15.2 - The End (or, The Beginning)

Well. This week marks the end of a journey. 

I didn't know what I expected to learn from this course. I've never been business inclined, or someone who really took to reading leadership courses, or those self-help business books for folks in business. Because, really, I'm an artist. Business is for business-minded people. Leadership was the purvey of managers, CEOs, bankers, financial advisers. Basically, everyone that has the all the adult skills that I've never hoped to have in my adult life. 

I struggle with a lot of things. But this one thing I know. The nature of myopia is astounding. Feed one limiting belief, and suddenly a whole host of limiting beliefs start multiplying. And before you know it, you are caught in the middle of terrible neuroses, depression, anxiety, and most of all, a feeling that you cannot change the world. 

I wonder if this is what is meant when they say the Devil wins. I'm not a very religious person, but there is merit to the sandpit that is negative thinking. I bought into silo-ed, Stage 1 and 2 thinking. I believed that is where I belonged. I incorporated that into my way of understanding my worth. I thought I would never be a leader. 

Incidentally, Zen Habits is offering a course on the Well Designed Life for Leo's weekly blog. For him, a well-lived life might mean that we work towards:

  • Creating mindfulness in your life, and learning to be more present
  • Finding compassion for yourself, and learning to love yourself more
  • Creating deeper connections to other people
  • Connecting your daily actions to meaning
  • Creating wellness

CultureSync has not posted anything new for a while, but Neil Crofts has an expose on Great Leadership 101. He, in alignment with our readings, gives a lovely snapshot of how I'm feeling, and summarizes what great leadership is to him. He acknowledges the myths of leadership (that it is an appointment, that leaders are born, the “loneliness of leadership”, leadership is hierarchical), and offers something new. Leadership is a skill - it can be learned. Leadership is a choice, not an appointment. And leadership is about the collective connection - leadership does not exist in a vacuum, and loneliness is the result of your own internal silo-ing. 

I'm grateful for this class and the resources Denise DeLuca has afforded me in this journey. I now know the edges of my limitations and am exploring and expanding them daily. I still have yet to fully understand my purpose, but I have renewed faith that one day I will finally know what I have to do, and begin, "though the voices around [me] kept shouting their bad advice" (Mary Oliver). There is a place for me in the leadership seat, despite my debilitating empathy, my bleeding heart sensibilities, and my rose-colored glasses. In Scott Belsky's words, "Creativity is, quite simply, a genuine interest combined with initiative." (Belsky 29) I seek connection. I seek change. I seek healing. 

14.3 - O&R Session

It is a rare instance for me to be caught outside, in Minnesota, in winter, for fun. 

I'm not sure when I stopped enjoying being cold for fun, as I definitely enjoyed winter sports when I was younger. Snowboarding, sledding, snowball fights, ice skating. I definitely remember enjoying being outside. I contemplate these memories as I peer through my several layers of parkas, gloves, and hats on hats at my meditation timer in preparation to do my Observe and Reflection exercise. 

In the initial ten minutes of sitting in silence with myself, I'm first struck by how little shivering was happening in my body. It was as if I had preemptively steeled myself against a situation that wasn't actually a threat. I noticed where in my body my breath was residing, and living, moving through my inner core and impacting my back, side, and front body. I noticed the different sensations of cold - lightly kissing the tip of my nose and trailing lovingly along my thighs. I noticed only discomfort fingertips, where winter seemed to pinch aggressively into my nail beds. Immediately, I tucked them into my sleeves and felt better. 

The thoughts arose during that time felt frenetic. I had a hard time pushing them away, but I found, with enough time, if I responded with gratitude of the message it was trying to deliver, and then asked it to wait until after, they dissolved more readily. Finally I was left with sensing the true nature of cold, in that moment, in peace. 

Upon the second bell heralding the arrival of the second ten minutes, dedicated to active observation, I opened my eyes to raw white-blue beauty. It had started snowing in earnest when I had my eyes closed, and I was greeted with the beauty of falling flakes. I observed them collecting, elegantly, without consciousness, without pretentiousness, drifting onto every surface with grace. I observed their ability to cover, even obscure, with depth and gentleness. Aside from the hum of man-made appliances, for warmth, the world was quiet, blanketed in the multitude of small moments. 

When the third bell struck, I was already thinking about how these snowflakes mark the impact a thousand small gestures can have. Multitudes of people, or thoughts, or gestures can blanket the world. The healing quality of hushed sound also highlighted the beauty of the journey inward. So often I am afraid of winter and the depression that comes with it - but why is it that animals have these rituals regarding darkness and cold, and we don't? Hibernation does not have to mean these connotations of weight gain, undesirability, family feuding, and capitalism. Winter can mean a deep sense of connectedness to the wheel of life, with winter and cold being a part of the larger cyclical connection to the system. 

I realized that I am so focused on the yang of the world - the energetic rushing and pushing and striving that comes from a more masculine focused way of the world. We strive against external expectations to blend in, to assimilate, and yet be individual...these things do not coincide. I need more yin in my life - more feminine, more nourishing, more introspection, to fully see that internal support, the support of relationships, is also important in the lessons the world has to offer me. Winter, cold, a slowing down, hibernation....inner life, nourishment, and support. 

14.2 - Inspiration & Visualization

Brenna Kelly inspired me with her words, dreaming of a new vista wherein her values and visions would be heard. In spite of her nervousness, she presented a possibility where a client would be overjoyed to see her work, and incorporate into her own. It inspires me to be open, regardless of my own timidness in my business endeavors. Thank you Brenna!

Heather Meyer's visualization opened up a different realm of possibility for what success could look like. She, in her visualization, pictured her success stemming from a very successful life around crafting her "why". She inspires me to think harder about finding my purpose, and honing it so well that even the great organizations, such as TED, can't even look away. Thank you Heather! 

14.1 - 14 Tools

1.     Discovering Your Authentic Leadership – Bill George, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean, Diana Mayer

An essay on authentic leadership and how to discover your style, this reference provides helpful tips to understand where leadership styles come from. It provides valuable examples of leaders and their growth. It goes on to give tips for practicing your own values and principles for authenticity in the leadership sphere, through balancing extrinsic and intrinsic motivations for leadership. It also stresses the importance of having and maintaining a support system as well as remaining grounded during your forays into leadership. This resource is downloaded onto my own personal drive for reference.  

