Leading Out Loud

Oct 7, 2014


Find out who you are and do it on purpose

As I turned on the radio, on my way home from the airport yesterday, having just arrived back from Toronto, I was delighted to catch the last 5 minutes of Radio Q, and hear those words from Tracey Davis, daughter of Sammy Davis, Jr. Nice transition, I thought. Not only did it bridge Toronto and Portland (Radio Q on CBC is hosted by one of my favorite Torontonians, Jian Ghomeshi), but hearing Tracey’s comment in Jian’s interview connected directly to what the group and I worked on all weekend — excavating and using our strengths and gifts, especially those we may disregard, often buried in a painful past.

It turns out, finding out who you are is not so easy, but living it on purpose, is even harder. And as a leader, it’s even harder still.

I was having dinner with a friend the other day and she told me what someone else had said about me. It wasn’t particularly nice, in fact, it was mean. But it was also wrong.

I felt hurt and angry. But there’s nothing to do. Because you can’t control what someone thinks about you. Sure, we can do a lot to influence perceptions, but at the end of the day, if you have any kind of public presence, people will criticize you, compete with you, disapprove of your actions, and tell you how to do it better.

It’s a good reason not to be public, not to speak up, and definitely not to lead. But that would be a terrible loss. (more…)

Raising your voice

Sep 18, 2014

Kirsten Gillebrand, D-Senator from New York, caused a stir earlier this year when she published her memoirs, Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World. In it, she described in detail, including specific comments made by members of Congress, the sexist culture of the U.S. Senate.

I saw her speak yesterday, on Charlie Rose, and it reminded me of my friend, Vassiliki Katrivanou, who is currently a Member of Parliament in the Greek government in the Syriza party. To celebrate #TBT, here is the post I wrote about Vassiliki last year, about her experiences with power, soft vs. hard power, sexism, and her way of navigating those dynamics.

The most important power you have is the one that’s not yours

Vassiliki KIt’s a remarkable story. A good friend of mine – practically overnight and without planning to do so – became a Member of the Greek Parliament. Some of you readers may know Vassiliki Katrivanou. A Process Work trainer, facilitator and filmmaker, who worked internationally, Vassiliki was living in her native Athens after almost a decade living abroad. She arrived back in Greece just in time for Greece’s biggest crisis since the end of the civil war in 1949.

Greece is in the middle of a crisis of enormous proportions: a political, financial, social, and as Vassiliki adds, constitutional crisis. People are living on the edge: 30% unemployment, 50% of youth unemployed, and no sign of development or a way out of the crisis in sight. And, as history has shown, in the midst of desperate times, ideologies like fascism become attractive. A new neo-Nazi party, the Golden Dawn has emerged, and is now the third largest party in Greece. (more…)

Grit_Web1Every idea I ever had was brilliant. Until I started working on it.

This has been a year of developing and launching projects, and it’s taught me something profound about creativity.

Until an idea sees the light of day, it’s perfect. There is nothing more successful than an unborn dream. As long as it hasn’t yet been exposed to the harsh light of day, to the laws of gravity, and to the comparisons and critiques that await it, it’s flawless. (more…)

Michael Brown imageFifty years ago the images of Birmingham police officers using police dogs and fire hoses on civil rights protesters electrified the country and helped turn the tide in the civil rights movement. I can only hope that the images of police in armored tanks and cameo pants, with high powered assault machine guns in Ferguson, Missouri, will have the same effect.

As much as I’d like that to be the case, I’m less hopeful. Because the difference is this: Birmingham was a civil rights march. What happened in Ferguson is an everyday reality for the majority of African Americans and other racialized minorities in this country. (more…)

Looking at the challenges facing our planet today, there’s one thing they all have in common: they are deeply complex problems that require complex solutions. None of them can be solved in isolation. Whether we’re looking at war or water crises, food shortages or climate change, there is not one solution, but solutions—plural. And to get to these solutions, we need interdisciplinary collaboration — input from all the stakeholders, experts, and parties involved. But how do we get those parties to actually work together, especially when they all have diverse viewpoints, understandings and methods for solving the problem? In this video I talk about collaboration, teamwork, and the tyrants on our teams we have to watch out for (hint: the worst tyrants aren’t any of the people).

big and smallIn an ABC news interview on June 9th, Hilary Clinton said her family left the White House in 2001 “dead broke.” With that comment, she set off a firestorm of criticism and national dialogue on privilege and wealth. For me it has less to do with Hilary as a possible presidential candidate, but a lot to do with privilege and power. It seems that no matter how great our privilege, no matter how high our status, or how lucky we may be, feelings of pain and hardship can easily trump any feeling of privilege.

