Sunday, January 31, 2010

Doing "What Matters"

I had the opportunity to attend another brilliant presentation this last week by a man I admire a great deal, president emeritus of the University of Oregon, Dave Frohnmayer. Although President Frohnmayer may be best known for the 15 years he spent as university president he can also list Dean of the U of O school of law, Oregon Attorney General, state legislator, and Rhodes scholar. A true renaissance man.

He was speaking to a combined group of community leaders and "aspiring" leaders in the form of students from a local private university. Much of what he said resonated with me, but there were particular aspects of his presentation that really struck me.

One of the most interesting themes he discussed was our evolution as people, especially those of us who aspire to lead or manage others. He said that as we are young and we begin our careers we start with the question-
What do I want to do with my career?
We hear this question and discussion a lot from young people; how do I best manage my "career"?

The next evolution he describes is the place where we ask the question-
What do I find fulfilling or meaningful?
I know I have certainly spent some time pondering that question and I rather suspect that I am not alone.

The last question or stage was the challenge he put to those who lead-
What matters?
The point of this question is that we move beyond the "I" and begin to examine our contributions in the larger context of society and the world. It is an interesting point. Should we have people in leadership roles that haven't evolved to that place?

The other part of what he discussed particularly resonated with me; he encouraged everyone, but especially leaders to see themselves and others in terms of their whole personhood. Some of you know this is a familiar place for me.

He referred to people as diverse as Jung and Machiavelli as recognizing that we all carry a "shadow side" and that the most effective leaders recognize this in themselves and others. They don't try to deny it, they incorporate it in their leadership style and acknowledge it in others. They have people around them whom they trust and have the courage to point out to them when this "shadow" becomes a detriment rather than an asset or neutral. He also talked about how the recognition and "mastery" of your shadow elements is evolutionary and occurs over time.

When I first entered the work force like President Frohnmayer suggested I spent much of my time focusing on my "career". Now that I have had three or four "careers" I recognize that a career is a journey you to a certain extent look back on rather than plan.

I have found for me personally that the second and third questions have intertwined. I believe passionately that a different way of people relating to each other in organizational settings is better for the individual, the organization, and society in general. In my case that model is what we now call engagement or employment branding.

Those of you familiar with me also know about my fascination with "Whole People", my belief that this idea of partitioning people off in the "work self" and personal self is ineffective and kind of silly.

The last JFHF3HCJD6FE few years have been an interesting part of my personal journey so I found it somewhat validating to hear from someone I respect that perhaps I am not doing it "wrong" after all.

So what I would leave you with are two questions-
  • Have you determined what matters to you?
  • If you answer yes are you pursuing it, and if no do you have a plan to change that?

Look forward to hearing from you.....

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reflecting on Leadership

What an interesting week on the leadership front.

President Obama gave his first two commencement speeches in two very different venues. At Arizona State there was a lot of controversy over both inviting him as well as the decision not to award him the customary honorary degree. The reason cited was that he has not completed his "body of work". He agreed and in fact challenged the new graduates that just as he has not completed his body of work they are only beginning theirs.

At Notre Dame, the most prestigious Catholic college in the U.S. the controversy was around his position on women's choice as it relates to abortion. His position here was that the two sides would never be reconciled, but we should take steps to stop demonizing those whose viewpoints is different than our own. Not just about abortion, but about many things.

It was interesting today watching the press reaction to Congress' vote on denying the funding to close Guantanamo Bay. They wanted to get the administration to take a position on whether or not that represents the President's first "failure". The Congress apparently has legitimate concerns about the disposition of the detainees and felt the closure is premature. They kept pressing for recognition of a "mistake". The Administration responded that while the Executive Order may have been premature, it did galvanize action.

We really want to classify things as right or wrong, as a win or a loss. I am not sure that is leadership, in fact I am pretty sure it isn't.

On a positive note a colleague of mine was elected to a position on the school board in our community yesterday. I am pleased on a number of levels.
  • She is an "includer" and a thinker. I have worked with her in a number of capacities and rarely heard her express "right" or "wrong" positions.
  • She is a listener. She weighs things carefully and thoughtfully before coming to a decision or conclusion.
  • She is committed. Her personal history shows someone who has served her community in a number of capacities over an extended period of time. This is not any easy time to serve.
  • She was endorsed and supported by people from many different perspectives and on differing sides of issues.

These things are important to me because we are a very polarized community. It is very important for many people to be "right". As a result we have no defined road map for how we move forward as a community. We have very high unemployment, budget shortfalls for our schools, and not much of a plan for coming out of it. Perhaps her election is a sign that we are beginning to recognize that progress begins with relationships and willingness to hear the other person.

Last week I mentioned Bill George and his new generation of leaders who focus on "stakeholders" not shareholders. I think she might be one of that new generation. I wish her luck and I offer her my continuing support.

This Monday we celebrate Memorial Day, a tribute and an homage to those who served and those who died to preserve our rights to disagree, personal competency and a number of other core values that we hold dear.

I wonder what those who passed and those who remain think about where we are today not only in terms of our economy, but our values and where we go from here.

I like the fact that the president of Notre Dame mentioned that even while he disagreed with the President on many core issues he was proud of a President who called for discussion and tolerance for differences rather than demonizing those whose viewpoint is different from your own.

I also agree with President Obama and Senator McCain that Guantanomo became a symbol that I didn't care for and that now the issue is not if, but when we close it; and that is a good thing.

What do you think......?

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