I wish to include this resource in my toolkit to remind myself, in a succinct way, a place to begin my journey again should I forget what authenticity means to me, and how it impacts others. It will be most useful to me when I forget what is at stake in authentic leadership – sustainable, long-term results, and a reinvention of culture from the ground up.


2.     Making Ideas Happen – Scott Belskey

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belskey is a straight forward, no fluff, hard look at organizing and optimizing creativity in order to overcome obstacles in innovation.  He points out that ideas don’t always lead to creation. Putting together a toolkit of common traits, Belsky examines common traits of folks who actually carry ideas to fruition and makes them accessible to other creatives stuck in a rut. Ultimately, Belskey insists creative success is a matter of rethinking methods and increasing focus, while emphasizing and rewarding old-fashioned passion and perspiration. It can be found in my own personal library, both in digital and in physical form.

I wish to include this resource in my toolkit, earmarked to all hell, because the type of idea-intoxication Scott talks about in his book resonates with the type of problems I have with harnessing my idea potential.  It will come in handy when I am having a hard time remembering that creativity is also hard work, and I get caught up thinking I have to be an innate genius in order to be taken seriously for my work.


3.     Tribal Leadership – Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer

Tribal Leadership is a book that talks about tribes as they relate to the natural human inclination to create groups, and how to lead them successfully. It argues that every company is a tribe, or if it is large enough, a tribe of tribes. In Tribal Leadership, tribes are more powerful than teams, companies, or CEOs, and yet their key leverage points have never been mapped out before – until this book. It is also in my private library, in digital format.


I wish to include Tribal Leadership in my purvey for those times that I will feel like I do not belong, and that I have no purpose being within a group. I also wish to have it in my purvey because sometimes you find yourself lonely because you’re in the wrong tribe – this at least gives me the tools to begin to create my own.


4.     Zen Habits Blog –Leo Babauta

“Zen Habits”, the blog, can be found at https://zenhabits.net/. The brainchild of Leo Babauta, his theories and dharma about the simplified life blend leadership and self reflection with the formation of habits.

I wish to include this in my toolkit as an augmentation to my creative leadership journey as a reminder in the more complex, overthinking, and anxious moments, that the simplest and most powerful thing you can do is look at your habits…and change them.


5.     Neil Crofts – Authentic Leadership

Neil Crofts is an exceptional systems thinker and business consultant, tackling business leadership theory from a perspective that includes all stakeholders and impacts in one collective picture. His blog is invaluable to leaders looking to take into account large scale visions and applications to daily problems in small entrepreneurship.

I wish to include his words in my toolkit to speak to the systems person inside me. His perspectives resonate with my way of thinking, especially, and I feel it pertinent to my capability of seeing the worth of the larger picture.


6.     The Power of Mindful Leadership – Bill George,


Bill discusses the practice of mindfulness and its role in positive leadership experiences. Aside from its scientifically proven merits for mental clarity, greater empathy, and cost recuperation, mindfulness is good for you as a leader, period, to instill high levels of self awareness and intention for your business.

I wish to include his words in my toolkit as an affirmation that my meditation practice is good for me and my journey as a creative leader.


7.     O&R Session – Denise DeLuca

An O&R session is a skill taught by Denise DeLuca, wherein the creative leader takes thirty minutes out of her day to sit with a topic or intention. The process to do so includes ten minutes in closed eyed meditation, then ten minutes open and contemplative meditation, and finally ten minutes open observations regarding the intention presented at the start of the session.

I wish to include this skill into my session as a valuable format of meditation to check in with myself for the times that I’m not connected to what my why is. I will use this as a compass, to learn what next directions are for my practice.


8.     The Flip Manifesto – Daniel H Pink

 A quirky assault on status quo definitions of leadership, The Flip Manifesto outlines sixteen different ways organizations that break above just “successful” are doing to achieve great things. They’ve taken age-old beliefs – and turned them upside down. He argues that we should be doing what we’re doing, but in reverse order, that doubting yourself is often wiser than believing in yourself, that finding your passion is a stupid idea, and that maximizing shareholder value is worse still.

An affirmation of my healthy dose of skepticism for authority, I wish to keep the Flip Manifesto in my toolkit whenever I’m tempted to measure my success by what has been done in the past – or really, by other people’s success, period.


9.     Why Should Anyone By Led By You? – Gareth Jones

 Professor Gareth Jones discusses the importance of Authentic Leadership. Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? Is grounded in the research and thought leadership of London Business School professor Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, authors of the best selling Harvard Business Review article and book of the same name. http://www.blessingwhite.com

Be yourself, more, with skill. Gareth Jones highlights how hard it is to do this. I wish to include this in my toolkit as a skill – a reminder that the way to authentic leadership comes from creating more space for myself, implementing myself, and doing it with skill.


10. Define the Purpose of Your Leadership – Bill George


What is the purpose of leadership? If you don’t have your purpose, why would anyone want to follow you? Do you know where you’re going? Bill George succinctly describes a framework of questions, illustrating the institutional and moral chaos that can happen if you lack the answer to this question.

I wish to include this resource as a reminder that purpose is so integral to being an effective leader. It will come in handy when I feel buffeted about by choices and what my why is in life.


11. Printing Two Labels – Denise DeLuca, Assignment /Exercise

Printing two labels is an exercise within which we understand how expectations can influence how someone behaves, or how they are being perceived.

I wish to include this resource as a means to remember how much labels affect people, to highlight the uncomfortable activity that we do unconsciously– in good and bad ways.


12. Creating Triads – Denise DeLuca, Assignment/Exercise

The process to creating triads in groups, as an alternative way of networking, is to introduce two people that you know to each other, utilizing what you value in each of the individuals to create a spark of collaboration with each other.

I wish to include this skill in my networking toolkit to assuage my social anxiety during networking events, and to create better communities within my life built around supporting each other.


13. Is There An Equation for Happiness? – Chip Conley


In 2007, Chip Conley wrote PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow. In it, he documents how as the CEO of a large boutique hotel company, Chip used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to create happier employees and customers during the last downturn. He’s out with his newest book, Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success.

