Reading Discussion

Monday, Apr 13, 2009


The World Is Flat.

Week 12- April 13, 2009

Never considered myself of a fan of Friedman, but now, I am rethinking my stance. I appreciate the way he is engaging in the global issues of the world and challenging himself, readers, and the world to think outside the box. It seems to me that the term “flat” is synonymous for interconnectedness on a positive and prosperous level. The unflat world is not so much, thus the “only way out is through new ways of collaboration between” the two worlds.

The beginning of this collaboration will also usher in the beginning of “trust” and at the decline of “fear.” Different players with different views will seize to feel threatened but seek to understand, to “use their imagination…to lift people up” (p. 613). We will be more careful about bombing nations for which we have little just cause, and more eager to engage them in mutual respect. Way to bring trust into the conversation Pat!

To address this question of “when fear or love has affected…ability to bridge cultural…divides?” I will have to disagree with Friedman and say that it was our era of being the only superpower, with “the world [as] our oyster” that has contributed to the fear that limits American leaders from bridging gaps. For example with China’s rise in power and affluence, I am not particularly concerned about China’s (and Asia’s) response to America’s number 1 status than I am of our response to their ascension. We’ve made up all these reasons to why China’s rise is concerning, when I think it is simply because we are experiencing humiliation at not being the sole power. We need to want to be part of those cultures that thrive on “sudden opportunities for collaboration” (p. 555). It will be the only way for us to remain a beloved superpower—if we so desperately want to keep the title!

And nice choice on the Kiwi-Strawberry Nathan might just get one tomorrow! ;o)

Thursday, Apr 9, 2009


Heifetz & Laurie: Mobilizing Adaptive Work

Chapter 3 within “The Leader’s Change Handbook” tackles some difficult material in terms of leadership: what do we do when authorities don’t know the answers? Mobilize adaptive work.

Too often, we confuse leaders with authority, causing us to complain about the “lack of leadership” shown by our bosses, supervisors, or coaches. But instead of looking to our hierarchical superiors in times of crises, Heifetz & Laurie say that “we should be calling for leadership that summons us to face the problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions – the challenges that require us to learn in new ways” (56). This is where adaptive work comes in: finding solutions by demanding learning and often requiring changes in people's values, attitudes, and habits.

In order to improve problem-solving and leadership dilemmas, Heifetz & Laurie ask leaders to note the differences between leadership and authority, as well as distinguish between technical and adaptive work (56). A failure to recognize these differences, they say, leads us to seek out the wrong kind of leadership, the kind of leadership that leads to “quick fixes” and incomplete innovation. Heifetz & Laurie believe that the best solutions require looking beyond technical fixes. "Hard to define and even harder to resolve, adaptive situations demand the work and responsibility of managers and works high and low," making adaptive work collaborative and messy - but certainly plausible in our shared-power world (63). Thankfully, “Mobilizing Adaptive Work” presents five principles of leadership for mobilizing people to do adaptive work:

  • Identify the adaptive challenge
  • Regulate distress
  • Maintain disciplined attention
  • Give the work back to people
  • Protect leadership from below

I appreciated Heifetz & Laurie's honest and concise closing remarks on adaptive change: "Focusing managment team and front-line workers on adaptive change is among the leader's most difficult tasks...Adaptive challenges have no ready solutions" (85). Further, the conclusion reminded me of our discussions during last week's class regarding 'learned leadership' and 'change forward': "Leading adaptive change requires a learning strategy. To learn the way forward, each manager facing an adaptive challenge must ask who needs to learn what and how."

Questions for you...

  1. Reflect on a situation when authority figures did not meet your expectations of leadership. How did this affect your personal definition or vision of leadership?

  2. Can you think of a situation when you and your team or colleagues implemented an adaptive work strategy to solve a problem? If not, can you cite an experience about how a problem facing your team struggled due to the limits of technical work?

  3. Do you think that the five principles of leadership as presented by Heifetz & Laurie are realistic for today's leaders? Why or why not?

  4. Do you think that any one of the five principles is more important than the others? Why or why not?

Thanks for reading! I look forward to your comments and insights.


The World is Flat ~ Thomas L. Friedman

On August 22, 2008, Thomas Friedman, speaking at a United Way conference in Greater New Hampshire made this statement in reference to his definition of the flat world and globalization, “whatever can be done will be done…the only question for you is will it be done by you or to you?’ ( In reading chapters 15 and 17 of “The World is Flat” I would offer the question what kind(s) of leadership will it take for it to be done for the global common good?

These two chapters offer a fair amount of detail outlining the circumstances around 9/11 and the fears and insecurities that came as a result of the attacks on the US. Friedman points out that when your approach is out of fear, you risk losing your ability to be imaginative about what can be done. You risk forfeiting your ability to collaborate and problem solve for the common good. I believe that operating out of fear, is actually the opposite of falling and staying in love with the work as defined by Kouzes and Posner in the last chapter of the “Leadership Challenge.” Operating out of fear causes you to be suspicious of everything around you; you retreat inside and lose out on creativity and forward thinking. Hope is also lost. Operating out of love (and I acknowledge the discomfort with the term love) allows an openness to innovation and possibilities. Hope is gained. Friedman states that “there are two ways to flatten the world. One is to use your imagination to bring everyone up to the same level, and the other is to use your imagination to bring everyone down to the same level” (p.613). Can you site personal examples of when fear or love has affected your ability to bridge cultural (broadly defined i.e., language, ethnic, or class etc.) divides?

