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Donald Trump’s Dystopian America: The ROAD Revisited

August 7, 2016

Apocalypse

The Western World has awakened to the stunning realization that what started out as a self-promotional campaign, with no clarity as to strategy, has confounded all the experts and pseudo intelligentsia. That Donald J. Trump, a bigoted, misogynistic and serial philanderer, would rise to the lead the Republican Party into the November 8, 2016, Presidential election is akin to a very bad B movie that never made it into the theatres. Too far-fetched and too stupid, unless someone like Seth Rogen were able to make it into a comedy. But then his comedy flick about Kim Jong-il, to put it in the vernacular, totally sucked.

Late night comedians, from Stephen Colbert to Larry Wilmore, to Samantha Bee to Trevor Noah, excel in ripping Trump a new one every evening. He’s the low hanging fruit. How can one not make Donald Trump look, pardon the language, like a incompetent asshole. It’s kindergarten work. And at some point we’ll start either zoning out or, if it looks like he could beat Hillary Clinton on November 8th, run for cover. Perhaps we’ll see a new breed of entrepreneurs who capitalize on building and selling bomb shelters for families, reminiscent of the sixties. “Okay children, everyone hide under their desks when you hear the sirens. President Trump got hold of the nuclear football.” Sorry Gens X and Y, you missed out on that scary segment of American (and Canadian) life.

More seriously, however, is the potential reality that a Trump presidency would likely entail a period of unpredictability and instability, from economic trade to race relations to geo-political tensions with rogue dictatorships (eg, Iran and North Korea) and unstable states (eg, Pakistan and Russia).

Consider Trump’s gushing comments earlier in the year about Kim Jong-il, who he recently called a “genius:”

“You’ve got to give him credit,” Mr Trump said. “How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden — you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that?

“Even though it is a culture, and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, he’s the boss. It’s incredible.

“He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one. This guy doesn’t play games and we can’t play games with him. Because he really does have missiles and he really does have nukes.”

The Road.jpeg

Unfortunately, when it comes to the high risk outcomes of geo-political instability most of society is essentially clueless. We’ve become numb to Hollywood’s versions of calamities caused by alien invasions, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and nuclear war. We think of Mel Gibson in Mad Max, and its crappy sequels, in which a monosyllabic muscle man kicks ass. Or consider the disaster movies you’ve seen. Make a list.

But once in a while a film, based on a novel, comes along that conveys such a painful portray of a post-apocalyptic world that it propels one to sit up and consider the consequences of how weak, feckless national leadership can take a country to ruin very quickly. I first read The Road, an extremely bleak portrayal of a post-nuclear war world, in which survivors scavenge for food and cope with gangs of thugs. Don’t read it if you’re feeling down. However, it’s a reality check on the Hollywood-tainted views of how society copes after major disasters. The film, featuring Viggo Mortensen, is just as bleak. Indeed, most of the movie was shot in abandoned urban areas of Pennsylvania.

As much as some Americans, and Canadians and other nationalities, thought of President Ronald Reagan as a war monger nothing could be further from the truth. He turned out to be a president who, being repulsed from nuclear weapons, worked tirelessly with his Soviet counterpart President Mikhail Gorbachev to drastically reduce the nuclear arsenals of both countries. Read this post to learn more about Reagan’s efforts, as well as the tensions of the time.

Mad Trump

As I talked about in a recent post, effective leaders create a positive vision of the future. They enrol and align followers (whether in a community, organization or nation) to work collectively towards that vision. These REAL leaders do no harm; they aim to overcome prejudices, bigotry, racism and economic inequality. They are about UNITY.

These characteristics are anathema to Donald Trump. He doesn’t understand them and has no interest in self-enlightenment, for he believes he knows it all. His make-it-up-as-you-go campaign is about service to self, NOT service to country. Remember President John F. Kennedy’s powerful words at his inaugural address on January 20th, 1961: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Donald J. Trump doesn’t have a clue about leading a nation, and especially about leading by example when it comes to service to country. The world certainly does not need the increased likelihood of The Road, but not the movie version, occurring because a volatile, megalomaniac reality show producer somehow got elected to lead the world’s most powerful country.

