Ginny Wilson-Peters' Blog
“The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” Randy Pausch.
The 2009 Leadership Challenge Forum began today with a keynote by co-author Barry Posner and ended with another keynote by co-author Jim Kouzes. I had the opportunity to chat with both of them and express my appreciation for their ongoing excellent work with the Leadership Challenge books.
Jim Kouzes’ presentation was called Leading in Turbulent Times. Early on, he reminded us that historical, as well as many current leaders were at their best service during times of adversity (think Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and so on). He went on to remind us that when he and Barry interview people about their best leadership experiences, they never have someone say, “Yeah I did a great job keeping things the same.” The stories are always about some type of change.
“Adversity introduces us to ourselves.” John F McDonnell, Mc Donnell Douglas. So, the question you can ask yourself is “During these turbulent times, who is the self that you’re being introduced to?”
Jim provided six lessons learned from successful leaders who have developed the resilience to not only survive, but overcome and thrive in tough times.
1. Broaden the context. These turbulent times requires us to step up and look for new ways of doing things.
What have you changed lately?
2. Define Reality. “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” Max DuPree. When people were asked if they felt better knowing news, even if it was bad, only 14% said “no”. Eighty-five percent of people said “Yes” they felt better knowing the news, even if it was bad. (From the Pew Center for People and the Truth, Feb 2009)
Is it possible that part of our challenges in the auto industry are due to a lack of willingness to face reality?
3. Fully Commit to What’s Important. And you can only commit to what you’re clear about, so remember the importance of knowing your values and what you’re passionate about.
4. Take Charge of Change. The work of leaders is change. “I’d bet there isn’t a single highly successful person who hasn’t depended on grit.” Angela Duckworth, U of Pennsylvania. Grit includes the ability to stick with something, to keep at it.
Leaders need to notice areas where we are stuck in a fixed mindset–and challenge those arena. MBA students who were rated high on proactivity were considered by their peers to be more transformational leaders.
5. Engage with Others. We can’t do it alone.
You can NOT command and control your way through adversity.
We need to get along better as a world.
6. Tell Positive Stories. Telling positive stories helps to build resilience throughout the organization. Again, have to share current reality but also talk about the positives. And remember that the magic ratio is 3:1. Three positives (at least) for every negative.
“Let Unconquerable Gladness Dwell” (said to be a saying on the desk of FDR for many years)
For more, visit Jim’s blog at http://www.leadershipchallenge.typepad.com/
Exerts from July 4th, 2009 column by Tim Dahlberg: http://tinyurl.com/lcdfkw
“Woods is a killer, he will run over you…But as an individual for social change? Terrible. Terrible. Because he can get away with teaching kids to play golf, and that’s his contribution.” Former Football great Jim Brown
“What Brown doesn’t appreciate is that Tiger Woods doesn’t seem to be burdened by much of a social conscience. He thinks Woods should be doing more—far more—than just playing golf and making money…
Indeed, with a person of mixed heritage much like himself running for president, Woods wouldn’t even publicly endorse Barack Obama.” Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press
It struck a chord. I read the opinion piece in last Sunday’s paper and immediately wanted to respond. I carried the paper around for a week before sitting down to write. Why did the attack on Tiger Woods and the comments about his perceived lack of commitment to social change bother me so much?
It comes back to the concept of integrity. The word integrity often seems to bring up strong emotions for people. It also brings up a great deal of confusion and judgment.
During a meeting last week we were talking about attempts to measure integrity in people. Someone turned to me and said, “You called your company Integrity Integrated. What does integrity mean to you?” My response was not what they wanted to hear. Angeles Arrien, an author and expert in cross-cultural communication and leadership, once said that integrity, from a cross-cultural standpoint, is the “alignment of our actions and communications with our values.” In order to know if someone has integrity, we need to first know their values.
When most people say that someone else has integrity, what they are really saying is that the other person demonstrates values that are similar to the speaker. In other words, the other person’s actions are in alignment with our OWN values. Hence, we conclude they have integrity.
WRONG! We cannot know if someone has integrity unless we know their values. In fact, it is an act of arrogance to assume that we can claim integrity in another person without first knowing more about them.
My biggest lesson in this came during my trip to South Africa two years ago. In a country dealing with post-apartheid issues, we heard about continued high incidence of AIDS and HIV, high poverty, and high crime rates. One of the South African leaders was talking about the difficult choices that some people have to make in order to feed their families. She was speaking to a group of predominantly white women from the United States and she gently, but candidly said, “I ask you NOT to pass judgment on someone who is making a choice to steal in order to put food on the table.”
That was a tough one for me. Stealing is wrong; pretty black and white for me for most of my life. And yet, when I heard her plea, I found myself with a pit in my stomach. There is no part of me that could personally relate to many of the experiences I heard about in South Africa—so how could I possibly impose my own set of values on others?
As for Tiger, who are we to pass judgment on the types of activities he chooses in order to give back to the world? And suggesting that Tiger should have provided an endorsement to Barack Obama simply because they are both from mixed heritage is dangerous at worst, and a harsh judgment at best. Mr Dahlberg and Mr Brown obviously have their ideas about what Tiger should be doing, but those ideas come from their own set of values.