"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
Upton Sinclair

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I came across notes from a conference from 2008, where I listened to fellow conference speaker Francoise Morissette present her findings from an important study she co-lead from Queen's University. For more details, see: http://www.leadership-canada.com/en/about.aspx

In this important exploration of leadership development in Canada, Ms. Morisette noted that the most effective means of developing leaders is through an apprenticeship/mentoring process. She outlines the components of such a process as:

• Education so that aspiring leaders can learn frameworks, models and concepts.

• Practice to hone their leadership skills through carefully selected and monitored applications

• Self-Discovery to understand one’s identity as a leader and become aware of motivations and

• Support to alleviate growing pains and sustain development with the help of coaching.

• Community to minimize the sense of isolation and provide opportunities for sharing, problem
solving, and networking.

An important question for us then as leaders becomes, how are we developing the "bench strength" of leadership within our organizations? And using Ms. Morissette's model, what education are we providing for these leaders, what practice are we giving them, what opportunities for reflection and self-discovery, what support as coaches are we providing and what communities are we providing so that they learn from others?

May this week be filled with opportunities to help another leader, or aspiring leader grow a little bit more.

Good morning  all, from AC 236 enroute to Edmonton. I trust that your Easter weekend was filled with people and activities that fed your soul, and that you had ample opportunity to laugh and enjoy your self with family and friends.

I had an interesting moment on Easter Monday, while I was out for a run. My ipod was on shuffle and the song, It's Only Rock n Roll( But I Like It), by the Rolling Stones began to play. A classic Stones' tune, it is famous for it's great "sing a long" kind of chorus, but perhaps more importantly, for the now classic sound of Keith Richards' rhythm guitar for the first time on this track, twinned with Ronnie Wood, playing 12 string acoustic guitar.

I was reflecting as I ran and listened that this band was in many ways an interesting example of a very successful organization. Founded in the early 1960's they still thrive in 2010. While some changes have occurred in the line-up, the core of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and drummer Charlie Watts still  work together well into their 60's. (And of course there is a delicious irony to the fact that Keith Richards, one of the icons of debauchery and over indulgence of our society is being identified as a model in this way! I wonder what he would say if he knew?) What strikes me as most important though is their apparent commitment to a particular purpose. I'm loathe to suggest that It's Only Rock n Roll (But I like It)  is entirely  analogous with the idea of an organization's "deeper purpose," and yet, there is something at play there. These men have stuck to a purpose, a clear and unalduterated commitment to being the best rock 'n' roll band in the world. And look to what that commitment has done: billions of listeners and concert goers entertained, millions of musicans inspired, thousands of people employed over the years, and billions of dollars in revenues and expenses driven through this small group of people.

It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It) is at some level then, an anthem for the organization Rolling Stones Inc. I wonder then as leaders, what is your organization's anthem, what is your organization's purpose? what are you doing, or who are you being around your personal deeper purpose? what difference are you making in the world?

I hope this week brings you fun, challenge, and an opportunity to practice doing what you love most.


Good morning from AC034 enroute to Toronto,


I hope this note finds you well, and that your journeys are filled with adventure and curiousity this week.


James Cameron's Avatar is playing on a screen a couple of rows ahead of me on the aircraft, and I'm smiling thinking, I'm so glad I saw this film on the big screen, because on the small screen on an aircraft seat it loses much of its appeal. I wrote about story and the importance of story in our organizations in the March 15 edition of Leadership Notes, and this edition to some degree follows on that line of thought.


At it's root, despite the great and intriguing special effects, Avatar is a simple story of good and evil, conficting views of how humans relate to the planet, human and divine interaction, love and rebirth and ressurection. It is in that sense both an ancient and deep story that strikes at the core of our human need for meaning and place in the universe. The great leaders of history have understood the importance of human need for meaning and place in the universe. On the terrifying side of human experience, Hitler used the story of the Ayran power mystique to give people meaning and place and created the Holocaust. On the courageous side of human experience, Martin Luther King (and others) used the story of the Isrealites' quest for freedom from Pharoah to give people meaning and place and created the civil rights movement in the United States.


In our organizations, these same needs apply. People need to be able to search for meaning and place and we're all on different paths and places on this search so one size does not fit all! There will be some people in your organization who are looking for meaning and a place through their involvement in the organization. It is evident that by tapping into this need, the organization can in fact attract and retain talented people. But how do we do it? We do it through story.


For example, As a kid, I had felt a strong pull towards the priesthood, and then at the age of 16 my friend Mark was killed crossing a highway, and no one could explain to me why God had let Mark die. I left the church and embarked on about 25 years of sex drugs and rock n roll. I had a great time, learned a lot, and did a lot. And then about 11 years ago my Dad died and I was with him as he died. I was suddenly and completely aware of a Presence in the room, for which I had no vocabulary.


