Ownership And Integrity

We create the culture of our organizations by what we feed them.  Organizational cultures don’t grow haphazardly, rather they are a reflection…of us and our priorities.  And like giant tree mulching machines, they devour what we throw into them and spit it back out at us…spraying it across the organizational landscape. 

Leaders must own their culture.

It is not enough to say that it is something that I inherited…created long before my arrival.  People are not that interested in hearing what was…they are interested in what will be.  Once the short-lived honeymoon period is over…for better or worse the culture of the organization is yours to own.

And with ownership comes responsibility.

For better or worse, leaders will reap what they sow.  The culture you create will be reflected back to you through the actions and decisions of those within.  Which is why leaders should not be surprised when a dysfunctional climate causes poor decisions and actions to incubate and exist.

Leaders create the conditions.

More and more we see leaders in our society willing to step aside, shirking organizational responsibility and ownership.  Stepping away from conditions they have created…standing blameless in the aftermath.  Leaders whose self-serving actions and teflon persona leave them personally vilified…champions of their own leadership.

And why not…why should the leader be responsible for the culture of the organization, inherited or not?  Why should a leader be responsible for the issues that reside within the organization?  Isn’t the leader just working with what they have been given?

All well and good in mental theory…yet, very thin words in reality, especially for those in the organization receiving them.

When we sign on to lead…for better or worse, it is a ownership proposition.  Whatever honeymoon given…is and should be short-lived at best.  Whether you are entirely happy is besides the point…it is yours to own.  To cultivate, tend, and grow.

Ownership begs for integrity…integrity and character in responsibility to the climate and culture of the organization.

Our society is overwhelmed with transgressions…scandals, cheating, fraud, dishonesty, disengagement, and other issues that strike at the very heart of the character and integrity of the organization and their leadership.  Organizations led by those eager and willing to step aside and assuage blame across the organization as they conveniently sweep it away from their doorstep.

We must acknowledge that the culture we create serves as the culprit for the results we receive…

Authentic leaders take ownership of that…even when the results are not what they expect or want.  They do not wash their hands of responsibility…even when it is not their fault.  It happened while they were at the wheel.

Leaders of integrity and character do not step aside when the bus is bearing down on their people, rather they step to the front…often taking the brunt of the force to protect those they serve.

And you can’t wash your hands from that.

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”  -Samuel Johnson


Our Inner Voice: Coach or Critic?

“Each day we wake to the sounds of a mental melody…an inner voice.  One that sets the stage for the day’s possibilities or impossibilities.” 

We often complain of the multitude of meetings and appointments that we regularly schedule and routinely attend.  Our own calendar is often steamrolled by this march of meetings…blotting out any actual time for the real work that must be accomplished.

And yet, we create and attend hundreds of thousands of our own meetings we self-create each and every day…the only difference is that they don’t extend beyond our own mindscape.  We live in constant consultation with our own inner voice…a virtual meeting of the minds you might say.

We all do it.  We all have an inner voice that we communicate with throughout the day.  We all engage in self talk.

The question is…

Whether your self talk, your inner voice serves you as a coach or a critic?

Which side of your self talk demands your attention?  Which inner voice is loudest?

Each day we face hundreds and thousands of decisions for which we hold conference within our head.  The coach and the critic arguing to determine which way you will go?  Which path you will take?  The question is…which inner voice is winning out…the coach or the critic?

We must always remember…self-talk can be a force for success and strength or a road to defeat and depression…and it all gets determined within our own head.

So which is it…

Which voice are you listening to?  The coach or the critic?

“The Voice”

There is a voice inside of you

That whispers all day long,

I feel this is right for me,

I know that this is wrong.

No teacher, preacher, parent, friend

Or wise man can decide

What’s right for you-just listen to

The voice that speaks inside.

-Shel Siverstein

Unclogging Our Organizational Arteries

“Where clarity hides…chaos and confusion often reside.” 

The medical term for clogged arteries is Atherosclerosis, a condition in which the plaque on our arteries hardens and restricts the ability of the arteries to allow blood vessels to cary oxygen and nutrients to our organs and tissues.

The danger of Atherosclerosis “is that it is hidden deep in the body and not easily detectable, it is a slow, progressive disease.”

Unfortunately, many of our organizations face issues “hidden deep” that are “not easily detectable” causing “slow, progressive” disrepair and decay within.

