effectiveness, Leadership, Reflection

Exercising Leadership

In the last twenty years there are new perspectives on both structure and process.

Remember all those wonderful software programs in the eighties that allowed one to design org charts. You don’t see as many of them these days, but the charts that they developed still hang around in our consciousness. It might be better to put the leader in the centre rather than at the top. I actually saw a chart like this as a model for an Arts Company in the nineties. A the centre was a split circle with the music director and general manager. Surrounding them in concentic circles were the core musiciams, the extras, the technical crews, the marketers – all with key tasks but with different roles and responsibilities. Arts projects are like that – highly specialized configurations of talent and skills brought together in appropriate roles and time trames with a focus on the creation. We are a long way from that in other worlds but the possibility is there.

Titles matter less, responsibilities more. Self-management is key. The suggestion is that it may matter more to manage up and across than down. Direct reports can come last if the others are management tasks are working well.So much depends on the people – the right people in the right seats.

Helping people to face reality may be the real task of leadership. And so often it means asking the right questions rather than having the right answers. In that regard, the reminder that “What you see is all there is” also comes to mind. So we have to have good research and honest advice. Both require hard work both in acquiring and receiving them


purpose, self realization

Leadership – the Road Ahead

As promised, here is the start of a series on leadership. It is based on research that I undertook two years ago and also gives me an opportunity to reflect on what I learned since then.

There are several things to consider:
How have our views of the world changed?
What are the roles of vision and mission?
How is leadership exercised?
What are the necessary personal qualities?
How must the leader develop once he or she assumes the role?

All of these were of interest and took me on an extensive journey through the writings of the past two decades. So a revisit will involve not only those findings but what has been learned since.

Beauty, Creating, Innovation, Pausing, Reflection, Robert Genn


Thanks once again to Robert Genn – here is something worth watching. You need 10 minutes.

Benjamin Zander, effectiveness, presenting, purpose, Reflection, teams, Teamwork, workplace

Leading from Any Chair

Chairs The above chairs probably aren’t the kind that Ben Zander has in mind. (They are a welcome spot to sit on my city balcony). Ben is an orchestra conductor and the chairs that he is talking about might be occupied by violinists, trumpeters, or clarinet players. There is a lovely moment in a video of one of his concerts, where he gives the baton to a young musician and joins the cellists as a player in their row.

Leading is really about interdependence. He says that he conducted for 20 years before it came home to him that he was the only one on the stage who didn’t make a sound. His was a comment about real leadership – that the role of the leader is to enable others to do their best – not to be a star or primadonna. When he changed his perspective he realized that the results of his conducting results were much superior. It is a lesson for us all. to learn.

Benjamin Zander, Creating, Innovation, purpose, Reflection

Possibility over Measurement

Back to the best of Benjamin Zander’s Art of Possibility

He notes our everyday world has an immense focus on measurement – calendars, clocks, buzzers, alarms – that are largely calls to get on with it, to do more, to climb higher, to strive for success – or even just basically survive. When we say it’s a jungle out there, our reptile brain is sometimes more ascendant than we recognize. Look at any morning paper from the news section, to the sports section, to the business, section and even the style section – and it is mostly about winning and losing and exemplifies survival thinking.

The trouble with this approach, Zander notes, is that it provokes fear. We see it too in our need to acquire more to feel safe, to focus on scarcity and to drain the earth of resources. So he suggests that we ask ourselves how many of our thoughts relate to this measurement world.

Of course, knowing that a lot of them do results in new awareness. But it’s just an early step in the journey. There’s more to come.

Benjamin Zander, Creating, Innovation, Reflection, self realization

It’s all invented

Ben and Roz Zander remind us that we all see life through a particular lens – in other words we make it up. Among the things we do is define what it means to be human, we open up new ways to think and act. At our best, they say, we create flight paths to the eternal.

Ben’s musical background has taught him the importance of the long line. If you watch his TED talk, that appears earlier in the blog, he demonstrates how a beginning pianist starts to understand what he is playing – first bay emphasizing every note, then every other one, then one in four – based on the bar lines of the music. He observes that these emphases could be the way we organize our lives and that most ten year old pianists give up at this point. But the one who hangs in suddenly discovers the long line of the music that goes well beyond the limits of bar lines – the beauty of the shape that soars as we journey with it.

The chapter ends with a kicker – “Transformation happens not by arguing, but by generating active ongoing practices that shift the culture’s experience of the basis of reality. Geared to a shift in posture, perceptions, beliefs and thought processes. These are not easy”, he says.

Beauty, Benjamin Zander, Creating, Innovation, mind mapping, mindmapping software, purpose, Reflection, self realization, VisiMap, visual mapping

Good Start for a New Year

Happy New Year – and let’s start with possibility as summarized in Ben and Roz’s Zander’s wonderful book. You can enlarge the map if you need to by clicking on it

There are two good uses for Maps – note making – getting your ideas down, having a look at them and sorting out what their order should be in order to move toward doing something about them – but also note taking – summarizing other peoples’ ideas and practices. Maps need to be inspirational in this second mode – with reminders of the emotional tone as well as the fact of the message. So that’s why I took the time to add images to this one – created in VisiMap– to make it more evocative. I also added notes under some of the headings.

The Art of Possibility is a great reminder for starting the year. It’s not new, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. If you want a copy of the map with the attached notes, just ask. It is easy to send. And making further comments about what it says will keep me busy for a few days.

I rediscovered this book in my own library through reading another one, Nancy Duarte’s Resonate. She references the TED talk that Zander gave as a model of what a presentation should be. Meeting him there where he embodies what he cares about is also a model for all of us going forward.