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Seeking to Understand: Advice to Successfully Implement DEI Initiatives

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This blog is written by Maureen Metcalf and summarizes 5 recommendations Roger Madison shared about how leaders can improve the outcomes of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.  It is a companion to the interview with Roger on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Diversity and Inclusion Insights from IBM South Africa Experience that aired on Tuesday, November 24th, 2020.

 

Recently, I was honored to interview Roger Madison, a successful person of color overcoming discrimination and bias.  Let me share a little bit about Roger.

Roger’s Background

Roger grew up in Farmville, Virginia, and went on to earn  his Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from the George Washington University School of Business and Government Studies.   He is the Founder and CEO of iZania, LLC, which he established in 2003 after a successful career as a sales executive for IBM, some of that time was spent in South Africa.  iZania.com is an online community of Black entrepreneurs, professionals, and consumers, dedicated to economic and social empowerment. His goal is to help bridge the digital divide.

Roger’s passion is helping to prepare young people for the business of life. He is actively engaged in our community as a board member, volunteer, and mentor with Junior Achievement of Central Ohio, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus.

He is married to his lovely his wife, Joyce, and they live in central Ohio.  They have been blessed with two adult children and two grandchildren.

 

Our Conversation

I believe part of the solution to diversity, equity, and inclusion involves understanding people’s experiences impacted by discrimination. During the interview, Roger shared the story of his struggles when his high school was closed because of the Brown vs. Board of Education legal battle. Roger also shared how bias impacted his ability to perform during his early college years and how his experience in the U.S. Air Force helped him develop the skills and confidence required to complete his college degree.

Roger was among the first and often only black person in a job or role. He found ways to thrive, even in overtly discriminatory environments. He is talented, able to self-advocate, and also fortunate to have had the opportunities he did. As described above to young people, he now gives back, helping them understand the business of life. He also serves as a role model and mentor for many others through his direct work at iZania and other community work.

I encourage you to listen to his full interview at the link here.

 

Roger’s Recommendations

Based on Roger’s unique experience, here are the five steps he recommends to improve outcomes from DEI initiatives.

  1. Undertake an honest assessment of the current status of your organization.  Understand the perceptions of DEI issues of existing employees.  Their perceptions represent the reality of your organization.  This has to be the starting point.
  2. Set measurable goals for change. Establish a vision of the inclusive environment you are working toward.  Commit to targets of inclusion, similar to the affirmative action programs of the 1970s.
  3. Create a pipeline to sustain the targets you establish.  Ensure meaningful representation at entry, middle, and senior levels of your organization.  This means providing opportunities for advancement with mentorships, special assignments, and broad exposure across all organizational areas.
  4. Be an advocate for the vision of an expanded culture of inclusion.  Leaders must lead.  This is not an assignment to delegate to the Chief Diversity Officer.  There may be a need for a Chief Diversity Officer to execute programs, but leadership must reside at the top.
  5. Follow through with the execution of plans to reach the goals established.  DEI must be a commitment, not an option.

We encourage you to look at how your organization is doing against your DEI goals, and if you don’t have DEI goals, how you are doing compared to where you think or wish you were. If you are not meeting your goals, take action. If you are in a formal leadership role, you can take significant action. If you are an individual contributor, you can be an advocate! All of us have a role to play in the evening the playing field. Thank you for playing your role well – to create a world where everyone has equal opportunities.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of Innovative Leadership Institute – is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations. She has captured her thirty years of experience and success in an award-winning series of books which are used by public, private and academic organizations to align company-wide strategy, systems and culture with innovative leadership techniques. As a preeminent change agent, Ms. Metcalf has set strategic direction and then transformed her client organizations to deliver significant business results such as increased profitability, cycle time reduction, improved quality, and increased employee engagement. For years, she has been willing to share her hard-won insights – through conference speaking opportunities, industry publications, radio talk-shows, and video presentations.

 

Capitalism Needs a Rethink – Evolving Toward a Stronger and More Equitable Future?

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This blog is provided by Ty Montague, co-founder & CEO of co:collective, a creative and strategic transformation partner for purpose-led businesses.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled StoryDoers: Leaders and Organizations with Clearly Defined Higher Purposes that aired on Tuesday, November 17th, 2020.

 

It is fair to say we live in a world described as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA). In James Stoller’s recent book, he indicates, “One way to define the “action of our time” is to ensure high performance under pressure in a VUCA world. People do not have to adapt to VUCA, though as W. Edwards Deming cautioned, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory. VUCA rewards excellence and is harsh on mediocrity.” As we consider excellence in corporate performance, we must rethink how we define the corporation’s foundational role. Many corporate titans call for just this change to how we think about the corporation’s role in the national and global ecosystem.

To inform this conversation, let’s start with some history. On September 13th, 1970, Milton Friedman published what would become known as the Friedman Doctrine — a seminal essay on a corporation’s purpose.  The full essay is worth a read; the central thesis can be boiled down to a few sentences:

“Some businessmen (sic) believe that they are defending free enterprise when they disclaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit but also with promoting desirable “social” ends; that business has a “social conscience” and takes its responsibilities seriously for providing employment eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else might be the catchwords of the contemporary reformers. They are — or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously– preaching pure unadulterated socialism. Businessmen who talk this way are the unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades”.

In my view, the world is a worse place today because of it. Why? Well, to say that Freidman’s Doctrine made an impression on the business world would be an understatement.  It was a frying pan to the head of the day’s conventional capitalist philosophy — let’s call it humanist capitalism — which held that enlightened business leaders needed to consider the needs of a broader set of stakeholders, not just shareholders.  This form of capitalism essentially created the bountiful economic environment in America between the end of WWII and 1970 and created the middle class.  Thwak!  With a single essay, Milton Friedman killed humanist capitalism as dead as a doornail. That thwak resounded broadly — it echoed through the hallways of America’s elite business schools and whanged around inside the boardrooms of our largest corporations. Looking around at the world today, many of the most challenging problems we face in America are a direct result of Friedman’s idea — let’s call it predatory capitalism.