Friedman also talks about the too sick, the too disempowered and the too frustrated. These terms refer to a level of consciousness about the globalization and the notion of a flattened world. These terms are also about inequity of access to the opportunities that are afforded though a flattened world. The term “too sick” is a literal reference to people devastated by the ravage effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in certain parts of the world. It also refers to the illnesses brought on by extreme poverty and broken governments where there is no system or resources to connect to the flattening world; in essence these are the areas where the world is not flat and there is no consciousness of or connection to the technological advancements. The too disempowered refers to people who are keenly aware of the advancements that are around them but there is an inability to contribute to or benefit from the flatness in any meaningful way. The too frustrated, according to Friedman, are those feeling humiliated and threatened by the suddenness of the flattened world and their exposure to the entire world; the frustration can also arise from anger at their lack of having a voice. This is where some of the debate over globalization, for whose benefit, at whose expense comes in. This is also where some anti-American sentiment can arise in reference to the view that Americans are not always open to viewing the world from other perspectives. Here I will ask you to comment on globalization, the advancements and breakthroughs that not every one benefits from, the effects on the environment when more people can and do participate, and the implications that being a developed country means being like Americans.

Thursday, Apr 2, 2009


I love innovation, don't I? or Sustaining Innovation, Creating Non-Profit and Government Organizations that Innovate Naturally

This was an interesting read, although it may be long given some of our schedules at this time in the semester. Given that and my penchant, and love for, doing something different, I will give a brief synopsis and then I would love to attempt to seek your input in a slightly different way.

Synopsis - A study completed in 1994. The Surviving Innovations Project. Wonderful stories. Some excellent points made and lessons learned. A couple of quotes from the conclusion, " so much easier with leaders who care most about the soil in which innovation and ordinary good practice grow..." and, "What greater expression of heroism could there be in a society fixated on individual glory than to submerge oneself for the public good?"

I included the quotes as a preface to what I hope will be an interesting online discussion. I hope that you had a chance to read some of this piece but if not, I hope that you will still take the chance to participate. The author categorized the lessons/leadership practices learned from the 1994 study into ten areas, I would like to have you pick at least one and define it based either on the reading or your own thoughts and impressions. If you have one, please include an anecdote, personal or otherwise, to support your definition.

The top ten leadership practices - 1. Change the leader's work. 2. Be clear who decides. 3. Issue a call for ideas. 4. Give the permission to fail. 5. Communicate to excess. 6. Pay attention to sequencing. 7. Teach the organization how to say no and why to say yes. 8. Keep faith and intuition alive. 9. Stay balanced. 10. Keep innovation in perspective.

To facilitate our discussion I would like to post an example.

Be clear who decides = A lighthouse. When sailors are sailing on dangerous shores or attempting to find safe harbors during inclement weather lighthouses have provided guidance to help them remain on course. Similarly, when it is clear who decides in organizations who want to naturally innovate clear guidance on mission, vision and direction allow them to stay on course.

Have fun with the definitions, I am looking forward to your thoughts.


Leadership is Everyone's Business - Kouzes & Posner

As soon as I saw the title of Chapter 13 -- Leadership is Everyone’s Business -- I knew it was going to resonate with me personally. We often think of leaders as people with special power or responsibilities. In fact, we all have opportunities to lead in our day-to-day lives. If we do not consider ourselves leaders, then we will often overlook those chances. If we do not practice and hone our leadership skills in these common place situations, then we have little hope of being prepared when a more meaningful leadership challenge arises. As Kouzes & Posner explain, “As each of us takes individual responsibility for creating the world of our dreams, we can all participate in leading” (p. 346).

(I do not say this as someone who has mastered Kouzes & Posners exemplary leadership practices, or any other collection of leadership skills. Just as someone who feels strongly that they are important skills to develop.)

In what arenas of your life do you consider yourself a leader? How did Kouzes and Posner influence your perspective on your role?

Kouzes & Posner’s begin the chapter by pointing out that managers make the difference for their employees. This reinforces the age-old adage that “People choose to join companies, but they decide to leave managers.” Later, the authors reiterate this concept with stories demonstrating the meaningful impact that leaders have on their constituents.

How does your relationship with your direct manager influence how you feel about your job and/or organization? Can you think of another factor that has more influence? Have you ever left a company because of your manager?


Leadership and Change within One Yoga

I would like to introduce One Yoga as a discussion piece for next Tuesday's class. Below I have briefly explained the organization, the changes that have taken place, and my role as a stakeholder within the organization. I have posed a few questions and ask that you bring your thoughts to class. Some readings that might be of service to you are Kotter, O'Toole, Terry, and Crosby (Leadership for the Common Good). You may also go to for more information about One Yoga.