While the world watches in fascination—and revulsion—as the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election unfolds, seven billion people can only hope and pray that Americans will do the right thing on November 8th.

If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?
— Donald J. Trump (Twitter, 2015 – later deleted)


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Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump: Polar Opposites as Leaders

August 1, 2016

BernieLeadership is an odd beast. We tend to perceive it as a charismatic endeavour, where historically males have held “leadership” roles, from Genghis Khan’s Mongol empire in the late 1100s to Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s to General Electric’s Jack Welch during the 1980-90s.Trump




But there have been notable women leaders, fortunately rising in numbers during the 20th Century: Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, India’s Indira Gandhi, and Hewlitt Packard’s Meg Whitman.

At its core, leadership is about creating a vision that captures the hearts and minds of people, enrolling them to be part of a collective future. While some would argue that Hitler, Mao and Stalin were leaders, one distinguishing difference within the leadership arena is what could be called do no harm. For example, Adolph Hitler certainly had a followership within a segment of Germany’s population. However, he didn’t just seek to make Germany great again (to borrow from Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign) but more pertinently aimed to wipe out Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and anyone else that didn’t fit with his vision of an ethnically pure country—an Aryan race.

Leadership, therefore, may simply be described as doing good for a cause, a community, an organization, or a nation. And it’s achieved through bringing together people, aligning them towards a common future, and motivating them to stay on course.

Hillary

Enter the 2016 Republican and Democratic Primaries in the United States. Not only Americans but the entire civilized world has been subjected to the spectacle of a megalomaniac businessman and reality show star upending the Republican Party to beat out some initial 20 contenders for the party’s nomination for the national election in November. On the Democratic Party front, no such competitive process occurred, quickly narrowing down to a Brooklyn-born, muppet-like 72 year-old man taking on the first woman to run for national office.

The problem with Hillary Clinton is that she has brought a huge amount of baggage to the party. Indeed, while Clinton’s nomination was made official on July 26th, raising justifiable cheers from women that the presidential glass ceiling has finally been broken (or almost), she is in a very vulnerable position, given her contentious history dating back to the late eighties and nineties and extending to the present. Add to this the revelations in late July that the Democratic National Party (DNC) had tried to sink Bernie Sanders’ grass roots campaign. This raises more questions about the establishment, of which Clinton is an esteemed member, and the incredible lack of judgement and leadership shown by those in positions of power in the DNC.

Unfortunately, the manipulations and deceit perpetrated by the DNC have only added to Donald Trump’s anti-Clinton arsenal. There has probably never been a time in American political history where one of the two contenders for the presidency has used such a dark tone with the electorate—and with stunning effect. Trump’s make-it-up-as-you-go campaign from the start has been based on fuelling hate, fear and divisiveness in America. His campaign has turned out to be the most stupendous reality show ever produced in the United States, a dystopian Trump world that would astonish aliens from distant, galactic civilizations.

Mad Trump 2

Donald J. Trump, a 70 year-old man, has never read a biography of a U.S. president. This is a stunning revelation. That someone would seek the highest office in the United States, the most powerful country in the world, and not be familiar with both U.S. history and especially presidential history is pause for extreme concern among American voters. Throw in Trump’s pronouncement that he doesn’t need policy advice since he knows it all adds further fear to the mix.

Take a moment to reflect on this:

Real leaders do not engage in or support the use of fear tactics to enrol followers; they do not preach dividing a citizenry; and they do not paint a dark picture of the future.

You couldn’t have a greater contrast between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Both have loyal followers, many of whom have not participated in the voting system in the past. They believe that they’ve been left on the side of the road as America’s economy has become increasingly characterized by winners and losers, with a growing gap between the small percentage of very wealthy people and a shrinking middle class. The destitute poor and working poor, who traditionally have low voting turnouts, continue to live in conditions found in the poorest developing countries. Indeed, it’s not as much about the One Percent (attributed to economist Josept Stigliltz) but instead the 20 individuals who own as much wealth as the bottom half of America’s 315 million population.

