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Friday, September 16, 2005

Leaders and language

I was wrestling with the business talk around change, agility, adaptability, alignment, collaborative innovation, and the increasingly trendy “unlocking human potential.” I think I know what executives are trying to say, but the words seem inadequate, and in some cases trite or glib.

In my quest to understand how leaders can better use language to lead, I found poet David Whyte, who works with organizations around the world. And what a find David is. Instead of talking to business audiences about change, David uses poems to bring to life the experience of change.

I was struck by several of David’s beliefs about leadership, and the poems he uses to invite us in to understand those beliefs. Here are some ideas and poems that provoked me. For more, go to David’s Web site (http://www.davidwhyte.com/) and listen to one of his CD’s. (I especially liked “Life at the Frontier: Leadership Through Courageous Conversations.”)

Leaders’ conversations
Leaders’ conversations are not about the work; they are the work. Leaders must help people feel as though they belong, where their voice affects the world in which they are participating. Too many people are isolated at work and feel unheard.

“Loaves and Fishes”

This is not
The age of information.

This is not
The age of information.

Forget the news,
And the radio,
And the blurred screen.

This is the time
Of loaves
And fishes.

People are hungry,
And one good word is bread
For a thousand.

David Whyte

More than you
Treat the world as if it’s alive. That it is other than you, not just a reflection of you, and not just put there to work on your behest.

Old Chinese poem:

Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.98% of everything you do and everything you say is for yourself.
And there isn’t one.

Creativity and radical attention
All your creative powers come from your ability to pay a radical kind of attention to what’s around you, to see what you haven’t seen before.

“Lost “

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fat or Fabulous?

Dove’s new advertising campaign is a great example of how powerful it can be to stir up the market conversation with a new point of view.

The campaign features confident, happy women of all sizes and shapes, dressed only in underwear. They’re not the super-skinny fashion models, but real women with real curves. In other words, the campaign challenges the media image that you must be thin to be attractive.

The campaign has generated enormous press around the world, including a People magazine cover article, an editorial in the The New York Times, and appearances on the "Today" show.

In last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine article, “Social Lubricant: How a Marketing Campaign Became the Catalyst for a Societal Debate,” Rob Walker hit on just how effective a debate-stirring marketing campaign can be.

“Maybe it is somehow inevitable that marketing, which caused much of the underlying anxiety in the first place, can offer up a point of view that blithely tries to resolve that anxiety.

“Moreover, as the entertainment side of the media fragments, marketing becomes the one form of communication that permeates everywhere – and is just as effective whether you’ve actually seen the campaign or you simply have an opinion about it based on what you’ve heard,” he wrote.

How refreshing to not only to see real women and real beauty, but to see a marketer stir up conversations – and brand interest.

For more about the campaign, see http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/.

PS –Happiness and kindness are the top attributes that make a woman beautiful, according to a Dove global study.