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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Max DePree

"Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice."

The measure of leadership

This week I have been invited to help create / revamp a leadership training course for the company I work for. At first glance it was a simple task, but nailing down a definitive picture of leadership is somewhat elusive. What is the true measure of a leader and how do we define true leadership. Most of us can rattle off traits that we like or have seen in leaders we think are good. But the term a "good leader" is relative is it not? For example, some would say President Bush is a good leader. Or at least most everyone was saying that a few years ago. Now the fickle masses have decided that he is not. So, is he or is he not a good leader? Is good leadership dependent on circumstance or outside perspectives? Or is good leadership the same even when circumstance and opinion fail the individual? We tend to define leaders by traits. Traits that we think are desirable. However someone with good leader traits might display poor leadership, no? So the two are not necessarily connected, maybe correlated, but not connected. So, is good leadership that leadership which is good for the masses when the masses what it so. Or, does good leadership stay the course not matter what the outside circumstances maybe? Do you see my point about leadership being elusive?

I have lead trips that focused on leadership issues. And I know for a fact that some of the participants felt that I was a lousy leader and displayed lousy leadership until they saw the whole picture and then it was like, " oh I get it now." Leadership is a very dynamic and ever evolving process that is in constant state of assessment! To try and identify the course of leadership, one would have to take account for the courses beginning and desired end. Only then can one make a determination if the leadership was good or bad. Still, this determination will vary person to person. So how do we identify good leadership? By the outcome?

I would surmise that leadership is like the process of forming a pot on the potters wheel. The leader forms his leadership through a process which is developed over time and based on inspiration, passion, education and experience. The fruits of this process is brought to bear in the efforts of fulfilling the dreams and passions of those the leader serves. Some people will like the style of the pot and others wont. But the decision or judgement should come after the pot has been fired and glazed. it is only then that we can really see the true effect that the master potter had on the clay.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Albert Einstein

"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice."

Solution based prespectives

I do not play golf! In fact, I get bored real fast watching the sport. But, I have find something very useful to me from watching the behavior of golfers. When a golfer makes it to the green he/she does something very remarkable. The practice this concept that I call solution base perspective. The golfer will walk past the cup (hole) and look back towards his/her golf ball. The see the goal ( the cup) and they look at the course the ball should take to get there. What I love about this is that they take the time to look at the problem from the solutions perspective. This practice obviously reveals some new insight and I am sure it changes they way they would have initially hit the ball. So, lets take this concept into real world functionality.

Deadlines, mergers, projects, group facilitation and time management issues all can be effectively impacted by this concept. I am almost certain that this is not a new earth breaking concept, but it works. What, where, or how do you what something you are involved in to turn out. Picture that solution in your mind. Once you have a good foundation of how this should look, then turn towards your current position and start to work backwards. The labyrinth of choice and decisions that are to be made can be greatly reduced. This concept gives direction, and direction is huge in moving anything forward. If you have not tried this great management toll, give it a shot. Maybe you will save enough time to catch up on the back nine!

Guillaume Apollinaire

"Now and then it's good to pause in the pursuit of happiness and just be happy."


I recently traveled back to the east coast (Indiana) to participate in a family reunion. I caught a red eye flight out of Los Angeles on a Friday night and returned that Sunday afternoon. As you can imagine, I was exhausted! The flight and subsequent lay overs allowed me to ponder on family issues. I come from a "old" American family. Established here in America in 1733. The family lineage includes everything from doctors to farmers and Annie Oakley. With a strong history of "Dunkards" or German Baptist, the family is very conservative to say the least. I have not seen most of this side for over thirty years. You can imagine the strong urge to ponder that welled up in me as I went from crazy L.A. to small town America. Fond memories of my childhood came rushing back as though it all occurred yesterday. Wow, 30 years, where has the time gone?