But the natures of their respective followerships are vastly different. Bernie Sanders is driven by social and economic justice reform. His campaign was about hope and change. “A future to believe in,” Sanders’ tagline, has been embraced enthusiastically by his followers, represented by a strong contingent of Generation Y. These younger people face a tough job market due to technology, the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, and the end of the traditional employment contract (employers and employees had reciprocal loyalties for fulltime, permanent work).

Defined benefit pension plans have largely disappeared (except in the public sector), while defined contribution plans have become the norm — provided one has secure employment. Indeed, expect millions of Americans to head into retirement in the coming years without any pension savings.

DSC_0603

Only a few days before I wrote this leadership post I returned from a three week road trip with my wife to Canada’s East Coast. The last leg on the way home was two nights in New Hampshire and Vermont, home of Senator Bernie Sanders. We visited for a second time the gorgeous state legislative building in Montpelier. In both the congressional room and in a large room used for receptions with a huge Civil War mural, I noticed a crest. It read: “Freedom and Unity.” I asked our tour guide if that was Vermont’s motto. He replied yes, to which I replied, it was more mature and meaningful than New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die.”

Freedom and Unity, in my mind, is what Bernie Sanders strove so hard to achieve. And indeed his campaign—movement—has had a very strong influence on the Democratic Party’s policy platform. The Party has benefitted hugely from Sanders’ leadership and relentless effort to address the country’s shrinking middle class, disenfranchised youth and minorities, rustbelt communities, and healthcare coverage gaps.

If Trump’s dark-storms-ahead campaign is purportedly true, why did Canadians jettison a prime minister, Stephen Harper, who had no vision for the country, save for creating a barbaric cultural practices hotline to rat out supposed questionable new Canadians (aka Muslims)? Justin Trudeau, albeit still relatively new to politics though a fast learner, used his “Sunny Ways” tagline to capture the hearts and minds of Canadians. While still early on in his mandate it seems to be working.

This is what real, effective leaders do: they create a positive vision of the future and enrol citizens or employees to work towards it. Unfortunately, in the United States millions of Americans feel alienated. Their Congressional representatives have extremely low approval ratings. The growing gap between the top one percent and the rest of the country is extremely warped. Corporations show no loyalty to national borders. CEO salaries are proportionately out of step with historical ratios to worker wages.

The last comment goes to Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stieglitz, who powerfully expresses the juncture at which the United States has arrived. This is now one of those moments in U.S. history where visionary leadership which enrols all Americans is so desperately needed.

“There are two visions of America a half century from now. One is of a society more divided between the haves and the have-nots, a country in which the rich live in gated communities, send their children to expensive schools, and have access to first-rate medical care. Meanwhile, the rest live in a world marked by insecurity, at best mediocre education, and in effect rationed health care―they hope and pray they don’t get seriously sick.

At the bottom are millions of young people alienated and without hope. I have seen that picture in many developing countries; economists have given it a name, a dual economy, two societies living side by side, but hardly knowing each other, hardly imagining what life is like for the other. Whether we will fall to the depths of some countries, where the gates grow higher and the societies split farther and farther apart, I do not know.

It is, however, the nightmare towards which we are slowly marching.”

― Joseph E. Stiglitz (from The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future)


Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.


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Nurturing: Deepening the Essence of Holistic Leadership

July 25, 2016

If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach. This post looks at Nuturing as one of the four components of Holistic Leadership.

Nuture 1

The ability to nurture is an important part of leadership, yet it’s only beginning to receive the attention it deserves. To become a Holistic Leadership, however, Nurturing is absolutely essential. Its five enabling elements are tightly interwoven:

  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Diversity
  • Bonds
  • Wellness

Unfortunately the idea of leaders, whether male or female, embracing a nurturing mindset is alien to many people. It’s a female role, not a male one, many would argue. But is it in reality?

It’s time to get over old, worn-out stereotypes of authoritarian leadership, where people are told what to do, how to think and how to act. This has no place in 21st Century organizations, not with the rapidity of change. People can’t be forced to be creative or to innovate.