Over the next several decades, many corporate leaders, following Friedman’s directive that the sole purpose of a corporation is to maximize profits for its shareholders, hacked away at internal costs by paying the lowest possible wages, providing less training, less PTO, less maternity leave and less healthcare protection. They fought unions. They held the minimum wage at sub-poverty levels. Simultaneously they found ways to artificially lower the cost of their products by externalizing as much cost as possible, for example, by dumping the by-products of their manufacturing processes into the public common (our air and our water) and then refusing to take any financial or legal responsibility for cleaning up the mess.

The truly predatory behavior happened at the regulatory level where corporations began to relentlessly lobby to lower the corporate tax rate (resulting in, for instance, public schools today that can’t afford critical supplies) and to continuously weaken environmental protections (resulting in, for example, the existential threat of our time, climate change).  But the real damage occurred when they succeeded in changing the laws around political contributions to maximize their ability to press their giant fingers on the scale of democracy and tip the entire system permanently in their favor. This effort culminated recently in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Citizens United,  which formalizes corporations’ recognition as people.  As full “citizens,” with all of the rights (but few of the responsibilities) that come with citizenship, companies can now contribute unlimited amounts of money to political contests, which, under the decision, is defined as corporate “free speech.” So, their voice in the political process is now exponentially louder than yours or mine.

So when we look around today at the ominous condition of America today — an unprecedented and growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, a devastated middle class, record rates of depression and drug abuse, an environment teetering on the edge of systemic collapse as evidenced by the rapid extinction of species, out of control wildfires, hurricanes and flooding events at record levels, et al,– in many respects, we have Milton Friedman to thank.

Now let’s shift to the optimistic view! And by the way, I’m also a capitalist. I believe that capitalism can solve these problems, and I think we already see some positive signs.  But we have to quickly evolve away from this extreme, predatory form of capitalism that enriches a handful of us to absurd levels.

We urgently need to re-discover the form of capitalism that created the most remarkable economic expansion the world has ever seen. The structure where all corporations, as well as all citizens, pay their fair share of taxes.  The capitalist system where corporations are corporations, not citizens, and don’t have an infinitely amplified voice in our political process. The structure of capitalism, where skill, creativity, and ambition are rewarded by upward mobility but not by savagely standing on our neighbors and fellow citizens’ necks. The structure of capitalism that values cultural and social diversity, where we remember that America was founded to be a melting pot and that this diversity makes us more resilient, not less.  The structure of capitalism incentivizes both short and long-term thinking about our planetary life support system — the natural environment. And let’s one-up the capitalism of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ’60s and pay attention to social justice, equity and inclusion while we’re at it.

Nice dream?

Maybe. But over the past ten years, we started to see some green shoots in this space. More and more companies are waking up because they have a broader responsibility than only enriching their shareholders directly.  We see innovations like the B Corp, and its stricter cousin, the “Benefit Corporation.”  We see the Conscious Capitalism movement take hold. We see powerful capitalists like Larry Fink, the CEO of Blackrock, taking up the cause — in his closely followed ‘annual letter to CEO’s’ in 2018, he stated that Blackrock (the world’s largest investment fund manager) would no longer invest in companies that are unable to articulate a higher social or environmental purpose. The Business Roundtable, comprised of the CEO’s of 200 of the largest corporations in the world, recently published an open letter proclaiming the exact opposite of the Friedman Doctrine, that the purpose of a corporation must not be solely to create profit for shareholders, but must also be to create value for a wide variety of stakeholders., These capitalist chieftains are not saying this exclusively to salve their souls. After all, they are capitalists, and they are saying this because they sense something new happening. A new generation of consumers won’t do business with companies that operate in the antiquated, predatory, Friedmanesque model.  “Woke” millennial consumers aren’t accepting it. Their POV on predatory capitalist enterprises of today?  “Change or die.  We’ll take either.”

So, the writing is on the wall. Capitalism and capitalists must evolve once again (as we always have and always should!).  If you run a company today, rather than resist this, my request is to get on the right side of history.  Get to work defining your higher purpose.  And then put it to work driving positive innovation and permanent change in your company, your community, and in the world. Your children and their children will thank you (by buying your products, for starters).

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Authors

Ty Montague co-founder & CEO of co:collective, a creative and strategic transformation partner for purpose-led businesses. Co: works with leadership teams to define their higher purpose and to bring that purpose to life through innovation in the customer experience. They call this process StoryDoing.  Ty published a book about StoryDoing in 2013 called True Story, and since that time the co: team has been fortunate to work with some of the most inspiring and progressive organizations and leaders, including Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, IBM, MetLife, Microsoft, the ACLU, Infiniti, Capital One, and Under Armour. He previously served as Co-President & Chief Creative Officer of J Walter Thompson North America and Creative Director of Wieden and Kennedy New York.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, coach, consultant, author and speaker.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Nimbly Moving Through the Next Inflection Point

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This blog is provided by Lisa Gable, CEO of FARE, Food Allergy Research Education.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Managing Inflection Points that aired on August 11th, 2020.

 

Having worked through many times of significant global change, most notably the dot.com bust and 9/11, I quickly learned the importance of being agile in my professional and personal life. I had to “zig and zag” while maintaining a positive outward face in business, while building a home environment based on readiness and resilience.

For those of us who are not experiencing our first inflection point (aka the Covid-19 crisis), we have the advantage of a lifetime of managing and surviving stressful situations.  By your early 50s, there is a higher likelihood that you will have suffered a few life altering events and have managed through booms, busts, and heartbreaks.

I’ve seen probably more than my fair share of inflection points in history, including with my time at the Reagan Defense Department during the final days of the Cold War. And, when I joined FARE back in 2018, I inadvertently created an inflection point for the organization.  My remit was to restructure the organization and drive philanthropic and industry investment to help fund new therapies and diagnostics.