Chip has a way of talking about emotions in a cut and dry logical sense, making sense of an often-tangled array of nasty feelings associated with customer bases. Incidentally, he also provided a way for me to look at my own mess and discern exactly what it was that was preventing me from finding my purpose. These equations, Despair = Suffering – Meaning, Happiness = Wanting What You Have / Having What You Want, and Joy = Love – Fear, will be lasting frameworks for making sense of my inner tumult in my search for finding peace.


14. On Becoming A Leader – Warren Bennis

A beautiful book on becoming a leader, we focused on reading the end for Week 14 of creative leadership as a reflection on what we have learned. Bennis has a way of cataloguing and inspiring leaders to the cause, and highlights, with hope, the ways that we all can tackle the problems at hand. He is straight forward, succinct, and leads the reader directly to the thing at hand, expecting greatness.


I wish to include this resource as a way to go over an inspring account on how leaders are formed, and where we’re going. If all else fails after review in Tribal Leadership  and Making Ideas Happen, I hope to turn to this when I forget all the reasons why I’m qualified, capable, and acceptable as a creative leader.


13.2 - Creative Visualization

Dear Theresa,


Congratulations! Your venture, Dymaxia, is our Minnesota Cup 2020 Grand Prize Winner, a grand total of $50,000! The final winner and recipients of special prizes will be announced at a live event on October 9 at Carlson School of Management.


We believe your innovative efforts in the social impact sphere have the potential to reshape how we view the intersection of sustainability, social ventures, and art. We especially resonated with your call for a different way of business-as-usual, and taking a stand against silo-based company culture. By introducing a new, emergent structure of business opportunity through a co-operative model, uncoupling innovation and creativity from corporate gain, and introducing design as a competitive return on investment for shareholders, we believe your impact has immense potential to rewrite corporate culture. It is exemplary of creative, groundbreaking work in social impact. Congratulations.


Yours truly,


Minnesota Cup Committee


12.3 - Power Dynamics

Creative leadership journeys this week have taken a wonderful turn towards community involvement, unpacking one’s place within one’s community. Specific problems current in my journey involve many of the themes discussed thematically in the three blogs I am following. It still amazes me how opportunities seem to show up when I’m primed to notice them. 

Zen Habits begins by addressing the biggest problem facing me in my interpersonal relationships – uncertainty. My problems with social anxiety run high, leading me to nervous drink at networking events, rendering me useless when someone compliments my work, and hamstringing my attempts at learning how to collaborate with others in a more trusting way. Leo, in his post regarding uncertainty, identifies major ways we, collectively, handle uncertainty. He suggests that instead of indulging in the main habits we use to react to discomfort, we reach for the antidote of self awareness. By recognizing that we are feeling anxious, dealing with the uncertainty with curiosity, and diving in with the information at hand, we can arrive at the end of the fear with the knowledge that we have the ability to survive. Observation is key to the Zen Habits method. His suggestions direct us to choose something other than anxiety – to choose joy, and knowledge that we have it in us to master scary situations. 

CultureSync has a fresh new take on the Protestant work ethic in this post from 2014. In an interesting equation, the group observed that most trade religion for workplace culture sometime in their adult lives. Summaries divulged in this posting talk primarily about the culture fostered in church, and equates them to culture fostered in workplace communities, and how they can be one and the same.  They draw a conclusion – 25% of workplaces at Stage Four and Five – see themselves as tribes, where care of tribal members, and for the tribe itself, is key to competing on the business front. Business like these become places of spiritual expression – a collective expressing how we should live, what we want our lives to stand for, the people we care for, are increasingly answered at work. When values unite a group, at church or at work, you get a Stage Four tribe.

In this most current post from Neil Crofts unpacks power dynamics and sexuality in leadership and the workplace. A relevant topic to current events to all the assault allegations in political and leadership spheres, power dynamics is defined as power asymmetry, where one person has actual or apparent power or authority over others. He posits there is an absolute “dependency on the integrity of the dominant party” in negotiating these boundaries. By using Barry Oshry’s framework for social striation, Neil posits that very often “we give away our power when there is no need to and even when the dominant party does not want us to”, with a follow up, in that “there are very many people who act with complete integrity when they are in dominant positions” actively avoiding abusing said power. Personal authenticity, he claims, enables us to maintain our independence, be true to our values, and to raise concerns or to exit troubling situations. It is the onus of both the party “ruled” and the “ruler” to come to the table with authenticity to avoid situations of power dynamics.

I have to suspend suspicion in this context regarding the authors’ perspectives when applying these concepts to my own leadership journey. I am hyper aware that these authors of these thoughts are male, and perhaps in a position of privilege, writing about situations that they do not know much about. However, I have encountered situations where a victim feels that they were wronged, but the wronged feelings actually come from this lack of authenticity that Neil describes. In so few words – how can we expect others to care for us when we know absolutely nothing about caring for ourselves? It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility but our own to be stewards of our emotions, our situations, and our needs. Imagine feeling hungry, but saying nothing, and doing nothing, expecting others to know, magically, that you are hungry and in need! 

This being said, my own journey in knowing what I need is a tough one. I have empathy for this journey. The needs humans have are complex, such as leadership is complex. Leo’s suggestions regarding inner awareness are relevant to know when you are uncertain, and to figure out where that comes from. CultureSync’s thoughts on Stage Four workplace culture mirroring transcendent communities found only in the estate of religion and worship illustrates the possibilities to find joy in your place of work. It then follows, within these contexts, that power dynamics, needs, boundaries, and authenticity can also be something that can come within, leading to more fruitful relationships with others in the future.

12.1 - A Socratic Inquiry

What I love about this weeks assignment is the gift of exploring a new name for a practice that so heavily influences my life as a designer, artist, and educator - the process of socratic inquiry. 

I do this so often with my life that I barely take notice of it anymore, the very act of asking the question as a collective being so second-nature that it feels like breathing. I embodied the Devil's advocate growing up, consistently nettling my professors, challenging the incumbent systems. To this day, this is the only way that I learn and grow as a creative professional - playful debates with my peers regarding the nature of existence, and the limiting beliefs that tie us to our why. 

Currently, my practice revolves around investigations regarding collective beliefs and the nature of consciousness, the contemporary condition regarding our relationship with technology, and contextualized identity. I look at the use of technology to understand history, and seek to explore what the role of religion, ritual, and heritage have to play in modern day society.

