Better you. Better me. Better world. The leadership imperative of our time.

For us dyed-in-the wool optimists it’s hard not to acknowledge the breath-taking improvements in all facets of our life. Take any great city of the West and the benefits of exponential advances in technology, open borders, open minds and the diversity that feeds all is evident to most who live and work there. But journey just a short distance into the countryside and too often the benefits are far less evident, appreciated, understood – or desired.

Following on the heels of bewildering setbacks for reason in the UK and Columbia, today we stand too close to a populist victory in Washington – alarming testament to an abject absence of leadership. Though it is inaccurate, unfair and unhelpful to characterize that vacancy as born of incompetence or bad-faith, it is nonetheless a systemic deficit we are witnessing – as seen from our classrooms, our boardrooms – and our legislatures.

Where to look for the example of leadership that will reframe its practice? To the same people, structures and institutions that have proven themselves so unable to anticipate and adapt to the techno-socio-politico and economic winds of change? To the 62 people who in 2015 possessed the same wealth as half the world (down from 388 in 2010 according to the most recent Oxfam Davos report)? Or to the aggregate of the 7,461,380,063 humans alive at this moment in writing? Is there any read of contemporary events that suggests that now is the inflexion point at which humanity will speak and act with one reasoned voice?

Instead, I suggest that we look to you. And to me. And to the very, very many like us who believe that what we do for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, our nations and yes – our earth – occurs on a single plane, not in silos. That to attend to one need is not a zero sum exercise, but that indeed, to attend to all in balance is the new leadership imperative.

Hence The Leaders Expedition, a new global non-profit organization. We believe that the narrative and practice of leadership must be reframed everywhere. That to do so in one society or in one sector means nothing given the unparalleled intimacy of the Internet of Everyone. Fearing the future, communities of shared grievance (real and perceived) are being formed, empowered and mobilized to spread a contagion of ignorance and intolerance. Embracing the future, we believe that only a diverse community of the accomplished – the builders, makers, operators, artists and activists – can through their example drive the process of reframing leadership.

What distinguishes our effort from so many others is our conviction that the challenge demands a long view, and the strength and capacity to sustain a historic expedition. So as with any community, the well-being of the member – personally and professionally – is a foundational pre-condition for the eventual goal that unites us – realizing the full potential of all our futures. Your need for a Return on Impact must first be addressed if we together are to transform ourselves, our communities and the sectors that shape our world.

Please visit www.leadersx.org to learn more about our new movement. If being a founding member resonates with you, please reach out to me discuss your nomination to our diverse and quite remarkable community.

If not us, then whom? If not now, then when?

 

Are you a ‘Lone Genius’?: You need a Thought Partner!

You create, build, manage, make, run and organize things – adding value to a multitude of stakeholders in a complex and volatile world. You are accomplished at what you do, recognized by your peers as a leader. But there is a lot on your plate – or more accurately plates – with the prospect of only more being heaped on. It’s a constant juggling act, and as good as you are, you admit to yourself that you don’t have all the answers – in fact more than you’d like to admit or show, you’re frequently stuck.

Sound like you? If you are like most senior executives that I’ve met through my my business career and coaching/advisory practice (including most especially -me), the answer is yes. In discussions with literally hundreds of accomplished individuals over the past year, from CEO’s (start-up to Fortune 500) to senior civil servants to NPO leaders to performers and artists, most report experiencing the pervasive sense of loneliness and uncertainty that comes from being an accomplished builder/creator/operator.

It’s tempting to look to the 180,000+ books on leadership on Amazon.com (just for example) for inspiration for the most current 5 or 10 step solution to your problem, but logic suggests that they ALL can’t be correct. In fact it all becomes ‘noise’ – the bleating of thousands of advice-givers more interested in advancing their agenda than in supporting yours. And in a world of exponential advances in technology, and of industries/societies impacted for better and for worse, the noise gets ever louder – even desperate.

Of course, the ‘answer’ does not lie without – with ‘them’ – it rests within you. It’s why so many of us engage in constructive self-talk – we are constantly discussing with ourselves our situational awareness, our ability to both understand our environment and to positively shape/impact it. It’s this self-talk that speaks to the need for a true partner that can offer a second-set-of-eyes perspective to your ever-changing relationship with the world around you.

Which leads us to the concept of Thought Partner. In a 2012 guest post in Forbes Magazine, Rania Anderson well defined the concept;

A Thought Partner is one who;

  • Challenges your thinking
  • Causes you to modify your paradigms, assumptions or actions
  • Has information or a way of thinking that provokes you to innovate or otherwise leads to value creation in your business, career or life.

Thought Partners are usually people who possess information, knowledge, or a way of thinking that challenges and provokes divergent thinking for you.

I would add that a Thought Partner is a sometime coach, sometime mentor, sometime advisor, sometime connector of dots and resources, and sometime friend, who is above all else – often even more so than your business or life partner – your confidante alone committed to think with you, rather than for you. Safely, securely, in the greatest confidence.

Critically, the need for a Thought Partner is not a one-off, sequential exercise. We have all witnessed the demise of the five year business plan – now reduced far more appropriately to one year and ever more iterative planning cycles, due to the complexity and volatility of the exponential change noted above. Instead, just as planning is now an all the time, real time activity, so too is the need for your Thought Partner. As an oft-repeated quote paraphrasing Albert Einstein puts it “enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of the lone genius“.

As you contemplate this New Year, the question is – is 2016 the year you cease being a lone genius, and instead seek out your Thought Partner, or are you going to continue to talk to yourself to cross-pollinate, conceptualize and execute the initiatives and actions that determine your future?

 

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