Unlocking the Heart and Soul of Remarkable Leadership, Keith Merron
Remarkable Leadership

Archive for April, 2012

Be Gone Ye Pithy Phrases and Clever Platitudes

Monday, April 30th, 2012
I’m going to cheap car insurance rant a bit about leadership platitudes. I search the web from time to time in search of new and exciting information about leadership and life. In the leadership space I am constantly amazed at the repetition of the same old t

hings.. Is it that we just don’t get it—and therefore need to be bombarded with the usual old stuff? Or are platitudes part of the problem?

I find myself wondering about the platitudes I consistently see:
  • “Be a team player”
  • “Vision is everything”
  • “Followers ponder while visionary leaders take action”
  • “Everyone can be a visionary leader”
  • “Change is constant”
  • “Authentic leadership is all about trust and integrity”

While all true, perhaps, I wonder about the efficacy of offering these simple thoughts in a complex world.

So many thinkers and speakers are reducing leadership to a pithy phrase, a clever quote or a well-packaged story. Perhaps this falls on deaf ears because authentic leaders who are struggling with the content of their lives and feeling the weight of responsibility on their shoulders know that leadership is far more complex and change more difficult, such that it cannot be reduced. It is a process, above all else, that requires one to be present in the moment, to find the magical elixir of interventions, offers, requests, guidance, facilitation and force needed to produce a shift. No set of homogenized phrases does justice to the challenge.

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I find myself wondering what I offer to leaders and whether it is any different. The only thing I can say at this moment is that I am committed to the inquiry. I’m not so quick to say: “Oh, just be yourself,” or “you need a vision”, or “tell the truth; it always is the best way,” as I used to do in my younger years. I yearn for a deeper exploration within myself and my clients where the question and the exploration of what is needed is richly contoured, and where solutions are born out of deep reflection and discovery. I find it is far more important to seek and find the right places within which to find one’s leadership, than to quickly offer something that seems on the surface to be appealing.

What if

we were to throw out everything we know about leadership and wonder anew? Might we find something different, and perhaps might that difference make a difference?

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Intervening at the Pattern Level

Monday, April 16th, 2012
One of the CEOs that I coach brought up an issue that I believe is universally crucial for conscious leaders to understand. He shared with me that he was frustrated with the number of people in his organization not acting with a sense of ur

gency, and that he found himself superseding his executives to deal with issues that they should be addressing. One of his managers for example, who leads in unit in a remote site, was not on the ball when the CEO visited. In spite of this he still presented a lackadaisical front. This manager reports to an executive who in turn reports to the CEO. The CEO got frustrated by the manager’s lack of attention and lack of urgency and spoke to them directly about it. In other words, in his frustration he intervened. This was a recurring pattern for this CEO and he shared with me that he was concerned that he was not handling these issues well. He wasn’t. The problem went much deeper than he realized, and his interventions were designed so as to keep the load on his shoulders and maintain dependency. The root of the problem is that the executives themselves are not intervening, and that there is a general complacency among many people throughout the organization. In other words, the CEO’s policy of addressing the smaller issues individually had sidestepped the cause of the problem. The general malaise and inability to recognize it on the part of the executives denotes a cultural problem rather not an individual behavior problem and needs to be addressed as such. In addressing the cultural problem, the CEO has a number of options, including but not limited to:

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  1. Discussing the pattern with the individual executives who tend to avoid raising these issues with their managers.
  2. Exploring the cultural problem as an executive team.
  3. Seeing the identification of a cultural problem in the organization as an opportunity to improve.
CEOs and all leaders who see problems as individual issues are missing the larger pattern, and it is at the pattern level that opportunities for deeper solutions lay. Patterns reveal paradigms and when paradigms shift, so too do cultures. It is the job of the leader to focus on patterns, and conscious leaders see patterns all the time.
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Leadership and Forgiveness

Monday, April 2nd, 2012
I have just been to the 13th Annual Forgiveness Conference here in Marin County and it was wonderfully inspiring. Backed by moving gospel music, which focused on the power of love,

we heard some people speak who have exhibited extraordina

ry acts of forgiveness. What stood out for me was the case of two men who crossed paths almost fifty years ago in Alabama. John Lewis (now a member of the U. S. House of Representatives), a young black man and member of the freedom riders, was beaten by Elwin Wilson, a white man, in the early 60s during a demonstration situated in a “white” waiting room of a South Carolina bus station. When the police asked the bloodied and severely beaten Lewis if he wanted to press charges at the time, Lewis declined and said he would rather extend love and compassion toward Wilson. This extraordinary act moved Wilson deeply and he vowed to change his ways.

Fifty years later their paths crossed with Good Morning America’s help and Lewis publicly forgave Wilson for what he had done. Wilson apologized deeply by saying with feeling, “I’m so sorry about what happened back then.” In return, Lewis said wholeheartedly, “It’s okay, I forgive you.” Wilson has repented, and at the conference he spoke powerfully about how he “loves people regardless of their color.”

The two hugged each other just as they had done on Good Morning America and I could see in that moment the extraordinary power of redemption and forgiveness. We were all moved to tears, not only by the singularly gracious act on both men’s parts, but by the apparent potential for extending forgiveness to others in our own lives.

For a first hand viewing you can visit:

http://podblanc.com/dementia-elwin-wilson-hugs-apologizes-john-lewis

I could not help but think about how the act of forgiveness lifts an enormous burden of guilt on the part of the perpetrator, and how perhaps more importantly, the state of open mindedness that forgiving requires is even more powerful for the giver. When that much love can flow in spite of pain, the pain and anger dissipates and can even disappear0. Forgiving heals the deliverer of forgiveness as much or perhaps even more than the receiver.

For me, the relationship between forgiveness and leadership is evident. Great leaders are understanding. They see the bigger picture and they understand the nature of systems. They get that war begets war, blame begets blame, hatred breeds more hatred. If you see the larger system at play then you will be more willing to let go automatically of small issues in order to facilitate more important progress