Enlightened Leadership-Where Art Thou?

I’ve written and lectured on Leadership for many years. Have read thousands of pages on the subject and studied the philosophers from different periods seeking possible answers to what attributes or life styles contributes to a person attaining high marks as a leader. What comes out of my search, which continues to this day, are the life experiences an individual has and what knowledge they extract from those experiences. In other words, they not only stand on the shoulders of great leaders that have come before them, but themselves have been muddied and bloodied in the process of becoming what they are. None are born leaders, in fact, there are no such people, but only through thought and action (the trials and tribulations they have faced) a few become great leaders. Also, none are self made, but shaped through relationships with others whether brief encounters, even accidental, or lifelong partners.

It is also true that quality leaders teach primarily through being who they are and in the process become students to those they teach. Keep in mind that this relationship and the cross influences are not necessarily formal, but an organic way of relating. This sharing and growing are natural processes we label “mutuality.” It is seen in the trust they demonstrate with knowledgeable people they bring into their Inner Circle. These special people are not ideologues, but people with considerable experience and success in their respective fields. None are puppets to be manipulated, but proven leaders themselves. 

The quality leader does not seek extensions of them self, or waste their time forcing agreement. This leader views each person as the unique being they are and as a consequence they participate with them in “genuine dialogue”. And they are not blind to history, but know that what was is yesterday and that “what is” and “to come” is considerably more important. They are an open book and apart from the pages of their own history what is to be written has few if any hidden expectations of themselves or others, but truth, honesty and fairness.

Jose Gasset, (philosopher/professor, Spain 1920s) made the following observation to his students: “Many that live in these days believe the period we live in is more than all the rest that precedes us. And yet, at the same time feels that it is a beginning. Superior to other times, but inferior to itself; strong, indeed and confident and at the same time uncertain of its destiny; proud of its strength and creativity and at the same time fearing it.)   I quote Gasset because I strongly agree that the quality leader and “the student to be leader” accept this as truth. That today is full of almost unlimited possibilities and the leaders of this day and time are given the responsibility as none before have been given. We live in a time where leadership is becoming more important than ever before. Previously we believed we lived in separate lands divided by large rivers, mountains, deserts, jungles, oceans and that nations could stand alone. We know today that this is all history long gone. Now most of us accept that we live together on a small planet, limited resources, exploding population, degrading environment and science that has proven that we are all, black, white and others brothers and sisters. We are relatives one to each and all.  If True, why is hate so prevalent? We would think that most of us know or have learned that we either live and to live well together, or the alternative which must be unacceptable to all, but sadly is not. And that is the destruction of our home we call Planet Earth, but certainly civilization as we know it. Our time, as no other time, calls for Enlightened Leadership and the question: Where Art Thou? 

On Aging – A Personal View Pt.2

The friends that requested my thoughts on aging opened a can of worms. As long as I stick with expressing my own feelings and thoughts I’ll continue to do so. Have no intention of speaking for others. I can’t and won’t.

Since creative writing is one of the essentials to my well being I’ll continue this brief essay approach. It’s my style anyway. To begin: Based on the comments I receive this feeds me to write more on a given topic or work on other paths.. A good thing to be sure because it stimulates ideas to write on and I so enjoy hearing from those I send my essays. Whether in agreement or not it’s all food for thought and I look forward to whatever is written. On the other hand, no obligation to respond to anything I write. Expectation is not my thing.   

What I find interesting is that my recent papers on aging have produced a significant response. In fact it is why this paper continues with aging. Having always given effort to being there for those I worked with and served it’s obvious that this is a hot subject and calls out to say more. I try.

To begin I certainly believe each of us approaches aging in our own unique way. Some fear it and do what they and money can do to allay those fears. They may try, but to what avail? Time is limited for all. I say and live each day as best I can. Now is good enough; be grateful and loving to yourself and others. 