Some people would call Nurturing, as part of Holistic Leadership, the really soft stuff. Because it’s strongly oriented around relationships and the human dimension, Nurturing is not easily quantifiable. Moreover, it’s an area that hasn’t traditionally been part of the heroic leadership mindset, historically dominated by males.

The ability to show empathy is vital to enhancing our leadership. To be empathetic means to be able to put oneself in another’s shoes, or frame of reference. The late Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, spoke of the habit of Seek first to understand, then be understood. This is a difficult habit to learn because it requires us to listen carefully to the other person and to really understand their point of view, all the while refraining from speaking ourselves. If we wish to be understood, we must first understand from where the other person in coming.

Nuture 2.jpg

Improving our ability to empathize will in turn enhance our communication skills. Creating meaningful conversations is essential if organizations are to enhance their collective ability to learn. But the challenge to this is the diversity that’s growing in organizations. The Holistic Leader is able to see the value in diverse needs, wants, beliefs, expectations, personalities, backgrounds, gender, color and age. Being able to see from a systems perspective the benefits that diversity brings to an organization, and in turn influencing it in a forward-thinking way, is a strong leadership asset.

This leads to the creation of bonds within the organization. The Holistic Leader has contributed to creating a web of relationships, despite the challenge of addressing diversity in an organization that faces unrelenting change. These bonds, in turn, support collaborative learning and the creation of a learning culture.

The Holistic Leader understands and pays attention to the need for developing the triangle of spirit, mind, and body. Without daily practice of these three equally important parts, it’s difficult to achieve and maintain a high state of personal wellness. As with personal mastery, personal wellness starts from within. But the Holistic Leader also strives to help her co-workers (and followers) increase their awareness of this important element of nurturing leadership. For example, the network leader sows “wellness seeds” in the organization as a way to assist the organization create a healthier workplace: spiritually, intellectually, and physically.

The following two leadership vignettes provide contrasting examples of Nurturing Holistic Leadership.

KaylaCornale

Sounds into Syllables

Leadership resides at all levels of organizations and communities, and is not specific to certain age groups. Many young people, including teenagers, have done exceptional things for their communities and society. Kayla Cornale received a Gold Medal for Health Sciences at the 2006 Canada Wide Science Fair. At the time Kayla was a grade 11 student in Burlington, Ontario. Her project was entitled Sounds into Syllables: Windows to the World of Childhood Autism.

As a high school student Kayla wanted to have a closer relationship with her cousin, Lorena. However, due to Lorena’s autism this proved very difficult. As she watched Lorena memorize songs, something she excelled at, Kayla got the idea to use the piano as the medium for communication. By assigning letters of the alphabet to the middle keys in the form of chords, Kayla then connected them to language. The result was a trademarked patent viewed as a major breakthrough in autism research.

Kayla’s Sounds into Syllables method was used in a number of school districts around the Province of Ontario starting in 2004. Winning over 50 awards world-wide, Kayla represented Canada at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2005 and 2006, placing 1st in the world in the category of behavioral and social sciences.

Kayla was later recognized by CNN’s Heroes’ Award in November 2007. Indeed, she was the only Canadian finalist among 7,000 people nominated by viewers in 80 countries, and one of the three finalists in the Young Wonders category for people under 18. She received a scholarship to Stanford University in California, graduating in 2011 with a BA and a Masters of Linguistics in 2012.

from BBS upload

The Peacemaker

Captain Nichola Goddard was the first female Canadian soldier to be killed in combat since the Second World War. Her death occurred on May 17, 2006 during a brutal firefight with the Taliban in the Panjwaye District in Afghanistan. Goddard’s role as crew commander was to call in artillery fire. This meant being in a forward position during the battle and physically exposing herself. A rocket propelled grenade fired by the Taliban struck her LAV vehicle, exploding on impact and killing her instantly.

Her husband received on Goddard’s behalf the Memorial Cross (also known as the Silver Cross).

