Our Common Ground – Ten Principles for an Open Dialogue

20160825_111427

It is difficult to have an open dialogue when we are wrapped up in a controversial issue. But even when we don’t agree on the issue, by agreeing to a few basic principles we can come together on common ground for a meaningful dialogue.

Our Common Ground
Ten Principles for an Open Dialogue

Agreement is not a prerequisite for respect.
We each walk our own path to come to common ground.
We are all at once both broken & brilliant.
Compassion for our brokenness brings us to common ground.
Passion for our brilliance brings us to higher ground.
Every single person matters.
No one of us can see the entire picture. It is only by our collective perspectives that we can begin to see and understand.
I cannot change you.
I can only inform and influence. For that to happen there must be an open door.
I don’t win by defeating you.
No one becomes more from someone else becoming less. We are in this together.
Do not speak from anger, speak from what makes you angry.
In your words and actions reflect who you are and respect who they are.
There is no contradiction in facts.
If contradiction exists it is in our understanding of the facts.
Selective facts are not facts.
A fact is a thread woven into the overall story of our world. To pull out a single thread only weakens the fabric.
The end goal is not to find an answer, it is to deepen understanding.
When together we gain a deeper understanding of the issue at hand then each can make better choices for the good of all.
On the path forward sometimes I will lead, sometimes I will follow, always I will serve.
It is service that keeps us together. If we have not come to a place where we can serve each other, then we must ask a different question and begin again.

Advertisements

Diversity and the Servant Leader

VarietyA characteristic we all share is that each of is different. Diversity is the life reality of who we are as a collection of unique individuals. This reality presents challenges but also immense opportunities. A Servant Leader is well equipped to address the challenges and to build on the opportunities, particularly in three key areas.

Equality

A great way to serve someone is to take down a wall that stands in their way and then turn those blocks to stepping stones. Too often our differences are used to stuff people into boxes and behind labels that senselessly keep them from living the life they are meant to live. A Servant Leader believes that everyone should have an equal opportunity to live into the fullness of who they are as a splendidly unique individual. That which makes a person unique is exactly what the world needs, so if they aren’t allowed to be who they are the whole world suffers. A Servant Leader calls out any discrimination, whether it’s based on readily discernible physical characteristics or more subtle traits, and brings the person forward where they can shine.

Enrichment

Diversity is also important for teams. There is no need to go looking for diversity, it’s everywhere. If you put any two people together you have diversity, so in a team it’s a matter of recognizing the diversity that exists and determining whether you have the elements of diversity necessary for the team to achieve the goal at hand. By focusing first on service to the person the Servant Leader is able to understand each individual on a team and what unique contribution they have to offer. And while allowing each individual to be present on the team as they are the Servant Leader binds the team by bringing them together around a shared story of where they are and where they are going.  The Servant Leader does not lose sight of the importance of individual contribution because they know that the primary objective of any team is the growth of each individual, and in this the team as a whole is enriched.

Leadership

Diversity is also vital to leadership itself. The better you understand our differences, and see the unique contribution that you yourself have to make, the better equipped you are to serve and to lead.

And this is a time that is calling out for Servant Leaders to take a strong lead in embracing diversity. Sadly there are many well intended efforts these days to squelch and hide our differences. The thought is that sameness brings about equality. But the only way it creates equality is that everyone loses. And fear that one person’s uniqueness might offend another person has led to policies that prohibit people from demonstrating that which makes them who they are. This is done out of respect for the potentially offended person but it is in fact a great disrespect to the one who has had their lines blurred. The Servant Leader begins with respect for the individual, as they are, even when they disagree. Yes, even when offended by the actions of another the Servant Leader still respects the person. A Servant Leader creates a culture of service where people are free to reflect who they are and open to respect who others are. We can’t lead people into the fullness of who they can be tomorrow if they don’t even know who they are today.

Find strength in common ground
and energy in diversity.

 Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My Three Leadership Values

ThreeSteps“What are your top three leadership core values?” It was a thought provoking question and responding to it was a challenge. Tal Shnall posted the question on Facebook and tagged a group of us. Thank you, Tal, for the question.

Part of the challenge for me was how it was worded. I had often thought about my personal values and the effect they have on my leadership. But the phrase “leadership core values” put a twist on the question. I had never thought of values specific to leadership.

Another challenge was articulating just three values in a concise enough manner to fit a Facebook comment. Had I been asked to spend the next two hours expounding on all my favorite characteristics of good leadership I could have dived right in. But to narrow it to only three core values that underpin the rest?

Then there was a challenge I issued to myself, to not just list three values but to add a sentence or two for each to clarify the value and explain how I see them relating to each other. And again to be able to do that in a concise and clear way.

I had to wrestle with it a bit, but I did manage to come up with a list, and here they are.

My Three Leadership Values

  1. The innate worth of the individual (including ourselves). Each and every person matters, always.
  2. The importance of service as a response to individual worth & as the foundation of leadership.
  3. The freedom of everyone to lead. To deny anyone, intentionally or not, their freedom to lead is a failure to recognize their individual worth and a disservice to the individual.

