What Have You Learned From Reunions?

In October 2018, Deborah Copaken wrote in The Atlantic, What I Learned About Life at My 30th College Reunion She listed 30 lessons. Several resonated with me.

“No one’s life turned out exactly as anticipated, not even for the most ardent planner.”Amen! Life is what happened while planning something else. I do think its important to understand our narrative identity – the myths and interpretations we tell ourselves about ourselves including our trials and tribulations, our heroes and villains. Do you share redemptive stories or contamination stories with others? I didn’t expect my business partner to die at such an early age and yet this event sent me on a new path to where I am today, truly living my passion and living my gifts and talents – a redemptive story. In the end, we all seek meaning to our lives.

“Speaking of art, those who went into it as a career were mostly happy and often successful, but they had all, in some way, struggled financially.” Agreed! I believe everyone is an artist and not limited to paint, watercolor, sculpture, clay, music, theater and culinary. Those who embrace their lives as art, a canvas on which to create and give their creation away to others seems to be the happiest. Expressing gratitude is the ultimate art form and those who continuously express their gratitude are the happiest people I know.

“ ‘Burning Down the House,’ ” our class’s favorite song, by the Talking Heads, is still as good and as relevant in 2018 as it was blasting out of our freshman dorms.” My favorite song from high school and college was Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ I love the tribute Nancy and Ann Wilson gave to Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center in 2013. Even the Obama’s were moved! Those lyrics are more relevant than ever.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven

“Those who got an unwanted divorce seemed unhappier, post-divorce.” Disagree. While my divorce was unexpected and hurtful, I learned a lot about myself and relationships. I learned that commitment requires persistence at permanence. I learned what I needed in a relationship and what I needed to be in a relationship. Consequently, I failed forward, meeting a woman, falling in love and forming a bond that is going on 39 years.

“Many classmates who are in long-lasting marriages said they experienced a turning point, when their early marriage suddenly transformed into a mature relationship. ‘I’m doing the best I can!’ one classmate told me she said to her husband in the middle of a particularly stressful couples’ therapy session.” From that moment on, she said, he understood: Her imperfections were not an insult to him, and her actions were not an extension of him. She was her own person, and her imperfections were what made her her. Sometimes people forget this, in the thick of marriage.” Agreed. The birth of our daughter was not only life changing but relationship changing. The birth of our son re-confirmed this. Our marriage has not always been smooth. We sought help and learned to be more accepting and forgiving of one another. We continue to learn about each other and as we get older, lose some memory, not move as fast, we give each other more grace and say “I love you,” with even more sincerity.

No matter what my classmates grew up to be … most of our conversations at the various parties and panel discussions throughout the weekend centered on a desire for love, comfort, intellectual stimulation, decent leaders, a sustainable environment, friendship, and stability.” Agreed. I have learned significance – the positive impact I have on others, rather than success – is far more important. I’m trying to live my eulogy rather than my resume.

“When the bell atop Memorial Church tolled 27 times to mark the passing of 27 classmates since graduation, we all understood, on a visceral level, that these tolls will increase exponentially over the next 30 years.” Yes. When my college alumni magazine comes, the first thing I look at is class notes and obituaries. Having lost three friends this past year, I realize life does have finality –  especially mine. I am looking to “write” the last best final chapter that includes better emotional intelligence, apology and restorative justice. There is one person heavy on my heart with whom I need to “write” a best final chapter.

“In our early 50s, people seem to feel a pressing need to speak truths and give thanks and kindness to one another before it’s too late to do so. One of my freshman roommates thanked me for something that happened in 1984. A classmate who was heretofore a stranger, but who had read my entry in the red book, our quinquennial alumni report—in which I recounted having taken an Uber Pool to the emergency room—offered to pay for my ambulance next time, even going so far as to yank a large pile of bills out of his pocket. “That’s okay,” I told him, laughing. “I don’t plan to return to the emergency room anytime soon.” Agreed. When I lost my job a few years ago, a friend who heard about my plight called me and told me he wanted to cover our mortgage until I got back on my feet. I was blown away. Tears filled my eyes!  I have been more intentional about going to see family and friends and saying “thank you” for the gift of their lives shared in my life.