One Yoga is a nonprofit yoga studio, gaining its status as a nonprofit in 2003. Since then, One Yoga has brought thousands of people into the practice of yoga within the studio walls. In 2008, the board and teachers decided that they needed to bring their service beyond their walls and establish partnerships with other government and nonprofit organizations to bring yoga to those who would not otherwise come to the studio. They started by compiling a list of specific clientele of which the teachers had expertise in teaching and the organizations who served these people. For example, one of the teachers wanted to serve women who are victims of abuse. Under that category, they listed Jeremiah House as a possible partnership. After much thought, a master list of organizations was compiled, which amounted to over 100 organizations.

The second step of this process was actually finding out if these organizations were at all interested in a partnership, if they could contribute, and when they were interested in starting. In many ways, this step is proving to be the most breath-taking steps of the process and is where I entered the organization as their outreach coordinator. I was involved in the studio previous to my appointment, both as a volunteer and a yoga student. My interest in yoga matched with my experience in nonprofit management and I realized this to be a great opportunity to serve my community while facilitating in change. I created my position as an internship and, at first thought that I could be active in all parts of the organization. I quickly realized that the organization could most benefit from having someone to facilitate and track outreach, so I shifted my focus to work on that. Currently, my main focus is maintaining relationships with the active partnerships we have and communicating with other organizations who have independently expressed interest in working with us.

Friday, Mar 27, 2009


Week 10-March 27, 2008--Chapter 11 & 12

Nicely done Bridget!

“Recognition is important, challenging, and easily forgotten—so pay attention and don’t forget to say ‘thanks.’” (p. 279)

A very real and present example is my boss’s consistent recognition of my work. When I started working for him I heard a lot of scary, mean stories about how he was an inappropriately demanding boss, I was even warned and cautioned by the HR department that should the arrangement not work, I was welcome to return to my old post. What I found was a boss who is very grateful and appreciative to a fault. For example, I might send e-mails for an event, with CCs to him; he always makes a point to send a “thanks ‘P” note. I would often smile and think well: “well you do pay me to do this!”

It initially caught me off-guard and then I thought he just liked to say it because, and then a co-worker and I discussed the effects. I learnt from her that our boss was one of the most encouraging and edifying supervisors she had—of course I agreed! But what I failed to realize then was the working environment my boss was inadvertently creating for us. He is very, very, very hardworking and most prolific individual (so I guess people feel like he is too demanding), I like to call him the “Clint Eastwood of Criminology.” So we are often doing a lot, and it can be easy to get frustrated with situations, and inadvertently the boss. But I always remember it is not personal, I have a job to do, and I must perform excellently.

One thing that my boss has taught me is to always recognize, appreciate and express gratitude—even if it is an expected task. Sometimes, now, when I get his thanks-‘P notes, I reply with a “you’re welcome M” note! So like the initial quote (above) I am working hard to make sure I don’t forget. I do pay attention to such acts, as they do go a long way to fostering a positive professional environment.

Friday, Mar 20, 2009


Chapter 9 and 10 of Kouzes & Posner’s The Leadership Challenge

The topic of chapter 9 is all about fostering collaboration. Basically, anything that you are trying to accomplish as a leader, needs to become a joint effort. Anything can be done better with multiple capable people, instead of just one. Or like the saying goes, “two heads are better than one” and beyond that, five heads are better than one, etc etc. Teamwork needs to be emphasized and relationships need to be built and cultivated. From what I understand of the reading, the main component to fostering collaboration is trust. To be a good leader one must create an environment of trust and in order to do that, you must be the first to go for it. You have to trust, then other people can follow and trust you. If you don’t trust others, others won’t trust you! This requires being vulnerable and open, something that can often be hard for leaders. I agree that trust is an important part of good leadership, and also to any relationship in general. Not only is trust the most significant predictor of people’s satisfaction with their organization, but it is also claimed that people that are more trusting are shown to be psychologically happier and better off in life. So it makes sense that that would be true in the corporate and business world as well. >Have many of you found this to be true? Do you think if you were more trusting in both your personal and professional lives that you would be happier and better off? Chapter 10’s topic is about strengthening others. One way to strengthen others comes from building up their self confidence; which can be done by giving them more responsibility and adequate training. I honestly can’t even count the times where I felt my training wasn’t sufficient. To be in that situation is extremely frustrating, but it makes me more careful to always do a better job when I am the one training someone else. This is one way I think every organization could be improved, by butting more emphasis and resources into training. This is something that the Author’s bring up too; they say that organizations that have the most money going into training are often the most successful. One quote that was particularly thought provoking for me was “you become more powerful when you give your own power away.” I hadn’t ever heard that or thought about it that way, but I think it is helpful for remembering how to be an effective leader. Do you agree or disagree with this statement and why? Another thing to think about; in one study, level of confidence was a stronger predictor of job performance than actual level of skill or training they had before being hired. So confidence is obviously a huge factor. What are some things that you can do to foster self confidence in the people around you?These two concepts, fostering collaboration and strengthening others really go hand in hand, because to give someone self confidence you must trust in them, and to collaborate you must build strong relationships. In other words, it’s hard to have one without the other. I think most people can think of examples of when people in leadership positions around then tried to hoard their power and information, but in the long run, it made them less effective as leaders. One example I have of that is when I worked at a restaurant under a not so great manager. After not being trained very well, my manager would make a point ask if I and other employees knew how to do things, and when we said no he would just get mad at us and then walk away. But he would never take the time to show or teach us. Therefore we continued to be unknowledgeable about things. So we would be forced to try and learn these things on our own, which usually didn’t go as smoothly, as if we had an experienced person showing us. Anyway, in the long run this made his staff less effective and not as well trained as we could have been, which reflected poorly on his management skills, and his supervisors took notice. It would have been pretty easy to try and make sure we were adequately trained from the beginning then make sure to help show us anything we didn’t know that came up a long the way. He should have also made an effort to help us build trust and relationships with him and each other, which would have been much better leadership. This is an example of when empowerment could have been used to his advantage, but it wasn’t. Does anyone else have examples of empowerment either being used in an effective way, or not being used when it should have been?