My primary anchor to life and living is Lenette followed behind by an exercise routine and proper diet. Also very important are my friends. How blessed Lenette and I are to have many and so varied.  Added to this list is reading and creative writing which forces me to think. Also the ancient adage and my mantra “live in the present and be as fully here/now as possible.” Something I had trouble with when younger. It was always one foot in the present and one foot in the future. Today it’s all: Live and love now.

In any case, writing and speaking about aging as I am is fair game and I am able to do that. I can and will share with you my thoughts on the subject. Speaking for others is out of the question. We cannot know the other. Trust me when I say or write “It is difficult or maybe impossible to know the other.” 

So this is about me and if it offers a bit of a road map for you, maybe that’s a good thing?  Finally, (a proper word here) I do not waste my time with longevity. The future is not mine to know so I let it be. Today is my gift and I do my best to love my way through it.   Sy


Life’s the gift to live——Waste not what is so precious——–It is here and now.

One is the teacher———One is the student to teach———They need each other.

The journey is short———-Smell each rose and see the sky——-Feel the path you walk.

On Aging-A Personal View Pt.1

A dear friend asked if I’d write about aging. I’ll give it a try.

Since I’m not too far from entering the 90s (three plus months) one would think I ought to be able to write/say something about my own growing old(er)? I do not speak for others (don’t believe I ever have) always trying to do my best to share what I know to be true or believe to be true. So what follows are my present experiences. One thing for sure is that I’m coming to recognize that aging is a complex subject and that I am going through phases or periods of being what I was and being what I am and even thinking about what I might be? Clearly, it is not easy to “broad brush” aging other than to acknowledge it is something I’m working hard to understand. I just as soon not think about it, but I find this to be impossible.

First and relative to my past, I continue to feel I am still capable of teaching about power and its off shoots (relationships, communication and leadership). In fact, I often find myself thinking about the subjects and its importance in all of our lives. I also have a sense (perhaps because I am more contemplative than I remember being?) that I actually understand the issues with greater clarity than previously and getting to the meat and potatoes of what is significant and needs to be understood. Why and how come? I have more time to think about my many experiences. Previously, everything was about preparation and execution. Digging for significant insights and understanding had to be my first task and this followed by sharing in the most enlightened way I was able. My intentions were to be pragmatic as against philosophical and now I feel I am a bit more philosophical. That is, I feel philosophy is the earth that gives life to what is pragmatic.   

The second part of what I am experiencing is my being present and in the moment. Most everything, each day, is something very special and enjoyable for me. Sharing time with Lenette has always been my first choice. Today it is even more so. Also, looking at trees, flowers, birds, the river, sky, colors each minute gives me pleasure as do the people I am blessed to share time and dialogue with. Even composing this brief one pager is a joy and a challenge to me. I don’t anticipate completion and, in fact, do not set a time to complete anything, but to be in the middle of what-ever I am doing and allow it to unfold in its own particular way. A brief pleasantry to share: On the way to the gym I belong to (work out five days a week) is an eagle’s nest. Each year for the last six or seven two eagles arrive, settle in on their large nest high up in the tree, lay eggs and soon are caring for three to four eaglets. Almost daily Lenette and I drive by the tree and nest to view the eagles. We both feel blessed to be witness to their family life until they all depart before summer. And yes, we look forward to next spring and the eagles return. 

The third part to my triad is the future. What the future holds is a mystery that unfolds each moment as we move into it and we are aware of its unpredictability. Looking backward we are aware of how the past-present and the past-future occupied our full time and energies.  If we did not control events of that time we thought we could, and even if not possible we tried. Finally, in the midst of all that we created and were responsible for we found time and ways to explore the physical world and its people. Someway, somehow, we feel and hope it all worked out well.        Sy

How important is leadership?

To know is a more concrete word than believe because it is what we actually experience. So, what I know is that a leader’s words and behavior are far more important to those under and close to them than generally accepted and understood. Too often leaders are unaware of their power to influence whether through a subtle look or actions they take. On the other hand, those who are close to their leader, because they experience directly the words and behavior of their leader, are definitely more aware of who and what the leader is than the leader can possibly know of their impact on them and why. The leader is not blind to the results of their influence, but usually to its cause. Hence, results that meet the leader’s expectations may be rewarded, but if negative, leaders tend to blame others for disappointing outcomes.