A strong student and member of the debating club, Captain Goddard received a scholarship to attend Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Despite her fondness for the military, she was also deeply interested in humanitarian issues and how to bring about peace in areas of conflict. Because of imperfect vision she wasn’t able to join the Air Force and chose the Army instead. Her strong math skills lead her to specialize in artillery.

Captain Goddard was highly regarded by her peers, and remembered for her vivaciousness, kindness and listening skills. Serving her country was more than just about being a soldier and learning technical skills, but about leadership and how to make the world a better place.

The gateways to wisdom and knowledge are always open. (Louise Hay)


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How To Create a Positive Work Environment To Boost Customer Relations

July 18, 2016

People Slapping Hands

I’m pleased to host a guest post with Brooke Cade, a freelance writer who’s committed to helping businesses and sales professionals build stronger connections with their customers. In her spare time, she enjoys learning more about inmoment, her CX platform of choice, reading books and articles on industry news, engaging on twitter, and exploring her local neighborhood coffee shop.

We’ve all heard the saying, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” This statement couldn’t be truer when it comes to your business: the more transparent you can be, the better.

To create a successful business, it all begins on the inside with your employees. Employees who work in a positive environment feel more valued and appreciated by their company, and are more inclined to work harder in order to strengthen customer relationships and provide superior customer service.

Value Their Opinions

One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is to actively listen to your employees. When employees know that their voices are being heard and their opinion is valued, they feel empowered. This empowerment will lead to better relationships within the company culture and come through interactions between employees and customers.

Because employees are the face of your company and the people your customers are dealing with on a daily basis, it is critical that invest time and resources in your employees to ensure that your employees have the tools to succeed and can serve your customers in a positive and professional manner. As you look to implement new programs and strategies to improve company culture, take some time to gather both employee and customer feedback to see which areas you’re excelling at and where you can improve on.

Let Your Employees Know They Matter

Investing in your employees’ future is another excellent way to let them know they are valued. Pay for employees to attend conferences, hold employee appreciation events, and help them continue to learn and grow so they can promote within your company. Some fun ways to do this? Encourage employees to set personal and professional goals each quarter, set up team building activities to help employees get to know each other better and feel more connected, or hold team training where someone from each team teaches everyone else something new. The list is endless, but the key is to provide a positive workplace environment where everyone feels supported and can continue to grow.

Create a Positive Company Culture

Young People2

The best way to build up your company from within is to establish employee engagement by creating a positive company culture. No one likes working in an environment where they’re constantly criticized or in fear. Take time each day to make sure the culture you’re cultivating is a positive one where employees are happy and everyone feels valued.

When your employees are happy, this happiness not only carries over into their work as they interact with customers, but continues in their personal lives. Cheerful employees will naturally attract other excellent people who want to be a part of such a great work environment, allowing you to have higher caliber candidates applying who will be happy to join your team and help build your business.

It’s All Up to You

As the owner, you set the tone for your business. You can create a working environment where your employees feel comfortable, confident, and happy to be there, or you can do the complete opposite. When you choose the former, you will be able to build a company that’s strong from the inside out, ultimately resulting in a successful and thriving business.

The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?
— Max De Pree (Ret’d CEO, Herman Miller; Author of leadership books)


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Are You a Spontaneous Leader?

July 10, 2016
500th Post on WordPress!
How the time has flown over the past seven-plus years since I started blogging on leadership and management issues. Technology enables writers to reach people around the globe in mere seconds. And with readers in over 160 countries it’s a thrill, and a privilege, to have you take the time to read my blog. Thank you for your loyal readership. …Jim

 

Sax.jpg

There’s no cookie cutter recipe for leadership. Each leader, or potential one, has a unique personality that has developed from the immediate world in which the individual grew up and matured. Our mental models (the tailored set of assumptions acquired from life experiences) is the principal driver of human behaviour, greatly influencing the lens through which we see the world.

As a consequence, trying to lead others based on how you see your friends or co-workers lead can become a frustrating and ineffective endeavour. Followers, too, have their own needs (eg, developmental readiness), thus adding more complexity to the leader’s work.

This brings to mind the dynamics of jazz and how musicians interact. While there’s always a leader, in whatever dominant or subdued form, there’s the ever-present aspect of shared leadership, and by attachment, spontaneity when the music begins.