“Love is not all you need, but as one classmate told me, “it definitely helps.” Disagree. Maybe it’s because I’m a few years older than Ms. Copaken and have more experience with life, but the Beatles got it right – All you need is love! Love is the most powerful force on earth. It is the air I breathe and water I drink. You cannot lead others unless you love yourself so you can love others.

Three Questions

Recently the creator of Humans of New York asked three challenging and thought provoking questions. Thinking about this past year, here are the questions and my answers.

1. What’s your biggest struggle?

I struggle with too much screen time! I am going to work on becoming less distracted to reduce my attention to screens including an “unplug” retreat.

2. How has your life turned out differently than you expected it to?

I did not expect two friends to die this past year. When can I expect to die? I became eligible for Medicare this fall. I didn’t expect what I saw walking into the local Social Security office. I came face-to-face with “my people” in the waiting area with walkers, crutches, canes and caregivers. When can I expect to have help? As a student, practitioner and coach of leadership, I didn’t expect POTUS 45 to be such a failed leader. When can I expect a leader to become POTUS 46? I didn’t expect a friend of Jewish heritage to share he and his wife were considering moving out of the United States as they feared for their lives because of the increase of antisemitism. When can I expect antisemitism to end? I never expected to confront an older white woman yelling at a black woman who waiting in her motor running car in a “no parking” zone on someone to come out a grocery store, telling the black was parking illegally and to move. I asked if she was authorized by the store to patrol and why it so important to to have this person move when it was obvious that there was not intent to park. After all, I had done this as well at times, hadn’t she? When can I expect people to treat all people with respect and love?

3. What do you feel most guilty about?

We live is an a time of heightened fear and the need to build walls. The most dangerous word in the English language is exclusion. I feel guilty about not building more bridges. I have come to recognize the need for connection and building of relationships as essential to building strong, healthy, nurturing communities.

How would you answer these three questions?

What Is Your Level of Incivility?

Today, everything is personal and we react by disassociating and unfriending neighbors and relatives on social media when we don’t agree on issues, politics and beliefs. We no longer give each other room, let alone respect for having a different perspective, a different experience or a different belief. Trust is the foundation for any and all relationships; and as I have blogged before, trust has eroded to threads. It is on life support. Our diminished ability to trust is hurting our ability to forgive and adding to our incivility. Our incivility is keeping us from nurturing diversity, inclusion and equity, which is everyone’s responsibility if we are going to maintain and grow democracy.

“We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’  It is not,  ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather, ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” – Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

We spend more time telling than asking. We have license to be directors, finger-pointers and critics. We use liberal amounts of “you should…” as in “You should be more __________.” “You should do more __________.” “You should be like __________.” “You should see or watch __________.” “You should read __________. ” The word “should” is about judgment as in the person you are addressing is not worthy and you know what’s best. “Should” is about control and is abusive rather than inspiring.

When we do ask a question, it’s usually a simple “Why?” asked in a condescending tone of voice that challenges and threatens.

Unfortunately, work and school are the places where you cannot disassociate with others. Fact is, we spend more time with the people with whom we work and learn than our significant others, family and friends. It’s estimated that weekly rudeness at work has gone from 25% in 1998 to over 60% in 2016. Incivility and rudeness have become a pandemic right. We justify rudeness in so many ways and it’s hurting business and education in so many ways including the health of these environments. Cohorts forget that the way they treat each other has tremendous impact on how the visitor, guest, customer, patient or client gets treated.

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.”
– Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

Kahneman’s best selling Thinking Fast and Slow, describes how the two systems of our brains are constantly fighting over who is in charge. System one is automatic and impulsive and uses less energy, thus helps us with survival as in our quick response when we hear a gunshot. We use system one over 90% of the time, thus it tends to dominate our behavior and reaction to situations and others. System two requires more energy as it is conscious, mindful and thoughtful. The ability to trust others and use self-control are centered in system two. Critical thinking, our other national deficit, resides in system two.

Kahneman uses the example of a bat and ball costing $1.10. If the bat costs $1 more than the ball, then how much does the ball cost? I bet you said or thought the ball cost $0.10 and you’d be wrong!* System one thinking over ruled system two thinking. Think again, this time use your system two.