As I pondered, my mind traveled through issues such as: awareness of lineage, genetics, family history, the perceived righteousness of the family name, my ancestors, and my descendants. How do we pass on our family's history, or more important how do we make it valuable to our children? I also have to ask, is it really important that we do so? Today the number one Hobbie , or so I am told, is genealogy. Many people are digging into this dynamic trail of family history. What are we looking for? Truth? I am proud of my history! My family has seen and been apart of every armed conflict this country has had! We have grown and spread out across the greatest country to ever exist in the history of mankind. Living on the west coast and looking at how things have turned out, I ask myself "so what?" But the exposure to the small town culture once again gave me hope. People still close the doors on Sunday and the whole town still goes to church. People still pray at family dinners, and the family is present.

I know I shocked my family, showing up with tattoos and drinking a beer (1) was a lot for them to digest. Good thing I did not break out the cigars and light up. But, to be honest, it was all like a breath of fresh air for me, I enjoyed the peacefulness that surrounded this small place. For the first time in years I slept through the night. No waking up to "clear" my house. No worrying about some intruder threatening my family. It was wonderful. Coming back to the "big city" made me think about the families here. The ones that do not eat together, nor really see or know each other. We run and run through our lives caught up in the pursuit of happiness but never reaching such an elusive concept. We take risk to gain something never really grasping that to grasp that what we race for all we need to do is stop racing. Slow down and enjoy each other everyday, every minute. For the first time in my life I saw a 94 year old man having a quality life. Sharing great moments with his grandchildren and great grand nieces and nephews. I thought those times had passed just like I had thought peaceful towns had been dismissed to the history books.

Our ties to our families, and the importance of keeping them alive just maybe correlated to the peace that exists in such places.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Influencing perspectives

This is a little "lesson" I received from a great supervisor from my real job. I liked it and decided to post it with a few small changes. I placed people where he had employees. Other than those changes it is the same.

If people live with criticism, they learn to blame others.

If people live with hostility, they learn to resist.

If people live with ridicule, they learn to avoid risk.

If people live with shame, they learn to underestimate their abilities.

If people live with tolerance, they learn to learn.

If people live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If people live with praise, they learn to appreciate.

If people live with fairness, they learn accountability.

If people live with opportunity, they learn to have faith.

If people live with approval,they learn to like themselves.

If people live with acceptance and recognition, they learn to find themselves.

The question is, "what are you teaching?" Each and every one of us cast a shadow on something or someone. It is our responsibility to be aware of the influence that shadow creates. People develop perspectives based off of our shadows. Perspectives grow into perceptions, and perceptions into beliefs. I for one, do not want to be influencing negative beliefs intentionally or accidentally. Be aware of your shadow and the influence that it has on others.

C. S. Lewis

"What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The progression of perspectives

Our perspectives, or points of views, should be in a constant state of change. There are three points of reference involved in the development of our point of view; our current position (needs / wants / desires), our alignment point(beliefs / standards / values), and our target(goals / behaviors / dreams). All three of these reference points are constantly changing whether we are cognizant of it or not. Our main concerns should be: what are we allowing to influence our reference points and how are these influences effective change in our lives? These two questions have a profound impact in one's life. They are possibly the two biggest choices one has to constantly make throughout life. The realization that the constant absorption of external influence is out of our conscious control should dictate the extreme importance of the conscious choice of what environment you allow to control you. The old saying "birds of a feather flock together" has huge implications.

The first reference point I will talk about is the target or goal. Where do we want to go? Having a destination is very important. In fact it is so important that when there is no goal or target we tend to be idle and self defeating. A target or goal does not have be a tangible object or destination either. Often times our destinations are more internal. We embark on outward journeys that facilitate our arrival at an internal shift in our paradigms. The question of destination is paramount to who we think we want to be. Once I allow myself to become idle, void a target or destination, I greatly increase my chances of doing or becoming that which I fear; an internal failure. I need and want growth. I will not, nor can I grow while I am in an idle state. Picking a target can be tricky and disheartening however. My target options are often based off of the other two points of references; my position and my alignment point. For example: If my position is that I have very little education and my alignment point is that I am stupid the target goal of becoming a doctor is not going to seem possible, therefore I will most likely not set it as my goal.