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009


Best Practices in Leading Diverse Organizations

While many articles on diversity focus on obvious differences – such as gender and race – the authors chose to focus on culture, which they believe is understudied in American organizations.

They have observed that most organizational efforts at “diversity training” tend to help participants identify key characteristics of other groups, rather than becoming aware of our own cultural identify and how we need to adapt our thinking, reactions, and behaviors. They point to many American’s reluctance to even admit we have an “American culture.” They go on to state that it is obvious to those from other countries that we do, in fact, have a distinctive culture.


Ch 7 & 8 “Challenge the Process – Search for Opportunities/Experiment and take Risks”

While reading CH 7 of Leadership Challenge, “Search for Opportunities”, a few underlying themes came to mind. The themes I saw taking shape included taking the offense, attack, forward looking, advancing. The idea of not standing still and moving forward are easily seen in the subheading throughout the first part of the chapter (Seize the initiative, Leaders Make Something Happen, Encourage Initiative in Others, and Challenge with Purpose). The practice of constantly keeping yourself, and others, moving forward and taking challenges head on is a great way to approach things both professionally and personally. When you are competing with others for a finite resource, whether it be customers or donations, not challenging the status quo and the mentality of “doing things the way they have always been done around here” can set organizations up for failure. The example of Arvind Deogirikar of Sun CIS in Moscow capitalizing on painting the city buses with the company logo and a number of other things that had not been done by others resulting in sales growth to $30 million speaks directly to the idea of seizing the initiative and challenging the status quo (167-168).

When seeking new possibilities for an organization, one must be proactive and careful to not only listen to ideas generated internally, but to also be outward looking. The authors hammer in the point that effective leader’s listen to external sources of information continually so as to not become narrow minded. In “Creating the Conditions for Success” Mumford et al. brought up the need to have diversity when building a Leadership team in order to generate more ideas from different perspectives. The need for the diversity within the system is obvious, but this alone is not enough. I believe that Kouzes & Posner would agree with Mumford et al., but take it one step further and add that failing to look for diverse ideas and accept different sources of information from outside the organization can be self destructive for any team. An organization will be more open to change and growth if they follow the practice of allowing outside ideas into the company, just the practice of accepting something from an external source can show that a group is ready and capable to change.

Kouzes and Posner end the Chapter with the big heading “Challenges Often Find You” and come to the conclusion most change situations were not initiated by the person who led the process. They see the importance in accepting the challenge and the choices made after tackling the problem. On the surface this makes sense, we all work for someone and deal with new projects assigned to us on a regular basis. But I feel that the authors should go a step further and explain that even though the source of the challenge may be from a superior, the one who undertakes the assignment or project must make it theirs. When meeting that challenge the individual executing the change must strive to be so invested in the project that when it is completed they feel that it was theirs from the beginning. The leader of any new project needs to be the one who is keeping things on track and fully behind the process. Leaders can easily lose all support from their subordinates and the project can lose momentum the minute their team believes that the leader is not fully behind the project. A leader should not accept a challenge they cannot fully support.

Questions from chapter 7

1 - Do you believe in the idea the authors bring up about challenges finding you? Do you, or would you, accept challenges that take you out of your comfort zone? 2 – What are your perceptions of seizing the initiative and leaders making things happen? Do you see it in a negative light or positively?

In Chapter 8, “Experiment and Take Risks”, Kouzes and Posner hit on two key areas when dealing with an organization that is going through change – Generate small wins and learn from experience. The first idea goes hand and hand with Kotter’s fourth error “Not Systematically Planning and Creating Short Term Wins”. I immediately identified with Kouzes and Posner where they talked about “breaking down big problems into small, doable actions”. To put it in other words, create milestones or benchmarks that can give the team small wins and objectives to meet throughout the process from beginning to end. In my experience milestones are extremely effective in helping members of the team break down large and daunting problems into small slices that are easily completed individually. When dealing with long term projects, people can lose focus easily unless something is keeping them on task and small achievements help. Using milestones is also an effective tool a leader can use to ensure their team is staying on task and meeting the short range goals necessary to achieve the desired end-state.

In learning from experience, the authors again touch on a key area in which leaders must pay attention to if they want to become more effective. Organizations and leaders need to avoid the zero defect mentality when it comes to the actions of their teams. We learn from making mistakes, the key is to identify where the mistakes were made and not accept the repetitions of the same mistake. Kouzes and Posner briefly discuss the military’s AAR process (After Action Review). In my many, many experiences with this process I can say that it works and it backups much of what the authors talked about in learning from experience. In an AAR everyone has a voice, no idea is ignored and the format is followed to encourage everyone on the team to learn what they did right and what went wrong. Key is identifying those things that must be done the next time to achieve success and ensuring they are followed. In this process leaders are the active learners that the authors talked about being. The key to success in AAR’s is not identifying issues without also identifying the solution or work around and implementing that into the way things are done.