I recently began re-reading How To Want What You Have: Discovering the Grandeur of Ordinary Existence by Timothy Miller, PhD (1995). Miller’s writing is timeless wisdom of coming to know that our insatiable desires cause us to spend a lifetime of wanting what we don’t have leading to a lifetime of unhappiness. We want: to be better looking; be respected; live in a bigger house; drive a newer car; have greater status; have a better significant other; even wish we had a better childhood. Most of all, we seek freedom from the fear of losing what we do have. We know this, but we rarely admit or discuss this. It requires system two thinking.

If we are going to become more civil to each other, we are going to have to exercise system two thinking more often. We are going to have stop reacting and become more curious. We are going to have to ask more questions than judge and tell. We are going to have to acknowledge our fear is based on what we know the least. We are going to have to fight our ignorance. We may have to lose our sight, become blind to the visual cues that stoke our system one thinking. If we are going to come together, we are going to have to learn and practice compassion. We are going to have to learn to love one another by first loving ourselves with all our imperfections, scars and failures. We are worthy and so are the others with whom we come in contact.

“We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’  It is not,  ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather, ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” – Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

* The correct answer is $0.05. If the bat costs $1 more than the ball, then the actual cost of the bat is $1.05.

What Does Spirituality Have To Do With Leadership?

I usually begin a coaching relationship with a lot of poking and prodding questions around physical well-being, emotional well-being, mental well-being and spiritual well-being of the person I’m coaching. Without exception, it’s the spiritual well-being questions that produce the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look.

I usually get responses from clients like…
What does that mean?
Does it matter?
I don’t do woo-woo.
That Kumbaya stuff isn’t me.
I don’t believe in it.
I go to church.
I’m spiritual, but not religious.
If I’m not spiritual, does that make me a bad person, a bad leader?
What does that have to do with my leadership?

The conversation usually morphs into a conversation about the difference between being spiritual and being religious, I hear thing things like…
Spiritual is about the beyond. Religion is about membership.
Spiritual people meditate, religious people pray.
Spirituality is about personal connection. Religion is about dogma, ritual and control.
It’s all about who is in control, me (spirituality) or an institution (religion).
Spirituality is about believing in a higher power. Religion is about following a higher
power through ritual, adhering to laws and being in good standing.
Spirituality is a choice and operates on the law of attraction. Religion is adherence and
failing to adhere has negative consequences.
Spirituality has no boarders or divides. Religion has rules and divides.

“Religion is belief in someone else’s experience.
Spirituality is having your own experience.”
Deepak Chopra

Leadership is an affair of the heart with one’s soul. Without getting theological, philosophical or scientific, here is what I know for sure. The soul is what we are, our internal life, our raging energy. The soul is life. It is neither good or bad, it’s our energy connected to the universe, the cosmos, connected to the energy that makes up everything. To lead is to connect. This where science (quantum physics) intersects theology – everything is energy and seems to respond to consciousness. I believe there is truth in the ability to sell one’s soul and it’s not a good thing!

For me, spirituality is how we connect and channel our soul. It is essential to great leadership. Thus, consider the soul as a rambunctious child and spirituality as the sherpa, guide and rudder for the soul. Spirituality is how we handle our raging energy, our soul. Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing, suggests four behaviors of spirituality are necessary to our self-care including: meditation/prayer; being in community with others and the concentric circles beyond; suspending judgment and respecting other’s spiritual journey; and showing and acting with compassion for the least of these, the underserved, the less privileged, the wounded. Spirituality is carpe diem – “seizing the day.”

To be spiritual requires honesty, focus, humility and compassion. To be spiritual is confront our dysfunctionality. It’s to acknowledge there will be uncompleted things left in our “IN” box when we die and it’s okay. Our spirituality guides us through our many living deaths, like divorce, job-loss, the death of a loved-one, a disability, cancer while we are alive. Our spirituality helps us in the tension between what we desire and our fidelity to our values and commitments. Our spirituality is the source of letting go and some would say (including me), letting God, and always about connecting and dealing with others with compassion. If we are mindful to our spirituality, we find peace and joy. Embracing our soul through our spirituality completes us. Karl Rather says our spirituality “moves us to becoming mystics rather than non believers.” Our spirituality helps us to overcome our perfectionism and the need to be right. It allows us to accept our imperfections. Good, healthy, inclusive religious communities can be a resource and guide for our spiritual well-being.