We’ve created a throwaway, silver-bullet society, here today, gone tomorrow.  Always looking for next best thing. A chase that has left many an organization in convoluted disarray, lacking focus and clarity.  We have clogged our institutional arteries, the flow and communication of clarity and focus gradually restricted. Years and years of bits and pieces attached as plaque upon our organizational walls.

Change upon change in leadership, visions, goals, targets, trainings, serve as a plethora of bits and pieces that have diminished the flow within our organizations.

As with Atherosclerosis, an accumulation of fatty materials eventually slows, or stops the flow of blood, leading to the death of tissues. Diet, medicine, even surgery are required supports to help with the issues caused by the clogging of the arteries and help to clear away and improve the flow of blood.

Liked clogged arteries, our organizations have become glutted with the initiatives of our past, as we have a tendency to keep our plates piled high, as we keep trying to eat it all. In other words, we lack balance, a balanced diet to restore order and flow to our organizational arteries.

A leader has to control the means to provide a more balanced diet. To be willing to say, “We are not going to eat that anymore. It is not healthy or good for us. We are going to take that off the plate. We are not going to serve it anymore.”

It requires finding ways to bring back flow, to virtually unclog the arteries of the organization. Clearing away the cluttered bits and pieces of the past that hinder clarity and focus.

A leader has to be disciplined to what gets put out on the table and monitor that it is healthy and good for the whole of the organization. Narrowing down the buffet of initiatives to a few select choices that give strength and vitality to the organization. To bring back the flow that will once again create a healthy organization.

So, we have to ask ourselves if there are there bits and pieces of the past that are clogging the arteries of the organization? If so, leaders must begin to determine what needs to be removed in order to provide a more balanced and healthy diet for the future of the organization.

The Art Of Tinkering

“The first rule of tinkering is to save all the parts.”  -Paul R. Ehrlich

As a young boy, the garage was a fantastical place…filled with pieces and parts, nuts and bolts, nails and screws, jars and cans, a little of this and a lot of that.  A place to search, to explore, to wonder…

The garage was a place to build…a tinkerer’s paradise…a wonderful world where imagination and initiation came together for creation.  Where you served as your own inventor, architect, originator, fabricator, artisan, and genius.  A bicycle part here, a lawnmower wheel there, add a little oil, a few screws, some of those pieces, a couple of these old parts, some wood, a hammer, a little glue, and…

Toys were often what you created, rather than what you bought.  You were more the maker and creator, than the consumer.

According to Sir Ken Robinson…”Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep.  You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface.  You have to create circumstances where they show themselves.”

A healthy reminder…especially for these modern times and our 21st century modern world.

We live in an incredible age where most anything we need has already been created or provided for us…and unfortunately we live in a time where almost anything we need has already been created or provided for us.

In some ways, we have peeled away the wonder, amazement, and awe of the world in which we live.  And in that process we have to consider whether we have sucked away the will, want, and even need to tinker.

And in doing so, are we keeping those “human resources buried deep?”  Are we diminishing capacity as well as stifling creativity?

Should we worry that in our modern age of access we may have lost the art of tinkering?  

And if not…

Are we still creating open and accessible spaces for us to unleash our inner creative genius?

“I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our concept of the richness in human capacity.”  -Sir Ken Robinson

An Engine Of Change

“There are no wrong turnings.  Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”  -Guy Gavriel Kay

There are times when our negative experiences can extinguish our spirit, push us down, hold us back.

And there are other times…

When our negative experiences extend us, become our drivers, our engines of change.

For many an educator, school as a system worked for them.  Great grades.  Honor roll.  Awards assemblies.  Praise.  Offers to major universities.  Scholarships.  They excelled within the system and the system served them well.

For others, the journey is quite different…

The system is an upstream struggle.  Boredom.  Behaviors.  Frustration.  Poor grades.  No awards.  No honor roll.  No scholarships.  And definitely not much praise.  A grinding battle that many don’t escape from unscathed.

You could probably say the former was my journey…yet, one that has taken me to where I am today.

For example’s sake, once I took the position of Principal I used to joke with my mom that, “I became a Principal because the office was the one place in school that I knew the best.”  You could definitely say I was a frequent flyer.

And yet, looking back over those difficult years, through all of the struggles and hardships, it gave my teaching and leadership a different lens, a different perspective, that the winners of the system did not always have or share.

My experience of school became my driver…

Turning our negative experiences into positives provides us with a gift, a gift of perspective.  An empathy and compassion lens that those who haven’t shared those experiences may not be able to engage or enable.