In his excellent new book How to Listen to Jazz, Ted Gioia talks about how jazz musicians make every performance unique and spontaneous. He explains:

“You can’t measure the spontaneity in a jazz performance. But you can feel it. And you especially notice it when it’s gone. … If you see the same jazz musicians play a song on several different occasions, you eventually figure out how much spontaneity enters into the proceedings. … After you have developed your listening skills in jazz, you probably won’t need to make such inquiries. You will feel it in the music and cherish it as the most magical part of the jazz idiom.”

The word “jazz,” he explains, was first seen in print in a California newspaper in 1912. The reporter noted that jazz referred to a wobbly pitch that was hard to hit by batters. From this first encounter with what would later become a ubiquitously used term, jazz became synonymous with anything new and exciting in society.

Mingus.jpg

On the more dominant leadership front, Gioia recounts the story of acclaimed bassist Charles Mingus (pictured), who was known to shout at his band members when they played a solo that got the audience applauding, “Don’t do that again!” Gioia suggests, against the prevailing view that Mingus was trying to remain the centre of attention, that he was trying to prevent “rigor mortis” from setting in to the musicians’ playing crowd-pleasing solos. In other words, Mingus may have been trying to move his band members to higher levels of performance and spontaneity.

Similarly, 1920s American pianist Jelly Roll Morton, who blended ragtime with dance rhythms, took a strict approach to solos. The musicians could do them but “… only in small doses, with the distinctive personalities of the band members subservient to the holistic quality of the performance.”

Big band leader Benny Goodman was a perfectionist, regularly burning out his musicians. In contrast, Duke Ellington took a very different approach with his orchestra. He avoided trying to seek perfection in the music played by his orchestra members, instead providing an enabling environment in which the musicians could experiment and develop their skills. The Duke’s leadership style, as Gioia puts it, produced a group of musicians whose success over 50 some years has never been matched in terms of “constant productivity and high artistry.”

Translating jazz leadership to the practices of organizational and community leadership has enticing possibilities. From a shared leadership perspective, where people play varying roles in contributing to leading a group or cause, there’s no pre-conceived template from which to draw. People bring out their best and express their capabilities in constructive ways.

From a more formal, positional approach, (aka managerial leadership), the individual leading the group is stifling his or her potential effectiveness by adopting a one-fit style of leadership. Just like an excellent jazz leader, the effective managerial leader embraces shared leadership and encourages spontaneous behaviour that contributes to the group’s vision.

Herbie

One jazz musician who comes to mind who practices the above is Herbie Hancock. At 77 years of age, Hancock has the energy and vitality of someone half his age. His electrifying performances, blending jazz standards with jazz fusion and pop, introduce up and coming young musicians. It’s an incredible experience to watch one of the great jazz masters step back during a performance to share the leadership with much younger musicians. There’s no big ego with Hancock, as witnessed during my volunteer work with the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Backstage, Hancock is very approachable, in contrast to many big-name jazz musicians who have handlers keeping people away.

Being a spontaneous leader means being able to not just react to the occasion but, more importantly, to anticipate it. This type of leader thrives on both sharing the power with followers and peers, and demanding that they produce their best. This doesn’t mean that you have to pull a “Don’t do that again!” Charles Mingus move.

Not every individual working towards becoming a better leader wants to follow the above approach. Spontaneity scares a lot of people; routine is often the preferred route. In this case, Ted Gioia puts it succinctly in his book’s conclusion:

If you don’t, you can always leave the jazz club and check out a rock or pop covers band. That’s perfect entertainment for people who want to live in the realm of perfect replication. Jazz, in contrast, is for those who want to be in attendance when the miracle happens.

Forget about trying to compete with someone else. Create your own pathway. Create your own new vision.
— Herbie Hancock


Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.


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Tolerating the Tolerance of Intolerance

July 3, 2016

Trump Rally

We’ve become a community of voyeurs, titillating in the humiliation, pain and travesties experienced by others. The media, omnipresent in this voyeuristic universe, has become a master in the art of instantly capturing and reporting on the salient details of a smorgasbord of lurid events.