If Covid-19 is the first time you are confronting an inflection point, don’t worry – there is time to more fully develop very specific resilience and coping skills. In the meantime, here is some advice for budding and senior managers during this crisis and others that will inevitably follow:

  • Offer mentorship and coaching and consider what you can do to help alleviate the unique stressors of Covid-19.
  • Work to balance the needs of business against people’s fears. Be human and approachable. Share your own story in a manner that is comfortable for you so that you can take part in open dialogue.
  • Encourage co-workers not to hide their challenges, but to share them. Challenges may that remain tucked away can negatively impact the ability of peers to meet their goals, including thriving personally through the inflection point. Awareness of a unique situation become points of information for creating systems and tools.
  • Foster a culture of collaboration which transparently recognizes barriers and encourages teammates to work together to build a path forward which works for the team.
  • Realize that everyone will hit a mental wall at some point – even you. Even the strongest employee will eventually become overwhelmed. Be prepared for the moment and provide a safe environment for the individual to take a mental health break for a few hours, the afternoon, or a day.
  • Take your vacation and encourage others to schedule theirs, also. Burn out is real and renewal is required to meet the uncertainty that is still to come.

The point about inflection points is – you just don’t know when they will arise. They just happen. To everyone. So, to be prepared means you are a better prepared manager, colleague, friend, and parent.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Lisa Gable is CEO of FARE, Food Allergy Research Education, the largest private funder of food allergy research advocating on behalf of the 32 million Americans living with potentially life-threatening food allergies. Lisa passion, expertise, and fearless workstyle have propelled her to achieve the titles of CEO, US Ambassador, UN Delegate, Chairman of the Board, and advisor to Presidents, Governors, and CEOs of Fortune 500 and CPG Companies worldwide.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

How Hiking Supports Strategic Thinking and Reflection

This post is written by guest Damian Taylor as a companion to interview with Ken Wylie, Outdoor Adventures, A School for Leadership and Discovery his interview, on the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on July 24, 2018.

As leaders, many of us struggle to find time to refresh our bodies, minds and spirits. I have been a hiker now for decades. Some of my most interesting vacations involved what were for me epic hiking trips such as climbing Kilimanjaro and hiking the Incan Trail. My next target is hiking a portion of the Camino.

As a leader, someone who is generally over committed with tasks and who values taking time to reflect, I find that waking daily and periodic hikes really support my overall success. I have engaged in walking meetings for years and on occasion actually do more hiking that walking meetings. These are with people I want to have indepth interactions with, often of a strategic nature.

This article talks about the benefit of hiking to address anxiety and depression along with building resilience. I want to point out that a significant percentage of our workforce struggles with these issues and we know that being out in the natural world can help address some of the symptoms. Whether you are attending to anxiety or taking time for reflection and strategic thinking, or doing both, hiking is a great option!

Anxiety and depression are incredibly common ailments of 21st Century humans. But while there are a number of different treatments for these illnesses (and you should always discuss your symptoms with your doctor and seek the treatment he or she recommends), too many people overlook one of the best: hiking.

Hiking is often very effective for easing anxiety and depression, and it is a treatment option that is accessible to the vast majority of people. In fact, there are a number of reasons hiking is such an excellent way to feel better, which we’ll outline below.

Exercise Promotes Brain Health

Hiking is a fantastic form of exercise that provides a variety of benefits for your body. It’ll help you lose weight while simultaneously strengthening your muscles. And if you keep at it for long enough, it’ll likely help lower your blood pressure and reduce your chances of suffering from strokes, diabetes or heart disease.

But while these benefits are all clearly valuable, exercise also helps to promote a healthy brain too. If your hikes are strenuous enough to elevate your heart rate and cause you to sweat a bit, they’ll likely help increase the size of your hippocampus – the portion of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning.

Exercise also causes the body to release growth factors – chemicals that help encourage blood vessel development in the brain and support the production of healthy brain cells. And don’t worry, you needn’t hike for very long to start enjoying improved brain health; research shows that even a 20-minute hike can improve the way your brain processes information.

Hiking Is Easy to Do and Affordable

Unlike so many other treatments for anxiety and depression, hiking is available to just about everyone, regardless of your location or tax bracket.

Most Americans probably live within a short drive of at least one hiking trail, even if it is nothing more than a 1-mile loop around the local park. You may have to do a bit of digging to find longer, more challenging or more scenic trails, but you’ll still likely find multiple options within driving distance.

Additionally, hiking rarely costs much – if anything – at all. Some trails require you to pay for parking or for entry to the park, but even these typically offer “frequent use” passes, which will allow you to enjoy the park or trails for very little money. You may also have to purchase a water bottle and pair of hiking boots, but with a bit of effort, you can likely find these things at very affordable prices.

Hiking Helps You to Disconnect from Day-to-Day Life

Chances are, you are constantly barraged by stimuli from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow. Your phone, TV and radio constantly buzz with messages, information and entertainment, and you probably don’t have much time to quietly reflect on your thoughts.

But to get away from all of this, all you need to do is strap on your hiking boots and hit the trail. In contrast to our neighborhoods, homes and offices, wilderness areas are generally quiet and peaceful. This helps you to shed some of the stress caused by daily life. Disconnecting from your day-to-day life in this way can be very restorative and help reduce your anxiety and depression.

Obviously, you should still bring your phone along with you for safety’s sake, but maybe you should turn off the ringer for a while – at least until you get back to your car.

Hiking Provides Perspective

Often, anxiety and depression cause people to lose sight of the big picture. Instead of enjoying life, people struggling with depression or anxiety become stuck focusing on the small challenges, failures and disappointments that happen on a daily basis. But hiking in natural settings can help you bust out of this rut and gain a bit of perspective.

If, for example, you find yourself overwhelmed by a big work project coming up, you may find that a hike through your local mountains will help you remember that the project is just a tiny part of your life, and that there is a big beautiful world out there waiting for you to enjoy it.

Hiking Helps You to Build Resilience and Self-Confidence

If you hike for long enough, you’ll surely experience a tough day on the trail. Your feet may blister, you may get lost, or you may find that the trail you chose was a bit too strenuous. But chances are, you’ll find some way to tough out the hike, and overcome these challenges.

This will help build resilience and boost your self-confidence in profound ways. In truth, any challenge you face and overcome will help in both of these respects, but doing so in the natural world often provides the most profound results.

Just be sure that you don’t take this concept too far. It’s always good to challenge yourself and set increasingly difficult goals as you progress, but you must keep safety in mind. Always keep a cell phone on you so you can contact help if you need it and let someone know when you’ll be returning.