“The top environment problems are selfishness, greed and
apathy…and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural
transformation…and we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
Gus Speth, American environmental lawyer

Let’s be honest, when we are a part of a family, a group, a team, an organization, a fellowship, a community, we no longer fully own our lives. We consciously and subconsciously allow others within those connections to mess with our lives. The fundamental requirement is to be vulnerable. Trust begins to take root leading to giving and receiving compassion from one another. We can share hopes and dreams leading to collaboration in creating a better life. While being alone is a good and necessary behavior at times, too much aloneness can lead to loneliness, an epidemic in our society. Our spirituality is an antidote to loneliness. Our spirituality keeps us from allowing others to define us. Our spirituality allows us to assume positive intent in others rather than judge. Attention to our spirituality is the foundation of emotional intelligence. To lead is to love and our spirituality allows us to love others as they are because our spirituality helps us to love our own messy, dysfunctional selves as we are. Being in touch with our spirituality allows the current version of ourselves to be worthy of love.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern, writes that what distracts us from our spirituality is narcissism (self-centeredness, selfishness, conceit and feeding one’s ego), pragmatism (hard-heartedness, logical and practical with a focus on achievement and success) and unbridled restlessness (anxiety, disquietude and impatience causing imbalance). These three behaviors keep us from taking care of ourselves and failing to serve and lead others. These behaviors feed a scarcity mentally leading to a feeling there is never enough and believing we are never enough. They feed wishful thinking as in: “I wish I was like or looked like __________.” “I wish I had ___________.”

“Christianity is mainly wishful thinking. Even the part about
Judgment and Hell reflects the wish that somewhere the
score is being kept.“                           – Frederick Buechner

The toughest person to lead is oneself. You lead yourself by paying attention and focusing on your physical well-being, your mental well-being, your emotional well-being and your spiritual well-being. All four of these practices interact with each other and nurture our ability to lead ourselves as well as others. Paying attention to these four practices and living them is essential to ‘modeling the way’ for those we lead.

According to a 2017 Gallup report, 71% of the American workforce is not engaged in their work which translates into poor productivity, higher turnover, more accidents and reduced ROI. Workforce leadership should be deeply concerned about this fact. After pondering my thoughts, how does your spirituality affect your engagement with others at work? Are you able to be still and listen? To get in touch with one’s spirituality, begin by listening.

“…listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people
are looking for an ear that will listen. He who can no longer listen
to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either. This is
the beginning of the death of the spiritual life.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Some ideas on reconnecting and nurturing one’s spirituality:

  • When you wakeup in the morning, linger in bed. Breathe. Consider with gratitude the rest you just experienced. Breathe. If your significant other is beside you, lightly touch them and consider your gratitude for your relationship. Breathe. Reflect on how you want to be experienced in the unfolding day. Consider who and what is really important.
  • Carve out time daily to be still, intentionally breathe, pray, meditate for at least ten minutes. And if you can’t find ten minutes, make it twenty minutes.
  • You are the five people you to whom are closest. How is their spiritual well-being? Choose well and wisely.
  • Seek out a mentor or faith-guide who has a strong spiritual well-being who can coach you on your spiritual well-being. After all, this is not a DIY practice. Spirituality requires connection with ourselves as well as with others.
  • Seek out, read or listen to books like Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie, Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, Eckhart Tolle The Power of Now, Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ, Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing, Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, Nadia Bolz-Weber Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, Robert Fulghum’s Everything I Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Anne Lamott’s Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair
  • Listen to podcasts like Krista Tippett’s On Being, The Moth: True Stories Told Live, Ira Glass’s This American Life, Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It, The Good Life Project.
  • Carry a reminder, a special object in your pocket that when you touch it, you pause to listen, to breathe, reflect, meditate, pray or just be still and become mindful of what’s around you.
  • Be intentional and mindful in discovering the “thin places” where heaven intersects with earth. It could be in the middle of a flowing stream or river; it could be on the subway where a person gives up their seat for an elder or disabled person; it could be in the golden hours where you sit quietly and observe the first light of day or the last rays of sun in the evening; it might occur when a cat or dog curls up in your lap; it could be that mellow fire with its deep red coals of a firepit or fireplace.
  • Create or be a part of inclusive communities. Be fully present. Listen. Don’t try to fix others. Turn off your smart phone.
  • Sit down to dinner with others. Be present. Breathe. Reflect on all the hands that made the meal possible. Say thank you out loud. As you eat, put your fork down. Breathe. Really taste what you are eating. Linger after you finish eating. Breathe. Consider how many ways you have been nourished in this time and space.
  • Use a canceled appointment to take a walk and breathe without your smart phone and take in what you see, hear, smell and feel.