I pass the question along to you. “What are your top three leadership core values?”

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So that …

May 28th is World Hunger Day, a day to raise awareness of hunger issues. Every day is a day to do something about it. An amazing organization that is doing incredible work to address world hunger is Feed My Starving Children, headquartered in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Over a million volunteers a year in the US pack meals that are sent around the world to feed starving children. This evening I participated in a packing event at the Coon Rapids facility. In an hour and a half about 100 of us packed 26,568 meals that are headed to Honduras.
In addition to having a huge impact on world hunger, Feed My Starving Children is also an outstanding model of servant leadership. One aspect in particular they demonstrate well is what it means to truly serve. Service is often spoken of as simply helping others or doing something nice for them, but service goes deeper than that. When someone grows as a person as a result of our authentic actions we are truly serving.

Helping a child provides them a meal. Serving a child also provides them hope.

One way to distinguish helping from serving is with two little words – “so that.” Those words can help assure that our actions are rooted in purpose, vision and mission.

Service feeds a hungry child so that …

  • … so that they can live.
  • … so that they can learn.
  • … so that they can grow and be productive.
  • … so that they can experience the beauty of their world.
  • … so that they can serve.
  • … so that they can lead.

The FMSC model also benefits the volunteers & staff who prepare and pack the meals.
Service provides opportunities to volunteers and staff so that…

  • … so that they gain a better understanding of who they are.
  • … so that they feel good about who they are.
  • … so that they gain more confidence in their ability to make a difference.
  • … so that they can grow as leaders.

Consider the work you do to serve. Are you simply helping or are you truly serving? If you are helping that’s great. I am definitely not saying that helping is wrong. Just be careful however that your helping isn’t actually a disservice. I do challenge you though to go deeper and truly serve. Be clear on your purpose. Take time to reflect on how you would finish this statement, “I am doing this so that …”

Feed My Starving Children is clear on their “so that.” And what a difference their service makes.

Service, Trust, Leadership and a Journey

EYLBook1 A significant goal was reached on April 20th. Sixteen of us in an amazing on-line collaboration published the new book –

Energize Your Leadership.
Discover. Ignite. Break through.

But more than a goal on a project, this was a milestone on a journey, a journey that began a little over two years ago for me. After we initially laid out a structure for the book each of us had a tentative topic for our own chapter. My topic was servant leadership. We were advised to not start writing until the structure was finalized and we had our official topics. But with my situation I felt a need to get a jump on the assignment and so I started to write.

The project hit a point where it needed to reboot.  After the book plan was restructured I had a new tentative topic – authenticity. Again we were told to wait, again I started to write.

Then the final assignments came out and my new topic was – trust. Ugh. Now we were given the go ahead to write but I struggled to see how trust energizes leadership. Trust doesn’t really energize leadership, it’s the very foundation of leadership. If you’re lacking trust you don’t have un-energized leadership, you have no leadership at all.

I completed my chapter on trust and submitted it to the core team. This group of five of the authors had the daunting task of making sure that all 16 chapters fit together as a cohesive book while retaining the unique nature of each chapter. To no surprise they came back to me with a number of suggested modifications to my chapter. I rewrote my chapter using their ideas and new ideas of my own, and I resubmitted it to the team.

Karin Hurt from the core team was the content coach for our section of the book and she was masterful at providing feedback with honesty and grace. In a wonderful conversation with her she told me that my chapter was better, but it still wasn’t working for her. She added, “What if you incorporate servant leadership into your chapter? I know you have a passion around servant leadership.” “Funny you should say that,” I told her, “that was my original topic.”

So again I began to rewrite my chapter, this time on the topic of trust in the context of servant leadership. As I was doing so there was a moment of epiphany. I have studied servant leadership for some time and have read the writings of Robert Greenleaf. I knew well that a servant leader is servant first and leadership flows from service. But I had struggled to fully understand exactly how it is that service connects to leadership. As I was writing it dawned on me that the key is trust.

Service builds trust. Trust builds leadership.

Now I understood. This is how service grows into energized leadership. We don’t need to muster up to high standards of expectations in order to become a leader. Rather it starts with bringing our unique self to the world in service to all. In authentic service we build trust. And then in trust we build leadership. This became my central message.

Once again I sent my chapter to the core team. It was accepted and passed along to the editor. When I received it back from the editor she suggested some small modifications. One change was the topic which now was simply servant leadership. Trust was still very much a part of the chapter but incorporating her suggestions and a couple small changes of my own the focus became servant leadership.

Though my topic ended up back where it started, had it not been for the journey that took me hither and yon and challenged me I would not have gained this insight and new understanding. The obstacles that threaten to drain us can actually energize us and become stepping stones to new heights.

