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?

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.

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.   

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.

Comparisons of Leadership - A Primer

Week 2

Unpacking, describing, and studying leadership traits across leaders is difficult without a benchmark. In narrowing leadership style to a handful of leaders, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Desmond Tutu, and Madeline Albright,  it becomes easier to differentiate styles of leadership and their development. Former South African President Nelson Mandela was an anti apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation. His leadership style is compared to the traditional African style of leadership comparinghis followers to cattle – mainly that he leads from behind and guides his followers towards a conclusion.  South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu described Mandela as a servant of the people – not in it for his own aggrandizement, but leading on behalf of his people. Barak Obama, former President of the United States, channeled his leadership style from a sense of embodied power – he removed the gap between his “public” person and his “private” person.  In other words, he derived his leadership from an authenticity that created resonance with his followers. Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson has always been an entrepreneur, beginning his legacy at 16 with a magazine called Student. Branson, in his interview at the London Business Forum in 2008,  describes his leadership style as one that is open to his followers. Prioritizing relationships, opening full social strata communication organizationally, and creating personal value for his followers, Branson is also an example of leadership style that is decentralized, dispersing power to the employees at this command.

Following up on this stacked male leadership case study, Madeline Albright provides insight to leadership styles for women in a predominantly masculine fields. The first female secretary of state cites that social barriers are the primary barrier to effective leadership – her role models were admittedly male, but when discussing leadership with gender, the largest priority for her was to build her female counterparts up. By removing the “Queen Bee” complex, and thus the competition, Albright stresses that leadership can be something women can do for each other, to build each other up. This unification strategy, though focusing on women’s rights, echos the similar sentiments purported by Obama, Mandela, and Branson, as the collective power is greater than the individual. 

Taking a step back and unpacking the salient points regarding effective leadership across these materials, we see many things highlighted from trait and behavioral theory – eg. the traditional African style of “herding” from Mandela, a sense of theatricality with Obama embodying power, flexibility and the ability to usher conflicting sides to a cause as denoted by Albright and Branson. The material discussing Richard Branson’s approach to leadership unpacks more behaviors and traits – the ability to have everyone that he is leading feel important from every level, the notion of leading with both hearts and hands, being a good listener, the leader as a servant… all idealized soft skills of a good leader in the idealized form.

What’s both interesting and tough when looking at and comparing styles of leadership between Barack Obama and Mandela is the continuation and reliance on traditional leadership archetypes to make sense of contemporary leadership today. Traditional studies on traits espousing to breed “the most effective leaders” as dictated by thought-pioneers in leadership focus on commonalities that still tie back to “The Great Man” theory of leadership. On the surface, this theory is masculine, supports heroism in the face of adversary, requires the leader to have validated his power in some capacity by a demonstrable journey that gives the person experiential power to empathize with the masses. Take this a step further, and this theory starts to read a lot like the Anglo-Saxon definition of the Christ figure – martyr, humble, representative and absolver of sins. Being that these figures, with the exception of Mandala, are from a country where Christianity permeates the cultural group think, it isn’t surprising to see where the discussion garnered its trait and behavioral value system. It isn’t so much that I’m questioning the validity of leadership born from hardship, or that there is a problem with heroism and leadership being garnered from Christian ideology. What I would like to take a look at is how leadership can move away from these concepts entirely. What do other religions doto embody and assign power? What are matriarchal forms ofleadership? Are these truly universal – the traits of leadership? What kind of buy in do we need from followers to accept a different way of leading?

As we begin to decentralize power – the distribution of authenticity becomes a type of leadership that gives some rules dictating how things should be run, but is by no means prescriptive. In the New York Business article, Leading Clever People, Rob Geoffee and Gareth Jones speak to this change in leadership. With what we call as the 1099 culture, the independent contractors are changing how we think about job opportunities, the economy, and the exchange of value. Gone are the days we have looked to leaders to provide security – the advent of technology brings the power to a truly democratized level where the follower has the power to change and lead in her own sphere, in her own capacity. Where, then, does leadership stand? Is it a dictator, leading the vulnerable? Or is it the freelancer, knowing their worth and pushing the value of the job market to reflect his expertise?

Economies of value are changing, and so is leadership.

Blog post by Theresa Akers, MASD Candidate