Negative or difficult experiences have the opportunity to increase our capacity, to heighten our awareness, our emotional intelligence.  Giving us perspective and empathy for others, increasing our understanding.  Of their struggles.  Of their experience.

As educators, self and social awareness are incredibly vital to our work.  Very often engagement is matter of understanding both, of ourselves and those in front of us.  Engagement, for lack of a better word, often flows from an awareness, from an understanding.

And it often begins with empathy, compassion, awareness, connection…

What negative experiences serve as your engines for change?

Leadership Valves: Release And Control

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”  -Isaac Newton

Leaders stand on a very thin dividing line…and very often the power of little things serves as the difference between maneuvering for a change and creating change that starts a movement.

A thin difference that can be derived in the divide between release and control

Between fortitude and fatigue…energy and exhaustion.

The “Energy of Release” allows a leader to unloosen the burden of control that constricts and weighs down their leadership and their people.


The “Fatigue of Control” which diminishes the capacity of the organization…as a viral mindset that eventually erodes growth and progress of the leadership and their people.

Great leaders create room…room for those they lead to learn and grow.  The “energy of release” is about utilizing your leadership to open doors and create space, to create momentum…allowing others to take the reigns and catch speed and flight.

Great leaders also create access…access to their leadership, their knowledge, and their wisdom.  Like a librarian opening the vaults to all within.  They pour themselves out and into others…opening the doors to expanded influence and impact.

It is within “release” that leaders can unshackle the fear that may hold them, those they lead, and their organization back…unleashing the genius that resides within.

Great leaders “release” and reinforce…sustaining and supporting through avenues of open access.

Whereas, “control” serves as the culprit between a fearful and a fearless leader.  “Control” is the great inhibitor to organizational capacity, growth, and achievement.

While great leaders choose to raise others up…controlling leaders have a tendency to stand on the shoulders of those they lead…pushing them down and keeping them underfoot.  They “control” the pace of the organization and the flow of ideas…along with progress and next steps.  They serve as the organizational bottleneck…making sure that they are the holders of the knowledge.  They are the lid of the organization, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, leadership “control” is a very fatiguing and burdensome role that will wear a leader down…as well as those they lead.  As “control” is elevated, access is slowly restricted.

And when leaders are inaccessible…their influence and impact slowly deteriorate.  Confusion replaces clarity as trust slowly falters and eventually fails.

The organization becomes leader-centric…as they feel that nothing can be done well if they don’t do it or control it themselves.  A view that not only diminishes the capacity of those they lead, it eventually wears down the leader as responsibilities mount.  Pressures increase exponentially as all things hinge upon their leadership…and as all others take a hands-off, only do as your told approach to their work.

It is when a leader chooses to “release” from “control” that change occurs…in their people and in their leadership.

It is in “release” that we learn to celebrate all that is good in our people and in our leadership…

“Release” of “control” serves as an unbridled approach to leadership that brings forth all of the energy, ideas, and enthusiasm necessary to spark change…to create a movement.

The Lego-ism Of Teams

“To collaborative team members, completing one another is more important than competing with one another.”  -John C. Maxwell

As a child I remember spending hours on the kitchen floor shoveling through an over-sized cardboard box of legos.  No directions, no pre-built structures with pages of instructions…just my imagination and time.  Time to create…whatever struck my fancy… a village, or a boat, maybe a city, or a pyramid…whatever I could imagine I could bring to life.

The legos of my childhood seem vastly different from those our children experience today…there were no Star Wars, no Indiana Jones, no Ninjago…just blocks.  Blocks of different shapes.  Blocks of different sizes.

Just a big box and a heavy dose of imagination.

As leaders, we have to appreciate that our teams are very often just like that box of legos…

Each piece brings a different dimension to the team.  It is the responsibility of a leader to use their imagination and creativity to bring those pieces together… cohesively.  Utilizing their skill-sets and differences to add to, rather than reducing the capacity and effectiveness of the team.  Taking each individual piece and finding its fit…seeing how they add to the whole.

A process that requires a lot of forethought and understanding on the part of a leader.  To not only make sure that each piece is connected to the process…but that their strengths are realized and enhanced to their fullest.