You Only Compete Against Yourself: There’s No Pressure to Perform

Many people understand the health benefits that exercise provides, but they aren’t interested in engaging in an implicitly or explicitly competitive pursuit, such as joining the local softball league or gym. This is certainly understandable – especially when you are already feeling depressed or anxious.

But hiking is a fantastic exercise, that lacks the competitive aspects that many of these other types of exercise feature. You are only competing against yourself and – to a lesser extent – Mother Nature. You get to celebrate those times you hike a bit further or complete a loop a bit faster; and yet your tough days, when you don’t perform quite as well, will remain your secret.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you go out and hike 1 mile a week or 50 miles a week – the only person you have to impress while you’re hiking is yourself.

Hiking Relieves Stress

Stress is often a contributing factor to anxiety and depression, so anything you can do to help relieve stress should help you feel a bit better. Hiking definitely fits this bill, as it not only provides great exercise (which helps to relieve stress too), but it takes place in gorgeous natural settings.

Scientists have even found that spending time in nature – even simply looking at nature – helps relieve stress and recharge your mind, body and soul. In fact, looking at a natural setting helps reduce pain and accelerate the healing process. And if you hike with a friend or loved one, you’ll often find this helps alleviate your stress even more thoroughly.

As you can see, hiking provides myriad benefits to those battling with anxiety or depression. So, find your closest trail and start trekking. Don’t forget to discuss your anxiety and depression with your doctor (and make sure you are healthy enough to begin hiking if you aren’t normally active), but you’ll likely find that regular hikes are exactly what the doctor ordered.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Five Key Ways Leaders Can Drive Brand Value

This post is from a Forbes article written by Maureen Metcalf in collaboration with Brad Circone. It is the companion to a Voice America interview with Brad, From Banding to Branding: How the Wisdom of Rock n Roll taught The Artful Discipline of Leadership on  the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 5, 2017.

Given the pace of change across industries, and specifically, the pace of change leaders are required to personally keep, do you refresh your brand as your ecosystem changes? And do you, as a leader, live that brand?

A brand can be one of the biggest differentiators for an organization, whether positive or negative. It impacts what feelings are evoked when people interact with a product. Some of the most successful brands, like Google and Apple, invest a great deal in defining and living out their brand.

Brand equity often drives revenue, customer retention and price. Everyone in the company should live the brand. As leaders, we are key brand stewards — it is critical for us to have a clear picture of what the brand is, how it behaves and to humbly respect it enough to follow it. Your brand runs your company too.

1. Identify your organization’s mission, vision and guiding principles.

As leaders, we use these as the basis for all decisions. Here’s the guiding principle of a public radio station in Columbus, Ohio, of which I’m a board member: “This station will be the home of creativity and innovation in all forms of audio content — journalism, music, fiction, culture, and art — regardless of platform. We’ll accomplish this by helping every colleague explore and achieve his or her full potential, all in the service of bolstering our community and improving humanity.”

This purpose is grounded in action by leaders who use a set of behavioral guidelines and agreements that support making this possible. One key area of focus is seeing the best in everyone on the team and promoting experimentation.

2. Position the brand.

Determine how to position the company and the subsequent brand offering to evoke the feelings you want people to experience when they interact with you.

In the case of the public radio station above, its leaders selected the brand based on both internal capabilities and the gap they saw in the market. The station regularly hears from listeners who say they support the news hour and that the local content keeps them informed and connected. They also hear from local musicians who say the airtime they got launched their successful careers when others would not give them a chance. They are experimenting with several elements of funding and content to remain valuable.

When talking about the feelings they want their listeners to experience, leaders’ goals include: a feeling of connectedness at home and in the community, feeling intellectually challenged and informed and a feeling that they, too, can experiment to accomplish greater results in their lives. They want to inspire the community to grow and evolve.

3. Personalize the brand’s attributes.

If your brand was a person, who would that person be and what would they do? Leaders must take the perspective of their brand avatar when making key decisions.

As the founder of a coaching firm, our avatar is now evolving to reflect the leadership team, and more importantly, the brand our clients want that will inform our actions and preserve our promises. As change accelerates, leaders are feeling increasingly overwhelmed.

Having an external thought partner and advisor who works confidentially and addresses their biggest challenges gives a sense of support and confidence. We call this avatar “The Brand of Yoda.” Yoda prepared Luke to fight the Dark Side. He was eminently wise, able to teach complex skills and thinking, and he was supportive and tough. Luke not only had different skills, he was significantly more effective because he saw himself and the world differently. 

4. Amplify leadership behaviors and internalize the brand message.

To ensure leaders consistently live the brand, it is critical that they understand and amplify the behaviors they expect from not only themselves but everyone in the organization. Once brand attributes are clear, it is important to identify how one lives the brand.

Our company is committed to transforming leaders, therefore, each member lives the brand as Yoda, supporting client transformation. This behavior requires foundational agreements about how our team members and our strategic partners operate to ensure we reinforce the agreed-upon brand platform.

5. Activate external messaging.

Once leaders know how to live the behaviors called forth by the brand, it is important to clarify external messaging and activate it. This is where knowing becomes doing.

How do you convey your differentiation, the value you add, and create the feeling you want to evoke? It is important that all brand image elements and content are immutably aligned, from written to visual to behavioral. This messaging is informed by each prior step.

We, for example, are currently updating our own materials to convey our balance between leading, thinking and research, and the personal connections we create with our clients to help them make the changes they seek. This must be activated through our brand at every touch, relentlessly.

As a leader, if you are trying to amplify the value of your company by leveraging the brand, it is critical that you live it and lead others to do the same. Irrespective of an employee’s role within the company, they represent the brand. When one associates them with their role within the company, they are representing the brand and therefore help control and determine its ability to be loved or be left quietly alone.

Are your leadership behaviors increasing brand equity and building on the feeling you want your customers to have when they interact with your organization?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

How to be Innovative – Ask Inciting Questions

This guest blog was written as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Tamara Kleinberg, founder of LaunchStreet on August 1, Translate Success Today To Success Tomorrow Using Innovation. In the interview and the blog, Tamara explores the art and science of innovation – how to create a culture and mindset of innovation.