What behaviors do you recommend for connecting and growing one’s spirituality?

BREAKING NEWS: Trust is on Life Support

“Trust is barely hanging onto life,” reported ICU Dr. Ucan Trustme, head of Public Trust Med Center, Canada, the #1 trusted country in the world. If trust dies, it will take generosity, empowerment and hope with it. Humility will become a word only found in the dictionary. Relationships already strained will diminish. Most of all, we are becoming slaves to fear. As a result, fear will dominate love, and ignorance will reach new levels. Insincere, unreliable, incompetent and uncompassionate behaviors will reign.

The brand, Life is Good, is seeking Chapter 11. If Life is Good is able to survive Chapter 11, experts think a name change is imminent perhaps as Life is Not Good or Life is Bad.

POTUS 45 is blaming the Democrats and the Democrats are blaming FOX News. The Supreme Court refuses to offer an opinion.

Doctors have been trying to discover the cause of trust’s life-threating demise. They are exploring the lack of critical thinking, echo chambers, denial of truth and facts, and ignorance of common sense. Many point to the inability to actively listen to one another. This inability seems to be linked to people taking themselves way too seriously, especially in positions of power, including government and wealth. Religious leaders and religious institutions have also lacked ability to help trust survive.

Trust medics noted POTUS 45 has replaced universal principles and rights with authoritarian behavior that appeals to a narrow, exclusive, part of America and Western society, creating more distrust and divisiveness. This has greatly contributed to trust being on life support; thus respect for fellow human beings is wishful thinking. Such behavior has led to making public shaming a lifestyle. Ugly behavior is in vogue and rampant. With trust’s dismise, anger has consumed American souls.

The relationship between trust and democracy is greatly wounded. Trust has always been a firm foundation of democracy. After all, The Constitution and its Amendments, were created based on trust between dissenting framers who held each other accountable to the core principles of our democracy.

When questioned on chances of trust surviving, doctors said it will require a yeoman’s effort that needs to be embraced by everyone, starting on a microlevel.

They suggested that everyone, especially leaders in positions of power, look into a mirror and ask themselves two important questions: “Am I trustworthy?” If so, “What is my evidence?” A deeper personal dive requires asking themselves how sincere, reliable, competent and compassionate they are. Asking others who know them about these four critical trust behaviors could reduce personal blind spots. It’s been shown all four of these behaviors are essential for establishing and building trust with others. A weakness in any one of these behaviors could keep trust in the ICU.

Doctors suggest people get out of their comfort zones, including their echo chambers, and go where they don’t normally go for news and information; attend meetings and interact with groups they would not normally seek out.

Connecting with those who have different beliefs, opinions and faiths is also a good idea. Listen to each other’s stories and follow-up with open-ended questions of each other, seeking to understand rather than being understood; become interested rather than trying to be a “know it all.” When they feel “triggered,” they should ask another question rather than give their opinion.

A global beer company is doing its part, watch Heineken’s “Worlds Apart: An Experiment.” What are you willing do to help trust not just survive but thrive?

Is Your Comfort Zone Killing You?

Comfort zone: a familiar place or situation where you feel safe with no stress or anxiety. It seems like the happy place. It’s neither a good nor bad place.

When you make staying in your comfort zone a lifestyle rather than an occasional behavior, it becomes a form of addiction, a very bad habit.

Comfort zones kill.

Comfort zones kill creativity. It may sound like, “I’m not good at (fill in the blank).” It may look like being a spectator.

Comfort zones kill self-improvement. It may sound like, “ I don’t do (fill in the blank).” It may look like not going to the library, visiting someplace new, or taking a class.

Comfort zones kill one’s purpose or calling. It may sound like, “I’m too old.” It may look like sending a check instead of going, doing and being.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.
                                                                                                          – George Benard Shaw

Comfort zones kill “yes, and…” It may sound like, “Yes, but its so far go, it takes too much time and costs too much.” It looks like sending a present or gift card.

