Byron's Babbles

Leading By Accident

Not too long ago I was sent a screen shot of a post on FaceBook (I don’t do FaceBook, so someone had to send it to me) – check out the picture with this post for the message. When I read the post I realized that while I live and lead according to what works for me, the core values of the organization I work for, and my personal core values, my efforts to become my best self have the capacity to positively affect people I didn’t even know were paying close attention. People I never would have thought were finding inspiration in anything I do, however, were telling me the opposite, and were indicating that my decisions about my own life, the way I led, and taking chances on them had inspired them to take chances in their own lives. I started to think about all the people who motivate and inspire me just by being themselves, and I surmised that they (we) are all leading by accident. We do our thing for our own reasons. But by being true to that thing, we may very well help people find their own thing, perhaps by creating a path that didn’t exist or illuminating one so others can see it. Hum… could it be this what empowerment really looks like?

Even if we don’t get to hear about how our lives affect others, they do. We are all leaders by accident in our own ways. Just as Dr. Alexander Fleming stumbled onto Penicillan in the 1920’s we stumble our way into others’ lives. Leadership lesson #14 from John Parker Stewart in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader, told the story of how Dr. Fleming discovered the bacteria killing mold, Penicillan, by accident. It ultimately took two other scientists to help make commercial production of Penicillan a reality. Had it not been for Dr. Fleming’s belief in what the accidental discover could do for humanity, who knows what would have happened, or where we would be today.

Even though in the formal sense we may not be leading that all the time – in our jobs, in our roles as parents, siblings, friends, et cetera; we really are being a leader (by accident) every moment of every day. The post from Reuben drove home for me the absolute truth of that statement. We may not be motivated by the desire to demonstrate leadership qualities when we become the arbiters of our own, most authentic lives, but we kind of can’t help it, it seems. So, go out there and lead by accident and intentionality. 

 

 

Social Complexity 

For each of the last two days I blogged about Dynamic Complexity and Generative Complexity respectively. My inspiration for these posts has been the book by Adam Kahane titled Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities. I feel compelled to write about the third complexity he offered in the book: Social Complexity. As Kahane (2004) taught us: “[S]ocial complexity requires us to talk not just with people who see things the same way we do, but especially with those who see things differently, even those we don’t like. We must stretch way beyond our comfort zone” (p. 75). Wow, how true this is. Think about this for a minute; how many times when trying to solve complex issues do we really listen to those who think differently, see the world differently, or just flat-out don’t like us? 

“Roughly, by a complex system I mean one made up of a large number of parts that interact in a nonsimple way. In such systems, the whole is more than the sum of the parts, not in an ultimate, metaphysical sense, but in the important pragmatic sense that, given the properties of the parts and the laws of their interaction, it is not a trivial matter to infer the properties of the whole. In the face of complexity, an in-principle reductionist may be at the same time a pragmatic holist.” ~  Herbert Simon in his 1962 article, “The Architecture of Complexity.”

I look at social complexity as being complicated by the very nature that we cannot provide a simple model of the system that adds up and makes sense of, or can predict the independent behaviors of the parts; rather, the parts are influenced in their behaviors by the behaviors of other people, groups, organization, governments, or even populations. This is in contrast with the simple system of an internal combustion engine. It might seem very complex, but really it is simple because every part, both moving and not, has a function and order in which to do that function.

In a spark ignition engine, the fuel is mixed with air and then inducted into the cylinder during the intake process. After the piston compresses the fuel-air mixture, the spark ignites it, causing combustion. The expansion of the combustion gases pushes the piston during the power stroke. In a diesel engine, only air is inducted into the engine and then compressed. Diesel engines then spray the fuel into the hot compressed air at a suitable, measured rate, causing it to ignite. This all very hierarchical in that everything happens in a specific order that never changes.

Let’s now contrast this with the social complexity and causal processes (sub-systems) that make up our education system. And consider some aggregate properties we may be interested in such as state law and policy, federal law and policy, political dynamics, local community social differences, socio-economic factors, race, mobility, or the social and emotional needs of our students to just name a few. Some of the processes that influence these properties are designed (Every Student Succeeds Act, school boards {both state and local}, school management systems), but many are not. Instead, they are the result of separate and non-teleological processes leading to the present. And there is often a high degree of causal interaction among these separate processes. As a result, it might be more reasonable to expect that social systems are likely to embody greater complexity and less decomposability than systems like an internal combustion engine.

