When it comes to cause and effect we tend to be overly concerned with the effect others are having on us and rarely consider how we ourselves are influencing or causing results. A poorly prepared meal in a restaurant, harsh words from a loved one, road construction and unnecessary delays, missed deadlines, errors, these are personalized to the point of insanity while imagining that our own behaviours have a light and/or temporary influence on other people or processes “I said i was sorry, can’t you just get over it?”.
The truth is we have no idea how the relationships we cultivate or the emotions we generate today will influence tomorrow. Or ten years from tomorrow. In a related manner, the systems thinking principle behind this truth has recently come to light here in British Columbia with the arrival of tons of debris from the Japanese Tsunami. On a personal level we can think about this by imagining ourselves as both a spider and a web. As a spider we are moved by the smallest of breezes, the social and emotional climate, the comings and goings of others—the effects of which manifest in numerous ways. As a web, we are a gossamer thread touching everyone from the girl at the grocery store checkout counter, to our colleagues and loved ones to a switchboard operator thousands of miles away. And each touch point ripples outward in its own unexpected ways, touching off further effects or causes, some of which are obviously stronger than others.
Emotional contagion offers a great example of this ripple. At work or at home, the negative, sad, or joyful mood of others can rub off on us (or vice versa). Then later in the day, we “carry” that mood forward into our relationships at home, even continuing on with pertinent stories of misery or glee depending on the contamination- Indeed, this web stretches over vast distances as well. I once wrote a song, only to learn many years later that it had been taught to a group of people somewhere in the Gaza Strip! Cause and effect- the ripple, the web- can even, in true quantum fashion, fold back upon itself- returning to the source (us) in the form of what for many can only be thought of as Karma. “he really had it coming to him!” might be the words we utter when the great serpent comes around to bite its own tail. Or, in a more self pitying plea: “why does this always happen to me?”
So what does this all mean? You decide.
Leadership is like soup– if you want it to taste good, nourish people, comfort and inspire then you have to consider all of the ingredients that go into making a great leader and encourage the conditions that best enable one to simmer to their fullest potential. So many leadership books and development programs talk only of skills-or competencies- and suggest that if one adopts, models or mimics the skills they will master the art of leadership.
This thinking is akin to believing that if you follow a recipe you will become a master chef and that simply isn’t true. Great chefs are dedicated to the cause of making great food. They make a point of considering every input- every ingredient that goes in, as well as their own creative influence upon the ingredients- the stirring, the dialing up or down of heat, cookware, altitude, seasonal availability, etc. So if leadership is a grand soup then what should go into the pot?
LEARNING- What a person has learned in the past and continues to learn for the future informs their world view and priorities. Ensure what you are learning is expansive enough to accommodate your highest aspirations. To remain creative make sure to include the pursuit of knowledge that is seemingly unrelated and enjoy the synergy that comes through diversity.
ENERGY-When a person eats well they have the stamina to meet demands. If you are what you eat, then what would your eating habits be saying about you as a person and leader- healthy food choices reveal an important aspect of ones character and commitment to the planet. Choose organic, limit processed food and eliminate excessive sugar, salt and sodas.
ATTITUDE- Thoughts about the world, other people, and ourselves conspire to produce character. Meditate on these words by the Dalai Lama.
Take care of your Thoughts because they become Words.
Take care of your Words because they will become Actions.
Take care of your Actions because they will become Habits.
Take care of your Habits because they will form your Character.
Take care of your Character because it will form your Destiny,
and your Destiny will be your Life…
DREAMS- A leaders vision for the future is essential to her/his work and impact on others. What are your ideas, hopes, fears, beliefs, and aspirations and how are they informing your dreams for the future?
EXPERIENCE- What life experiences are informing your character, skills, and beliefs as a leader. Are past experiences getting in the way of future aspirations? Are new and upcoming experiences feeding your soul and mind in compelling and inspiring ways?
RELATIONSHIPS- Who do you love? Who do you hang out with? How do you nurture family and friends? As you are in your personal life, so you are in your professional life. Review the pleasure and inspiration that comes from your relationships with others. If there are improvements to be made- make them and let go of relationships if they are knowingly toxic. Heck you wouldn’t put poison in your soup would you?
SYSTEMS VIEW- What are you doing to expand your world view? As we seek to understand life beyond our front gate, beyond our borders, and beyond the familiar, we gain greater awareness of the vastness of the human condition and are better able to appreciate the diversity of people- There are many ways to make soup.
HEALTH- Should leadership cost us our health? Do you want to follow someone who cant seem to take care of themselves in a mindful way? Ensure you attend to the freshness of your own leadership ingredients by making healthy choices, getting sufficient rest, exercising, designing healthy working environments, and dealing with health problems promptly, and attending to your mental and physical health on an ongoing basis.
IDEOLOGY-How does ideology influence your presence as a leader? Are your thoughts and beliefs well founded and mindfully managed to limit harm or judgment of others?
PRESS (Media- What are you reading and consuming in the way of media- what TV shows are you watching, what newscasts do you favour, what propaganda are you succumbing to? What magazines do you read? How do you seek a wider perspective?
I am reading Otto Scharmer’s book U Theory: Leading from the Future as It Emerges….and i am loving it!!! Just a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about strategic planning and how organizations approach it as a means to ensure ongoing organizational relevancy, profitability, growth and success. This is all fine and dandy, but I don’t think it’s enough. Not in the context of globalization and the need for a true shift in consciousness. I began to imagine a world where leaders would approach strategic planning first and formost from a place of global stewardship. Thereby making their businesses active agents in the reversal of catastrophic environmental and social trends and pioneers in the persuit of a future truly worth persuing.
Last week one of the songs i sing on The No Sh!t Shirleys recently released CD Nutrify was featured on a play list of songs for peace in a small radio station in Netivot, just 20 miles from the Gaza border! A note from one of the DJs (below) gave me an unexpected peek into the world of radio DJs and, more specifically, what that job entails in times of war. I hadn’t given DJs much thought prior to that, except of course in relation to my own listening pleasure or lack thereof.
As a gesture of solidarity with the people down south who are suffering terror, death and destruction from rockets, mortars and bombs, our radio station journeyed down south for a day, on Sunday of this week. We arrived after a four hour bus ride , in the beleaguered township of Netivot.
There had been two rocket attacks in the morning just before we arrived. The all clear had sounded and life appeared to be pretty normal, with folks going about their business, tensly alert for the "Colour Red" alarm which sends everyone running to the nearest shelter or protected space. Netivot is 20km from the Gaze border, so they have 15 seconds to find shelter. Not a lot. We were some 12 broadcasters and DJs who took a load off the local guys (three only) who had been broadcasting round the clock for two weeks….
This experience also resonated with me because of how beautifully it illustrates the relationship between cause and effect, or what i like to call the YOU JUST NEVER KNOW factor (YJNK). We frequently assume that cause and effect are related closely in time and space. But that just isn’t the case. I had no matter of insight or foresight regarding my voice finding an ear on the other side of the world in a land devistated by war. We sail through our lives imagining that our sphere of influence is no bigger than the distance between ourselves and those who register on the radar of our primary concern. A vastly bigger and bolder perception of cause and effect, is likely to cause a whole new manner of conduct and concern in our social, environmental and economic systems. On all levels we are starting to see this more clearly. Global warming links back to decisions that were made a 100 years ago. Looking back upon the intricate interdependencies that have brought us all thus far is surely as vast and staggering as to look long into a starry sky.