John Kotter’s classic, Leading Change, makes a powerful distinction between management and leadership. Kotter says that management is focused on the effective maintenance of the status quo, i.e. they keep things going. In contrast, leadership is about a vision for the future; it is about moving things in a new direction.
Every organization needs both types: competent managers and effective leaders. Most human resource programs focus on management programs. Many confuse leadership development with management programs.
How are we building leader-ful organizations?
How are we ensuring that we can sustain organizations and keep them adaptive enough to a rapidly changing world?
In many ways, being an effective leader involves being able to dance with change. This is difficult when the predominant stereotype of the strong leader is one who is a bulwark against change: A strong and effective leader is one who controls such that changes are minimized, if not eliminated.
The problem is that that is not reality. Change is reality. Change is what happens, regardless of what a leader chooses to do. The best that s/he can do it to adapt to change in every moment, to roll with the proverbial punches.
Thus, a crucial and necessary stepping stone in the leadership development journey is to transform our relationship to change. We must embrace that change cannot be managed out but rather can be the access to transformation.
A mantra, or set of aspirational statements, which I’ve been practicing the past few weeks is below:
I haven’t had much time to write, because there has been a lot of change in my life as of late. In particular, I have assumed new responsibilities as the leader for the nonprofit children’s museum for which I work. Sufficed to say, my life has been awash in change energy!
In the midst of change and transition, it is very easy to become unhinged, to lose one’s anchor in the thralls of Life‘s storms. In one of those moments, I happened to be listening to the audiobook, The Noble Heart by Pema Chodron. She was teaching about the present moment. Then, it occurred to me in a flash:
If things are always in transition, then we should enjoy the present moment, because it’ll only be that way in that moment!
So I stopped walking in my “on the way to…” fashion, lifted my face up to the sky, and drunk in the warmth of the sunlight. …
So my relationship with Jon came to an end just now. … And it was born anew. … And again it ended. … As I continue to contemplate the nature of impermanence and change, I realized that our experience of Love as human beings is very much shaped by the feeling of being in love. And then we begin to question the future of the relationship when that feeling disappears. Yet, because it is the nature of Life to change, our feelings rise and dissipate. The feeling eventually fades. It is like we are striking the piano key: a deep, rich note that hums for a bit but eventually fades.
The kind of Love of which the mystics wrote and sang transcends the nature of change. It is the eternal thread that strings together each bead of strongly-felt experience into the mala (meditation rosary) of Life. … It is a beautiful, haunting melody – each note the vibrancy of emotional experience, separated by the inevitable fading of that emotion.
What does it all mean, you ask? … We relate to our relationships like they don’t change, when in fact they are changing all the time. If we related to them as if all that there was was that moment, then we would develop a greater appreciation for that relationship, because in fact, it really is ending over and over and over again. When we can live in that place of respect for the changing nature of things, we begin to get a glimpse into the Love that is behind All-That-Is. …
This morning, I took to the mat, wanting desperately to return to center and anchor myself in Peace and Balance before starting my day. After doing a particular intense asana (yoga pose), I let the sensations subside and allowed my body to receive the wisdom from my practice.
What I got was this: Our thoughts don’t just impose themselves on us. They are like guests. It is our choice to receive them and have them stay at home in our mind, or to ask them to leave if they are not welcome. Some thoughts are like squatters: We allow them to overstay their welcome and soon we become used to their imposition. Those thoughts eventually become habits, which eventually become the deep-and-difficult-to-change conditioning we call addiction.
Which thoughts are we choosing to receive as our guests?
At the end of any Alcoholic or Addict Anonymous meeting, we are encouraged to “Keep coming back!” Although this is a specific invitation to continue coming to meetings and drawing from the strength of the fellowship, it is also a great spiritual principle.
It would be easy if we could just choose to do something, and it stayed that way. However, the nature of life is that it is dynamic and ever-changing. Yesterday’s triumph begins tomorrow’s failure. Every choice requires us to keep coming back, to revisit and re-create our commitment to living in a way that is consistent with our most heartfelt values.
And our practice of coming back doesn’t have to be complicated. We don’t need elaborate meditation practices or prayer rituals and tools. The most basic and reliable practice is coming back to the breath. The breath is always there for as long as we are truly living. We don’t have to worry about whether or not we even get to the space of clear-headed-ness. All on which we need to focus is coming back, coming back, and coming back to the breath. …
“When you can stay in your center, it not only benefits you; it benefits the entire world.”
Sage words from Travis Eliot, an amazing yoga teacher in L.A. The journey of personal growth and development can become so focused on the inner experience that we often screen out the world outside. We forget that when we change, the world us must also change, because we are no longer the same person. People will relate to us differently. We will experience the world differently.
Staying centered is a gift to us all. For when we can be at peace, the entire world can be at peace.