Question from Chapter 8

1 – Have you ever been part of a “postmortem” where much of the blame for failure fell on your shoulders? How did you respond? Did you find the process helpful?

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009


Development As Freedom

This week at our Meeker County Public Health staff meeting, we watched Episode 6 of a series called “Unnatural Causes…Is Inequality Making Us Sick?” ( This particular episode is called “ Collateral Damage”, which describes the past and present affects of the U.S. detonation of 67 nuclear devices in and around the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. The impact of these tests on the Marshallese people was profound - in terms of social, political, geographical, economic determinants of their health and wellbeing. As a public health professional, research and interaction with our clients demonstrates how socio-economic status can play a very vital role in an individual’s capacity to “contribute” to society.

The opportunity to view and study this documentary tied nicely with the reading for this week, “Development as Freedom” (1999) by Amartya Sen. Upon doing some further research, I discovered that Sen is an economist/philosopher who won the Nobel Prize in 1998 for his “social choice theory”: poverty stemming from the lack of capabilities to function resulting from what he terms as “unfreedoms” in society. According to Sen, it is most important that people develop in a manner that allows them to “do and be” – to contribute and feel valued.

The freedoms that Sen describes in the reading are: 1) political (free speech, elections), 2) economic (opportunity for work, trade, production), 3) social opportunities (health and education), 4) transparency guarantees and 5) protective security. Sen suggests that development has more to do with enhancing quality of our lives and improving our freedoms, rather than economic development or prosperity. With this notion, I whole-heartedly agree. However, it is my feedback that Sen did a poor job of defining and describing “transparency and protective security” in this reading.

Saturday, Feb 21, 2009


Rushmorean Leadership?

What is Rushmorean Leadership? O'Toole referred to this several times, but all I could find out was that it is values-based. It's referenced in Christian leadership, so I assume it is related to servant leadership. Does anyone know?


Creating the Conditions for Success

Throughout this reading the focus emphasized how to not only lead in innovation, but how to set up the right conditions to have success in innovation. As we have read in other articles, the conditions for success are just as important, if not more important, than the actual change or innovation. The authors focus on how to create an environment for success, how to develop a cohesive team, and how to scan the environment to identify viable areas for innovation. One important point the authors emphasized was the role of the leader in having skills in the areas of creativity, forecasting, critical thinking, strategy formulation and technical skills.

As I was reading the article I noticed certain focuses that were similar to the writing by Kotter, “Leading Change.” The authors of “Creating the Conditions for Success,” emphasized the option of engaging people through focusing on a sense of urgency, which is a similar to “Error 1: Not Establishing Enough Sense of Urgency.” Both readings identify the use of urgency as a motivating factor in creating change or supporting efforts in innovation. There were other similarities such as “Error 2: Not Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition” and the focus on developing a leadership team.

After reading “Creating the Conditions for Success,” what types of leadership do you think would be most beneficial in leading innovation? The authors stated that shared leadership is essential for success, as expertise is a main factor, and one leader typically does not have all areas of expertise for a project, and therefore needs a team of diverse individuals with varying areas of expertise for a project.

How have you seen leaders in organizations encourage innovation? Were they successful? If so, what did they demonstrate in the process? If not, what could they have done differently to successful create a climate for innovation and change? After reading about all of the factors that are key to successful innovation, what are your thoughts on who can lead innovation?

I found the article very interesting, and informative. As the authors focused on each area necessary for success, it made me think of different situations where innovation was an option, and how these factors came into the effort, and how successful the organization was in innovation. What I felt really impacted me in the reading, was the key role of the leader in innovation, and how without a successful leader, it will be hard to have a successful climate for innovation. I found this was demonstrated in the arguments on creating a leadership team, managing, evaluating internal and external environmental factors, creating a climate for success, and getting the political buy-in and support for innovation and success. What parts of the process do you find most important in creating “conditions for success?”

Friday, Feb 20, 2009


Leadership and Change.

Kouzes and Posner Reading, Ch. 5&6

The Leadership Challenge

Part 3 of the book -- The leadership Challenge, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner is made up of chapters 5&6 of the text, and they discuss the second series of the practices of exemplary leadership, which they call Inspire a Shared Vision.

Chapter Five.

This chapter reinforces it is important for exemplary leaders to envision the future. The authors begin this discussion by introducing us to Pam Omidyar, founder of HopeLab. As a research assistant in the cellular immunology lab at Stanford university, Pam had the responsibility of performing experiments on cancer cells. She toyed the concept of developing a well-designed videogame where kids with cancer "could blast away their cancer cells and also learn about what goes on in their bodies during treatment' (p. 104). Her ability to envision the future gave rise to the formation of HopeLab. Quite an interesting concept she had. What does a videogame has in common with young cancer patients and their treatment ? A food for thought maybe? The authors maintain that catalytic leaders , not only need to be able to imagine a positive future, but they also need to act on their imagination.