 The “why” is simple? Those dependent on the leader, and in particular those close to the leader, experience the experience of harmful and even destructive leadership, or, if lucky, the benefits of quality leadership. People know this first hand if they are close to the leader and not through hearsay. If the leader does not create the environment for dialogue to take place who does? How is mutuality possible without the safe space that needs to exist between the one and the other? And the feeling of true safety in relationship does not exist through words but consistent behavior that exudes respect. 

Inadequate, out of touch, destructive leaders are not cast in concrete. Their behavior is learned behavior beginning early in life. And it is what they have learned that is actually possible to unlearn meaning that any person who has difficulties in relationships whether between two or leading a class room of students, employees or a squad in battle has within them the capacity to change, to grow, to know a different way of being and I do not mean or imply acting. 

The very difficult challenge is not an exterior experience, but a commitment by the leader to know themselves through the eyes and words of those who know them best. This takes considerable courage on the part of both the other and the leader. The other (subordinate to the leader) takes great risk in being genuine and must know deeply in their gut they are safe to go where they have not gone before. They must feel secure and welcome. They must experience being listened to and confirmed by the leader. At the same time leaders must be seen as vulnerable (open) and accepting even if not agreeing with what is being communicated. (Agreement is not essential to Genuine Dialogue)Without the aid of an appropriate facilitator/mentor this may be possible, but not likely since overcoming previous experiences of misuse of power is a difficult barrier to set aside. People may forgive, but do not forget.

Learned behavior tends, over the years, to become inflexible and rigid, but not hardened to the point that only a sledge hammer can do the job. Clearly, destroying a leader is destroying a human and never the intention of change and growth. In any case, it is not the words coming from outside the person that brings a change in attitude, behavior, understanding, but the way the leader processes what they hear and feel. Nothing written here is meant to imply nuance or subtly. A leader that chooses to grow never does this easily and without considerable trepidation. Not many leaders or people are willing to be vulnerable with those who know them best. True growth means rarely going back to where you have come from. This is not an appearance change, but a change of perspective and understanding. Sy

Bernard Palissy’s Quote

A family member sent me the following quote attributed to Bernard Palissy, Fourteenth Century artist, engineer and writer. 

“Even if used a thousand reams of paper to write down all the accidents that have happened to me in learning this art, you must be assured that however good a brain you may have, you will still make a thousand mistakes, which cannot be learned from writing, and even if you had them in writing you wouldn’t believe them until practice has given you a thousand afflictions.”

Who amongst us has not experienced the difference between listening to what others say, reading what others have written compared to our own full immersion in the issue or project we read and hear others discuss? It’s why I contend and have written time and again of the importance of our own experiences, whether planned or accidental and how vital it is that we learn from what we do as well as the errors, omissions and successes of others. This is ultimately how people arrive at that “aha” moment. It is where “I Know!” results from endless head, heart and hands involvement. 

How many times in a day do we hear someone say “I know” when really they are parroting the words spoken and written by others? People say they “know” even if they have not actually experienced what it is they say they know so they don’t know, but think they know and too often this means beings closed off to knowing. For thousands of years people depended on pictures on cave walls, word of mouth, story tellers and balladeers for information. The data instantly available today is almost overwhelming. But whether the picture on a wall or the unlimited information on the internet none of this is knowing when compared to knowing from personal experience. And to complicate the issue of experiential knowing, our personal experiences are never without bias. 

Have you ever played the game of “telephone” where someone whispers to the person next to them and the next person whispers what they heard to the next one and so on until all the people in the circle had a story relayed to them? It’s a laugher as to how quickly a story is changed from one person to the next. Is it that we hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see?

