Zen Habits

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

A9.1  

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.

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.