bombs on each other. A pretty dismal drawing of stalemate and disaster. However if we can start to collectively imagine what we want in the situation, in our family, in our community, in our organization, then we our brains will rise to the occasion and the processing power of all of the milky way galaxies on your team will be engaged. Therein lies the magic of creativity and insight. 



And it is in facilitating and creating space for the team to be creative and to have insights that is fundamentally the role of the leader.