Monday, November 19, 2012

Lead the Way: Book and Podcast

My latest book, entitled Lead the Way, has been published at last. A few months behind schedule, but better late than never.

What's it about? In a nutshell, how to become a more engaging leader. Here's the blurb I wrote:

Thinking about what it takes to become a more engaging leader? The roadmap to leading effectively is not a secret. In fact, the way has been known for a long time. In Lead the Way, the roadmap to becoming a more engaging leader is described in clear, commonsense, and practical terms, so that anyone who desires to lead more effectively can do so.

And not only has the book come out, so has a podcast interview with UK-based Anna Farmery at The Engaging Brand, where we discuss the book.

An accomplished interviewer, Farmery asked me some excellent questions, exploring such topics as:

- the roots of engagement (it starts from within)

- the power of connecting (where the sparks start to fly)

- the language of leadership (we need to use language creatively)

- the levers of engagement (there are many)

- the stress of managing today (and the importance of energy)

- and the importance of peacemaking (including cooperation and teamwork)

PS - I forgot to tell her that the next book, to be called Change For the Better, is already in process and will address the challenge of leading organizational change.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday November 19, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Staying With the Unknown

My Israel-based organization development colleague Allon Shevat wrote that the most important skill for an OD practitioner is the ability to stay with the unknown.

Here is an excerpt of his note: "...we can't cope well with ambiguity. I was trained on the knees of the Tavistock model which helped me more than almost anything else to navigate well through unknown complexity. If you want to add to what else helps to deal with ambiguity, then delve into eastern belief systems, live in a country that lost an empire like the UK, or come to Tel Aviv for a week."

Paraphrasing him, the most important skill for an OD practitioner is the ability to navigate and cope with complexity, the unknown, and the ambiguous. Or as Allon said, to stay with the unknown.

Amen to that.

When I think back to my earliest OD training, as an undergrad in the Human Communication Interaction Lab at Rutgers, that was my number one learning.

My gurus were masters at the unknown and ambiguous. Their standard answer when we would come to them begging for answers was, "Figure it out."

I can still remember hearing myself say, when people would ask me what I am majoring in, "Not knowing."

In today's organizational world, this is an especially vital capacity. The ability to tolerate ambiguity, to trust, to hold the questions, to go with the flow, to listen and observe, to be patient, to deepen appreciation for the mystery in life, to cultivate mindfulness.

What do you think? How important is this competency in your view?

Posted on Tuesday November 13, 2012 by Terrence Seamon

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Everyday Leadership

With so much research, thinking, and writing on the topic of leadership, I sometimes wonder if we are getting any closer to really understanding it? I wonder if ordinary people recognize that they have the capacity to be leaders too?

Then along comes a force of nature, superstorm Hurricane Sandy, and we get a very clear idea of leadership in action.

For example, look at the Spanish club students at Franklin Township High School in Somerset, New Jersey, who noticed that gasoline was getting scarce so they developed an app to find out where the gasoline was in your part of the state.

Look at the two women in Hopewell Township who formed a storm relief effort to collect food and clothing for victims of the storm.

The list goes on and on. Neighbor helping neighbor. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things when the need arose. That's leadership.

Leadership guru Warren Bennis once said that leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. What that means, I think, is that a leader is one who sees a need and takes steps to do something about it.

The vision Bennis mentions could be the acute awareness of the suffering of others such as residents of Jersey Shore towns whose homes were destroyed and possessions washed away in the storm surge. The reality Bennis mentions could be the action plans developed and implemented to provide help in a time of great need. Even innovative
help like the app to find gas stations with fuel.

In sum, leaders step up to challenges and take action.

Perhaps the clearest example of leadership in action, provided during this past week of storm-related news, was the meet-up between NJ Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, and President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

In the hour of need, both men showed us what leadership looks like. They were able to set aside partisan differences and come together in mutual solidarity. They joined forces at the Jersey Shore to tour several towns devastated by Sandy and show their unified support for the victims and for the responders involved in the recovery effort.

Christie thanked the president, saying that they had a "great working relationship" and that the president had "sprung into action immediately."

Although Christie had recently given a fiery speech at the Republican convention, severely criticizing Obama and his administration, and Obama was in the midst of a fierce election drive against his Republican opponent, both were able to set aside their differences and come together.

At the risk of upsetting his own party, Christie added, "I just want to thank (the president) for his concern and compassion, his extraordinary leadership."

Let's put it together: Sensing the need. Stepping up. Doing what's right. Speaking the truth. Putting aside differences. Working together for the common good.

There you have it. That's leadership.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday November 6, 2012