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Discover Your Leadership Trail

July 20, 2014
Updated May 15, 2016

Jim Grand Manan Trail We’re living in a technological age where almost any type of work can be outsourced to far-away countries, where labor market skill needs of employers are out of balance with the supply (what people have to offer) and where instantaneity and multi-tasking are robbing us of the down-time so important to personal reflection, inquiry and learning. And it’s having dire effects on productivity and innovation at the nation-wide and company levels.What’s especially sad–and shocking– about this scene is that no one seems to particularly care, whether CEOs or politicians.

It’s go, go, go, and do, do, do in the misguided belief that somehow that we, as human beings, are capable of making informed, long-term decisions while simultaneously adding more balls to the ones we’re already juggling.

Whatever advancements we were achieving in the nineties and shortly after the start of the millennium from the insights of such people as Peter Senge whose book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, bolstered by other thought leaders as John Kotter, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, C.K. Prahalad, and Gary Hamel (to name just a few) seem to have been largely forgotten.

Grand Manan Lighthouse It’s difficult to repel what may be deemed as the race to the bottom mindset of lowering corporate operating costs while keeping the pedal to the metal. But this applies as well to our personal lives. This was brought home this past May and June during a two week, 3,500 km trip my wife, Sue, and I made to New Brunswick, a Maritime province where we used to live. We spent a lot of time hiking in the wilderness and along the Bay of Fundy’s inspiring cliffs. And for a few days while staying in a cottage on Grand Manan Island we had no TV. It seemed weird at first but we loved it.

It’s amazing how spending time on trails in forests and, my favorite place, along the ocean helps clarify one’s thinking and center one’s personal leadership.

During our trip we also visited Sue’s folks and also saw some of her cousins. I recall talking to some of them at a family event, asking them about their kids. It’s foot to the floor all the time as parents, driving kids to activities and school events, parents’ careers, etc. But that’s no different from parents in cities across Canada and the U.S. And layered upon this “busyness” are growing demands from employers who want more achieved with fewer resources–read, less employees.

Fishing Boat When it comes to corporate decision-making workers typically have zero input. However, while we can’t control what’s beyond our reach, we can control how we react to such events. It’s about how we inject our personal leadership into our workplace to constructively contribute and to enable our adaptability to change. The same applies to our personal lives. To be switched on continuously, foot to the floor, as we juggle the balls of work, family, career development and personal activities leads eventually to burnout. It’s pretty hard to be creative and to think strategically when your brain’s shorting out from overload.

Helping our kids to pause periodically to reflect on where they’re at in life, explore (inquire) into the unknowns and possibilities, and to take calculated risks is to inject our personal leadership into their lives in a positive way.

Encourage your children to explore nature.

Take them on a hike.

Transformative learning, intellectually and emotionally, occurs when we have taken the time to stop and reflect on our prior learning and mental models, in turn validating what is still relevant, and then moving forward with the insights attained.

– Jim Taggart

Red SignsPostscript: Grand Manan Island is one of the three Bay of Fundy Isles, part of the Province of New Brunswick. Before our June 2014 ferry ride to the island, the last time Sue and I had been there was 23 years ago camping with our then four young kids.

The most meaningful part of our hiking along the island’s huge cliffs was to Hay Point at the south western tip of the island. Hay Point looks towards Maine, USA. I last visited there in 1979 with the late Father Tom Daley who took me to Grand Manan Island on two occasions. We were billeted by a lovely and generous couple who lived in Seal Cove.

Jim and Sue Grand Manan This last photo is of Sue and me at Hay Point. For me, Hay Point is the most beautiful place in Canada. And just as we arrived a fishing boat (shown in the above photo) came into view, on its way to herring weirs. It felt kind of odd being back at this bluff, surrounded by meadow, 100 feet above the ocean, surrounded by towering cliffs, 35 years later. But it felt like yesterday.

Photos by Jim Taggart and Sue Butler (Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada).

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