We humans are limited in our ability to be objective. As long as we have feelings and history we also have influences playing on our thought processes and behavior. So nothing is crystal clear and pure when it comes to humans as reporters, story tellers, leaders and teachers even if they have “been there and done that.” So the “knower” never conveys an exact truth. People are not cameras. No, our subjectivity is pervasive and is part of everyone’s experience. That being said, I strongly hold to the quote at the beginning of this paper that in order to really know something one must experience it. The message is clear: Don’t deny or resent your experiences. Learn from them.   Being a student is a never ending drive for some and all students are to be commended. But being a student to others written and spoken words does not lead to knowing it leads to a”between the ears” understanding. This is a good thing, but limited to answering questions not solving problems. The true problem solver is similar to the true entrepreneur. They will be knocked down, maybe bloodied, face failure time and again, but continue their particular journey because they are driven to know and to know must be experienced.

What does it mean to be “vulnerable?”

I intend it to mean strength, courage and a willingness to be open to those closest to us and to ourselves. It is where growth takes root and moves out into the world we live in and with those with whom we live and work. It is honest, respectful, nurturing and accepting. Most importantly those who are vulnerable listen and work to understand the other. In the process being who they are, but because of events, people and being vulnerable are also in a state of becoming.

In truth, all humans are born open and vulnerable, but too soon begin the process of closing up to being and becoming what others (in power) influences them to be. And, therefore, to a considerable degree we learn to be what others choose for us to be and this may be harmful or loving.

If loving, nurturing and accepting we remain ourselves still growing, being and becoming, but always our unique self and not what others would have us be.

If harmful to us and unconscious or intentional to the perpetrators (those who hold power over us) we become what we must in order to survive. But this is learned behavior and regardless of how deep, it is still learned. And what humans learn can be unlearned. Much difference between what we inherit and what we learn. The former is permanent and the latter may be changed.

Not without courage to be open and vulnerable are people able to change. All of us can appear to be open, but “appearance” is an act. It is the wearing of an exterior that we believe hides us and therefore fools the other, but in truth, those closest to us are not fooled. They know much of the truth of whom and what we really are. Others are, after all, relatively objective of us as we are of them, but we are all too subjective of ourselves. We rarely look in, but spend most of our time looking out and believing the mirror.

And this is what being vulnerable means and why it takes courage. Being open to the objectivity of those close to us is never easy to experience. First, of course, it is fear of our weaknesses being exposed. And secondly, it means giving up one’s power to significant others if even temporarily.  

Finally, if just for now, the most powerful amongst us are the people who most need to be vulnerable and invite those important to them to communicate what they “know” of the one in power. Dangerous grounds to stand on without a knowledgeable mentor to facilitate the interaction and any hope of mutuality and true dialogue.

True growth and change begins deep within each self and happens only when what is outside is allowed in.    Sy

Season’s greeting to all

The world is in a difficult place. We in our own country are in a difficult place. Too many families and individuals are in a difficult place. Politically, we are split down the middle as a country with issues that appear to be intransigent. Is there one possible way out to all of this that might just be common to all of us? In my own very insignificant opinion I believe buried somewhere in most, if not all of these issues is the problem of communication.  Not news, radio, TV, cell phones and the thousands of app communications, but old fashioned face to face dialogue. And which includes listening, actually trying hard to understand what the other is saying, and confirming them, not necessarily agreeing, but actually understanding from whence they come with some modicum of empathy? 

The data from our technologies (yesterdays and today’s) is unbelievable, and certainly has value in terms of information constantly accumulating and available to one and all. But information and data are not necessarily truths, and most certainly have nothing to do with one’s own personal “hands on experiences.”

Hearsay, by any means, including the avowed experiences of others is not our own experience. How weak and helpless are those that make the words and supposed experiences of others their own truths. It is not “I was told or read” but becomes “I know“ when in fact nobody knows what they have not personally experienced. 

We as a culture and society are in deep trouble, and I strongly believe this has much to do with our dearth of time to seriously be with each other, to touch, to see, to hear and to understand each other. Many do not eat together, meet together to share the day and their thoughts and feelings. How and in what way are we together e-mailing, texting, talking on our cell phones to each other? And finally how can we miss our evening favorite and absolutely essential TV programs depicting life as we ourselves are not living it?