Occasionally when I'm applying for funding for these investigations, the socratic method informs the work that I create, and the dialogues I explore, with my fellow creators. I'm blessed to be surrounded by design-thinking and artistic folks that create spaces where these things can be discussed. Currently, the big question I'm asking is "What does enlightenment look like?"

I gathered a group of my peers and fellow creative beings together for one such debate to talk about an application for a grant I was pursuing, and started with a primer on collective versus individual. The discussion then went on an exploration on swarm behaviors, emergent and parametric design, computational design, and big data. We debated on the fruitfulness of battling bots and social media contexts within the political sphere, and lamented at a lack of understanding of our behavior as a systemic map. We talked about narcissism and how it inherently required the mirror and the self to understand itself, but inherently lacked an ability to showcase the awe inspiring behaviors that may be inherent in humanity as a whole. And, finally, the discussion landed on the collective, on consciousness, on collaboration, and empathy as a necessary tool for understanding oneself as a part of a collective. There were moments of questioning - namely, why we could never understand ourselves so distinctly because we were part of the problem. There were debates on feasibility - big data, because it is intrinsically human, cannot surpass human behaviors and limitations. Then there was a bigger discussion regarding limitations - are we even aware of what those things could be? Is it life-giving to pass them? and what are we to learn? 

The socratic inquiry session collapsed into some humor and jokes at the expense of each other, but as a facilitator I noticed a couple things. One, that we held each other accountable to a higher pursuit of knowledge and flexility - the debate always got heated when we started to talk about the human condition but never did it get to a point where we were yelling at each other. The group, as a whole was listening intently, and never really with an intent to respond. I found the energy in the room feeling a lot like it would were it a team sport - a fun bit of push and play, and an accountability, a camaraderie. Conflict was encouraged, opinions were shared and morphed. The openness in the dialogue was prerequisite to respect for all parties. And we all went away feeling refreshed and inspired. 

Again, this is one snapshot of a practice I instill in my daily life. My own artistic practice does not thrive if I do not have regular encounters with my friends like this on a regular basis. We spend hours debating and asking questions - and in some cases its more exciting to leave with more questions than when we started, if not for the simple fact that it instills more of an openness to the world than when we left it. In my creative leadership journey, I find that I need to be more aware of when I use it and foster it when I can in arenas where it may not be the first instinct for people to share what is on their mind. Indeed, when there is no real space and safety to do so, the debate does not grow into a dialogue that tackles such things as transcending narcissism, the nature of empathy, and how one could create art that moves millions. 

I'm grateful to know these fellow creatives, and hope to harness this resource as I continue to move through my leadership journey. 

11.4.3 - An Interpersonal Recap

I have a firm belief that the universe gives you what you need to grow - its only up to you to listen and keep an open  mind to learning what it is you are supposed to learn in that moment. 

The triad exercise - where you find the things you admire about two people and introduce them to each other using that information - was this such a thing. 

I have been at a point in my life where I know myself enough to know what I'm good at. But with every good thing, if you exist in a vacuum, you aren't going to make an impact. The prerequisite for making impact involves other people. Period. So me, doing my lovely little dance by myself with my hairbrush everyday wasn't going to make a pop-star out of me. And much to my chagrin, I needed to learn how to bust out of the shy little shell and start singing my song to others. 

What was lovely about the triad exercise was that it was inherently externally focused - I didn't need to talk about myself at all in order to foster a new relationship. I had this internal stigma against networking for this reason, I hated talking about myself. But how lovely was it to take the things I admired and just talked about them! I thoroughly enjoyed doing the exercise electronically, that I started doing it in my work with my students. In learning more about the strengths of my students, I started understanding the strengths of my community. Names came more easily, the students seemed to bloom in their learning experience during demos. The culture in my shop flourished. 

I'm pleased that the thing that I'm learning in this moment is reinventing what effective networking can look like. The triad exercise was wonderful, and will be a tool that I keep in my socializing wheelhouse when I find myself needing to inhabit an expert role. 

Triad Exercises from Three Perspectives

11.3 – Weekly Blog Post

Trust and awareness. The glue of communities. Masterful leaders create space for these connections to occur using their social prowess, much like the brain fosters connections for the purpose of synthesizing whole wellbeing. However, even the most introverted entrepreneur can find resources to create the community they need to succeed. Tuning into our three blogs, these strategies provide lenses to better achieve the level of connectedness found in the most streamlined of communities.  

True to Leo Baubata’s style, this Zen Habits post on observing habitual mental systems names one resource as an internal one, ascribing the success of the individual to internal habit monitoring. Simplicity is key here. By noticing the internal mind’s requirement to meet uncertainty in a two pronged approach to both want more and less at the same time, fledgling leaders begin to feel empowered to take control of boredom and distractedness. Ultimately, Leo claims that by fully feeling uncertainty, and loving it as much as one loves chocolate or laughter, we can gain appreciation for the immense joy of life in the middle of chaos.


In an unusual post, CultureSync makes a distinction between therapy and coaching. The primary distinction according to their blog lie along an imaginary line on the horizon called functionality. Everything below the line (land of dysfunction) belonged to therapy, and everything above the line (functionality) belonged to coaching. So, depression and therapeutic conditions require a therapist. They stress the need for understanding which clients need what and how to draw the line on what the true need is through proper communication and standards of operations.


Neil Crofts breaks down divisions in work place culture using vertically divided and horizontal cultures. Divisions happen at any scale – team, business, corporation, or nation. At any granularity from schisms to factions. In responding to these crises, Neil remembers that humans have a natural tendency to quickly form a culture, disproportionally dominated by characters in the group. If the group has an intention to achieve anything in particular they will need to align around that future in order to achieve it. By breaking a team down to three components – vision, purpose, and mission – Niel proposes a means of upgrading culture to a level where the internal code elevates behavioral standards across the team.


Looking at these three posts, it could be a struggle to find meaning through the lens of understanding others. But within the exercise of creating triads, we begin to understand a method of creating community using these great’s methods of leadership. Through Zen Habits monitoring of inner discomfort, we lose the biggest hamstring regarding social interaction – an expectation that others will do what you want. CultureSync iterates a way of framing networking from a standard of communication. Indeed, without understanding the true goal in interpersonal discussion, there is a lack of discovery and direction within each connection. And finally, Neil Crofts discussion identifying potential for division within cultures begs awareness of the networking leader to know how to navigate and foster the correct parameters for lively communication.