How to be innovative is found in the questions not the answers. But we have to pick our questions wisely. If we ask the same questions in the same way and even of the same people, it’s no surprise that we get the same answers. And those answers are the usually the incremental ones. Or, maybe it’s slightly better but not enough to make an impact.

If you want more breakthrough thinking, you’ve got to change from usual questions to inciting questions.

What’s the difference? Well, usual questions are the questions you always ask. Yes, they sound smart, even right. But, most likely you’ve been asking the same questions for a while. Or, maybe it’s the same questions everyone in your category is asking. Or, maybe it’s the question that leads you down the same path to the obvious answer. Usual questions become almost a matter of habit at every brainstorm. Here’s the challenge. Yes, those are questions you want answered. But, given their customary nature, you’re not going to get to those innovative ideas you need. You know this because you see it over and over again. Unlike, inciting questions. To incite is to stir, to encourage to stimulate, to prompt.

Inciting questions take you down new paths to those provocative answers you were looking for.

I found that there are two ways to tackle inciting questions. One is to ask questions that shake up your assumptions. Questions like:

  • What would happen if we didn’t solve that challenge?
  • What would it look if we did the opposite of what we usually do?

Or, before we go into solution mode, let’s work backward.

  • What’s the problem that caused the problem?

It’s funny, that last one gets people all stirred up because we want to quickly move into solution mode and assume the first problem we identify is the one we should be solving. I think our clients will tell you that when we start digging in, we find that the first challenge we are solving is not always the right one if we want to get to lasting change and results.

So the second way to ask inciting questions is to challenge the big assumptions in your category.

It’s really challenging the assumptions about how things should be done in your world. Here are a few of my favorite examples from organizations you know and some I think you’ll be excited to get to know. Why do cars have to be either fuel efficient or sexy? Tesla – sustainable and sexy cars. Why do razors need to be on store shelves at the grocery store? Dollar Shave Club – subscription razor service. Who says you have to go to the grocery store for your food? Instacart – grocery delivery. Why do libraries have to be a warehouse of books? Anythink Libraries – the lowest funded library district in Colorado and the outdated come check a book model and turned them into a beacon of discovering their communities and is elevating the entire library world with their innovations.

What are the big hairy assumptions in your world? What would happen if you flip those assumptions on their head and turn them into inciting questions? By the way, if you want to know if your questions are just interesting vs. inciting look for the response from other people. If they look shocked or like you just committed heresy then you are asking the questions that are going to get you to those provocative answers. So, go ask some inciting questions that make people go… what?!!

To become a more innovative leader, please consider the Metcalf + Associates online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

What Questions Help Identify High Quality Leaders For Your Organization?

This article was originally posted in Forbes in August 2016. It is the companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Richard Oliver on July 25 Executive Perspective: Building Vibrancy, Increasing Engagement, Improving Performance. In the interview Richard talks about his experience of dramatically increasing employee engagement at a 60 year old manufacturing company as their President.

As leaders, we are expected to be highly effective at identifying strong leadership, then rewarding it, retaining it, and developing it. Additionally, we are expected to remove bad leadership. Yet leadership is quite subjective. How do we know what “effective” leadership is?

In recent conversations, I realized that how we answer that simple question generates wildly different answers from my respected colleagues. For example, some might say effective leadership is generating strong financial results, while others might measure it based on personal recognition, promotion, social impact or building legacy. It is by asking the right questions that we can clarify what effective leadership is so as to reach the best outcome for our organizations.

I suggest starting with a list of questions from ecosynomics, a framework developed by Jim Ritchie-Dunham, an adjunct researcher at Harvard. Specifically, this framework poses four questions that organizations should consider in order to identify the greatest leadership potential and, consequently, to experience the greatest value from that leadership.

1. What Is Your Potential Leadership Capacity (How Much)?

Sustained value is one measure, but we can’t necessarily predict who will sustain value based on past performance. As we look across the organization’s ecosystem, performance is a starting point but not the final indicator because organizations, and people, run into unavoidable and unpredictable disruptions. As a result, such disruptions may reflect negatively on performance, but may not be an accurate reflection of sustained value of an individual.

Another measure is a set of behaviors or competencies that signal leadership potential. When we move from looking for results to looking for potential, we have moved out of our standard conversation. If we don’t talk about potential, we are missing an important variable when selecting leaders. As we consider potential, we need to also look for employees who are curious and continually learning in a changing environment. It is leaders who continue to “innovate how they lead” who will be able to consistently deliver over the long term.

2. Who Decides Our Leadership Potential?

Often leadership teams “rack and stack” their teams during an annual review process. These are often long and arduous processes. Many companies are revising the performance feedback process in favor of new approaches designed to provide ongoing feedback, but still need a mechanism to determine financial compensation beyond market value, promotion, performance improvement or exit.

The other side of this evaluation is the hiring process. Who is deciding your leadership potential? Is it the leader? The leader’s peers? A group of more senior leaders? Do they have the correct criteria and information to make decisions? What does it say about your leaders and to your leaders if they and their peers are not involved directly in the process in a meaningful way? An example is an organization that uses the vibrancy survey or similar tool within work groups to identify leadership impact on employees.

3. By What Criteria Do We Determine Value?

It is easy to measure the financial impact a leader delivers, but measuring results is more complicated. When we look at results and behaviors, we can look at tools like 360-degree feedback along with financials. These can seem like relatively straightforward equations but, again, who gives feedback and who administers the process to ensure it is impartial and that each variable in the equation is weighted properly?

Some companies have specific equations to measure the balance between results and behaviors. A “nine box,” for example, looks at a 3×3 matrix that places results on one axis and behaviors on the other. While I am a proponent of competencies that consider mindset in addition to behaviors, these are still relatively difficult to measure so behaviors may be our closest reliable approximation. If these measures determine and drive your leader’s performance, it might be worthwhile to be as rigorous in determining what to value (part of mindset) as much as how they performed against those values. As an example, leaders who value collaboration will consistently build collaboration into all of their actions vs. someone who collaborates to check a box because they were told this is important.

The difference is that if the idea of collaboration is built into my thoughts and actions, when it comes time to actually collaborate, others will be expecting it and trust my intentions. If I am making judgments on team members through checking a box, they may not trust me and may not be willing to collaborate fully. It is important to consider the question from multiple views: What does the leader, culture and organization value and reward?