Canadians have become among the world’s most capable voyeurs. As the political train wreck unfolds south of the border, Canada’s mere population of some 35 million is soaking up the entrails of Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions, which no doubt began as a half-hearted effort to gain access to the keys to the highest office in the land, but more certainly as a concerted attempt to further build his Trump brand and buff his over-sized ego.

And here we are now, entering the dog days of July, where in a matter of a few months either the despised Hilary Clinton, spouse to serial philanderer Bill Clinton, becomes president, or Donald Trump wins the biggest reality show of all time.

Along the way, the public (around the globe) has witnessed some of the most vitriolic comments coming from one politician’s mouth in particular. There’s no point in repeating any of them since the internet, including the accomplices of print media, TV and radio, has made them routine daily rantings.

Members of the media interview residents of the neighbourhood near the secondary crime scene following an elementary school shooting, in Sandy Hook

However, it’s not just the nasty and underhanded remarks by Trump and company that has helped refine the nation of voyeurs but also the violence perpetrated on a daily basis against a wide range of society’s demographics. Whether it’s sexual assault against women on college campuses, harassment of female RCMP members, mass shootings such as in Orlando and Sandy Hook, or racial stereotyping of people from the Middle East, plus much more, we’ve become numb to it collectively as a society. To put it another way, we’re learning to tolerate the tolerance that the media is showing towards the subject of intolerance, in all its sordid forms.

To the media at large, it’s all about ratings and bringing in revenue projections. The media has played a major role in promoting the pornography of violence and racial intolerance, spawning a new class of thirsty voyeurs. On a recent edition of CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition with host Michael Enwright, one of the guests was a 24 year-old female journalist who had worked for Newsweek covering crime and events involving violence. She burnt out from that gig due to the never-ending onslaught of violence.

She explained how the media has templates laid out that are quickly put into place when an act of violence occurs. For example, call lists to law enforcement people are activated, profiles of the victims are drawn up, including the perpetrators. Everything has a sort of cookie cutter recipe; just fill in the blanks.

During her time as a crime beat reporter, she avoided watching fiction TV, especially shows involving gratuitous violence. Since leaving this role, she has been working on covering business and culture news and events. What was striking in listening to her talk about her previous work was how young she was, yet wise to the world.

FDR

Before you feel downbeat about how low society has descended when it comes to intolerance, specifically the venal barbs uttered by politicians at others, take a moment to read the following passage from James Tobin’s excellent book The Man he Became, a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s difficult years after he contracted polio. The dateline is just before FDR was re-elected governor of New York in 1930. The delegates to the Democratic national convention had just received an anonymous circular in the mail. It read, in part:

In the home office of every life insurance company in the United States, there is on file the health examination report of every person holding a life insurance policy….If you will examine the health examination report of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, you will find that he is suffering from locomotor ataxia produced by syphilis. For almost ten years, however, Governor Roosevelt has been parading himself before the public as a victim of infantile paralysis in order to gain sympathy and to hide his real affliction. Carrying on the deception further, Governor Roosevelt has induced some men of wealth to establish at Warm Springs, Georgia, a sanitarium for the treatment of the real victims of infantile paralysis. The most disgusting, vicious and really dangerous thing about this matter is the fact that Governor Roosevelt (with his loathsome and infectious venereal disease) bathes in the same pool with these poor innocent children.

Donald Trump, as vile as he may be, has spewed forth a lot of nonsense and vindictive comments, whether at Hilary Clinton, President Obama, the heads of other countries, or his Republican opponents during the primaries. But it would be hard to argue persuasively that whatever Trump has said to date could match what was aimed at FDR 86 years ago, one of the lowest points in American politics.

Kids

We, as a supposed civilized society, can continue down the path towards innuendo, character assassination and hate-filled intolerance to those “different” from us (whatever that means in a globalized community), or we can push back against the perpetrators who financially benefit from its exploitation. If there’s one individual who amply demonstrated that he could rise to the occasion and shove aside the vitriol that was shovelled at him it was FDR, who became one of America’s greatest presidents.