A culture upgrade comes from one personality, as discussed in Neil’s expose. But in reality, by creating triads, you place the focus on creating community starting with others. As in the brain, neurons fire under the right conditions – so does a community, connect with the right leaders.

Interpersonal Accountability

Assignment 10.1B – 3 Blog Posts

What affects a leader’s capability to speak their truth? One may find this question vague, as the answer could be found in so many places, and in so many things. However, this question begs more than simply “their weaknesses” or “their context”- it examines the true nature of leadership within the contexts of interpersonal accountability. In the same way that the well-known anecdote regarding falling trees and the verification of sound, is the impact of a leader’s actions valid unless verified by the follower?

This week I was delighted to find that Neil Crofts had posted something recently – as his most contemporary post was from several months ago. In true vulnerability he admitted his desires to remain apolitical in his blog postings, and in doing so neglected to update his thoughts. It was only when two readers approached him separately did he come to understand that regardless of his political feelings on the matter, his followers expected his words to continue to flow forth. He offered this inspiring perspective regarding the current political climate, where the power of the interpersonal leaders of the world continue to have the responsibility to push forward. He reminds us that “every country gets the leadership they deserve, and if they don’t like it, its up to us to do something about it.”

 Zen Habits Leo Baubata surprisingly backed this cry for interpersonal accountability with an account of an exercise performed in a community context. Competition, in this context, is when his brother holds the space and accountability for Leo to reside in that-which-is-uncomfortable, to notice when his mind is trying to run from the current moment. Really, to run from pain. The two of them held space for each other to reside there, to continue to reside there, to exhibit the courage for the sake of each other, and to exude a sense of vulnerability rare in two men “competing”. They pushed themselves forward, together.

Never to be disregarded, CultureSync maintains similar perspectives through their pre-defined tribal striations, reminding readers that Stage 3 tribes stand to gain so much more if they move past general spewing of expertise in favor of collaboration. Using the example of Mount Everest with all its concomitant experts, CultureSync outlines interpersonal accountability as the foundation of lasting cultural change. For Fender, it was reframing the “why” of the company that began the snowball into cultural synchronicity. 

In light of these life-giving readings, I’m reminded of what is needed in the cultural climate today. I’m sure it is easy (like me) for most to stay indoors, in their jobs and their places in their current lives and forget that there are larger landscapes and struggles. Neil Crofts outlines this as “The First Maturity War”, and arguably, this cannot be something we ignore. If the world could be run by Stage 4 leadership, how much better would it be to go to work? How much more fulfilled would we feel? And, more concurrently, how much could we accomplish, together?

A Letter to a Budding Leader

Dearest One, 

The minute you knew how to talk was the same moment you understood that you had gifts. Communication for you was easy - but easy in the same way that Mozart used music ... you used the world as your backdrop for yourself. You see beauty in the things that others find meaningless, creating worth from garbage and seeing value in those who are lost and struggling. You look at the big picture, at times getting frustrated that you can't have it all yet, but knowing that its out there and achievable. You can see when there is meaning between the lines, and hold space for what needs to be done. You have integrity, you can hold what is true at the forefront of your actions. You have sheer will - if you want something bad enough, you will achieve it. 

I know that you are aware of changes that have started at the beginning of class. You have more strength to notice yourself. You have more understanding and patience for your own struggle, hand and hand with other's struggles. You include yourself in the uplifting self talk - and the awareness you have for your inner "Mind-Movie" is growing. 

The biggest themes I have been seeing for you involve knowing that you have habits, dearest. These habits are like an underlying computer language - you execute these if: then: statements as if that will only be your truth for the rest of your life. Are you not a leader? Well, then. Awareness is the biggest theme. Understanding and joy for the moment and for yourself are others. 

The world is larger than you are. If you just have the courage to do so, it will show you that you have it in you to change it. You have it in you to have faith, it will just take some time to nourish and find it. 

Yours, Always, 

Your Inner Life

Making Space

Week 9


This week in Creative Leadership we touch base with our three blogs to see what the creative thought leaders have to say about their practice being the best and the brightest of contemporary leadership.

In addition to reading his book Zen Habits, Leo Babauta’s current blog concerning elegance and simplicity in the days work stress the importance of making space for the things you want to do with your life. Indeed, there is no way to truly master a habit, or rule the world, without understanding that human beings only have so much attention to dedicate to things at a certain time. Leo stresses that minimal, conscious and perceptive ways to hack through the nonsense that our brain puts us through on a daily basis will hack into our ability to be focused and dedicated to our tasks and life goals. He out lines lovely approaches to simplifying desktops and lock screens by placing all candy-like objects and apps into a non-descript folder on the desktop, and gray scaling screens to get past the brains desire for new and shiny things. He goes on to simplify the systems perspectives, extolling the virtues of the Momentum add-on to keep readers focused and mindful. And, last but not least, keeping a plain old fashioned journal to keep from multitasking.

CultureSync finds us in a different direction, unpacking the virtues of Carpool Karaoke, by relating the moment to Stage 4 or 5 leadership qualities in a small moment in the car. If cultures are both enabled and limited by their leader, they argue, James Corden sets an environment in the Range Rover where, as he has said, it is there to make the guest look as good possible. He created a minimalist setting, away from the studio, staging, handlers, teleprompters, etc, and allows it to be just two people sitting listening to the guest’s music. By doing so, James as the leader deliberately set an environment for a different outcome than he could get on his set.  Obviously, CutlureSync purports that great leaders “are deliberate about the environments they set”, being that when they are not deliberate, “they default to the predecessor’s decisions or the boundaries set by the employees”. Stage 5 leadership is only in these environments where the environment is deliberate.

 Obedience is the key subject in Neil Croft’s signal boost on September 5th 2016, “Obedience is Dangerous for Organizations”. He takes a systems approach to understanding where obedience comes from, how it permeates corporate culture today, and how these students succeeded on the key notion that they were successful because they didn’t challenge the teacher. But how much obedience is a good thing and what are the risks of obedience in organizations? The catch – if you promote people for the willingness to do as they’re told, when they get to the top they won’t have any idea what to do. By outlining three places that leaders wish to avoid – catastrophe, irrelevance, bottlenecks – he lays out the understanding that working with CAUSE – a combination of vision, mission, and purpose will align leadership around their cause and encourage each level of the organization to contribute their own bit towards it with a maximum support and listening from leadership…without micromanagement.