Family is held up as the strength and heart of our country. Are those who believe this today serious? How many families sit down at the kitchen table together for dinner intent on hearing and understanding the words and stories each has to tell, and want to tell? And this without TV and cell phone interference? Work is such that we become so busy that meetings do not take place because they are wasted not on dialogue which is never a waste, but on firm agendas. And where and when are the spontaneous and creative interactions between people? Those of us that know genuine dialogue with our significant others are truly the blessed ones. 

Have a wonderful and loving holiday season, and may the New Year bring some peace to all. Sy

Some End of the Year thoughts

Have not written a paper for some time; it seems like my writing a book has taken precedence over my one pager’s? 

So far I have about 7 chapters written. The one I’m locked in at this time seems to be the core of what this book is supposed to be about. It’s the “power” chapter that everything else seems to be circling around. In any case, I’ve developed a philosophy about my writing, and that is to allow it to go where “it” wants to go as against my having a predetermined course or outline. Also, I’m enjoying so who cares.

Both Lenette and I feel great considering that the years pile up, and each day is that much more wonderful. I guess this has much to do with how one’s mind and body are functioning? I believe that our having been around the young for so much of our life has something to do with this. We’ve never felt different or apart from those we worked and lived with. The older ones we did know seemed old and we so much younger, even if our years were similar. It certainly has something to do with attitude as well as remaining active. It’s a package.

Back to the book: Having honed my style as a teacher, and one that nurtured spontaneous feedback, writing only to satisfy some inner voice within me is a totally new experience. As stated, I enjoy this dialogue with this “inner voice,” and have no desire to impede its influence on my fingers. 

 I hope to have the book finished by the end of this summer (at the latest), and seek how and what process to go about having it published; (any help or ideas are appreciated). Since I always believed (and even more strongly today) that this philosophy is so pragmatically correct and needed I feel that it will (not can) make a difference in the lives of the more powerful in the world of business, education, politics, and yes, even parenting. In other words, where power between people is an issue (and where is it not?) it will challenge the real and actual of this day; probably more than previously, and this due to the impact of technology. 

There are certain truths that exist no differently today than at the beginning of humankind. The one I focus on is that power is both a gift and a problem that takes place between each of us. To know this means to use power well and for good. To claim to know this, and to use power for ill and evil is madness. No one; in particular the one in power can avoid this truth. Using power as a tool to win over others as compared to using power to grow others is a disease insidious to all.

So, like the opening that is nothing but a “few thoughts” I wish you all good health and a better year for all of us and the world.


Signs of Our Times

The stuff that happens in Washington D.C. is absolute confirmation that “COMMUNICATION IS THE PROBLEM TO THE ANSWER.” It is so obvious that in the business world whenever decisions need to be made they are made.  They may not be good ones; they may be slow in coming, or even too hastily arrived at, but they are made. It’s the leader’s responsibility to get what needs to be done, done! In fact, all the work we did together over the years was aimed at facilitating communication and problem solving in an authentic way. That genuine dialogue was a stated goal so that the best and most honest opinions for the good of the whole could be brought to the table.  Our purpose was never to impede decision making, but to get the best suggestions on the table and to choose, and run with a consensus if possible, and without it, if necessary, but in a timely manner. On the other hand, businesses are not democracies, and the leader is not an elected politician whose primary purpose is to be a representative of his/her constituents.  So comparing political leadership with business leadership is as foolish as comparing the operation of a government with that of a business.  The political leader has many strings attached to what powers they appear to have, and these may be withdrawn if the constituents’ needs are not being met. The business leader “owns” both the power and the strings. They fear the loss of money and business, but not the voice and vote of their employees. And the point to this brief paper is that the politician does worry too much about the voice and vote of their constituents to the loss of the “greater good,” and the business leader does not understand how important the voices and votes of their employees are to their business success. The former is weakened by knowing they have too little power, and the other by believing they have all the power. Neither is true.