Another major quality that exemplary leaders possess is the ability to look beyond the present. They are able to envision the future and "gaze across the horizon of time and imagine the great opportunities to come" (p. 105). And for them to do this, they have to make sure that what they see is also something that others can see, and are willing to follow, with the aim of achieving a set goal. One of the key points that the authors raised in this chapter is the notion of shared vision. They believe that when visions are shared between the leader and the led, all involved sustain higher levels of motivation, and withstand more challenges than when visions are not shared. Shared visions allow exemplary leaders to imagine immense possibilities and opportunities that they can take advantage of . Pam of HopeLab envisions to apply the Re-Mission model to other interventions and innovations.

Several ways that exemplary leaders can imagine possibilities are also described in this section. Leaders need to reflect on their past. The saying that ther is no future without a past comes to mind here. The hypothesis for the Janus Effect sums it up very beautifully: "We make sense of our world retrospectively, and all understanding originates in reflection and looking backward ... We construct the future by some kind of extrapolation, in which the past is prologue, and the approach to the future is backward-looking" (pp. 107-108). Exemplary leaders need to attend the present as well as prospecting the future. Finally, they have to feel their passion.

This chapter concludes by imploring exemplary leaders to find a common purpose since their key task is not to sell their own personal views of the world, but to inspire a shared vision. The authors contend that one can't mobilize people to willingly travel to places they don't want to go. Exemplary leaders should find a common purpose by listening deeply to others, determining what's meaningful to others, making it a cause for commitment, and being forward-looking in times of rapid change.

Thursday, Feb 12, 2009


Csikszentmihalyi "The Evolving Self"

In The Evolving Self, Csikszentmihalyi challenges us to go beyond the selfishness of our genes, a fatalistic pre-determined existence, and the constraints of our cultural heritage to create new "selves"? who take seriously the responsibility each of us has for the future of the planet. And although this work is sixteen years old, the concerns he voices are even more urgent today than they were then. Evolution of the human brain resulted in the capacity for a higher level of consciousness. Csikszentmihalyi stated that although all humans have the capacity for a self-reflective consciousness, not everyone uses it equally. Some people blindly allow their genetic blueprint or society dictate their lives, others are extremely self-centered, and the majority are between the two extremes (p. 23). This comment caused me to think back to Barbara’s question last Tuesday about the incredibly self-reflective nature of our blogs last week. So as self-reflective individuals concerned with the global environment, what type of selves do we wish to create? What values do we espouse? What priorities do we set? Can we, as leaders, guide our (humanity’s) evolution to one of cooperation, which as Csikszentmihalyi notes, may give our species the competitive edge for long-term survival of our planet? Can go beyond the limitations of our genetic predispositions, learn from our collective history, and design our evolutionary futures?


Kouzes & Posner- Clarify Values and Set the Example

This weeks readings in Kouzes and Posner were chapters 3 & 4 which made up part two of the book entitled "Model the Way." While much of this reading seems like common sense, it sadly goes unpracticed in many situations that I am sure we could discuss in great length.

Chapter three entitled "Clarify Values" looked at two main points which were "finding your voice" and "affirm shared values." I think we can all agree that it is pretty obvious when a leader is not speaking in "their" voice, and that it usually makes them lose credibility. K&P point out that if you cannot find your voice you will not have the integrity to lead as you are using someone else’s vocabulary, or speaking words that were written by someone else. Finding your voice can be difficult, but K&P give advice on how to help. You need to explore your inner territory. They explain this in four points. To act with integrity you must know who you are, what you stand for, what you believe in, and what you care most about. K&P continue by stating how important it is to have clear values that you and your employees understand, and not just organizational values, but personal values too. I found figure 3.1 on page 55 very interesting. I did not expect the lowest level of commitment to be in the area with high clarity about organizational values and low clarity of personal values. This chart shows that personal values drive commitment.

Have you ever been in a job and had a high clarity of Organizational values but a low level of Personal values, or vice versa?

The three points in the second part of this chapter are the following: -Shared values are an organizations promises -Shared values make a difference -Unity is forged, not forced

K&P caution that shared values should never be used as an excuse for the suppression of dissent because when shared values become unquestioned doctrine, freedom of expression is lost.

Chapter four entitled "Set the Example" discussed personifying the shared values and teaching others to model the values. The example about Juan Gonzalez (IBM guy who calls his employees in on a holiday weekend to help fix a problem) really resonated with me and I am sure others as well. I have found it much harder to work when your boss preaches one thing and does another. Does anyone have a story or example of a time when a boss should have been in the trenches with the employees but was not, or when one was?

K&P offer some tips for how to personally exemplify the shared values in your organization.

1. Spend your time and attention wisely.
2. Watch your language- use words and phrases that you want to express the culture.
3. Ask purposeful questions.
4. Seek feedback.

The final portion of chapter 4 discusses how to teach others to model the values. The three ways they suggest doing this is by Confronting critical incidents, telling stories, and reinforcing the behavior you want repeated.

What are some ways your employees have reinforced behavior that they wanted repeated?