Comfort zones kill our wisdom. Comfort zones contribute to our implicit bias and revel in one’s privilege. It may sound like, “Homeless people are lazy and don’t want to work.” It may look like being around people who look like us.

Comfort zones kill social justice. It may sound like, “I don’t like being around homeless people.” It may look like working in a soup kitchen for an hour but not doing anything to put an end to homelessness.

Comfort zones kill self-examination. It may sound like, “I maybe mean, but you are meaner.” or “I don’t have a choice. I’m just doing my job.” It may look like not showing up to support a cohort, a friend or family member.

Comfort zones kill the ability to grieve properly. Life is unfair. No one is immune to being “dropped,” cheated, short-changed, disrespected, or even abused. It may sound like, “It’s God’s will.” It may look like suicide.

Comfort zones kill productivity. It may sound “I’m just too busy!” It may look like mindless viewing of social media, the internet or television.

Comfort zones kill graceful aging. It may sound like, “I need a facelift.” It may look like wearing a toupee or not getting needed hearing aids.

Comfort zones kill success. It may sound like, “We’re number one!” It may look like that abandoned Blockbuster store front or those old Kodak snapshots.

Comfort zones kill love. It may sound like, “I’m afraid to meet someone new.” It looks like staying home in your pajamas all weekend.

Comfort zones kill uncertainty. It may sound like, “The Bible says so, therefore, it’s true.” It looks like finger-pointing and judgment.

The opposite of faith is certainty. – Anne Lamott

Comfort zones kill inclusiveness. It may sound like, “We need to build a wall.” It looks like a gated community.

The ugliest word in the English language … “exclusive.” – Rev. Sandy McConnell

Comfort zones kill our health and well-being. It may sound like, “I hate going to the gym.” It looks like having a second doughnut.

Comfort zones killed the Jews during the Holocaust. It may have sounded like, “They are a threat to our way of life.” It may have looked like looking the other way.

Comfort zones kill relationships. It may sound like, “You are a snowflake.” or “You are a deplorable.” It may look like eating alone or standing alone in a room.

Want to break out of your comfort zone? Get curious. Project yourself into the future. When confronted with something new, different, challenging, or uncomfortable, ask yourself:

                                 How will I feel if I don’t move forward?

                                 How will I feel if I do move forward?

                                 How will this help me grow?

                                 How will this make me a better version of myself?

                                 How will this impact the way I wish others to experience me?

                                 How will this build and nurture relationships?

Does a Leader Have to Like His or Her Followers?

No, a leader does not have to like his or her followers, although it helps.

BUT A LEADER MUST LOVE HIS OR HER FOLLOWERS! Love is a higher calling than like.

The second greatest commandment of the Christian faith is not ‘like thy neighbor as thyself,’ but “love thy neighbor as thyself.” As a leader, I am not called to like myself to lead others. I am called to love myself to lead others. “Liking” is about finding similarity, being conditional, and being involved. “Loving” is about promoting dissimilarity, being unconditional, and being committed. Go back and re-read the commandment substituting the word “neighbor” with the word “follower” and then again with the word “stranger.”

“Love is not a feeling, Mr. Burns. It’s an ability.”                                                                           – Peter Hedges, director. Dan In Real Life. Touchstone, 2007.

To like is a feeling. To love is an ability.

To like is about ego. To love is about humility.

To like may be selfish. To love is to be selfless.

To like is to be served. To love is to serve.

To like may feed one’s narcissism and pragmatism. To love feeds one’s soul and spirituality.

To like is to offer sympathy. To love is to give empathy and have the courage to encourage.

To like is to hide weaknesses and flaws. To love is to be vulnerable.

To like is to connect. To love is to interconnect and bond.

To like is to want to be with. To love is to recognize the need to be with.

To like is to tolerate and endure. To love is to empower.

To like is to be comfortable with who. To love is to be comfortable with purpose, vision and mission.

A leader loves his or her followers for the values, gifts, talents, and passions they bring to the team, the organization or the community. A leader has the ability to help followers feel needed by helping them understand their contribution to the purpose, vision and mission of the team, organization or community. That ability is rooted in solid emotional intelligence to transcend the dislike of peculiarities, annoyances, difference in beliefs or opinions and focus on the value the individual brings to the team, organization or community.