Stop tolerating the tolerance of intolerance that the media has skillfully manipulated to great success. The reporting of such tragic events as the Orlando nightclub murders of 49 people in June or the slaughter of 20 little children and six school staff in December 2012 at Sandy Hook elementary school is necessary to a point. However, long before the media’s saturation point is reached the message has gone out to other mentally unbalanced people that a new goal needs to be reached. It’s time to stop being a nation of voyeurs.

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt


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Participating: The Inclusion Dynamic of Holistic Leadership

June 26, 2016

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If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach.

We all know that participation is key to achieving meaningful results in organizations, whether it’s in the private sector, government or not-for-profit sector. However, it’s easy to espouse the importance of participation, especially from the management rooftop. It’s quite another challenge to bring it down to the ground where those leading others actually put participation into daily practice. This means engaging everyone throughout the organization, and encouraging people to bring out their personal leadership attributes.

It doesn’t matter what expression is used: shared leadership, participatory leadership, post-heroic leadership or roving leadership. The point is that participation, as one of the four main components of Holistic Leadership, is critical to helping organizations create learning cultures that are based on the five enabling elements:

  1. Power-sharing
  2. Inclusion
  3. Enrolling/Aligning
  4. Collaboration
  5. Commitment

Much has been written on participatory leadership. In both the private and public sectors, it’s often espoused by senior management as how people should work together. However, what’s said publicly is often not practiced. This applies not just to management but staff as well.

Modelling the desired behaviors that accompany participatory leadership is fundamental to its eventual success. Network leaders, for example, must practice the enabling elements contained in this Holistic Leadership component. As staff, these leaders need to learn how to collaborate and how to find common ground when conflict arises. People need to take ownership of their actions and not necessarily expect management to come riding to the rescue whenever conflict among staff members breaks out.

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Some time ago, I read an article that talked about the tacit collusion employees engage in to protect their job’s boundaries. People follow unspoken norms with respect to staying out of one another’s job areas. When these norms are not followed, conflict typically emerges. The consequence is the cementing of behaviors and practices in organizations. When a major change initiative is introduced, senior management becomes frustrated by the rigid silos that have been erected among functional groups, and which in turn contribute to resistance to the change effort.

Participating is an important component of Holistic Leadership because it provides the conduit to unleashing the potential of people. Again, this is important to those in senior and front-line managerial positions, and also to those who seek to play informal leadership roles.

For an example of an individual who excelled at Participating read the following leadership vignette.

Pat Tillman began his football career as a linebacker at Arizona State University in 1994. By his senior year he was voted best defensive player. He was also a strong business student, and in 1998 had been recruited by the Arizona Cardinals. Early on in his NFL career, he refused a highly lucrative offer from the St. Louis Rams because of his loyalty to the Cardinals.

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Despite his solid performance in the NFL, he declined a $3.5 million contract offer from the Cardinals so that he could join the U.S. Army. Why? Because his country had just been attacked by al-Qaeda and he felt duty-bound to serve. He and his brother joined the Rangers in 2002, and they completed the program after the first invasion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was later deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed by friendly fire during a firefight. The subsequent cover-up was finally revealed, to a degree, and a U.S. Congressional investigation found that the President G.W. Bush administration and the Pentagon withheld critical documents on Tillman’s death, refusing new document release requests from Congress citing executive privilege.

Tillman was known to be well-read on a variety of topics by many authors. After the invasion of Iraq he became critical of that effort and had openly expressed his views. He had planned to pursue exploring that issue upon his return to America after his Afghanistan tour was completed.

Pat Tillman didn’t have to enlist in the U.S. Army–there was no draft at that time–but he did it out of unselfish service to his country. The road was paved to a highly lucrative professional football career, but he put that aside for what he saw as a higher calling.

Reflection Question: How do you share your leadership within your team and more broadly within your organization?

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
— Muhammad Ali


Holisti LeadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.


Bay St. Lawrence BLOGVisit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

Take a moment to meet Jim.