There are important similarities to leading as a politician and leading as a business leader. They both need the support of the people that for the one, voted them into office, and for the other that work for them. But if the politician is to move beyond the constraints of their limiting community to the larger and much more important view of the country they must also mentor their constituents to this “greater good.” This is never easy, but essential if democracy is to work. The alternative is bound to fracture any democratic country into hundreds of isolated and weakened camps. (Think Balkanization?)

The business leader needs their people, in a sense, to vote and support them also, but this is a challenge beyond what most understand, and are therefore incapable of achieving. Getting employees to a committed level of performance beyond that of earning a paycheck is probably every bit as difficult as teaching one’s constituents to understand and support the “greater good.” Neither is an impossible task, but does require courage to communicate genuinely, patiently, and clearly. “Being” is never easy. 

For every politician and every business leader “communication is the problem to the answer.” And what is communicated is experienced by each individual, and what people perceive (not necessarily what is actually said or done) turns out to be one’s own truth. So if a country’s “greater good” are the issues and a business’s “success and growth” are its issues, both type leaders need to be what they say and do. For the politician, this means knowledge of the subjects, ability to negotiate, to understand the other, to explain, to learn, to be willing to give a little in order to get a little, and to enlighten. For the business leader, are they really that different?                                                                                                                    Sy

Genuine Dialog

I may be the wrong one to attempt a paper on the joys, hopes, rewards and potential of technology, and its myriads of problems. On the other hand, since I am still partially in the cave, I have the sense of push and pull in both directions. I do want to learn how to use and benefit by this remarkable phenomena, and at the same time not to have it replace the “face to face” dialogue I have lived my life and work trying to understand, use and teach.

My thoughts shout at me that communication between people is not the problem. We are probably more in touch with each other than at any time in man’s history? But the “being in touch” is like walking on water. That is, we are communicating to each other, but not getting wet. Face to face dialogue is getting wet! And Genuine Dialogue is like having a spiritual (full immersion) experience. Today, our technology aided communication is a very dry experience; not only dry, but antiseptic. What we touch is not each other, but a tool. Too few are immersed in significant relationships that require, even demand, a sharing of space that is separated by a few feet, and often inches. Where eye to eye contact gives us a full bodied message as compared to only hearing and seeing words; how can this be when what is called communication takes place through small hand held objects and computers, and at distances that may cover the world?

Yes! The amount, speed, and kind of data that is transferred between people are not simply remarkable, but is shaping our world as we live this moment. The miracle of Egypt was precipitated by this technology; without which their many issues may have simmered for another 30 years. So what nation, business, community, religious institution, family is not in some way at the effect of this technological revolution?  People movements from the Tea Party to those on the other side of the spectrum know of the power, but hardly of its possibilities because it changes, metamorphoses’ before our eyes. It is a tool that may even, one day in the not too distant future, control us as its controller.

So my point, before I run beyond my allotted space (one page) is that if we are to hold on to our humanity, and the primary purpose of our being, it must be through our relationships with each other, and what I still believe evolution is about. That is, moving towards being there for each other, hearing and understanding each other; respecting individual differences, and yes, loving our neighbors as we also need to be loved. We must be present with each other when we do meet face to face, or how else do we confirm each other? And candor in the safety of distance and technology is not the candor of Genuine Dialogue.  And this must happen in at least a minimum of our relationships.

 It has been said that if one can count five friends in a life time they will have lived a rich, full life. We may call the multitudes we reach on Twitter, Face book, E-mail our “friends,” but I don’t think so. And, I venture, either do you. So put aside, as often as possible, all the technology you are using, and begin anew with your truly select friends, a dialogue that is genuine. Be with each other when with each other, show respect for the uniqueness that is brought to the table. Listen and confirm what is being said, and this has nothing to do with agreement, and express your truth; not as a definitive truth that wins over their truth, but simply your truth versus their truth. Finally, look into the other’s eyes as they look into yours. It is amazing this oldest and most permanent of communication “tools” I label GENUINE DIALOGUE.                       Sy