Ultimately for me this week has been all about this systems approach to my own practice as a creative leader. I have not been a good steward of my energy and resources, half the time not being aware of how much I am multitasking and taking a spray-bullet approach to life. I didn’t see my mental health, awareness, sleep, or body as a cache to be nurtured in the pursuit of knowledge and leadership capabilities. Leo’s vantage point on small, actionable steps to make the unconscious decisions real and in the forefront of the mind is a great way to start making room for leadership growth, with CultureSync stressing the importance of this space-making for the purpose of instilling greatness in your tribe. Neils perspective was great to apply from a futures perspective. Obedience is not key – striking out is important. And now is the time to do so.

O&R Session

I'm sitting in hopeful internal silence listening to the wind rush through the leaves as students wander through the quad lilting laugher and song mingling. I'm vaguely aware of the warmth of the sun on my face and the vague uneasiness that settles in to my chest and shoulders, growing. I articulate feelings of restlessness and pressure moving internally from the right of my forehead into my eyebrows. I never had noticed it was there before, and suddenly I become aware of the extents of the dull headache has grown to include my right ear canal and cheek bone. It is painful, and I'm fidgiting against longing for my phone, instincts knowing it hasn't been ten minutes. 

Each discovery of an urgent thought has me more fidgity. I carefully package each panicked thought in "not now, wait" and place it to the side, returning to my continental headache. Was it always this way? Did I always carry this burden in my mind? Clarity is hard to come by, and my mind becomes a conveyor belt of carefully packaged urgencies, each observed and placed back on the track to nowhere. A student on the quad screams and I'm brought briefly back to the present before tumbling back into solitude. 

Why this class? Why creative leadership? Who am I? 

In this vulnerable place, I recognize my own failing is my lack of empathy for my own journey. Joy can find me at any point in the journey, but I am my own worst enemy, using my precious resources to chase my own tail. I am unfocused, unhealthy, uninspired, unorganized, and out of touch with myself.  My own unhealthy relationship with my internal resources markedly mirror our treatment of our natural resources on the planet. I'm humbled by the lack of respect I give myself - the negative self talk, the weight of responsibilities. The lack of belief that I possess the power to change the world. How can I make manifest the change I wish to see in the world when I burn the only candle I have without care to know where I will get the next one?

One thing is abundantly clear. I am not a limitless resource. I require care, as much as the Earth requires care. As they say in airplane resource pamphlets - adjust your oxygen mask before assisting others. 

Ideal Creative Leader | Declarations

Week 7


As an ideal creative leader, I am unafraid to admit when I am wrong. When I am wrong, I admit that I have things to learn from other perspectives, and from other ways of thinking. When I am wrong, I also open the door for others to be wrong without fear of failure.

As an ideal creative leader, I am unafraid to claim my own worth in relation to the global goals. I network fearlessly, collecting tribal members from across the globe using the millennial tools at hand.  I do not react in fear and inhabit Stage 3 mentalities when creating a team. I resonate at Stage Four mentalities that I may pique the interest of other Stage Four entities who have their antennae up, looking for me.

As an ideal creative leader, I am unafraid to play big, tackling the global issues, and not the petty low hanging fruit of other rivals. I am unafraid to find the ways my business values can address paradigm problems, and while I reach for Stage 5, I create and nurse Stage 4 with my collaborators in a stable environment. 

As an ideal creative leader, I am unafraid to let my inner child-like nature out to play. I nurture my inner child with values of forgiveness, social responsibility, non-judgmental play, and day-dreaming. I provide myself with all the resources I need to succeed, physically and mentally.

Tribal Leadership | 3 Blogs

Week 7

This week in Creative Leadership we touch base with my chosen thought leaders in my journey to becoming an effective, emergent leader within the context of Tribal Leadership.

Diving deeper into the amalgams of Neil Croft’s annals of work, “What is Truth?  unpacks environmental repercussions of truth and lies within company culture. He discusses the need to take a look at honesty as a skill, with which we can get better at with some practice, both from the perspective of how to default to honesty and how to deal with lies. Much of truth is subjective, meaning there will often be legitimate perspectives on any situation and understanding the boundary between what is subjectively true and what is subjectively untrue can be a “question of perspectives or differences between values”. Disagreement, in this case, does not mean lies. Really, in this context, “Being honest is an exercise in constant self analysis, to calibrate our observations against our emotions and express our views more as questions or explorations than as statements”. Neil Crofts goes on to state that the best way to measure someone’s contribution to the group is through their level of honesty. If a person is more honest, listens more, and demonstrates empathy, they are less likely to lie.

In CultureSync’s blog, Carrie Kish’s post, “Your Leadership Brand”, takes tribal leadership and brands the experience, equating reputation with workplace culture. She challenges that leader’s most important assets are their reputations, because “research consistently shows that people only follow those whom they admire or respect”. The bad news is leaders do not own their own reputation, the community does. She goes on to outline what a reputation audit can do for a company – asking questions such as “what can you count on me for?”, “what can you not count on me for?”, “what advise do you have for me?”, and “is there anything else?”. From a format of radical honesty and vulnerability, Carrie submits that the best way to build a culture’s internal assets, you create value within your workplace culture.  

Zen Habit’s Leo Babauta is at it again with his zen approach to the ever present if-then statements programmed into our head, with “The Ultimate Productivity, Simplicity, Finance, Happiness, and Weight Loss Hack”. He reiterates his hallmark of “letting go” as the means to understanding why we can’t manage to get what we want – whether it is productivity, simplicity, finances, happiness, or weight loss. The answer to Leo is “letting go of the should”, loosening the grasp of the inevitable, so that we can enjoy the present.  

Contextualizing these leadership blogs with my reading in Tribal Leadership, I’m reminded that folks that reside in Stage 2 and 3 of Tribal Leadership are caught in loops of negativity that prevent them from rising into Stage 4 and 5. Honesty and lying are a huge measure of whether or not a workplace culture is performing the way that they should to help each other commit to a “we’re great” mentality. Crofts explains it succinctly in “What is Truth?”