Perhaps the greatest difficulty for a leader is to see a follower who is suffering and being rejected by that follower. At that those times, it’s best to remember Will Bowen’s words, “Those who hurt are hurting.”

The greatest challenge of love is the willingness to sacrifice for others, to give your life for others. Great leaders on the battlefield lead others into battle and are willing and expecting to take the first hit. Great leaders also make sure, when it’s time to eat, their followers get fed before they do. If you are unwilling to sacrifice, you really don’t love and cannot truly lead others.

The follower, who loves his or her leader for the significance the leader makes in their life, team, organization or community, gets a role model.

“He who cannot be a good follower, cannot be a good leader.”  – Aristotle

Are you a leader who loves your followers? Are you a follower who loves your leader?

Are You Status Quo?

I know fast food is bad for me and I rarely touch the stuff. I’ll will admit to enjoying a Big Mac a couple times a year, which is what got my attention on a recent indulgence. The golden arches is no longer the golden arches of which I am familiar! McD’s has been trying to overcome status quo, which has translated into lagging sales. My status quo towards McD’s is they consistently deliver salty, sugary, fried fast food. The Big Mac I buy in Asheville, NC looks, feels, smells and tastes exactly like the Big Mac in my hometown of Dayton, OH. 

To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are. Wikipedia

McDonald’s is trying to re-invent themselves to overcome status quo. Some people are “lovin’ it” as shown in McDonald’s stock price that has doubled since 2015.

Several of the McD’s in our area have gotten face lifts. The buildings inside and out have a minimalist, hard, contemporary look. As you walk in, you get hit with big bold pictures of McDonald’s “signature collection.” Personally, I’m not lovin’ it. In fact, on my recent visit, I got frustrated trying to find my McD’s status quo Big Mac and price on the McMenu.

Signiture is your copyright, a one-of-a-kind, an extension of your fingerprint. Your signature is your unique handwritten tattoo. Signature is your promise. It represents for what you are known, your accountability, your responsibility and your integrity. It is one of the reasons I choose to write handwritten notes over email because the note ends with my signature, my promise, my integrity.

Sorry, McDonald’s, I’ll have just a status quo Big Mac to go, please. If I want a “signature” burger here in Asheville, I’ll go to the Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge or The Pine Club back in Dayton, OH.

Galileo challenged the Catholic church on status quo of the belief the earth was the center of the universe. It nearly got him killed. I remember a couple of my college professors who taught using status quo. Their lectures and tests were the same semester after semester. Tenure insures status quo. Blockbuster operated in status quo when Netflix challenged how we saw movies. Where is Blockbuster today? Even though Kodak engineers invented the first digital camera back in 1974, Kodak maintained status quo continuing to produce photographic paper, film and chemicals. Where is Kodak today? The NRA is operating and upholding status quo. How is that impacting the United States?

Do you work under status quo? Are you willing to ask others for their opinion about your status quo?

Breaking status quo means getting out of your comfort zone into your learning zone. It begins with incrementalism, with simple things like driving home from work a different way. Going to a different place to eat and ordering something unfamiliar. Visiting a museum instead of attending a football game. Reading a new book instead of watching television.

Breaking status quo means getting out of your echo chambers. It means meeting and talking with people with whom you don’t normally speak. Breaking status quo may mean stop telling and start asking, start being interested rather than trying to be interesting.

Breaking status quo means choosing different, challenging assumptions and lifestyles. This includes your leadership. It may mean becoming known for something better than your status quo.

Are you willing to mess with your success, relearn, retool, and even reinvent yourself and overcome your status quo?

How Are You At Networking?

Networking is not what you know, its who you know. Who you know is key to creating a brighter future. “The key to networking is to stop networking.” Nobody wants to have a ‘networking conversation.’ They are hungry for real conversations and real relationships. It just has to be authentic, genuine and sincere.” Greg McKeown, […]

Do You Have A Leadership Philosophy?