4. How Do We Interact To Realize Our Greatest Leadership Potential?

Your organization’s culture sends a clear message as to how leadership is discovered and developed. Do your culture and organizational structure promote leaders working together on shared goals, or are they pitted against one another to maximize their own units?

How much time are leaders actually spending on mentoring, for example? If I came into an organization to evaluate performance against this question, I would spot-check mentor calendars to see if they are meeting regularly with their mentees and find out whether they discussing development goals and working toward employee success. I would be checking for tangible evidence that the organization has a structure that promotes matching high potentials with seasoned leaders and has a budget for regular interactions that could include books and lunches. When selecting leaders, we must define what our organization’s approach is to leadership culture and understand how this drives the results we want.

In summary, as the world changes at an ever-increasing rate, it is important to update our way of evaluating, structuring, measuring and rewarding leaders to ensure they are equipped to meet changes effectively. For organizations, it will be useful to evaluate your current criteria and determine if it will meet your needs going forward.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Synergise – Developing 21st Century Leaders

Turning PointThis blog was written by Dr. Robin Lincoln Wood as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview between Chris Cooper and Maureen Metcalf on June 6, 2017 about Robin’s book, Synergise! 21st  Century Leadership.

“As the twenty-first century unfolds, a new scientific conception is emerging. It is a unified view that integrates, for the first time, life’s biological, cognitive, social, and economic dimensions. At the forefront of contemporary science, the universe is no longer seen as a machine composed of elementary building blocks. We have discovered that the material world, ultimately, is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships; that the planet as a whole is a living, self-regulating system.

… Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather a cooperative dance in which creativity and constant emergence of novelty are the driving forces. And with the new emphasis on complexity, networks, and patterns of organisation, a new science of qualities is slowly emerging.”

Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi

Right now we are at one of the major turning points for our species. The decisions we make going forward, especially in the next decade, will shape the future of homo sapiens and life on earth for many centuries, if not millennia, to come.

Our beautiful blue pearl of spaceship earth is host to 7.5 billion earthlings, in the midst of at least eight major transitions through Eras 2, 3 and 4, from agricultural through modern to regenerative civilisations. Our biggest challenge is neither technological nor scientific, but psychological, organisational and social.

How can 7.5 billion human beings be aligned in order to co-create thriveable futures, and ensure a viable biosphere for us all by 2050? We humans possess tremendous adaptive capacities, grounded in our having successfully transitioned through three major evolutionary eras.

We can build on our Era 1 ability to forge strong tribal bonds to ensure our local survival and thriving. These ethnocentric bonds and expressive talents are native to all of us, enabling us to take care of each other and the places we care for and hold sacred, while also exploring and connecting with nature and each other at a local level.

We can build on our Era 2 ability to manage cities, regions and nation states in more thriveable ways, respecting the rule of law and building intelligent infrastructures and systems fit for the future, based on enlightened entrepreneurship, conscious business sense and innovation. These civic-centric and enterprise-centric talents are increasingly evident around the world, from the developed nations to what were previously termed “developing countries”.

And we can build on our Era 3 ability to evolve our global systems embodied in our global treaties, corporations, markets and flows of people, goods, information and goodwill, so that our global systems also become a driver of a thriveable future for us all. These world-centric talents are now evident in nearly one billion global citizens, who are sufficiently educated and travelled that they can appreciate the glorious diversity of our species and other species.

As we enter Era 4, we now have the capacity to rapidly accelerate the evolution of our species, based on thriveable cultures, mindsets, principles and metrics. The forces and trends shaping our world and us are creating crises that demand a momentous leap from our previously lose-lose/win-lose “us versus them” mentality, to a co-creative, collaborative win/win/win approach.

This “triple win” is fundamental to aligning the interests and mindsets of all people on the planet, whatever kind of transition they are in and whatever their era: a win for each of us as individuals and for our communities, a win for the cities/towns/nations we live in, and a win for the planet as a whole. That is the whole point of synergistic innovation: co-creating triple wins.

There is much in this new approach that will appeal only to those who are willing to embrace complexity with a degree of openness to new perspectives that might at first appear surprising and counter-intuitive. Yet at the same time, there are several frameworks designed to provide simplified interfaces to topics that are devilishly complex for the uninitiated. In particular, the following frameworks are designed to enable you to remember and work with those elements of the book that are “psychoactive” i.e. designed to activate your own potentials and capacities for action to be an agent of thriveable evolution:

· The Four Eras Model – showcases the key aspects of the past 100 000 years of human evolution, to highlight the strengths and talents we have developed as a species to adapt and innovate. The core message from the way in which we have evolved and are still evolving, is that our socio-cultural ability to learn, communicate and innovate is the key to our survival, and our thriveability, enabling us to lock-in certain features of our world to the permanent benefit of us all. Put another way, we are who we are today because of the 10 000 major innovations that have locked in over the past 100 000 years, and which make it possible for you to even read and understand these words and then go and do something beneficial based on the fresh insights you have gained;

· The Eight Transitions Model – offers insights into the current state of the 7.5 billion humans on our planet through the lens of the eight transitions our species is currently experiencing. Some of those transitions are simply linear progressions from one Era to another, while some transitions involve a leapfrogging from Era 2 to Era 4 or Era 1 to Era 3. All of these transitions can be made more thriveable through the application of appropriate methods and technologies, including socio-cultural and mindset shifting approaches;

· The Eight Capitals Model – explores the eight essential ingredients that need to be regenerated in order to have an abundant and thriving future for all life on earth. The mix of these ingredients will vary depending upon the life conditions and culture being experienced in the system-in-focus, and the nature of the socio-technical systems being applied. A way of measuring the potential for ThriveAbility in any human system at any scale is explained in the ThriveAbility Equation, providing a means by which the outcomes of different options and innovations can be measured, integrated into a single outcome variable known as “True Future Value”;

· The Six Pathways Model – maps the journey from our current degenerative, exclusive societies to a regenerative, inclusive world are illustrated with dozens of examples, known as “pockets of the future in the present”. The pathways are based on the eight capitals integrated with the natural evolutionary paths of the current major industries that power our planet and our lifestyles today. Some innovations are simply incremental extensions of current technologies; products and practices confined to a single pathway. The most powerful synergistic innovations manage to combine elements of all six pathways, leading to breakthroughs that make the impossible possible;

· The Six Ingredients of Synergistic Innovation Model – applying the “Six C’s” model to any human activity system we are engaged with provides a powerful framework that enables any participant/observer to identify synergy zones and opportunities, as well as zones of compromise and conflict. The goal of any thriveable systems designer is to help the system they are focusing on, to go into healthy “upstretch” mode rather than shifting back down to a “downshift”.