One final thought that I had was wondering when is it buying into the values of the company versus being lured into the values of the company. I am not sure that my question is clear, so I will add a story. When working at Nordstrom’s I was at a mandatory employee meeting. At this meeting they told all the employees that they had had such a great year that they were going to give a bonus to all employees. The amount varied depending on how long you had worked there (anywhere from $100-700). The whole room exploded with people cheering and crying etc… because Nordstrom’s had never done anything like this before. I personally had a hard time not slitting my wrists. The reason being, was that Nordstrom’s had just changed their employee benefit plan making it much more expensive for employees to receive health care, they also lowered the percentage we could obtain from our stock. I saw this move as a way to distract us from the bigger picture of "loosing money on our benefits and stock." Now to be fair I did not buy into the whole "value system" of this cooperate model, and maybe that is the problem, but I felt like everyone else in the room had been duped. It felt like I had taken the red pill and they had taken the blue one…


Nodding's - Caring

While first reading Nel Nodding’s Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education, I asked why is the notion of caring being broken down and picked apart in the first place? At a high level, I felt we either care about something or someone and that is all we really need to be concerned about; that we know our level of caring and that we are ok with it.

As I thought about it more, I started asking questions about how and why we care about things or people. Specifically, I started thinking about the effect that the one caring has on the one cared-for. Based on my experience in relation to caring about people, I often think I am doing well within my duty as the caregiver by helping someone in some way that I believe is right and is based on what I know about that person or the situation.

There is an alternative to this view that I have. As Noddings stated, "Apprehending the other’s reality, feeling what he feels as nearly as possible, is the essential part of caring from the view of the one-caring," (16). Whether it is a workplace situation or a personal situation that you care for someone I question how much you can put yourself into one’s reality. How can you be insightful about another’s situation that you care for? Often times, I don’t think we put ourselves in another’s shoes to really see their perspective, their needs, or their wants from the caring relationship. As the one caring you may think you are doing a good job and are being moral to the relationship but you may be missing their needs entirely. I do believe this is very important in a leader-follower relationship, especially in the workplace. How do you understand and help your colleagues without trying to help based on what you think is right?

You can answer to any of the questions or statements above on this theory of being insightful and ethical in this relationship or give examples on how you manage caring in your relationships – personal or professional.


The Soul's Code

I was mesmerized by Chapter 1 of James Hillman’s, The Soul’s Code. I have always believed that there is more to the story in speaking about what defines an individual besides genetics and environment. There is that intangible piece that lives within the person that sort of explains how they know what they know. The blueprint that makes us each unique is not simply a recipe of amounts of this or that or a linear progression with one step forward and sometimes two steps back. It is different than that. I thought Hillman’s discussion of time was helpful to illuminate this very well. Our character exists all at once and is not necessarily built in a linear methodical way. Hillman states that "I am answerable to an innate image which I am filling out in my biography? (4). It is as though I already exist in total from the start and am not so much formed or become who I am as I fulfill my existence throughout my life or as Picasso stated "I don’t develop; I am? (6).

What thoughts do people have about Hillman’s "acorn theory?, the theory that we are born with defining image?

Thursday, Jan 29, 2009


Terry - Seven Zones for Leadership – Acting Authentically in Stability and Chaos

Good evening!

As I read through the excerpts from "The Challenges of Leadership,? I followed the advice of the author. "This book will be most helpful to you if you keep your own organization in mind as you read and reflect.? That is precisely what I did, and with this post I plan to share a part of that process with you.

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009



Through this article, Kotter points out again and again the faults that behoove many, if not most of the companies trying to improve their business through change. In the most simplest terms, I bring the failures (in US society anyway) of the eight steps down to a need to see end results. Why are we in such a rush to change? Interestingly enough, I found myself referring back to the "polarity mapping? that I introduced to you briefly last week. The businesses that looked ahead to where they wanted to be without first without taking into consideration what there weaknesses were, or how they could better balance their strengths, always ended up back at square one. Their inability to prepare for change left them unfamiliar with how to sustain positive transformation. According to Kotter, there is a lot of fear driving companies whether it be fear of change, fear of rejection, actually having to lead into the unknown, even fear of staying the same. Many companies, whether they are successful or not, have some fears. The difference is that the non-successful choose not to overcome them.

Question 1. Is being non-successful a choice?

While reading this article, I couldn’t help but compare it to the country’s very own recent past: namely Executive choices towards interfering with international relations. Yes, some of these steps were utilized effectively like former President establishing the urgency for the US to go into war. After that, it kind of gets hazy. Many of the errors pointed out by Kotter were seen time and time again in the past decade: failure to establish a strong coalition, ill-information from superiors that be, vision??? (was there one?), failure to develop a strong plan, and the biggest red flag in my mind, declaring victory too soon.

Now, think about the overall tone of the article. I cannot tell you how many times I found myself utterly devastated by the words! Mistakes. Error. Failure. All of these read as huge stop signs as I tried to look for what was coming next. Yes, now you must enter the mind of a rhetortician.

Question 2. If you were looking for a way to benefit your organization, how would you feel after reading about how others failed to accomplish the eight steps? By the time you got to the end of the reading, would you have any energy to remember the eight steps? This question is purely from a viewpoint on how the material is presented, not necessary the content of what was said.

Eight steps to Transformation (as summarized by Lindy Sexton): Establishing Urgency. Create a powerful guiding coalition. A VISION. Communicating the vision well, very well. Having a clear path toward vision. Systematic Plan including short term goals as well as long term goals. Being Patient. Share/teach your transformation with stakeholders.