I came across The Leader’s Compass by Ed Rugggero in 2005. As a consummate student of leadership, this book was a call to action! I spent time thinking and exploring what I believed was important in leading myself as well as others. As a facilitator of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s The Leadership Challenge, my leadership philosophy is based upon the five practices of exemplary leadership. It is a dynamic document that continues to be updated as I grow in my leadership. I’ve share my leadership philosophy with those I lead, my cohorts and coaching clients. I keep a copy of my leadership philosophy with me at all times in my journal. I refer to it regularly. I ask those with whom I’ve shared my leadership philosophy, “How am I doing?” I listen for feedback. I adjust and continue to work on my leadership. 

Do you have a leadership philosophy? Is it written down? Have you shared it with your followers and cohorts? Have you asked for feedback? 

David Carr’s Leadership Philosophy Based Upon the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership from The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.

I Model the Way

I will lead in the ways I would like to be lead. I will do my best to Be the Golden Rule. My core values and beliefs are linked to Micah 6:8 and bound in three words:
Compassion – compassion means continuously seeking to understand, before being understood. It’s being aware of my self-deception.
Gratitude – gratitude directly affects my attitude. A grateful heart knows and reaffirms the abundant blessings in my life rather than wishful thinking and desires.
Humility – not thinking of myself much differently from the way I’d be apt to think of anybody else.

I work at being patient. I know there are two sides to every coin. I push back and seek information. I work at not assuming and most of all, I try not nurture phantom rules. I work at avoiding creating ugly stories. I seek to be curious and continuously ask questions. I make time for sharpening my saw including, the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual.

I Challenge the Process

The number one challenge for me is to find and maintain balance. I find balance by continuously examining my life. I know I cannot be good for those I lead if I am not good for myself. Socrates wrote truth, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”    

I believe stress is a major illness. I try to prevent stress by learning to simplify all areas of my life. I came into this world with hands and a mind free of stuff. I will leave this life taking nothing with me. In between its “stuff” that burdens the journey. There is so much I want, yet so little I need. People remember Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” and The Golden Rule. I believe core messages help me to avoid bad choices by reminding me of what is important. I seek to find ways to eliminate complexity and circumlocution throughout my life. I have learned to leverage. I know my strengths and focus on continuously developing these. I find followers whose strengths are my weaknesses and leverage.

I Enable Others to Act

I understand the difference between management versus leadership. Leadership is about effectiveness and doing the right things. Management is about efficiency and doing things right. I manage time, processes and things. I lead people. The only time micromanagement works is at a time of crisis, when people are emotional or fearful resulting in unclear thinking. There is no “microleadership.” I try to leave people and places in better condition than when I found them!     

I delegate. I give away the power. I give people the big picture, the expectations. I let them use their strengths, gifts, talents and passion to figure out the process that works best. I hold people accountable but give up control. I try to understand how much communication is needed to create a shared-mental-model for the expectations. I work to understand how people learn and communicate best. I know some people are visual learners, some are verbal learners and some are experience-based learners.

I Inspire a Shared Vision

I believe I know what life is calling me to do: To help individuals, groups and organizations to learn, to live, to promote “seize the day” leading to reduced ignorance and reduced suffering and enhanced living.   

I am the author of my mission, the mountains I wish to climb the next several years. I have designed key initiatives to help me to focus on my mission. I set metrics and a timeline to measure my progress. My mission from 2008, was to announce to the staff of Joy Outdoor Education Center, Clarksville, OH, I would be leaving by the end of the year to work and live on purpose in North Carolina with my wife, Terri.

I believe a leader who knows, who understands and is inspired by his/her vision is in a better position to lead others and to inspire others to a shared vision for the team and organization.

I Encourage the Heart

I know the only things a leader can control are the ABCs – Attitude, Behavior and Choices. Most of all, I know I cannot control others. I believe it is my responsibility to get to know others, my followers and understand them including their strengths, weaknesses, concerns, pains and worries. I know I cannot motivate, but I believe I can inspire by showing how much I care and cheering people on to bring their best, to be their best, to do their best for our team and organization.

These are the leadership questions I continuously ask of myself and of my followers:

What key functions can only I as a leader perform?
How am I doing?
Who is the customer? Am I/are we serving him/her well?
Do we know what our business is? 

Are we focused on that business?
What makes us good? What costs us at being good?
How can we break hierarchy and create networks?

I ask if you come to me with an issue or problem, please bring a solution as well so we may together resolve the issue or problem as quickly as possible.

Carrpe Diem!

David Carr