“To create new realities, we have to listen reflectively. It is not enough to be able to hear clearly the chorus of other voices; we must also hear the contribution of our own voice. It is not enough to be able to see others in the picture of what is going on; we must also see what others are doing. It is not enough to be observers of the problem situation; we must recognize ourselves as actors who influence the outcome.” ~ Adam Kahane

This reminds me of a legislative panel I am on right now to look at and make recommendations to our state legislature on our high stakes summative state testing (required by the Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA). This committee is made up of 23 different individuals and appointed by different entities. My appointment comes as being the representative of the Indiana State Board of Education. Needless to say, we have lots of social complexity. Needless to say it has been awkward and tenuous navigating on this panel. Here are some things I have learned from Kahane (2004) to help us as leaders:

  • To solve a complex problem, we have to immerse ourselves in and open up to its full complexity.
  • Our core tasks need to be to “widen the circle” and “deepen the bench.”
  • Tough problems can only be solved if people talk openly, and in many situations this takes real courage.
  • Listen openly. 

I close with Kahane’s (2004) definition of listening: [T]he process of taking in something new and being unsettled and changed by it” (p. 69). I ask you: Are you a leader who listens?

References

Kahane, A. (2004). Solving tough problems: An open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Loving A Challenge

This week’s leadership lesson (#13) from John Parker Stewart in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader, played off the story of the invention of the potato chip. The story goes that it was about dinner time during Moon’s second summer season on the Lake. Moon’s Lake House, owned by Cary Moon, was one of the finest restaurants in the Saratoga Springs, New York area, a historically affluent and resort community. A customer came in and ordered Moon’s Fried Potatoes, the well-known house specialty. The cook, George Crum (born George Speck) whipped up a batch and served it to the customer, who complained that the potatoes were cut much too thick. So, he sent the item back to be remade. Crum did his best to make them thinner, yet when the discerning patron got his second order, again he complained that the thickness of the potatoes weren’t to his liking. So, once again, the customer told Crum to try again.

Crum, none too pleased that someone would insult his cooking, cut the potatoes paper-thin, dumped them in a vat of oil, let them cook so long that they became hard and crispy, and then salted them heavily, thinking that these “fried potatoes” would now be inedible. When served the item, the customer took a bite…and then another…and then another, before proclaiming that the fried slices of potatoes were delicious. It became known as the “Saratoga Chip.” The potato chip was born – so the story goes.

When reading this I was thinking of a leadership workshop that I did this past week with my great leadership jazz partner Mike Fleisch. I took the participants to lunch at The Old Bag of Nails in Westerville, Ohio. This was a great place and we had a great waitress. She needed to be because I pulled my trick of letting our waitress pick all our food for us. I did not tell any of the group of eight I was going to do this. When our waitress brought the menus I promptly told her we did not need them. I used my friend, David Marquet’s line of “We are control freaks and for our therapy we are going to let you choose our meals.” I think this freaked her out at first, but then she began to view it as a challenge and really got into it. 

We did have two participants, however, that were having difficulty. I let everyone give a couple of guard rails, but our picky eaters were have trouble getting their minds wrapped around the idea of not being able to select their own meals. In the end they joined us in letting our waitress make all our selections for us. Bottom line: we had the time of our lives and awesome meals. We had awesome appetizers and I had an awesome Cold Water Cod Reuben on Marble Rye. Then, she brought Bread Pudding and the best Carrott Cake I’ve ever had. Everyone, even those who were challenged and uncomfortable at first, agreed we had a much better meal and a lot of fun because we had empowered our waitress to use her expertise to make our dining experience great. 

“Opportunities often come in unpleasant disguises that must be removed with effort and ingenuity.” ~ John Parker Stewart

Our group had the opportunity to try new things and our waitress, who said she had never done this before, was given a challenge and absolutely loved sharing her favorites on the menu with us. We then debriefed and had a lively discussion, which Mike captured very well on the graphic at the beginning of this post. Take a look – you’ll be amazed at what all can be learned during lunch. As Stewart pointed out we need to see challenges and setbacks as opportunities for innovation and creativity.

Generative Complexity

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-10-13-05-amYesterday I blogged about Dynamic Complexity after reading in the book by Adam Kahane and is titled Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities. Another type of complexity worth organizing our thoughts about is Generative Complexity. Kahane (2004) said, “Generative complexity requires that we talk not only about options that worked in the past, but also about ones that are emerging now” (p. 75). To me this is all about not getting caught up in thinking about how things have always been done, but about how no one has ever thought about doing them.