“These individuals perceive everyone else as being engaged in the same dog eat dog competition, a brutally Darwinian interpretation of society.  Either being honest is not one of their values, so they experience no shame when they are caught out or they have a facility to rationalise any situation entirely subjectively and in their own interests.”

In CultureSync, attracting Stage 4 leaders and tribe members to your group isn’t easy – it resides on whether or not you as a leader are cultivating your biggest asset, your reputation. Without your reputation, you are bound to remain at Stage 3, or worse Stage 2. Leo, in his round about way, talks about an internal view for this reason. By echoing the same sentiment Carrie mentions in her post, and the consistent need for self reflection in the assessment of dishonesty in the workplace, Babauta gives a simple framework within which individual reflection can happen – for the culture shift to begin with you.

I have been greatly enjoying the lenses within which Creative Leadership can blossom, and how all these disparate thought leaders come together to create a larger, synchronized discourse surrounding collaboration.   

3 Blog Posts, and Some Tribal Leadership

This week in "Theresa's Journey Inward" we see three different perspectives from her three thought leaders in Zen Habits, Culture Sync, and Neil Crofts "Holos". 

Zen Habits, "A Guide to Getting Good at Dealing With Chaos" 

In classic Zen style, Leo Baubista sets up another way of applying his wisdom in creating habits surrounding being okay with chaos. In the same vein of understanding that the source of all our problems comes from our own "mind movie", that is, the "ideal life" that we have set out to ascribe to the world, the source of our problem with chaos comes from our own aspirations for things to remain in and fit inside the box. He ascertains that, given some time and practice, we can fix this disjoint between the ideal situation and the situation at hand to give us more immediate joy in the present moment. 

Culture Sync, "A New Hope" 

From the firm that gave us "Tribal Leadership", Culture Sync unpacks moments where revamping internal culture can break open silos. Through an example of breaking down a traditional hierarchical organization, Culture Sync highlights company reaction to the restructuring as "hopeful", and makes some pointed references to Star Wars: Rogue One. Through rebellion at the ground level, Culture Sync strives to point the current social sphere towards a new era where teams are trusted to run organizations through Tribal Leadership. It concludes with a call to action for newbies to take-no-prisoners when creating open discourse in incumbent company culture. 

Holos, "The Opposite of Safety and the Source of Success"

Neil Crofts in this post regarding obedience claims that its opposite isn't anarchy, it is thinking and empowerment. By addressing fear as the main motivator behind unsuccessful business thinking in the age of contemporary thinking, Crofts demerits the ideology that organizations are only for the gain of monetary value and capitalist idealism. Through breaking down what organizations are for, through the codification of cause and code in specialist applications such as education and crisis, we start seeing that the current mode of thinking does not allow for organizations to be more than simply tools for gain. He ends by asking the question again, what are organizations for?

Tribal Leadership: Reading Summary

"Tribal Leadership" explains five tribal stages in their leadership dogma, helping creative leaders identify which actions affect their organizations, and advising on which strategies will enable the tribe to upgrade to the next level. The authors discuss how each stage has a unique set of leverage points and why it is critical to understand them. The five stages include:

  1.  These are tribes whose members are despairingly hostile—they may create scandals, steal from the company, or even threaten violence.
  2. The dominant culture for 25% of workplace tribes, this stage includes members who are passively antagonistic, sarcastic, and resistant to new management initiatives.
  3. 49% of workplace tribes are in this stage. It is marked by knowledge hoarders who want to outwork and outthink their competitors on an individual basis. They are lone warriors who not only want to win, but need to be the best and brightest.
  4. The transition from “I’m great” to “we’re great” comes in this stage where the tribe members are excited to work together for the benefit of the entire company.
  5. Less than 2% of workplace tribal culture is in this stage when members who have made substantial innovations seek to use their potential to make a global impact.

"Tribal Leadership" claims that leaders, managers, and organizations fail to understand, motivate, and grow their tribes, finding it impossible to succeed in an increasingly fragmented world of business. The often counterintuitive findings of Tribal Leadership are designed to help leaders at today’s major corporations, small businesses, and nonprofits learn how to take the people in their organization from adequate to outstanding, to discover the secrets that have led the highest-level tribes to remarkable heights, and to find new ways to succeed where others have failed.

My personal learning from this book stem primarily from a nice, packaged framework from which to understand company culture. Because I already operate in a fragmented, 1099 work environment, I have more than once only ever interacted with Stage 1 or Stage 2 in my contracting work as a freelance theatre and fine artist. I have been truly lucky in some capacity to have a company culture at the moment that allows me to be vulnerable and part of a key team of people aimed at serving the students in an education role. I know that ultimately I will be a lifelong learner, and will have a long and fruitful career as an educator, but at some point I wish to return to the corporate world and see what that has to offer. When I do, I will take the toolkit I have from this book and create some noise where I see fit. 

Exiting the Silo

Week 5

This week in Creative Leadership, we understand what it means to be linked to community.  

Talented colleagues in my course have had insightful perspectives regarding their connection to the world, and so far it has been a privilege to understand how interconnected we are to a variety of different modes of thinking.  

Mark Chamberlain’s Week 4 post regarding Scott Belsky’s “Making Ideas Happen” provided some valuable insight into the inner workings of in-house design teams. Mark’s insights around the power of an introspective approach when confronted with the myriad responsibilities one has within an organization revealed the importance of knowing yourself before being able to push change from within. While Belsky affirms multiple times in his novel that creatives posses the qualifications to lead, and to organize, teams of people, I appreciate Mark’s honesty in expressing discomfort in this role, in part from whole-heartedly relating to experiences in my own practice. Managing teams of designers, I have found, is the most uncomfortable hat I have had to wear. And yet, of all the validation-seeking and self-marketing tactics I have striven to adopt, this “leadership potential” feels like the least obnoxious hat to wear.

Olivia Pederson, in her expose on three blogs, unpacks transparency within organizations. While I am familiar with understanding social media within context of … well, social situations, I had not fully grasped the capability for it to work as a feedback loop within communications systems in an organization. Her notes on the power of the consumer to influence a company’s stance and production power gives me hope, and affirms that local organizations in town that are tackling the achievement gap are on the right track.  