Hilary and Bill left the White House, perhaps not exactly broke, but broken – exhausted, humiliated in the public eye, their marriage under assault after years of accusations, civil suits and a lengthy impeachment process for Bill’s sexual misconduct. That would be hardship for any spouse, but having to endure it all in the public eye, I can easily imagine how emotionally broke and exhausted she must have felt.   (more…)

Larger than life

Jun 22, 2014

This is why it’s dangerous to make anyone seem larger than life. Because a young person coming up sees this larger than life figure, this outrageously gigantic personality and has to say I could never be that, I can never do that, when the truth is, those men, and those women, were in the right place at the right time and got hold of something, and something caught hold of them 

Maya Angelou expresses this with more poetry and wisdom than I ever could in this amazing dialogue between her and comedian Dave Chappelle

Hero worship is like a drug — a little bit can help in the right dosage, but too much interrupts our own development as leaders. What I call “good enough leadership” in this post challenges the notion that leaders are larger than life. Continue reading here


chefI’m over it now, but I got a little addicted to the Food Network TV show, Chopped. Among the many things I learned from watching (how to cook with galangal, never put cheese on fish, and French toast is not a desert), I learned the importance of execution. Some of the most skilled and creative chefs lost on the basis of what the judges called “execution.”

Last week, I was coaching a therapist who was having trouble working with a client. His understanding and analysis of the person’s process seemed very sound, as did his methods. But he just couldn’t get through. He couldn’t seem to execute. We had a very interesting discussion about execution, about the funny things that happen between knowing and doing, between theory and application.

Execution seems to be the black box when it comes to learning. You can test for knowledge and skills. You can test for potential. But whether or if someone can execute new learning, can actually do what they know, at the time and place they need to do it, is beyond our ability to predict and control. I think this must be what makes sports so popular. Even the greatest teams or greatest athletes cannot predict their execution. There’s always that chance that the underdog will have its day because the best team just couldn’t bring it. (more…)

momMy mother put her heart and soul into being a mother, and yet, she’d be the first to admit she wasn’t perfect. When I speak to her now, she frequently says, “I did my best, but there was no school for mothers.”

Sure, she probably got some things wrong. But she also got a lot right. And when it came to getting along with people, my mom was especially wise. She had an instinct for relationships, what we’d call today social intelligence. I’m grateful to her for that. In fact, I find myself quoting some of her aphorisms to clients and students, which might be annoying, but also tells me, a) the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and b) a lot of what she taught me I find useful today.

In honor of mother’s day, I’d like to share the some of her expressions and the lessons in them I find relevant today. (more…)

Who’s Your MVP?

May 7, 2014

Who’s Your MVP?

(Disclaimer: I know many of you readers don’t live in the US, and I try to not to be too provincial in my posts. But the NBA Playoffs are something I’ve loved since childhood – when my beloved New York Knicks won. So thanks for bearing with!)

Besides Kevin Durant winning the MVP (Most Valuable Player award) yesterday, it was also National Teacher Appreciation Day (did you know that even existed?) and it got me thinking about our own MVPs . Having parents, teachers, mentors, caregivers, friends, anyone in our world support us, believe in us, nurture us makes all the difference in the world. Sometimes, as Durant says, love means believing in us, and other times, it means waking us up in the middle of the night to do pushups, or whatever version of tough love you needed. When I was three years old, I was told I wasn’t allowed back in the house until I went across the street to Lee Guckert’s house and stuck up for myself. Conflict avoidant then and now, but I’d be much worse if I hadn’t had that tough love.

When it comes to support – teachers, parents, mentors – I feel rich. I’ve had a lot of support and some of the best teachers in the world. And teachers aren’t just those people at the front of the class. You never know, you just might be someone’s role model or mentor. It doesn’t take as much as you think to give someone hope, even against incredible odds. Just the presence of one supportive adult in a child’s life may act as a buffer against negative outcomes due to child abuse or neglect.

This is why it’s so important to fight for the right of people to be educated. And to fight against any force or movement that would deprive children – especially girls – of that right.

So, if you have the privilege of having support take a minute and thank the MVPs in your life.




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