“We cannot develop creative solutions to complex human problems
unless we can see, hear, open up to, and include the humanity
of all the stakeholders and of ourselves. Creativity requires all
of our selves: our thoughts, feelings, personalities, histories,
desires, and spirits. It is not sufficient to listen rationally to inert
facts and ideas; we also have to listen to people in a way that
encourages them to realize their own potential and the potential
in their situation. This kind of listening is not sympathy, participating
in someone else’s feeling from alongside them. It is empathy,
participating from within them. This is the kind of listening
that enables us not only to consider alternative existing ideas but
to generate new ones.” ~ Adam Kahane

We need to remember that there are many interdependent parts of a complex system. Additionally, a complex systems world view highlights that interactions between parts of the system and the behavior of the system as a whole are critical. As leaders, we must learn to do a better job of seeking out, fostering, and sustaining generative relationships that yield new learning relevant for innovation.

When discussing leadership we tend to focus on leaders’ individual characteristics rather than on the dynamics of interactions between leaders, group members, and the context in complex organizational systems over time; and we certainly do not do enough toward our own professional growth as leaders, or those on our teams, to create conditions that allow their organizations to evolve (2006). We must also find ways to improve our own and organizations’ ability to learn continuously and implement learning in action as projects proceed.

References

Kahane, A. (2004). Solving tough problems: An open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Surie, G. & Hazy, J.K. (2006). “Generative leadership: Nurturing innovation in complex systems.” E:CO Issue Vol. 8 No. 4 2006 pp. 13-26.

Dynamic Complexity

img_2262I am reading a great book for one of my Harvard courses right now. The book is by Adam Kahane and is titled Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities. The thing I am most blown away by is the reality Kahane (2004) pointed out, that “Talk by itself, even brilliant speeches by famous people, does not create new realities. Most of the time it reproduces old ones” (Kahane, 2004, p. 69). Kahane (2004) taught us that our toughest of problems can only be solved if we talk candidly and openly. As we know, this takes a lot of courage. It should also be noted that there must also be deep listening. This really hit home for me as a leader in the education arena. We have complex problems in our educational systems and we must all, as leaders, immerse ourselves in and be open to this full complexity.

“[D]ynamic complexity, situations where cause and effect are subtle and where the effects over time of interventions are not obvious. Conventional forecasting, planning and analysis methods are not equipped to deal with dynamic complexity.” ~ Peter Senge

For me, the idea of dynamic complexity really hit home. Kahane (2004) said that, “Dynamic complexity requires us to talk not just with experts close to us, but also with people on the periphery” (p. 75). This means we must “widen the circle” and “deepen the bench,” which is very uncomfortable for us (Kahane, 2004). In reality, dynamic complexity heightens the subtlety between cause and effect. This heightened subtlety not only provides the key to explaining why some over-hyped tools don’t deliver, but is consistent with how growing knowledge in a field inherently advances and generates complexity. I believe this really describes our reality in education. This is why it is so important to involve all stakeholders in our solving of complex opportunities. Then we must employ open and deep listening, as this is the basis for all creativity. We must be open to truly listening to new ideas.

“To create new realities, we have to listen reflectively. It is not
enough to be able to hear clearly the chorus of other voices; we
must also hear the contribution of our own voice. It is not enough
to be able to see others in the picture of what is going on; we must
also see what we ourselves are doing. It is not enough to be
observers of the problem situation; we must also recognize ourselves
as actors who influence the outcome.” ~ Adam Kahane

The long and the short of all this is that the world is changing at a rapid rate. This is true in all organizations and industries, but particularly in education. We had better understand this, as well as the caveat that we cannot expect more of the same when we plan for tomorrow!

Reference

Kahane, A. (2004). Solving tough problems: An open way of talking, listening, and creating new realities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Lemonade It

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-12-54-10-pmLast week, during one of our sessions of our Focused Leader Academy I was struck by the idea of not feeling the need to win all of our battles. And… that is o.k! But… we do need to have all the battles! It an important part of not being a lazy leader. It is also a very healthy part of collaboration and being a learning organization. These thoughts came from hearing one of our team members say, “I took that battle on and lost.” And, I thought to myself, “This person is not a lazy leader.” He was willing to have the conversation. Sometimes these battles, conversations, or losses become the spark or spring boards for changes down the road to happen.