In fact, in related trends, I’m inspired by social justice organizations that are fighting the good fight. For those who are interested in learning more of this social transparency and diversity, Reve Academy and TheBrandLab are two organizations that are doing amazing work in Minneapolis.

In applying what I’ve learned from Belsky to these two perspectives, I find that my personal reality lies in a multitude of factors, stemming from a disjoint from what I have within, and how to relate to without. What I have appreciated about Zen Habits, both the blog and the book, is this perpetual emphasis of the internal workings of your process. By thoroughly watching what the inner life is doing to sabotage the ability to learn from external sources, and by continually shying away from weakness, the creative professional gets nowhere, fast.

I’m reminded in this moment about a yoga practice called ‘jnana yoga’, or “The Yoga of Wisdom”, which addresses the path of the mind used to inquire into its own nature and to transcend the mind’s identification with its thoughts and ego. And while this may be a turn off for the more logical-minded folks, what has been most helpful in this practice is the fairly straightforward comparison between stretching and fear. I find that my mind has a tendency to get lost in the confusion fear brings. If I use fear as just an indicator, things like growth tend to be less scary. It is your mind’s job to create fear to let you know you might get hurt. The same thing is true for stretching. In my creative pursuits, fear then becomes a form of stretching. Into these things – leadership, organization, self-discovery – I, therefore, lean.

My Inner Child

Week 4


I suffer from what Belsky describes in his book “Making Ideas Happen” as pure idea intoxication. I find it extremely difficult to stop the flow of ideas in favor of pushing forward the ones that are life-giving, employing all the resonance that I have as a creative professional. I have resonated inordinately with so many of the concepts he discusses, and am at danger of plowing through the entirety of the book in one sitting.

It is gratifying to know that a lot of the project management structures that I have in place mimic the suggestions Belsky outlines in his Action, Backburner, and Reference system. Project management for me has never been much of an issue. I typically enjoy creating reference items and a file name convention that makes sense. The problem becomes when I need to get things I’ve written down into a form that I can grasp. Project management softwares such as Slack and Trello have made it really easy to get on board with myself, my husband, and with a team. They’re also very pretty to look at, and so I’ve resonated with his note about how the means for the project management software also mattered.

So, while I feel that this makes sense and is a no-brainer way to look at the world (in that, my system already closely resembles this), I’m still running around after my child-like wonder with this system held out like an appealing mother with a laundry basket. More often than not, inner-me is just having a ball - leaving notes scrawled nonsensically all over everything she can get a hold of, throwing temper tantrums when I try to establish rituals of personal check-ins for goal-setting, and using up so much brain CPU for a Backburner tasks that it becomes incredibly difficult to keep focused on maintaining an action oriented mind state. Mind you, my super power is that if I manage to get my mind on track with the heart, it gets DONE. Period. So, how come I can’t manage to get to that state, more often, with greater success rates?

I am excited to usher in this new era of systems – using one funnel for the brain dump and tips for technological catch-alls. Emailing myself an idea was a novel new way to look at idea generation, and even better that they can get filed in an elegant way with using an idea-related “file name” convention made of Action, Backburner, and Reference. I’m already taking steps to use it and find that my brain matter has more literal SPACE to get things going and generate. Too often I kept trying to maintain a hold on all of it – rarely did I watch my energy line.

John Clease talks about this space-making as a way to provide a moment for your brain to freak out. I appreciate that he honestly and openly discusses the need to allow your brain to panic. I think my biggest problem at times is residing in that strange, tough place where nothing is happening and I’m feeling unproductive. It makes total sense of course – if you jam a space full of junk, and suffocate a seed with too much water, soil, and what-have-you's, you do not have the optimal conditions for growth. But really, in the work environs I have found myself in, this is a refreshing reminder in the importance of mindfulness in my creative practice.

3 Thought Leaders, Influences, and the Pursuit of Meaning

Week 3

It is strange, this life-journey we are all on. Regardless of our desires, inputs, meanings, and intentions to be leaders, what you put into the world and what you are focusing on has a way of injecting itself into your life in ways only you can manifest. 

Last week I expressed frustration with feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of "go-get-it-ness" that seems to be requisite in leadership potential. And while I've been presented with social opinion that I am a leader, or possess leadership qualities, it has always felt to me that no matter how hard I try, or how many relevant things I fill in my life, I didn't possess the stamina to keep up the pace. I was always exhausted, depressed, feeling like my art and skills had no purpose in the world, living on menial stipends for upwards of 40 hours per week. The exhaustion was permeating everything I did, and even the employers I found myself serving.

And the beautiful thing is...this week I experienced a complete shift in what I will fight for, and what I wont. 

In my experience with theatrical productions, a scenic designer leading teams of crafts people and technical directors, I have experienced several instances where the collaborative environment was toxic and dominated by a leadership structure that bred psychological terror. A systemic issue, these leadership structures operated on minimal, stipend based salaries for designers, a show-must-go-on mentality, hyper-masculine tropes, and a director's absolute ability to veto anything a designer/craftsperson had spent hours creating "in the service of telling the greater story". Often, the tight deadlines bred a culture where boundaries were not honored or respected, hours of work was discarded and trashed, directors behaved like dictators becoming really great at executing the singular task at the expense of the team, and nobody felt comfortable coming to the table with leadership issues and abuse.

Imagine my surprise when the blogs I chose to follow for Creative Leadership addressed these very issues in larger contemporary leadership, and problems I was experiencing so acutely in my current events actually extended past the theatrical sphere.  

Granted, theatre is a microcosm where great social experimentations in collaboration begin. The ideal is with a common goal, and a team dedicated to the vision, you can accomplish anything. But after cyclical abuse cycles where I was called upon to put all my vulnerability into art that may or may not get cut because it didn’t fit into a specific vision a director enjoyed, I became disenchanted with collaboration as a leadership style at all.

There must be a better way to do this.  There must be a better way to reside in leadership styles other than those remaining in Independent stages, in silos suspicious of other’s visions and talents. There must be a better way to witness a moment of transformation from speaking to a room, to for a room.

This week, as I transition into a recovering scenic designer, I look to the future with exhausted, but hopeful eyes as I rediscover my why. I have immense potential to change the world, to lead in the ways that I find important, to know that Interdependence is a valid way of collaboration. To not give up, and look forward.