Posts in authenticity
Choose Substance Over Form

When I knew that I would be moving on from my role of school Headmaster five years ago, I considered two primary pathways forward. One was another school leadership position. The other was to become a leadership coach and consultant. A variety of factors would point me in the latter direction, which I have been traveling on for the past five years. But this was only possible due to my willingness to open up to new possibilities and not allow myself to become stuck along the one path that I had come to know so well.

In their timeless presentation on the perils of leadership (Leadership on the Line, HBR Press, 2002, pp. 218ff,) authors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky caution leaders to worry less about the form of their work and focus instead on the substance or essence of their contribution. We tend to come to think of ourselves by the form of what we do (“I am a mayor”, “I am a business executive”, “I am a professional athlete”, etc.) and struggle to make sense of things when our positions and status change, voluntarily or not. Suddenly, the stay-at-home mom with an empty nest, the non-profit leader who had not been renewed, the politician on the wrong side of an election, the retired technician or the laid-off laborer find themselves disoriented, with a reduced sense of purpose and unclear direction.

Without question, such periods can be very difficult and confusing, particularly when they occur suddenly and are imposed from without. But when a person chooses to identify first by who they are as people and what motivates them in the service of others, they can more easily and confidently move forward.

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Step Away to Step into Life

I have two clients that are a block away from each other in NYC. The walking time between them is measured in seconds and often I can schedule things to allow me to go from one to the other in short order.

But there are times when I have to schedule them on different days, which would be less of an issue if I didn’t live an hour away from them.

This past week, I took things to a new level. I visited one client on Tuesday and the other on Wednesday. In between, I flew down to Florida for an early morning talk to over 300 leaders. Including local commutes to and from the airport, my journey from one client to the other, though themselves separated by only one block, exceeded 1900 miles.

Talk about a long walk down the block!

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Permit Yourself to Be You

The statistics are staggering. According to the website Statista, the current number of social media users worldwide sits at over 2.5 billion and will grow to 3 billion by 2021. Facebook leads all social media platforms with 2.2 billion active users (80% of Americans have Facebook accounts), while messenger apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are actively used by 1.3 billion people each.

When in Social Space, do as the Socialspacians do.

But Social Space is not for everyone. Nor should it be. I just wish that someone had told me this a bit sooner.

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How to Lead Authentically

We live in a paradoxical world. On the one hand, we are more connected than ever before. Social media and our portable devices makes posting and reading content, liking, commenting, and sharing, easier and faster than ever. We know what our contacts are doing in real time and can “join them” virtually from the comfort of wherever we are and whatever we’re doing at that moment. Email and a host of messaging platforms also keep the virtual conversation going around the clock.

Yet, there is something about all of this connecting that leave so many of us wanting and unfulfilled.

Part of the issue, no doubt, is the superficiality of how we connect and engage. Though our networks are larger and more diverse than ever before, the quality of those connections is simply not there. So much of communication depends on the things that technology cannot replace, like non-verbals, proximity and the like.

But for many of us, a bigger issue with Networking 2.0 may be the inauthenticity and contrived realities that it fosters.

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