In our session we quickly dubbed this, “Lemonade It.” We have learned that our dispositions to create lemonade from lemons are identifiable and can be developed intentionally and deliberately. Naisbitt (2006) said, “Times of change are times of opportunity. When relationships of people and things are shifting, new juxtapositions create new needs and desires offer possibilities” (p. 92). We must remember that lemonade is not something that is produced naturally. In fact, there is an enormous amount of work that it takes to make lemonade.

So, let’s see here; the recipe for lemonade is: add the lemons and squeeze the right amount of lemon juice into a pitcher; then add water and the right amount of sugar to achieve the best tasting results. How about this, then, as a recipe for dealing with opportunities for providing leadership for success and making lemonade from lemons:

  • Focus your future goals in your current organization for the betterment of all.
  • Develop skills in self-direction, team collaboration, and project management.
  • Increase motivation to accelerate your career goals with perspective.
  • Recognize the importance of good communication and thoughtful, ambitious leadership.
  • Focus your leadership on the alignment to the vision, mission, and core values of the organization

So I conclude by asking you this: When life hands you a lemon, do you make lemonade or pucker your lips?

Reference

Naisbitt, J. (2006). Mind set. Harper Collins. Canada.

“I’m Not A Leader!” ~ Red

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-1-10-44-pmAs those who read my blog know, I love Angry Birds. Angry Birds, the game, is a great example of how we should be educating our children. Providing instant feedback and the chance to try over using the information gained. This is a true example of using a growth mindset set. To read my post “The Angry Birds Effect” click here. To read my post “Angry Birds University” click here. For those reading this post that have never played Angry Birds let me give you a little tutorial. Basically, you are presented with Angry Birds and a sling shot and your job is to destroy green pigs who are sheltered by very creative structures in a variety of settings.

Then, on May 20, 2016 The Angry Birds Movie was released. The movie is a 2016 Finnish-American 3D computer-animated action-adventure comedy film based on, nonetheless, my favorite video game series Angry Birds. The movie received mixed reviews from critics and has grossed over $346 million. Of course, you know I could care less what the critics say – good or bad. I can decide for myself. So I did. I downloaded the HD version on my iPad and sat back on my last plane trip and watched. I thought it was awesome!

There are those that say I can make leadership lessons out of anything. Honestly, that is probably true, but there are three or four great lessons in this movie. Over the next few weeks I will blog about all of them. First, however, I need to give you a quick review of the movie. The movie is based on flightless birds leading mostly happy lives, except for Red, who just can’t get past the daily annoyances of life. His temperament leads him to anger management class, where he meets fellow misfits Chuck, Bomb, and Terence. Red becomes even more agitated when his feathered brethren welcome green pigs to their island paradise. As the swine begin to get under his skin, Red joins forces with Chuck and Bomb to investigate the real reason behind their mysterious arrival. The pigs have arrived to steal all the eggs from the birds. Despite all Red’s warnings, the birds let the pigs steal the eggs right from under their beaks.

Red’s anger started early in his life when fellow students bullied him by making fun of his file-2thick, black eyebrows. Because no-one seemed to see his value, he had difficulty seeing the value in others. But, as we know all the Angry Birds have unique talents. Fat black-and-white ones drop eggs and ricochet off walls; triangular yellow ones cut through things, orange ones blow up to several times their original shape, while tiny blue ones explode into a trifecta of glass shattering shimmers. Amazingly, all of the birds in the game are seen in the movie at some point.This recognition of uniqueness is an important component in developing good relationships between the talent on teams. As leaders, we need to understand, and anticipate, future competencies so they can build a talent portfolio ready to meet any challenge.

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“I’m Not A Leader!” ~ Red

My favorite seen in the movie is after the pigs have stolen all the eggs on the island and the birds come to Red and apologize for not listening to his warnings. He is asked, “What are we going to do?” Red says, “Wait a minute, you’re asking me?” Then a group of birds says to Red, “We need a leader now. You need to be our leader.” To this, Red promptly replies, “I’m not a leader!” That didn’t last long, however, because Red then jumped into action directing everyone on how they would build a boat to get them to Piggy Island to get the eggs back. This was a classic example of someone leading from where they were, when it was needed, and by who it was needed. It was one of the greatest scenes in a movie ever. Bottom-line, Red led the birds in an all out successful assault to get their eggs back. There was much more action to this than I am letting on, so you will need to watch the movie. The point is, though, that, Red, the least likely of characters, became a great leader. This just goes to show that everyone is a leader!

file-5This also shows the genius of the Rovio game designers who built Angry Birds scenes from virtual elements like clouds and wood, concrete slabs and triangles of glass. Every material reflects different physical properties, and each one reacts in its own way to the different birds species. This makes the game more complex and more interesting. The movie used these same unique characteristics. Gone are the days (or maybe there weren’t ever any days) when you could have a single “leader” come in and fix all the problems and move the organization toward its vision. Today, we need everyone to be a leader! Even the least likely “Red” in our organization.

