When you feel who matters

It was 5.02am this morning and my new Blackberry (which I didn’t even know was on or off such is my knowledge of it so far) buzzed and woke me.   It took three goes for me to plug in my PIN number but when it did the text from Mum in Christchurch sent a shiver up my spine “Terrible Earth Quake”. It was one of those moments that I shall never forget. Or the next 15 minute frantically trying to contact them and finding a headline on stuff.co.nz that read in huge lettering that a 7.4 quake had hit Christchurch.

Were they trapped under a pile of rubble and one got text out? Were they struggling to find their way around? Clearly they were scared.

I felt devastated with concern and became upset. It made me realise how much my folks mean to me and them being vulnerable with the force of the earth against them was very difficult.

Thankfully we made contact and it was obvious that they were scared. Dad said it was like a bad dream that he hoped to wake from. Like most folk they had no power, books were thrown from shelves and crockery and ornaments smashed.

We’re little beings in a universe that is never static. Planet earth is relatively calm, although today’s events make you wonder, but that’s because we are so small and temporaty. The universe might be mighty and completely beyond our command, but we have emotional connections with loved ones that gives us meaning.

When the core of that meaning was put at risk for me, I felt an immediate and deep sense of empathy. It was me. In this moment did I felt the depth of meaning in this relationship.

They are safe, but they’ve had a frightening experience.

I’ve always known what matters. Today I felt it.

What is your leadership theme?

Just over a year ago on 10 August 2009 I wrote my first blog Who is doing your dirty work. I had started contracting to AUT University a few months earlier to establish the Centre for Innovative Leadership and started the blog partly, at least, to gain a web presence for the Centre.

I came to enjoy blogging and combined some of my other interests – movies, photography and general commentary – into other related blogs.

But the leadership blog remains my core. I’ve learnt a lot about the technical aspects of putting stuff on the web including photographs, linking, doing automatic feeds into twitter and facebook and recently, video – which I believe will be the key to communication on the web going forward.  These words will become more limited.

Speaking of words, I’ve created an electronic book with my 56 (including this one) blogs and done some reflection about the themes within my work (sorry about all the headshots of me – it’s to do with the linking I did on LinkedIn and I can’t remove them … yet!). Writing about leadership has both consciously and unconsciously been a reflection of my own journey in the last year and the other nearly 47 years before that.

Which brings me to themes.

My conscious themes are about authenticity, vulnerability, having fun, photography, narcissism, anti-dogma, transparency. But what else comes through? What are my unconscious themes?

Looking through the blog book and doing some searches I also found a story embedded about my sons, my father and mother, holidays, Space, Evolution, Officials hiding, values, fake personal branding, religion, tolerance, running, forests, driving and disclosure.

No surprise then that that’s been my life this past year: my authentic leadership themes.

What are yours?

Stephen

A week of it

Tomorrow morning I’m going to run a workshop about authentic leadership. I’m pretty certain that Mother Teresa, described as Mother of Mercy will get another airing – my mother, in an act of mercy to someone she never knew,  suggested to me “leave the poor woman alone – she can’t defend herself”. Mum’s right (though if Mother Teresa is where she thought she was going then I guess she can!). We’re also going to talk about personal branding and see if we can discover what if anything, the relationship is between that and authenticity.

Two surveys came out today – one was about who the most trusted New Zealander is and the other was about the most trusted brand. Notice that we weren’t asked to decide who the best branded person was? Not that surprising really for me – if you’ve read any of my blogs you’ll know that I go on a bit about trust and its relationship with leadership and authenticity.

So, authenticity and leadership week. This week came about to celebrate Sir Peter Blake. He struck me at times as a bit gruff and someone who didn’t take any nonsense. If you’re big into emotional intelligence you might say there’s some work to be done if you’re gruff.  But then again, you might think it’s authentic to be who you are. The author Christopher Hitchens who got me thinking about Mother Teresa declares in his book Love, Poverty and War (after describing how, objectively, his life is good and satisfying) that “I wake up ever day to a sensation of pervading disgust and annoyance”. The book explains much of this annoyance.

So I ask myself, if I have a sense of irritation or gruffness, should I exhibit my maximum emotional intelligence and restrain myself? Or are there times to let rip at the ignoramus who texts in the movies, or the paper-pushing bureaucratic that spends our taxes justifying a decision?!! My coach says that I need to get mad sometimes. I’m not sure that this is the week to start. After all, I’m putting myself and others I work with out there to be involved in Leadership Week and people might expect…expect what? Caught myself.

Sorry Mother Teresa (and my Mum). If you are just a brand, expect no mercy!

Stephen

What can you say Mother?

Often when I ask people who are the leaders they admire, along with the usual suspects of Peter Blake, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi we often hear “my mother” or “my father”. We also hear about that other mother, Mother Teresa.

I’m reading essays by Christopher Hitchens who is pretty unflattering about Mother Teresa and accuses her of stage-managing images of poverty to ensure that those who were in poverty, stayed there, even when in her care ie the places she set up, even in America, were stripped of all possible trappings of normal civility.

Lately I have realised that the phrase authentic leadership development is absurd. It’s discovery. Running alongside the idea of authenticity in a parallel, but not necessarily the same universe is the concept of personal branding. Develop your personal brand ladies and gentlemen so people know not only who you are, what you stand for but also what you’re really about.

Is that authentic? Or is it marketing spin? Was Mother Teresa an authentic leader? Or did she simply have a brand of poverty that gave her followers? Does it matter?

Only you know that. Mother Theresa can’t answer that. If, like me, you’re fortunate enough to have a mother you could ask, I’d hazard a guess that she wouldn’t give you much of an answer though. My mother never branded or got told how to brand. But I know what she stands for. So does she.

That’s important I reckon.