Monday, July 28, 2014

Leaders Wanted!

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more,
do more and become more, you are a leader.”
(Sinek, Leaders Eat Last)

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately talking about leadership, working with leaders wanting to hone their skills, and in the company of future leaders. A lot of the dialogue brought me back to this quote from Simon Sinek in his latest book. What is it about leadership that separates a leader from a survivor? We’ve all seen both, regardless of whether you are an educator (as I know many of the followers of this blog are) or lead in your profession.

Leaders are driven by responsibility and the capacity to assist others to reach their full potential. Survivors are interested in self, the trappings of the role, and in directing others to get better. The essence of leadership is distilled in the fine line between courage and self-doubt – courage to take bold actions and engender collective commitment balanced by self-doubt that causes the leader to continually reflect on decisions made, and adjust them as conditions indicate. True leadership is also the response to this question: How many leaders did you leave behind? If leading is just a function of an individual and the organization is lost once that person moves on, it’s more likely you’ve been led by a survivor in leader’s clothing.

I’m going to be exploring the notion of leader/survivor further in an anthology with a dozen colleagues who will all bring their unique perspectives to the leadership conundrum. I know they’ll produce some fascinating insights and I can’t wait to share their work with you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

That's A Great Question!

It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.

As I travel across the United States and Canada, I’m often reminded of how fortunate I am as an educator to have the variety of learning experiences I get to enjoy. While I’m often in the position of facilitating the learning of others or giving a keynote address, I take every opportunity to learn from the educators I’m working with. And a lot of the learning happens in the questions posed – both to me and to their peers as the collaborative efforts continue. The quote from Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco resonates for that reason.

Oftentimes the questions posed cause us to move out of our comfort zone and stretch our thinking. If that’s attached to presuming positive intention on the part of the questioner (they are asking out of a gap in their knowledge, not to embarrass someone), the exercise becomes even more powerful. Context is important in all of the work we do – and it can also be a curse if it serves as a limitation to one’s knowledge. I know what I know and it’s familiar ground. Having others enlighten me with what they know is always appreciated especially when it’s delivered with the intention to build bridges over the knowledge gaps we all possess.

Questions are powerful tools. They can ignite hope and lead to new insights. Questions are a great way to stimulate thinking. In our profession there are variables that sometimes seem so overwhelming that they limit our thinking and preclude achieving solutions. Reframing these situations as questions is an excellent way to instantly change the way we feel and to work towards achieving a solution. All because someone asked a question that got others thinking about the challenge in a different way.

Thanks for all of the questions. Keep them coming!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Learn to be Still (Summer Shorts Series)

It's summer and I'm back to writing blog posts. Brian Barry (@Nunavut_Tweeter) suggested that in summer it was good to keep posts short and from that moment I started the "Summer Shorts" series of posts. Hope you'll enjoy them.

And someday you will
Learn to be still

            I have been on a bit of a hiatus these last few weeks and have enjoyed the time at home. I’m now heading back on the road to work with colleagues. While I have been enjoying the musings of others, I haven’t written a post. I’ve been reminded of the lyrics to the Eagles song that titles this post, as it is a growth area for me. I’m just not very good at being still. My wife shares that I have two speeds – flat out and flat out (as in prone and asleep). So, apparently I have some work to do in this department.

            I know a lot is made of the need to achieve a work-life balance and I’m not about to diminish that as a goal. I just think it might look a little different for each person. For example, I’ve come to realize that I’m not wired to lie on the beach for a week and enjoy myself. I’m good for two or three days (and really value the rest and recharge opportunity) and then I want to rearrange the towels on the beach or rake the sand on the beach. Pushing to relax more actually creates more tension and unrest for me. The balance comes in how I use some of the down time and I realize it might seem too busy for others, and that’s okay. I try to run five days a week and usually alone with my thoughts. I find this time quite energizing even when it goes beyond an hour. I like to write, and the process of creating books inspires me, as I research and get to read the quality works of others. My down time looks busier than might be desired by others and it is shaped by what I need. So while I’ve enjoyed this time of rest, I’ve recorded a number of webinars, worked on a training manual for a book Chris Weber and I just had published, and furthered some planning steps for an anthology I’m creating with the help of some really smart educators. It feels like a nice balance for me right now. I’ll concede that it may change, as I get older. I also know that there will be a time when I’m still. I’m just not there yet!