When I watch the Olympics, I am reminded that the road to success is not only about how you start, but it is also how you finish. There were several occasions when athletes who looked like they were about to win the gold medal ended up either placing silver or bronze or not even placing at all. When I see many champions perform their best, I marvel at the amount of time and effort that they devoted to their sport in order to reach their peak conditions. They truly are inspiring in many ways. For those who need inspiration, remember that attaining success involves pacing, persistence, and patience.
Being a young leader doesn’t mean one is powerless, even if certain powers make it seem that way. This past summer I taught a high school leadership class for a summer program with the hope that the students will grow into strong leaders in their own ways and in their own time. I decided to incorporate my studies (IEDP) into my lessons and dedicate some time in discussing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with my students. It was an experiment in some ways. I wanted to see how they would react to the content and stir discussions that they may not be used to having in their public schools. We centered our discussions on Goal # 4 Quality Education and Goal # 5 Gender Equality.
The students got a sample of the realities that exist beyond their local community and the challenges of international development. It was very fascinating to hear what they had to say when I showed them stories of youth around the world who overcame some horrific situations, fought for their right to education, and still found the strength to give back to their communities (for some examples see the International Children’s Peace Prize winners). We also discussed the limitations that girls and women face because of their cultural and religious beliefs and how boys and men also play a role in attaining 50/50 leadership. (By the way, the boys were quite supportive of the girls during our discussions.)
The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann is a fun and helpful read, especially during times when we think about how we might improve our work and ourselves. Although we have heard it said that we should strive for a ‘win-win’ situation (meaning there is a tangible benefit for all who are involved), we have to wonder if at times this pattern of thinking becomes another manifestation of our own selfishness. On one level, win-win seems closer to being a matcher, someone who “keeps an even balance of give and take.” (see Adam Grant’s description)
A genuine giver, on the other hand, is someone who is not really looking for a win-win situation; rather he/she gives for the sake of giving, adding value to people’s lives, and spreading goodness throughout the world. It does not matter if he/she receives anything in return. As Wharton professor Adam Grant found out, givers tend to be more successful in the long run.
“Leaders, whatever their professions of harmony, do not shun conflict; they confront it, exploit it, ultimately embody it. Standing at the points of contact among latent conflict groups, they can take various roles, sometimes acting directly for their followers, sometimes bargaining with others, sometimes overriding certain motives of followers and summoning others into play” (MacGregor Burns, 1978, p. 39).
A short reflection on leadership during a time when new leaders will assume power:
With the passing of the United Nations’ global goals, known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries are looking for ways to attain the ever-elusive peace and build a global community that cares about people and the environment. I want to work toward harmony, but I’ve come to accept the fact that conflict is inevitable and serves an important purpose. This purpose is to unveil areas of divergence, build common understandings, and map out a collective plan that leads to improvement of life, not acceleration of death. This sounds extreme, but from what I’ve seen, read, and experienced so far, life vs. death is the overarching theme of many problems in the world. Continue reading “Leaders and Cacophonous Harmony”
Rashōmon (羅生門), one of 黒澤明 /Kurosawa Akira’s exceptional movies, is based on 芥川龍之介 /Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s short story “In the Grove” (藪の中). I first watched it in a film studies course where we analyzed the use of lighting, camera angles, music, and structure of the film to understand how they underscore the themes of equality, truth, and hope in post-war Japan. A few years later, I encountered the film in a leadership course. Seen from a leadership perspective, the movie takes on a new meaning. The dynamics of the film were no longer ideas to be analyzed and entertained for the sake of discussion; they had visible consequences for an individual and an organization. Rashōmon challenges leaders to handle the complex nature of truth and the truth about human nature not within the confines of a film, but in the unpredictable course of life.
Purpose is indispensable. When we apply for college, grants or jobs, we typically submit a statement of purpose or talk about our reason for applying during an interview. When we continue a particular activity, we normally have a reason for doing so. Purpose in those scenarios is easily identifiable; however, when we are asked about our ultimate ‘why,’ many of us have trouble articulating our response. As Os Guinness says, “the trouble is that, as modern people, we have too much to live with and too little to live for. Some feel they have time but not enough money; others feel they have money but not enough time. But for most of us, in the midst of material plenty, we have spiritual poverty” (2003, p. 4). Abundance, material wealth, and accessible pleasures have generated a hunger for meaning.
“What is my purpose for living?” I assume many of us have asked a variation of this question at some point in our lives. We seem to have a feeling that we are meant to do more with our lives, but we do not always know what path to choose. We seek to identify and understand our ‘calling.’ Continue reading “Purpose and Calling”
One of the more recent realizations that I had about leadership was the responsibility of leaders to raise everyone’s level of consciousness. It is another way of saying that leaders will open up competing views of reality and ‘truth’ and ideally equip the team to make the most informed decision about certain issues. With heightened consciousness comes the realization that there are choices and each one carries consequences. To what extent this consciousness is raised depends on the leader’s own level of awareness and capability to ‘wake’ people up. Leaders have to be lifelong learners and continually build their understanding about the DNA of ultimate reality in order to select which lessons to emphasize and pass on to the team. Continue reading “Leaders, Heightened Consciousness, and Heavy Choices”
“Consequences are bound to the choices you make. You can have your choice, but you cannot choose your consequence.” – Ravi Zacharias
“We all create the person we become by our choices as we go through life. In a real sense, by the time we are adults, we are the sum total of the choices we have made.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
The power of our choices is one of the most important lessons that I learned from my parents. As I was growing up I was taught to be mindful of my choices since they have consequences. Our choices build our character and influence people in ways that we may not always understand. Through our choices, we affect relationships and how our future unfolds.