It requires a leader to understand the many types of pieces they may discover in their lego box…

Such as…

  • Mental Hoarders – This piece likes to hold the knowledge and keep it to themselves.  They enjoy controlling the information and using it to their advantage…over sharing in support of the team.  The leader has to find ways to allow them to bring that knowledge forth for the benefit of all.
  • Conversation Controllers – This piece likes to control the direction and the conversation…often to the point of talking over the others.  They often force their ideas through on sheer volume.  The leader has to find ways to allow them to be heard, but also allow others to have their space and time to share as well.
  • Quiet Considerers – This piece often sits back and does more listening and considering than talking.  It is very easy to overlook them and what they have to add to the team.  The leader has to find ways to make sure their ideas and input are not overwhelmed by the others on the team.
  • Positive Peacemakers – This piece always looks to make things smooth…and to avoid conflict.  The leader has to find ways to use their peacemaker skills when conflict is no longer productive.
  • Negative Naysayers – This piece is going to find concerns with any idea, concept, or direction the team takes.  For this reason, the leader has to find ways to use their negativity as a positive…such as allowing them to highlight all of the issues and concerns before moving forward.
  • Innovative Entrepreneurs – This piece brings outside-of-the-box ideas to the table.  Very often their ideas and views are ahead of the game and difficult for others to wrap their head around.  The leader has to find ways to allow others to grapple with their ideas…even if their time has not yet come.
  • No-Change Champions – This piece will fight for status quo and will constantly seek to keep things as they were…or are.  They find change very unnerving and negative.  The leader has to find ways to allow their voice to be heard…to truly work out the ‘why’ of next steps and how it helps the team and the organization.

While no team or organization has all of these pieces in their box…very often, many of them are…and the more the leader sifts through the organization’s lego box the more each of these pieces come out.

For this reason, a leader has to find ways to make these pieces come together as a team…as a whole.  Building the individual strengths of each piece into a unified whole.  Otherwise, these pieces will become detractors that cause others to disconnect…tearing down the team and the collaborative process.

As a leader, when you explore the prospects of your lego box…you can determine to view each piece from a positive or negative lens.  Ultimately, each leader has the power to take what they are given and develop a strengths-based team or allow their pieces to become a drag…an Achilles heel.

When you peek in your leadership lego box…

What does your imagination see?  Is it pieces or possibilities?  

The Sound Of Your Leadership

“Great leadership is like great music – it draws you in – stays with you.  Leaving an imprint that lingers on…”

As a child I loved music and was fully enamored by the look and sound of the guitar.  I acquired a passion for the instrument from a very young age.  Even before procuring my own instrument, many an hour was spent pretending on an old tennis racket, waiting for an opportunity.

That opportunity came in my early middle school years, arriving in an off-model Fender.  Not a top of the line model, but a guitar just the same.  A real life guitar that I could play and learn on.  A guitar of my very own.

Flashing forward to the present and a plethora of guitars later, a lot has changed.  While the love for the instrument has remained, it is no longer just about acquiring a guitar.  It is about the feel, the tone, the sustain, the craftsmanship, the sound.

Which, in many ways, mirrors the leadership journey…

First, you just want it.

We spend a lot of time thinking about what it will be like when we have an opportunity to lead, we practice a lot in our mind, what we will do, how we will lead, what kind of leader we will be, before the actual opportunity presents itself.

Second, you are just happy to have the chance.

Once you get the opportunity you just want to get at it.  You want to get in their and lead others, to make a difference, to change the world.  Your enthusiasm very much overshadows your ability.  This is a time where lessons are learned and experience is gathered.

Third, it is no longer about just about having the chance, it is about how you use it.

You begin to experiment and try out different styles, expanding your leadership repertoire.  Your learning and abilities as a leader are expanding and increasing.  You are more aware of your leadership, gleaning lessons from other leaders as you begin to create your own style.  As you hone your craft.

Fourth, your leadership becomes more intricate, you notice the tone, and feel of how your leadership amplifies out to those you lead.

It is in this stage that your leadership moves past you and really begins to focus on how it serves others, how it affects others.  You become much more reflective of the tone of your leadership and how it comes across to those you lead.  It is here that your leadership takes on your own sound, one that others can hear and feel.  Your own tone.

For leaders must never forget…

No matter how much you learn, leadership will always remain a journey.  A journey of becoming, learning and leading.  A never ending cycle.  Learn and lead.  Learn and lead.  Learn and lead.  Constantly working to master your craft.

A never-ending journey of growth, of learning, of wonder, of persistence…

A journey of will…

“The tone of your leadership resonates far beyond each interaction, creating impressions, leaving imprints that often echo back to you.” 