Despite an increasingly volatile and uncertain world, we can take comfort in the fact that, despite the chaotic, hyper-complex life conditions we are currently experiencing in our various transitions into Era 4, evolution is unfolding as it should. The trajectory of evolution is, in the end, toward a global synthesis of all forms of life in a harmonious whole.

Evolution is Driven by the Synergies of Diversification and Integration Creating More Complex and Conscious Wholes

As Daniel Wahl puts it:[ii]

“Modern evolutionary biology suggests that life evolves by a process of diversification and subsequent integration of diversity through collaboration. As the focus shifts from individuals and individual species as the unit of survival to the collective of life — its complex dynamic interactions and relationships — we begin to see that collaborative and symbiotic patterns and interactions are of more fundamental importance than competition as a driving force of evolution. Life’s key strategy to create conditions conducive to life is to optimize the system as a whole rather than maximizes only some parameters of the system for a few at the detriment of many.”

For those of us who seek to activate thriveable shifts in the people and systems we engage with on a daily basis, knowing this offers us a special reward – the knowledge that our lives have a purpose and meaning much higher than ourselves, and that we are called to be stewards of the greatest shift, the most momentous leap that humankind has ever made. I will leave you with these final eloquent words of Michelle Holliday to reflect upon as you being your own journey down this glorious path”

“The call of stewardship guides us toward continuous generativity – toward cultivating fertile ground and manifesting new possibilities for the future. To enable the system to take on a life of its own and to help it become truly, gloriously generative, the challenge of stewardship is to navigate a thoughtful mix of control, guidance and nurturing; to tend to both individual and collective; and to support the system’s wisdom, learning and enrichment, as well as its accomplishment of tasks and milestones. Along the way, the wise steward’s questions include:

What would bring the most life to this situation? What is the wisdom that is needed now? What seems to want to come to life here? How can I serve this unfolding, either by disturbing things, by planting a seed, by cultivating a freshly sprouted initiative, or by compassionately hospicing something that needs to die?

Throughout, stewardship embraces uncertainty and invites learning, innovation and play. It recognizes emergent collective wisdom, developing individual and shared disciplines to listen for the voice of the whole even as it honours the needs of the parts. Stewardship requires thoughtful crafting of structures and systems. It necessarily takes a holistic view – which in organizations means linking purpose with passion, brand with culture, and worker with customer and community. And it acknowledges that place, art and nature have a vital role to play in every sphere of our lives.”

 

Avoid Feeding a Smear Campaign

 This blog is a companion to the interview with Barbara Marx Hubbard and Dr. Marc Gafni on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on March 21, 2017 focusing on navigating a smear campaign if you or your organization are targeted. It also recommends tactics to help individuals and leaders avoid unwittingly becoming involved in such a campaign.

Renowned futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard once said, “One of the most dangerous problems we face in the world is extremism on behalf of belief.  In many cases, extremists convince themselves that another faith or political system or individual is ‘evil’, and that they are justified in destroying them by any means necessary. We see this tendency, with tragic consequences, in the political sphere. We are now seeing it the so-called spiritual world.  People who claim to be apostles of higher consciousness see no problem with trying to destroy others without due process, open dialogue, non-violent communication or the possibility of resolving differences with compassion, forgiveness and healing.  Even more problematically they often hide their hidden agendas under the veneer of victim advocacy. The spiritual world is not exempt from malice. Malice, as Milan Kundera reminds us, ‘must never admit of itself so it must always plead other motives’.

This kind of behavior is terrorism. Violence of this sort is very hard to respond to creatively without becoming a terrorist yourself.  Yet we have to say NO!  to terrorism of any kind, including our own.

With this in mind I am called forth by my sense of justice to stand against the recent extremist process of cyber-attacks, initiated by a leader in the evolutionary spiritual community against Dr. Marc Gafni and the Center for Integral Wisdom and all other acts of extremism that demonize people and organizations because they are different or because they have opposing goals. Our democracy is strengthened by opposing perspectives—shutting them down is antithetical to our core values.”

We are at a new crossroads where extremism is evident across society. We see it in “fake news” that is, in many cases, intended to advance one position at the expense of another. Unfortunately, the news consumer is left to decipher what is true, what is untrue, and what is sheer deception. I believe that credible media sources work very hard to fact check their stories, yet, the very people they call to verify facts may misrepresent them.

For democracy to work, the citizenry must be well and accurately informed, and I am perplexed about inflammatory things that I read and try to discern what is true. I consume more news through a variety sources than ever before in my life, and I still believe I am getting partial truths designed to promote action and reaction. But whose action? Whose agenda? And for what purpose?

Back to the smear campaign targeting Marc…it was well orchestrated by skilled and credible people. Folks were asked to sign petitions, and many did without checking facts. If a petition is inflammatory and the antithesis of what they believe, good people will sign. I imagine most of us have signed petitions against environmental destruction, or killing of baby seals, or mutilation of girls, or sex trafficking. How could you not take a stand against these things? However, when you signed, did you explore who would benefit and how this information would be used? Did you seek to find out the source and who sponsored it? When I regularly signed petitions in the past I didn’t. I was busy and I wanted to preserve our environment and keep young women safe. I trusted the sources and I signed.

