"It's what you learn after you know it all that really matters."
John Wooden

Get Leadership Notes by Email

Good evening, and I hope that you were able this weekend to find time to be thankful for the joys in your life and work.

I've been reading a very interesting book on change in religious communities called "The Sky is Falling" by Alan Roxburgh. In it Roxburgh notes two 'tribes' in organizations.

One is the "liminal" group, who have been trained to manage and lead in certain ways and means. He writes, "We're good at it and we have a suitcase full of special tools to accomplish this task. We have letters after our names that validate our skills, and titles that identify us as certified experts. The only problem is no one cares anymore."

The other is the "emergent" group. "These are people who have never known anything but change in their lives. Weary of fighting internal battles about meaning, control, and power, they've all but given up on existing ... structures, believing them to be institutional, archaic and out of touch with the demands of today's postmodern culture."

What has interested me is how these descriptors can help us understand the people in our organizations a little better. In changes in your organization, who are the liminal folks, whose years of wisdom can help with lessons learned, and who are the emergent folks, interested in pushing your organization in new and exciting ways. Our challenge is to keep the two groups talking to and learning from each other. And to note for ourselves, which group we fall into. Are we hanging on to old ways because that is where we're comfortable with, or are we ignoring possible wisdom as we 'revolutionize' our organization.

May this week be one filled with learning for you from both the liminals and the emergents in your organizations.


Good morning from Gate 34J at Vancouver International Airport. A high pressure system promises warmer than usual temperatures and I'm excited about the week's work ahead. I hope the week is as filled with promise for you too.

I was thrilled to have lunch late last week with a former teacher and now friend, Rabbi Dr. Robert Daum. Robert is a scholar and theologian who has been an extraordinary influence on my professional life for the last number of years.

In the midst of our wide ranging dialogue, Robert mentioned that in the rabbinic traditions, one did not 'teach' a text to a student, one 'learned' a text with a student.  As a teacher myself, I found that shift in perspective very powerful. And as I thought more about it, I realized that leadership could be reframed in a similar way; leading is not something we do to people, it is what we do with people.

As you lead this week, consider, what insights are being shared, what are you learning while you lead, what are you learning from the people whom you lead, what can you do differently to ensure that you are learning from the team as you lead?

I hope that this week gives you ample opportunity to learn and lead at the same time.

Good morning, I trust this note finds you engaged and enjoying your work and passion.

I had the great priviledge of attending the most recent Connecting for Change Dialogue in Vancouver, produced by my friend Charles Holmes and an amazing team. It was held at Christ Church Cathedral and under the auspices of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education. -n one section, we worked in a World Cafe model, under the direction of World Cafe co-developer Juanita Brown, and a student of hers, Samantha Tan. We engaged with questions around our passion, our gifts, and the work we do to change our corner of the world for the better. If ever one of these Connecting for Change Dialogues comes to your town, you owe it to yourself to go!

One of my dialogue partners was the singer-songwriter Beth Neilson Chapman, and we were talking about creativity. She said, "Creativity is waiting patiently for the noise in your mind to quiet down."

I mentioned the book "In the Beginning, Creativity" by Gordon Kaufman who argues that the Divine Spirit is creativity, that force in the universe that creates and re-creates. It is that force that we humans are able to tap into by quieting our minds.

As leaders it is vital for us to find moments like the Connecting for Change Dialogues, like a walk on the beach, a meditative or prayer practice or a quiet time looking out the window of an office, allowing our minds to quiet down, and let creativity enter our minds. You'll be surprised by what she brings to you.

It is my hope that you find some time this week to quiet you mind and let patient creativity in. You might just be able to find a new way to change your corner of the world for the better.


Good afternoon to one and all. The sun has come back after a bit of shock this morning as Vancouver had 5 cm of snow! How to deal with change, eh?!

One of the recipients of this Leadership Notes, Richard Leggett responded to the mention of anger as necessary for change, in last week's email this way:

"In Bertold Brecht's play, 'Mother Courage', set during the Thirty Years'
War in the German states, the lead character, Mother Courage,
distinguishes between two kinds of anger using images taken from forging
iron.  'Red' anger is the anger of youth, an anger that quickly flares
up and, in the end, accomplishes very little.  'White' anger, an anger
that comes from considering the injustices of life, is far more
powerful, able to heat iron to the point of being able to change its
shape and constitution.  When she speaks to a young soldier who is weary
with all the fighting, Mother Courage, who has lost children, goods and
home, tells him that his anger has not yet become 'white' and will pass.
Her anger is 'white' and will not pass, even if peace comes.  'White'
anger is perhaps the anger that contributes to change."

Thank you Richard! And honouring my commitment to you that Leadership Notes always be short, I'll use Richard's comments as a starting place for us. I wonder, what parts of your life as a leader are driven by white hot anger, what injustices move you to action? And, what barriers are there that block your way to act?

Anti Vietnam War activist and Presbyterian Minister Bill Coffin used a benediction that went in part, "for the world is now to small for anything but truth and to dangerous for anything but love."  I wonder if white hot anger tempered with truth and love, might in fact change your world.

Have a wonder-filled and profound week!


Good afternoon everyone!

This week marks the beginning of Fall in this part of the world, but the sun is shining and temperatures are summer like. The few palm trees here in Vancouver seem very happy!

A teacher of mine gave me an important insight this week. When we're talking with our colleagues, our reports, even family members, an important question to ask ourselves is, "why am I talking?" There are a couple of reasons for this; one, if I'm talking, I'm not listening and two, silence is a very powerful tool.

To drill down, generally people will want to fill the vacuum in a silence, so if I fill it, I'm missing a great opportunity to hear another person's story. And subtly, the silence can allow for thinking time, the person I'm engaged with might well benefit from quiet time to think. Give them that time by staying quiet.

I hope that the warmth of the sun this week warms you this week, and that all of us have some quiet time, particularly while we're talking with each other.


Good afternoon, it's still cold here on the west coast, but I remain confident that summer is coming. Of that I am sure. I am less sure of most other things in my life. And I'm becoming less and less confident that "leaders" in the American financial services sector can be called leaders.

If leadership is about helping navigate people through difficult times, the senior executives at AIG would be dismal failures. Cornered by fear and greed they appear to have developed a bunker mentality that says, we'll protect our own, at the cost of their credibility, and their integrity. They have fallen into the trap of legalism around the employment contracts that they appear almost desperate to honour, while not honouring the fact that such incompetence, carelessness and poor decision making in most other environments would result in terminations.

Let's then take a look at ourselves and our organizations. Are we so loyal to some in our organization that we would not terminate them? Does our corporate culture honour integrity as well as financial performance? If our organization made some fundamental errors, what would we do?

I trust that such events never happen in your organization, but let's make sure that we take lessons, even from such terrible operators.

I hope you have a wonderful and creative week.