I believe we all understand that leadership is about guiding, directing, or influencing people. Leadership opportunities exist in various positions, settings, or roles. In other words leadership happens everywhere and by everyone. Leadership settings exist in schools, institutions of higher education, government, businesses – both large and small, professional organizations, churches, and social organizations. Regardless of the setting or position, a leader needs to be able to diagnose the situation and shift roles as appropriate to achieve a desired goal. In Angry Birds you can’t outsource talent. We can in our organizations, but do we always need to or do we need to make sure we are developing all our talent into the leaders our organizations need and deserve.

What are you doing to make sure even those who are like Red in your organization are effective leaders? Our goal should be for no-one to ever say, “I am not a leader.”

How Can We Reinvent Ourselves?

file-2I had the honor and pleasure of being given an Advance Copy of Indivisible: Coming Home To Deep Connection by Christine Marie Mason. I love being part of book launches for Weaving Influence. This book was absolutely awesome. In fact, my first tweet was that the book “rocked my world.” If you want to check out my tweets about the book go to @ByronErnest or use the hashtag #Indivisible. There were so many things that resonated with me as an educator and leader.  Most notable were sections that discussed, “Where does our core worth come from?” or “If you want to see separation in action, go to a public school cafeteria.”

file-2At the end of the book Christine spends time discussing resilience. This quote has stuck with me: “A long arc of a lifetime of achievement requires resilience and tenacity.” She goes on to explain her epiphany of, “I used to think that the traumatic things that happened to us in life were a curse, but I was wrong. Now I see these experiences as preparing me to serve.” Christine also taught me in the book that “A bad experience can be a point of departure from which we bring service to others.” Here’s the deal: This book is authentic! Christine wrote this book from her own perspective as what I call “the deer in the headlights.” This book will cause you to do a lot of reflection on your own life and how you lead.

Here is an excerpt selected by Christine to offer you in this post:

“The Western worldview teaches that we are independent, individual beings. In this system, our worth comes primarily from what we produce. We are always being graded by others, and our worth and security are wrapped up in how well we conform to what they expect.

This is the perspective within which I, like many other Americans, was raised. But as I grew up, moving from childhood experiences to experiences that I chose for myself, I realized that these teachings felt fundamentally untrue. My direct experience was one of increasing interdependence and interconnection. Each person was infinitely more complex than I had ever imagined.

I decided to question how I had lost touch with myself and others, and how to live better in relationship with one other person—and beyond that, to how we, as a culture, had lost touch with our interdependence in the first place. I would undertake an experiment to answer these questions, and my methods would be a combination of research and lived experience. The broader questions were: can we “hack” our own evolution, and the evolution of the collective? In other words, can we get in there and speed it up? What if everything we had taken in unconsciously was up for discussion, and we didn’t accept any of it whole hog? If we give ourselves permission to question, alone and with others, we might design any manner of new ways to live.

If we go through our lives unconsciously, the neurons and atoms that make us up will continue to play out their repeating code. But if we become conscious, we can (to a certain extent) rewire ourselves, as well as the culture we live in. Every bit of information we have about how we work – historical, sociological or scientific – can help us with this rewiring.

I’ve found that approaching this inquiry with a heart of compassion toward the institutions under inquiry, rather than a mindset of attack and critique, helps a lot. All systems are exquisite adaptations. They are contextual and place bound; they arose naturally to meet the very real needs of the time in which they were created. But as time and circumstance changed, they overstayed their welcome, and ossified.

When there’s a problem with the dominant culture, and we have the enthusiasm for reconnection and redesign, and we also join that enthusiasm with loving rather than destructive intent, we are using the force of our intention to create systemic change. In doing so, we can honor and celebrate what we’ve learned so far, and give it an honorable retirement. Of course, this requires that the whole society be willing to look together and release what isn’t working—rather than hold on tight, as if they can’t handle the coming change.