My lovely wife, was at this time singing in the Cathedral Choir in Vancouver and  as was the custom at the time, after the first big service in Advent, approaching Christmas, there was a choir party at the Dean's home. I went, really as a groupie, hanging out with my wife and her musician friends. I stood in the kitchen chatting with the Dean, and as I spoke to him, I realized he might be able to help me come to understand what the Presence in the room with my Dad was, and what it might mean to and for me. I said, "I'd like to talk with you, can we make an appointment?" He said, "of course," and thus began my journey towards ordination.


And to this very day, every First Sunday of Advent, The Dean pulls along side me in our work, and says, "Happy Anniversary."


What do you think this story says about my search for meaning and place? What do you think it says about the cathedral? What do you think it says about who the Dean is? Might this story inspire people to check this place out? Might this story inspire people in other ways? What are the stories in and about your organization and the people who work there? What do those stories say and mean about the organization and about the people who lead there?


May this week be filled with story, meaning and place for you and for those with whom you work.


Good morning and I hope this finds you well.

I've been engaged in some great coversations with various people about 'compassion' and what that might look like in 21st century terms in major cities. (Please have a look at www.charterforcompassion.org)

One of the challenges I think for leaders is how to be compassionate in the workplace. For example, some years ago I was working with an organization with a strong religious affiliation. We had been hired to do some management development with the management group. It struck me that an important question for the group as we began was, if as Christians, we are to 'turn the other cheek', how can we as managers fire someone? How does 'compassion' fit in with the real life of the workplace?

I think that compassion can include firing someone, if we believe deep down that it is in their best interests too. For example, if they are not engaged or challenged in the job, and would likely find different work and a different work environment more healthy. That said, I remain curious, is there room for compassion in the workplace today? What do you think?

My hope this week is that we all find compassion in our lives, and most especially where we work.



A colleague of mine begins her sabbatical next week and I will be only one of many who will miss her. I've been thinking then about absence, and about what happens when leaders leave an organization, what does it mean for the organization and the people it serves?

1. Although there are obvious exceptions, leaders often don't leave organizations that can't be left. Often, when a leader leaves, it's because they know that the organization will thrive in their absence. (Part of the transition period after a leader leaves is in fact the growing pains as the organization comes to it's own conclusion that it will thrive in their absence.)

2. Leaders need sabbatical, opportunities to rest, reflect, learn and grow. Upon their return, they're stronger, rested and their curiosity and engagement renewed and re-engaged, and that is very good for the organization and the people it serves. If it is at all possible, take sabbatical for yourself, and for your organization.

3. Organizations need change in leaders, as people in the organization need to learn new skills and processes without a particular leader and often it is only when that leader leaves that people are forced to grow and learn in that particular and often necessary direction.

And because an a vital part of leadership is self-leadership, my colleague's departure on sabbatical also raises an important question for us individually; what parts of our individual psyche do we need to let go of, so we can thrive and grow without them? Specifically are there behaviours that may have worked in the past, but now no longer are as helpful? For example, for me, my sense of humour has been a great skill for me, and it continues to be, but when and where I use it requires more discernment now as a leader than when I was first starting out in my career. 

May we all find not only the right time to join an organization, but the right time to leave.


Good afternoon everyone, I trust that all is well in your world. I note with a great admiration that Mr. Obama has succeeded where many previous American Presidents have failed, and passed into law a healthcare reform bill this morning. Congratulations to all of our American cousins, and to the future generations of Americans who will benefit. I also acknowledge that this uncharted territory for the US and her great people. I was struck then by the Facebook status update (cut and pasted below) of my 12 year old niece :

"FEARLESS is not the absence of fear. it's not being completely unafraid. to me, FEARLESS is having fears. FEARLESS is having doubts. lots of them. to me, FEARLESS is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. FEARLESS is falling madly in love again, even though you've been hurt before. FEARLESS is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again."

The words are from a young musician, not much older than my niece, Taylor Swift. (I had to look her up on Wikipedia!) Ms. Swift has written a very powerful challenge that all of us, of any age, would be wise to attend. Consider "fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death." We each face change, at a national, corporate familial or individual level most every day. Many of these changes require great courage. I have had conversations with everyday people who have lived "fearlessly" in spite of the those things that scared them to death. In the past 24 months I have met courageous people who have had the following experiences:

Learning they've lost their job
Learning they have cancer
Learning their child has been assaulted
Learning their child is dying
Learning they are moving to a new land, far from family and friends.

Each of these people was afraid. Each of these people had fears. And each one of them was fearless because they lived, in the grandest sense of the word, in spite of the sometimes terrifying presence of job loss, disease, danger, death, and transient work lives. Each one of them continues to laugh, continues to love and continues to be the best person they can be.

I hope that you have an opportunity to be 'fearless' this week, and to live this week with courage, dignity and love. And my our American cousins live fearlessly into this uncharted territory.