Special matters

Two new elements, named 114 and 116 joined the periodic table this week. I didn’t see that on the television news, which isn’t surprising as I’m such a rare watcher of television. This evening I was home and watched though, as there was a plane emergency that I’d heard about on the radio while driving. Then there was $1 ski passes, an IT hiccup in the police communications system that didn’t create any problems other than greater use of pen and paper and, before I started drifting off, some redundancies and the OCR announcement today.

The president of the International Criminal Court says he might have evidence of institutionalised rape in Libya i.e. soldiers are being supplied with sexual performance enhancing drugs (I should have just said Viagra, now I have) – but it’s not funny at all, in fact if it’s true is appalling – to facilitate mass rape of women and children. Their own people.

In my observation, somewhere from the centre to the margins of any institution that purports to own morals are things that truly moral people find repugnant. For example, fundamentalists of any description have moral rules about stealing, murder, rape etc which we can all relate to, in fact we don’t need them as “rules” as we’re moral. But go out a little and you’ll likely find that it becomes immoral to, for example, divorce or work on certain days. None of these things are morals, they’re rules. Or is it circular? They might think that they are morals if you view the deemed inappropriate behaviour as immoral. But why do you view it as immoral? Dig a little deeper and you’ll find the rule that sits behind the so-called (and I’d say fake) moral.

Which of course begs the question about how we get morals. And do they change? There’s greater minds than mine alive today who can argue that morals are part of us, and part of us that grows as we evolve and develop greater insights into our own happiness. We’ve been finding new elements on average every two and a half years for the last 250 years. If we looked back 250 years we’d find some pretty strange things called morals. Strange for many of us, but not so strange for some people, still stuck in the rule book.

So does all this matter? Yes. It matters greatly if a government assaults its citizens. It’s an outrage and the work of evil people. Or an organisation spreads lies about the preventative impacts of condoms, to conform to its “rules”. Even as we evolve and grow, parts of our species stagnates, goes backwards, but I hope, will again lurch forward again one day.

A lot of variations in perceptions of right and wrong – morals – have surfaced in this information age. At the same time our understanding of our environment marches on, and new elements are discovered and put on the school science tables.

These elements are special matters in our world. Science quietly advances and challenges our thinking of what we assume is static and settled. No chance. Morals are like science too, which we’ll keep growing and evolving. I hope we will look back and wonder how primitive we were.

Morals are special matters too, that deserve our special attention to ensure we are all happy. That’s the core of what a moral is about. Whether in Tripoli or Takapuna.


Gritty Leadership

You need a Western every year or two. Clever girl’s father is killed and she gets a Federal Marshall and a Texas Ranger on the case. There’s some real Coen Brother’s scenes on the way through – True Grit is aptly named.

It’s been quite intense work-wise the last couple of weeks and at times I’ve had to dig in. All the appointments still need to be met, clients seen, programmes planned and delivered and then get to the movies too!  I can’t have a week without at least one movie and some running. Luckily I don’t have to camp out in the snow in my long coat, leather hat and shotgun. Maybe it’s not really that tough.

At the beginning of March I blogged that it felt like time for a holiday for some people already and I’m not sure that it’s got any quieter, in fact quite the opposite. My sister mentioned on Facebook today that when she picked up her car from the mechanic today, she discovered that the attractive woman in the photograph was the mechanic’s late partner, killed in the earthquake. That’s true grit.

Most of us get on with our lives whatever the circumstance – even in Tokyo you hear that life is kind of normal – however, it’s not time to forget those still in need. I was listening to an interview on National Radio this morning with social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson on the science of happiness. Her research has revealed that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with the negative will lead you to a tipping point of resilience that will sustain you through the tough times.

What I liked about this research is that it talks not just about attitudes but also attention – where your attention is directed is led by your emotions. I don’t pretend to feel the grit required of the mechanic. Or those in northern Japan. With pain and suffering so close to the surface. If you’re leading in gritty times this stuff might put it in perspective.

Getting through the gritty times requires our positive emotions – 3 to 1 – to direct our attention to those matters that will keep us resilient and strong. So whatever it is for you, movies, running, swimming, meditation, music, reading or just chilling with friends, don’t overlook it when the times get gritty. In fact pump it up.

Maybe lose the leather hat though.


Does being authentic mean you can do anything?

At the end of the year WordPress, who host this blog, send me some statistics about the site, including how many visitors I’ve had, how many blogs I wrote, what the most popular pages and posts were, and what searches people use to find their way to the site.

The most common searches were stephen drainstephen drain autnegative leadershipnegative leadership traits, and rubik’s cube. I can understand the first two and last one gets searchers to me as I once wrote a blog mentioning the Rubik Cube (I wonder if I’m what they’re looking for? – all questions but no Rubik solution!). I’ve noticed during the year the regular,

Something so right - New Chum Beach, Coromandel

daily searches that people do for “negative leadership”. I don’t know who they are so I can’t ask.

But it is worth exploring in the context of authenticity. If I’m a negative prick, just because I am, then I’m authentic right? So carry on? If I lead by manipulation as that’s my natural way of doing things, authentic to me if you like, then that’s okay too isn’t it? What if I’m overly reflective and don’t participate in leadership meetings when I don’t feel like it? That’s my authentic self so why should I change?

All wrong I say. Sam Harris in his persuasive TED talk challenges a view that science can have no determination on morals. The same should be strongly asserted for leadership. As we have evolved as a species and developed a greater understanding of the human condition, leadership and happiness we are entitled to reach a scientific consensus on what is appropriate or not in leadership.

I know of leaders who use authenticity as an excuse for primitive behaviours like bullying, manipulation and silence. If nothing else my blog searchers tell me that there’s lots out there that some folk reckon is wrong. Negative.

Discovering and developing our authenticity can not be to the exclusion of growing and evolving ourselves. So if you’re a negative prick, don’t use authenticity as your excuse! Some things are just wrong. And some things are right.



I hope that the people who interacted with us during Leadership Week both at our workshops or the many that I am grateful passed by this blog and the Centre’s site took something away.  If they did, I hope that something grows. Discovering my leadership happens at many levels as I was reminded again today by my friend Dr Vikram Murthy.  We can now see on MRI examinations much of what we previously estimated through observations and testing. It’s a bit like knowing the world is round by looking at it from space. Not that long ago we humans thought it was flat, but slowly the thinking developed and we established that it was, well you know the rest! These developments in Neuroscience are  incredibly exciting. The neuroscientist Sam Harris has put forward the proposition that the determination of our values can also be from a scientific basis. More on all this another day.

Last week was both exhilarating and tiring. Exhilarating as I watched eyes opened to values, authenticity and leadership discovery. These were eyes that might not ordinarily get to go on a course. Tiring because, I’m proud to say, I gave it all at our workshops. To do less would have just been work. Add shop to work and I’m away!

I see my diary has another authenticity workshop this week at the ATEM Aotearoa Conference. Fortunately for me I was playing around with the AUT HR system and got myself some leave yesterday (strange but true) and I spent time refreshing.  We all need to refresh and now I’m ready for more.

That we can continually discover things about ourselves and our leadership is the most exciting part of it all. When we think it’s done and dusted, then I reckon that’s when we’re done and dusted. But today I feel like it’s just starting again.

Bring it on!