"The four most important words in any organization: 'what do you think?'"
Dave Wheeler

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

Word count this issue: 376

Estimated reading time:  2:40


I was standing on a commuter bus this morning heading into a series of in person coaching sessions. The woman seated to my left was reading a magazine with the following quote set out in the type:


“Freud said that psychoanalysis is a ‘cure through love’, and I think that is essentially correct. The love is conveyed not so much in the content as in the form: the rapt attention of someone who cares enough to interrogate you. The love stows away in the conversation.” (Gary Greenberg interviewed by Zander Sherman “Who are You Calling Crazy” The Sun, July 2016 Issue 487)


(I asked her permission to take a picture of it.)


I was struck by the idea of holding someone in “rapt attention.” From a leadership perspective I think “rapt attention” drives being a “servant leader.” (https://www.greenleaf.org) And as fortune would have it, one of my coaching clients and I spent a little bit of time exploring servant leadership this afternoon. Importantly, servant leadership is not “slave” leadership, or “roll over and play dead” leadership. We are instead serving people to be the best they can be. That may well mean that I cajole, challenge, provoke and push against a person, and I do that in service of their growth. And I know that too much cajoling, challenging, provoking and pushing will invariably be understood by the other person as a threat and when we are threatened too much, we stop being our best.


The idea of “rapt attention” focuses me on attending to the needs and potential of the other person. I am giving them “love”, even when I am saying no. 


Here are three boundaries (besides rapt attention paid to the other person) to ensure that your ‘no’ is from a servant leader perspective:


  1. The ‘no’ is focused on the other person’s growth 
  2. The reason for the ‘no’ is clear to all concerned
  3. You and the other person have a clear understanding that part of your role is to say ‘no’ from time to time.



May this week be one of rapt attention and saying no with love.