This process of questioning and reinventing may be difficult, but the result is more than worth the effort. In my experience, those who are seeking more connection and continuous reinvention are happier. They are open. They know that it is the separation that is the lie; the union is the true thing. These are people who are at ease with each other, even in conflict. They are egalitarian and able to equally commune with all. They are the ones for whom there is always a couch to sleep on, a table to sit at, a band to jam with.

I wanted to know this in my bones, not only conceptually. I wanted to investigate how will we move fully into our own lives, evolve and grow, rethink our assumptions, float above our judgments, and redesign things that aren’t working. What could I learn about disconnection and connection? About choosing to be perpetrators or healers? Who was already successful in creating a more loving and interwoven world?” ~ Christine Marie Mason in Indivisible: Coming Home to Our Deep Connection

Thank you Christine for allowing me to publish this excerpt from your book for readers of my blog to enjoy and see just how great this book is. I certainly believe everyone could benefit from reading this book!

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This post is an excerpt from Christine Marie Mason‘s new book, Indivisible: Coming Home to Our Deep Connection.

Christine has been a leader in the tech sector for 20 years, as the venture backed founder and CEO of several companies. She has always been a convener, bringing people together to have conversations around growth and change, and to spark action around new possibilities. She is the curator of 9 TEDxs, the convener of Naked Conversations and founder of LoveSpring.

Her own deep journey exploring anger, violence and disconnection in the aftermath of her mother’s murder, early abandonment and general chaos have propelled her explorations into the interior life and capacity of the individual to heal and connect; her work as a victims’ right advocate for restorative justice and prison reform; and as an investigator into the neuroscience of human evolution and behavioral change.

Cosmetic Leadership

thestagatthepoolThis week’s leadership lesson (#12) from John Parker Stewart in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader  used Aesop’s Fable “The Stag at the Pool” to teach us an important leadership lesson. For the sake of making this post more worthwhile here is the fable:

A stag saw his shadow reflected in the water, and greatly admired the size of his horns, but felt angry with himself for having such weak feet.

While he was thus contemplating himself, a Lion appeared at the pool.

The Stag betook himself to flight, and kept himself with ease at a safe distance from the Lion, until he entered a wood and became entangled with his horns.

The Lion quickly came up with him and caught him.

When too late he thus reproached himself:

“Woe is me! How have I deceived myself! These feet which would have saved me I despised, and I gloried in these antlers which have proved my destruction.”

This is a pretty powerful story when you think about it. So, what is the moral of this Aesop’s Fable? “What is most truly valuable is often underrated.” Stewart taught us not to get caught up in the “cosmetics” of life. He suggested we get to caught up in the visibly superior qualities. I believe we do this personally and in our roles as leaders. I call this “selling the sizzle instead of the steak.” We need to make sure we are doing the right things according to our strategies, vision, mission, and core values and not getting sidetracked with attractive “antlers” that will get us all tangle up in things that, on the surface, look cosmetically attractive.

“What is worth most is often valued least.” ~ John Parker Stewart

Lirik lagu Show Me A Leader Alter Bridge copyWhen reflecting on this I think of the awesome new song just released by the great band Alter Bridge on their new album The Last Her0. coming out on October 7th. The song is Show Me A Leader. Click here to watch the video of the song. Trust me, I will be doing some separate blogging about the song and band in the near future, but for now I believe “The Stag at the Pool” story relates to the song. Here are the lyrics:

“Show Me A Leader”

Well they’re selling another messiah
Here tonight
But we’re all way too numb and divided
To buy it

Singing
No no no
We are all too divided this time
No no no

Show me a leader that won’t compromise
Show me a leader so hope never dies
We need a hero this time
No no no

Disillusioned and tired of waiting
For the one
Whose intentions are pure unpersuaded
We can trust

Singing
No no no
‘Cause a promise is never enough
No no no

Show me a leader that won’t compromise
Show me a leader so hope never dies
We need a hero this time

I know, I know
I know if we’re to survive
We need to know this is not the end
How will we ever get by
It’s getting harder to fight out here on our own

Show me a leader that won’t compromise
Show me a leader so hope never dies
Show me a leader that knows what is right
Show me a leader so hope can survive
We need a hero this time

No no no
We need a hero this time
Or we will never survive
No no no
We need a hero this time
Or we will never survive