My position IS a very tangible and realistic assessment of my strengths, such as: my abilities, talents, experiences, knowledge or education, influences. The stronger the assessment the more target options I have. If I only have a BB Gun I can not target much. But if I have a Marine Expeditionary force at my disposal I can target anything. This is where many on us have been deceived by authority figures in the past. Teachers, parents, and the like have often times communicated to us that we have limited abilities and should not target much. Sometimes as children we rebelled against authority and limited ourselves to the exposure of more strengths. Either way, we have developed an internal opinion that limits our targeting options. As parents we MUST not stunt the targeting options of our children. We MUST encourage them to look at the 360 degree horizon and dream of any target they want.

Our alignment point is the point that either limits or expands our targeting options. As I mention in the above paragraph, authority influences in the past can and I am sure have, limited our targeting options. Our alignment point IS our belief structure. A structure that our sub conscious and creative sub conscious is constantly building and rebuilding. The story of the little engine that could is about the rebuilding of a belief from the I can't to the I can. The problem with the alignment point is that we have thousands of beliefs that can effect one moment of time. The thought of rebuilding a thousand of these beliefs becomes overwhelming. It becomes much easier to set idle and attempt nothing even though our internal mindset despise such actions. This is where choosing the best influential environment for ourselves becomes a major watershed for what we think we can and can not accomplish. It is in this arena where church are supposed to provide an influence that promotes value based strengths. Strengths that tell us that even though we may be "beat up" up, we are not screwed up. A church environment that beats up people (hence the constant rejection of sinners, which, I might add, in reality we all are) becomes a negative influential environment. In this environment I would develop an alignment point that I can't achieve and that I should just be idle and do little least I become more rejected. NASCAR drivers are taught to not look at the wall. Because when they look at the wall the tend to hit it. Do not get me wrong, these drivers are well aware of the existence of the wall, they just do not focus on it. We all are aware of the existence of morale wrong (sin) but if we are constantly made to look at it, what do you think we will hit? So, if I want to have a positive alignment point I need to choose environments that are positive and forward thinking in their influence.

Understanding the fact that my Point of view is in constant change should make me aware of the importance in constantly assessing my current position, my alignment point, and my target. Being aware of the importance of the assessed strengths which my current position is based on should create a desire to build those strengths. Being aware of how vulnerable my alignment point is to external influence should create the need for me to protect and shield what influential environments I expose myself too. These choices can and will help me begin to realize true personal growth and expand my targeting options.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tennessee Williams

"Once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle, you are equipped with the basic means of salvation."

The broken trail

When I take people into the wilderness I love to get the group into a cross country sitting. A place were there are no trials. A place full of options and opportunities. Some call this "breaking trail." Breaking trial can be a bad thing if it is done carelessly and minimum impact concerns are not adhered to. However, breaking a trial is a huge learning lesson for most. Having your path way laid out for you is good sometimes, but our lives are not like that at all. Finding one's path through life is often more like breaking trail and venturing out into the unknown.

I have yet to meet a person who has not experienced a break in their life's trail. More times then not we spend much of our lives trying to get back to "the trail." We try and restore ourselves to something society calls the norm. I have ignored those who traditional told me that I can not go somewhere or do something simply because no one else has done it. In fact, for me, that is where I tend to head. If no one has done it, then how the hell do we know we should not?

Another use of the term "broken trail" can, and has been used to describe the life path of someone who has been broken by life's endeavours. I find this use odd at best. Here is way I find it odd. Broken usually means out of the norm, or different than the norm. In reality we all have a broken past to some degree. So the norm should be brokenness! The "unbroken" trail should be the oddity in life. Why? Because there is no unbroken trails. We should quit acting like our trails are not broken. In fact I think that our life story about our brokenness is what others really relate to. Imperfection and the pursuit of restoration is really what our lives are about. Show me someone who says they are a saint and I will show you a liar.

I will take the broken trail. It is in this state that I know I need to pay attention to what ever guides me. I need to be aware of my surroundings. When I am on the well trodden path my mind turns off and I just plod along much like most of us in our daily lives. Take me to the less traveled places so I can know that I am still alive inside and struggling on the outside to find my way home.

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