So, what can we do to avoid feeding a smear campaign:

  1. Check the facts. I was on the board of the Center when this started and I talked to Marc. I talked to other board members I trust. I know this isn’t always possible. What is possible, however, is to ask the question: How likely is this to be true? Marc is surrounded by smart and competent people. Some left after the smear campaign. I assume, in part, because of the impact the pressure had on their professional reputations. Many other people I deeply respect stayed. This is important evidence to me.
  2. Identify who benefits. During the recent election and after, we heard the new term “alternate facts.” Truth and fact are very different entities; one is subjective, the other is objective. When we see a preponderance of misleading stories, identify who stands to benefit from the situation.
  3. Examine the tactics. If you see tactics such as family members being threatened and threats to destroy the livelihood of those associated with the person being targeted, it is likely a smear campaign. These smears discredit not only the target, but associates and friends. When you see this behavior, you are likely observing a smear attack and not open discourse in an effort to understand. .
  4. Distance yourself if you have questions. It is hard to know what happens in the lives of others and why these things happen. I like the phrase “trust but verify,” and believe that most people are good and are doing the best they can and. If, however, I am unsure, I step away. There are enough causes to work toward that are positive. I don’t want to invest my energy in areas that besmirch individuals—even when the message is framed as “protecting” others.

As people who value the democratic system and as organizational leaders, it is important to be aware that we are all at risk of being victimized by—or unwitting participants in—campaigns that taint your reputation, or that of your organization. We have a responsibility to be conscious of the impact our actions can have and take deliberate action to avoid smear campaigns that impact others. By building an informed citizenry and being informed citizens, we remove the fuel that feeds these fires.

My invitation to everyone reading this blog is to follow the steps above, whether it is slandering an individual, an organization, or a political party. It is easy to let our emotions lead us and get caught up in the frenzied current climate of reaction. The flip side is when you have checked the facts and have a relatively clear picture—get involved and work to make the changes that will keep us a free and open society!

As a post script on the Center for Integral Wisdom, Marc, Barbara, and the folks at the Center for Integral Wisdom. They have been able not only to survive, but in some very real senses, thrive, despite the smear campaign. In part, that is because of the internal integrity of the people involved. It is also not unrelated to the astounding fact that Marc, as a key leader in the system did not allow the campaign to make him bitter, but keeps his heart open but instead kept going deeper into the work of the center. If you happen to be targeted by a smear campaign, surrounding yourself with supportive colleagues and maintaining focus on your missionalong with strong crisis management and legal counselis critical to both individual and organizational ability to take this terrible situation and create a positive outcome.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook series and the co-author of the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.

Please note: I will only approve comments on this post that are constructive in nature. I will not perpetuate negativity and smearing behavior. While we promote different perspectives – they must be framed in a manner that promotes solutions to challenges we face and not framed as personal attacks damaging the people involved in the process.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

 

FightingAuthorityThis blog is a companion to an interview with Barbara Kellerman on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on January 31, 2017 discussing the end of leadership as we know it and how the current landscape impacts the requirements of leaders going forward. This interview is one of the interviews conducted at the International Leadership Association Annual Conference.

This post was drawn from www.BarbaraKellerman.com posted on November 28, 2016 with permission. “One of the most iconic scenes in American film history is in Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 black comedy, “Network.” Peter Finch stars as Howard Beale, a network news anchor who’s about to be canned because of declining ratings. Beale starts to unravel while he’s on the air. He becomes visibly unhinged, screaming at his viewing audience, urging them to do what he’s doing – to shout at the top of their lungs, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

The line came to mind while reading today’s New York Times, which testified yet again not only to how furious people are, but to how hell bent they are on fighting people in positions of authority.

Three examples:

• South Koreans, fed up with their president, Park Geun-hye, have taken to the streets in the hundreds of thousands to protest her refusal to respond to charges of corruption and influence peddling. South Korea’s worst political crisis in decades shows no signs of abating. Ms. Park remains defiant. The people remain defiant as well – demanding that she either resign or be impeached.

• The mayors of several of America’s largest cities have vowed to fight any order to deport illegal immigrants, even if instructed by the federal government to do so. Los Angeles’s Eric Garcetti, Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, and New York’s Bill de Blasio, among others, have all pledged to fight the feds on this, even if it means losing millions of dollars in federal assistance.

• After decades of staying silent, at least six former English soccer players have come forward with accusations of sexual abuse by coaches affiliated with England’s Football Association. More than twenty other players have similarly stepped up, though anonymously. After a couple of weeks of doing nothing the Football Association concluded it had no choice but to announce it would investigate the claims. It appointed a lawyer experienced in such matters to pursue the case.

Who knew Howard Beale was forty years ahead of his time?!”

Thoughts from Maureen Metcalf: We as leaders are facing tough questions about how we navigate the range of challenges we are seeing daily. In the past we had more time to address changes that impacted our organizations. In recent times, we expect leaders to respond immediately. Barbara gives great suggestions in her interview about understanding our context and the needs of our followers as we respond.

In the past week, President Trump issued several executive orders. Leaders need to respond in a timely manner to issues such as those associated with immigration. I teach in a university and I was grateful to get an email from our President this morning that helped me understand the positon the university takes on how we respond to our colleagues and students. I was happy to see that her message matched my values.

In this polarized time, when we as leaders set organizational trajectory or respond to changes that come at us unexpectedly, our responses are bound to be unpopular with a number of constituents. Our responses need to be timely AND require an understanding of the organization, our constituents, the impact we have on them, the expectation of our funders, the expectation of our board and other key stakeholders like the community.

This is no small challenge and when done wrong, it can have long term implications. All of us in leadership roles there people look to us to set the tone need to be aware of the impact we are making on our teams, our clients and our communities. How do we help apply appropriate attention and deescalate the tension where it has become unhealthy?

About Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman is the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is the Founding Executive Director of the School’s Center for Public Leadership. She was ranked by Forbes.com as among “Top 50 Business Thinkers” (2009) and by Leadership Excellence in top 15 of “thought leaders in management and leadership” (2008-09 and 2010-2011). In 2015 and 2016 she was ranked by Global Gurus as # 13 on the list of “World’s Top 30 Management Professionals.” In 2016 she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Leadership Association. Kellerman has appeared often on media outlets such as CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, NPR, Reuters and BBC, and has contributed articles and reviews to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Harvard Business Review. Kellerman was cofounder of the International Leadership Association (ILA), and is author and editor of many books.