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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

2 Comments:

Blogger Scott R. MacIver said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Scott R. MacIver said...

Is it the story, the telling, the one who tells or recites a story, which of these truely makes a difference? If I tell a story ... you don't have to listen. The difference is when we consider the listening; the one who listens.

We listen for the sake of fear, interest, relevance, greed, escapism, intrigue, novelty, enlightenment, joy, entertainment and, sometimes, when we are fortunate, we listen to learn.

Stories have been used throughout time to open up the hearts and minds of those who are willing to listen. What makes us willing? That is a decision that each of us must make.

ONE SMALL EXAMPLE OF STORYTELLING WITH SIGNIFICANT IMPACT

The Koan

A koan is a story, dialog, question, or statement in the history and lore of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet that may be accessible to Intuition. Koans are often used by Zen practitioners as objects of meditation to induce an experience of enlightenment or realization, and by Zen teachers as testing questions when a student wishes to validate their experience of enlightenment.

Zen teachers and practitioners insist that the meaning of a koan can only be demonstrated in a live experience. Texts (including koan collections and encyclopedia articles) cannot convey that meaning. Yet the Zen tradition has produced a great deal of literature, including thousands of koans and at least dozens of volumes of commentary. Nevertheless, teachers have long alerted students to the danger of confusing the interpretation of a koan with the realization of a koan. When teachers say "do not confuse the pointing finger with the moon", they indicate that awakening is the standard — not ability to interpret.

-- Thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, for helping me collect these thoughts. "This was originally posted on the Foghound Blog."

6:12 AM  

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