~ Alter Bridge
Just the fact that the song starts out with, “They’re selling another messiah here tonight, but we’re all too numb and divided to buy it” says to me we do not want the cosmetically glamorous leader we have unfortunately gotten used to. We need to be leaders that are consistent in our principles. When leaders are unpredictable and make declarations based on whims, we paralyze the people beneath us. How are they supposed to make decisions if they don’t know what is really right? Because, as the song says, “A promise is never enough.” If we are always looking for and falling for the cosmetically glamorous we will end up compromising what is right for “sizzle” and not the “steak.” So, let’s not compromise, be tempted, or deceived by glamorous so called opportunities that don’t match our capacity, core values, background, or strengths. Let’s “Be Leaders!”

Whole System Leadership

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 1.11.49 PMOn a cool, clear December night in 1972, an Eastern Airlines L-1011 jumbo jet slammed into the Everglades 18 miles northwest of Miami. This crash is the focus of Lesson #10 in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart. A small $12 light bulb had gone out and preoccupied the crew of Flight 401. That triggered a series of Murphy`s Law-like consequences that ultimately killed 101 of the 176 people aboard. Now, almost 44 years later, the crash is still remembered for all its ironies, sadness and triumphs. After doing a little research I believe this crash still remains the worst aviation disaster in Florida history. The amazing part is still the fact that because the impact was cushioned by soft muck and Saw Grass, 75 people lived — some of them barely receiving a scratch.img_2083

Flight 401 originated at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK), with a destination of Miami (MIA). The flight was uneventful until the approach into Miami. While preparing for landing and lowering the landing gear, the flight crew was unable to determine that the nose landing gear was fully extended and locked in the extended position. The green indicator light which would normally illuminate upon locking of the nose landing gear did not come on. After that, what happened is the subject of this blog post. While messing around trying to get the light to work, the autopilot that was supposed to be keeping the plane at 2,000 feet was turned off. Because everyone was preoccupied with one facet of the plane only, the green indicator light, n0-one was paying attention to anything else. It was not until the plane was at 900 feet and descending quickly that anyone even thought to ask if the altitude was correct. It was too late, however.

This crash has been the subject of books and movies. The primary cause of this accident was not the aircraft, but the crew — the human factor. Yes, the light bulb was not working, but that was the only thing. Even though the crew members were dealing with the landing gear indicator light, they still should have noticed their surroundings and been monitoring the aircraft’s altitude. Research (Robson, 2008) tells us  that as long as our stress levels are not to high we can notice things going on around us not related to the task at hand – in this case, working on the light bulb and noticing the altitude. Conversely, however, it is possible for cognitive tunneling to develop (Chou, Madhavan, & Funk, 1996). Cognitive tunneling (Chou, Madhavan, & Funk, 1996) happens when one thing we are doing is given all our attention while not watching anything else. Do you see the leadership connection here?

Cognitive tunneling (Chou, Madhavan, & Funk, 1996) can cause us all to focus on one task while missing the warning signs from other parts of the organization. As leaders this is dangerous, maybe not in the sense of Flight 401, but certainly in the success or failure of the organization. After this crash, the airline came up with what it calls Crew Resource Management (CRM). Basically, with CRM the captain is expected to continue to monitor all system while delegating specific indicators or fixing of challenges/problems to others. What does this mean? Someone is always flying the plane, or leading the organization.

The best historic example of CRM in action is US Airways Flight 1549 where Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger successfully landed the disabled airplane he was leader of in the Hudson River. During that emergency landing Captain Sully flew the plane and gave First Officer Jeff Skiles the job of focusing on the reference handbook that included instructions for emergency situations. Two things that really jumped out to me while studying these events was the need for checks and balances in our organization. As leaders we need processes in place to make sure we have eyes on all facets of the organization enabling us to fly the plane without focusing on a single warning light.

“Always focus on the things that matter most.” ~ John Parker Stewart

Additionally, those we lead must have the professional development, education, and growth opportunities to handle the delegation of responsibilities. We can connect this back to a principle of intent-based leadership by which if our employees do not have the skills to handle what they are in charge of, chaos ensues. We need accountability measures that ensure our employees are able to handle the tasks and leadership they are responsible for.

References

CHOU, C., MADHAVAN, D., & FUNK, K. (1996). Studies of cockpit task management errors. International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 6(4), 307-320.

ROBSON, D. (2008). Human being pilot. Cheltenham, Australia: Aviation theory limited.