Awareness In A Time Of Connection

“Connection is why we’re here.  We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”  -Brene Brown via Daring Greatly

We have consolidated, concentrated, and compressed our world.  We have narrowed the wonder and awe of its full scope.  We have tightly grasped it from the edges of its vast range and pulled those corners closer and tighter together.  We have virtually closed our connection gap.

Or have we…

We live in a world that craves connection.  To soothe those cravings, technology has provided us the solace of connection that previously may not have existed.

Technology that has opened connection to people and places that were previously outside of our reach.


As we have embraced those technology tools that provide us connection on a global perspective, we begin to discover increasing numbers of those in front of us divorcing and distancing themselves of and from their current reality.

All in the name of connection and validation.  For that opportunity to be heard, for the possibility to leave our mark upon this world.

As our opportunity for connection has expanded virtually, our present connection can be stifled as we struggle more with our face to face reality.

As leaders…

Awareness of this is paramount.  Awareness of the power that connection wields in our teams and organizations.  People want to make a difference.  They want to know that they work they do counts, it means something.   We are intrinsically motivated to know that what we do makes a difference.  In our relationships, in our family, in our teams, and in our organizations.  And when those connections do not exist, people will only last so long before checking out or moving on.

Disconnection eventually leads to dysfunction.

Which means a leader has to be able to create connection, to keep people plugged into the team, the organization, the mission, the vision, and their part in the puzzle.  When people feel that they are not being heard, when they can’t find their place, they begin to pull the plug, to disconnect from the process.  Which eventually leads to dysfunction as those within the organization begin to check out.

Leaders have to understand how each person plug’s in, how their part supports and adds to the whole.  Transformational leader’s find ways to create connection, at all levels.  And when that happens, that validation feeds into commitment and motivation.

And isn’t that all that each person really wants anyways…

A chance to be heard, to matter, to be able to give their all to an organization that gives back to them, to be part of something bigger than themselves, to be part of something life changing.

To have the opportunity to be a piece of that puzzle…

Beyond The Script: The Art Of Hints

When a leader plants the seeds of inquiry, when they open themselves to being vulnerable and model the expectations for being a learner, they allow others to be vulnerable, creating greater capacity and learning across the organization.

We exist in a world that has become increasingly more scripted, risk averse and safe.  Just follow the script, just stick to the lines, and we will get the results we seek.  If we completely control the conditions, we will remove mistakes and failure.  Yet, it never seems to work out like that in the end.  The problem is that it lacks authenticity, it lacks passion, and it lacks what is necessary to lead.  Why?  Fundamental and simple.

Leaders go first…

Leaders go first…

Leaders go first…

A cardinal concept that must be ingrained deeply.  Locked down and fully understood.  One which a leader must comprehend at a deep level, what it means and requires.

It requires risk.  It requires uncertainty.  It requires ambiguity.  And it requires stepping out into the unknown, breaking new ground.

Going first means leaving the script behind…

No map, no diagram, no directions.

The difference between a pioneer or a settler.  An explorer or a colonist.   An innovator or an implementer.  Or very often, between being a leader or a manager.  One who is…

A seeker.  A searcher.  A discoverer.  A trailblazer.  Which mandates…

Leaders go first…

Leaders go first…

Leaders go first...

Leading in current times has become much more about implementing than it has been about breaking new ground.  There is a tendency to wait for the script, the directions, the guidelines before considering to move forward.  That way, if anything goes wrong fingers can be pointed, responsibility can be shifted, blame can be assuaged.

The problem is there is a lack of leadership in that mindset…

Leadership mandates a willingness to risk it, to be all in.  To be passionate about what you want to achieve without any assurance of the results.  Only knowing that what you are trying to create is better than the current, a better place, a better future.

Leadership that waits is leadership that lacks relevancy.  Leaders have to be aware of what is happening around them, in their profession, their organization, and on a global perspective.  Going first is not about setting a trend, rather going first is also about catching the hints of what is to come.  What lays just beyond the horizon.  Just out of sight.

Leaders who go first, employs an inquiry based, curiosity driven leadership.

Leading is an inquiry based proposition.  Constantly looking into what is coming, what you will be facing ahead, and preparing yourself, your people, and your organization.  Constantly.  It is the art of the hint. A hint of what is to come.

Scripted leadership fails on so many different levels.  It lacks both passion and authenticity, and it shows through with incredible transparency.  The great divide between the innovating and the implementing leader.

In the end…

Leaders who wait for the script, the directions, the guidelines, are taking themselves down a path to irrelevancy.  Leaders don’t wait on others, instead…

Leaders go first…

Leaders go first…

Leaders go first…