Referring back to the beginning of the blog, I would again highly recommend looking at polarity mapping as a method for transformation. Some concepts take on hints of Eastern Philosophy, but it is being successfully being used as a Western practice.

Monday, Jan 26, 2009


Kouzes and Posner Reading

Nathan – (Kouzes and Posner) I appreciate your questions. The task of asking ourselves if we work in an environment that is demoralized and uninspired is something we should question frequently, especially if we are in a position of leadership.

Surely, a difficult task lies in situations where we are not in a position of leadership and recognize we feel demoralized/uninspired. Couple this scenario with a "manager? (head of the department) that is physically present, but interactively absent. The said manager avoids conflict, speaks through notes, and only communicates when someone needs to be reprimanded. There are never words of praise, appreciation or encouragement, because typically there are never words. In this scenario, most employees DO walk around the office like their favorite pet died. When I read Kouzes and Posner, I related!

What to do to promote change? An innovative leader would turn the table on the supervisor. I would strive for opportunities for open dialogue with this manager. Praise when I recognize his/her personal or professional achievements. In this situation, I could envision that perhaps the supervisor feels uninspired or demoralized. My goal would be to empower this supervisor with hopes that he/she would feel inspired to share with his/her employees.

Thursday, Jan 22, 2009


When No One Is in Charge

I feel the second quote by Brundtland summarizes the heart of the Crosby/Bryson reading.

"We live in an era in the history of nations when there is a greater need than ever for coordinated political action and responsibility? (p. 3).

Thus one needs to seek how to engage different minds and perspectives so as to meet the desired mutual goal of progress—whatever it may look like.

Reading this chapter, I was struck by the simplicity in which modes of interacting with stakeholders and a challenge (or problem) was identified. I certainly don’t have a problem with the chapter focusing on "problems? versus more positives, and I did appreciate the Greek root of the word, and it makes perfect sense to "engage in something thrown forward for citizens to work with? (p. 17). I believe that is where we as a nation are at, and as a world as well. We do need to embrace our problems so as to find appropriate solutions.

A shared power framework seeks to understand, and seeks collective responsibility as the way forward, it took a lot of stakeholders to get the civil rights movement going, and it is the same shared power that has changed the course of our nation that resulted in the momentous event on January 20.

I’m excited to explore ways in which I can combine the rational planning model with an adhocractic style that the "no-one-in-charge? plan espouses.


Change Tactics

With almost eight years of experience working in a traditionally hierarchical organization, I was intrigued by the ideas presented by Allen and Cherrey. In the opening paragraphs, the authors suggest that familiar change strategies used in a hierarchical organization have become less effective due to the "web-like? functioning of current organizations. However, as our world becomes more flattened via the connection of technology and network structures, is it possible that hierarchical organizations will become extinct? If the majority of organizations become network-based, and they are ultimately able to adopt the ideal organic change approach, what role would hierarchies play in the organizations of the future?

Due to the economy, several organizations—from retail businesses to non-profit organizations—have been forced to adopt a survivalist approach to external changes brought upon them. In order to not only survive, but to flourish and prosper, it seems necessary for organizations to make the progression to organic change tactics. If most organizations must adapt and embrace organic change, will hierarchical organizational structure become obsolete?

It could be said that the order of change approaches are arranged in a hierarchy all their own—similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. "Making change? is a basic approach to change that involves force; an organization may progress from forced change to "surviving change,? if external forces require it. The next level leads organizations to the most evolved (and perhaps most effective in the long-term) style for creating change, which is "organic change.? Is organic change the ideal change approach for all organizations, or does each unique organization require its own blend of change tactics that includes elements of making change, surviving change and organic change? Why?

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2009


Kouzes and Posner Reading, Ch.1&2

Reading Blog Lead Entry Dialogue Leader: Nathan Volz 1/22/2009

The Leadership Challenge

Chapter One

Part one of Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge, incorporates chapters one and two and is entitled "What Leaders Do and What Constituents Expect.? The first chapter sets the context for the "The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership? by introducing readers to two examples of energetic, visionary business leaders, Dick Nettel of Bank of America and Claire Owens of SG Group (Kouzes and Posner, 2007, p.3).

Nettel shares his strategies for reinventing what had been a completely demoralized call center at Bank of America. He spent time listening to everybody’s stories, collecting feedback on what was wrong and what an ideal environment would look like. His process for this was more extensive yet somewhat similar to the snow card activity we conducted in class last Tuesday.

Nettel recognized that there were positive feelings about the workers themselves, despite the environment and previous lack of leadership. He used the ideals and positive feedback to help craft commitments for a vision and initiated frequent, all-inclusive meetings to discuss strategies and to make sure that everybody knew his story and why he chose to be there. Nettel made the solution everybody’s responsibility and made sure to circle back throughout the process to ensure that actions were aligned with the commitments and vision. He also made a point to build morale by reinventing "pride day,? "celebrating heroes," and by encouraging employees to recognize one another (p.7).

Question: Have you ever been part of an organization that was demoralized and uninspired? In the text, Dick Nettel of Bank of America stated, "We had people who were walking around like they ran over their dogs on the way to work? (p.3). How does your experience compare? What did you or your leaders do to promote an innovative change?

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs