header
"In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the road to action."
Dag Hammarskold

Get Leadership Notes by Email

Good afternoon, and I trust that you are enjoying the summer season. I was thinking recently about creativity.

There is a powerful choir of voices in theological circles that argue that the universal reason for existence of all life is "creativity." Harvard academic Gordon Kaufman is one such voice whose book, "In the beginning, Creativity" plays on the opening lines of the Christian text attributed to John, "In the beginning was the Word."

What happens to the way we frame our world when we imagine that it exists to conceive, birth, nurture, develop, and honour creativity? I suggest that under such a frame, creativity moves from being a hobby to being a vital part of our very being. And our one of our key responsibilities then is to ensure that not only are we living a creative life, but that the people in our organizations (and our families) are living a creative life as well.

A creative life is one that transforms, challenges, creates, engages, records, re-arranges, and re-generates, to use only a few of the many words possible. You are responsible for living a creative life for yourself, and for as many people as you touch.

May it be so for you and for all of the people in your life.

Good afternoon.

My friend and colleague, The Ven. Dr. Ellen Clark King preached a fine sermon yesterday, and one of her comments inspires today's reflection. She noted that after a particular experience, there was a silence, "because there are times when words are not adequate."

And then, I was reading the work of coaching mentor and teacher Dr. Marilyn Atkinson, who notes that human language , as we know it, using our 'voice box', may be only about 50,000 years old.

As leaders in our culture, you and I are often expected to "respond appropriately" and that often means to verbally respond. I suggest that sometimes, responding verbally is not appropriate because "words are inadequate" and/or our language system is not evolved enough to articulate the depth of the emotions involved. For example, one of the lessons I learned while in my internship in palliative care, was "don't just do something, sit there."

As a leader you will need to respond verbally during difficult challenges and emotionally charged events. Do not however, be afraid of silence, it may be the most appropriate response.

I hope you find some quiet time for yourself this week.

 


I trust this week holds promise of both challenge and creativity for you

and your team.

 

For some of you, this will be the first Leadership Notes you've

received. The idea first started with a purely internal note to my

colleagues at CUSOURCE, Credit Union Knowledge Network, and has been

growing ever since. If this is your first, I thought you might enjoy it

and get some benefit. It is a short weekly notes and reflection on

leadership and like issues. People have found it "profound", "helpful",

"insightful", and I hope you do too. If you don't want to receive it,

just email me back and I'll take you off the list. If you know of

someone else you think might like it, just email me and cc them and I'll

get their email added.

 

To the subject at hand...

 

I've been thinking about risk management recently. It struck me that for

all the work that has been done around managing the risks in our

businesses and organizations; for example identifying, and assessing the

key risks the organization faces, and then working through a process to

mitigate those risks, we've likely been missing a key factor. Perhaps,

as leaders we need to ask ourselves, what are the risks inherent in me?

By identifying those, then assessing their likelihood and impact, and

then working to make changes, I become a better leader.

 

For example: what default behaviours do I exhibit that are not healthy?

what parts of me am I blind to? what parts of me am I embarrassed about?

 

 

By exploring these items as risks to be mitigated, they may lose some of

their power in your life. And without their power, they become easier to

manage.

 

I hope this week is filled with adventure for each of you.

 

Alisdair

As is often the case, I was inspired for today's article by a conversation. Talking about the issues facing a work team, a leader was concerned about how the common ground between issues was being missed, and as such resources were being used to "fix" one issue, and just as that was dealt with, another issue popped up.

This reminded me of a most interesting biological piece of trivia. The largest living thing in the world is not a blue whale or an elephant, but is most likely a mushroom. Living in eastern Oregon the mushroom covers some 2,200 acres underground. (I appreciate the Great Barrier Reef in Australia may be larger, but this is a single organism). The mushroom, called, Armillaria ostoyae, maybe over 7000 years old. And it's only visible parts are small shoots, mushrooms, that break through the surface.

The thinking point is clear, when as a leader we look at a particular issue, it often helps to go below the surface, what is feeding the issue? There may be a deep and wide ranging common issue to a number of smaller frustrations you and your team face. And if you can identify the underlying mushroom, you may well find it has been living in your organization for a very long time.

Keep this huge mushroom in mind as you face your day to day problems. It may well be where you need to address some resources.

Hope this week gives you an opportunity to unearth something in your organization.

Leadership Notes Dec 1 08

 

I've just finished a 10 k run and am feeling very strong. Although it sounds perhaps trite, there is something very powerful about feeling fit. For those of you who have not seen me in the past year or so, or who have not met me, I have lost 60 pounds in the last 18 months, so I intimately feel the difference between being fit and not being fit.

 

I have been asked by any number of people how I did it, and my usual response has been that I tried something new, exercise and eating right! There is a third factor, that I've come to realize is as important. I've been working on myself internally too. I've been using the metaphor of "fighting dragons", exploring the deep issues of my self that have been at work in my life for these many years. When I told my closest friend that I had officially reached the 60 pound mark, the reply was deeply touching, "that's a lot of dragons!"

 

The work on self has many facets and one is that we need to free our hearts. For many of us, our hearts are encapsulated, protected, and blocked off from our workplaces and from ourselves and our co-workers. In fact, one way of thinking about excess weight is that it is in some sense both protecting and blocking access to and from your heart. And it is your heart that makes you a leader!

 

If you're having difficulty losing weight and keeping it off, it might be time to do away with the diets, and start to consider what work you need to do with yourself, what dragons do you need to fight? And once you've dealt with some of them, the pounds you worked so hard at losing may well stay off.

 

Have a wonderful week!

 

Alisdair

Last week, I came upon a remarkable quote, attributed to Tina Turner:
 
 "Inside yourself, you shouldn't be running all the time."
 
 And it strikes me that the initial send of this edition of Leadership Notes was done in error, because I was running inside, trying to do too many things at once!

Stillness and contemplation are important for us as leaders, as they lead to calmness, quiet strength and gaining wisdom. Most importantly, the stillness inside is about being comfortable in our own skin, caring for and honouring ourselves as human beings, not just as consultants, CEO's, partners, lovers, parents, or the multitude of roles we take on.
 
An old rabbinic adage holds that a person who does not have an hour for him/herself everyday, is a slave.

How do you find time to be with yourself? Be careful of thinking that driving, listening to music or exercising listening to your ipod are being with yourself. To be truly with yourself requires silence and attention to yourself. Go for a walk by yourself, sit for a half hour in a quiet space in your home. See what comes into your mind in that time. You'll be surprised!
 
My hope for all of us this week is that we each find time for ourselves, to be alone with ourselves, and to plant and nurture the seeds we find there.