What a journey it has been and continues to be. My gratitude goes to the marvelous leaders with whom I have traveled. A special thank you to the core team of LaRae Quy, Terri Klass, Karin Hurt, Alli Polin and Chery Gegelman.the16authorsI hesitate to say that publication of the book means the completion of our project, because our goal was never simply to write a book. We are joined in a concern for the lack of energy we see in leaders around us. We share a vision that people will discover the energy to lead, ignite the passion of their purpose and break through the challenges they face.  Whatever direction the project may take from here the journey definitely goes on.

If you are struggling to find the energy you need to lead with passion and purpose, find a copy of the book and c’mon in. Let us share with you the struggles we have faced and the lessons we learned. Each of the 16 chapters has its own topic, its own story, its own insights and I believe you will find a message that speaks to you.  For more information go to www.EnergizeYourLeadership.net. To obtain a copy go to Amazon.com, the link here in the United States is www.amazon.com/Energize-Your-Leadership-Discover-Through/dp/1507894910. Stay energized & lead on!


ServeTrustLead5

An Archaic Definition of Leadership

LeadershipDefnArchaic2 “A position as a leader of a group, organization, etc.”  This is Merriam-Webster’s primary definition of the word leadership.  I envision that someday there will be an italicized word next to this definition – archaic.

First of all there is no need for using the word leadership in this way.  There is already a better word for this, it’s management.  When referring to a position within an organization, just call it management.  Management is about position, structure, authority, business.  Leadership is about people, relationship, influence, life.

Often leadership is used to distinguish upper management from lower management.  But again this isn’t necessary.  Call it upper management or executive management.  Please don’t call it senior management, though, that has its own issues.  Senior management conjures up images of silverbacks in the boardroom drinking their discount coffee.

Many times leadership is used as a euphemism for management, to glorify management.  This has the opposite effect, however, if you stop and think about it.  It suggests that management has such a negative connotation that it needs to be called something else in order to be respected.  But this is absolutely not the case.  The position of manager is a very distinguished role within an organization.  If there is a negative connotation it is an issue with the person in the position and not the position itself, and needs to be addressed as such.  Call management management and respect it for what it is.

Within the role of manager is a great opportunity to serve the people of the organization.  And within that service then is a great opportunity for leadership.  The leadership comes not from the position itself but from the service carried out within that role.  Service builds trust.  Trust builds leadership.  The key thing to remember is that this is true of any role within the organization, not just management.

Not only is it unnecessary to use the term leadership to describe management but it is also harmful.  It’s not just a matter of semantics.  To me this is a moral issue.  I firmly believe that there is no greater impediment to individual growth and personal fulfillment than all the confusion around leadership.  And it is just as much a detriment to those in management as those on the outside, if not more.  I’ve gone into detail on this in the past and I’m sure I will again in the future.

Here is an exercise to help think this through.  For one day, challenge yourself to pause for a second every time you are about to use the word leadership.  Consider what you are referring to and ask yourself – Is this really about leadership or am I in fact talking about management?  If it’s management then use the word management.  If indeed you are discussing leadership then by all means use the word leadership.  Just call it what it is.

It may seem pretentious of me to want to rewrite the dictionary.  The main point is that we have a great opportunity at hand.  Our concepts of organizations are being redefined and rethought.  The structured paradigm of the industrial age is crumbling.  Now is a very good time to pause and think about how we use the word leadership.

When Helping is a Disservice

LendAHandServant leadership is more than doing something nice for others.  Yes, kind and generous actions are a key element.  But the more you assess the situation and the better you understand those being served, the more that all involved will experience the full richness of servant leadership.  Without it your actions could actually be a disservice to those you are attempting to serve.

Robert Greenleaf said the test of servant leadership is this,

“Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

To deepen my understanding of servant leadership I periodically form and refine my own definition.

To serve is to live in such a way that others become more from what I do.  Servant leadership is serving in a way that others become servants who lead.

Before you reach out, reflect within on a few questions.

  • Does my service help them reach their goals?  Or is my only objective to achieve my own goals?
  • Does my service help them to become more skilled, more knowledgeable, more self-aware?  If I do what they are able to do themselves,  will I deny them an opportunity to learn and grow?
  • Does my service help them to become more self-sufficient and self-confident?  Or is there a risk they will become dependent on my assistance?
  • How will their life be different as a result of my service?  What change will this bring about?
    • Are they prepared for this change?  Will they be equipped for the new reality?
    • Are they involved in the process enough to feel ownership of the results?
  • Does my service allow me to be enriched by the experience?  If service is harmful to the one who is serving, it is a disservice to all.  We each have our own unique gifts to share.  And if anyone, even the servant, becomes less we all become less.  Give of yourself without giving up yourself.

A key is relationship.  In relationship we gain the understanding necessary to serve effectively.  In relationship an act of kindness becomes a message of love.  In relationship we share responsibility for the outcome.  In relationship we grow and become more from what we do.  In relationship we lead.

Go the extra mile to do something special for others,
but also go deeper to be someone of significance to others.

Image: foto76 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net