Thursday, March 24, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Wael Ghonim, the young Google executive who has became a symbol of Egypt’s pro-democracy uprising after he launched the original Facebook page credited with sparking the initial protest, called the Egyptian upheaval, “Revolution 2.0.” “If you want to liberate a country, give them the internet,” Ghonim said.
What Facebook and Twitter really did that sparked the short, 18-day Egyptian revolution was to bring a community together, even if they didn't know they were a community. In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam argues that we are experiencing a breakdown of community with our families, neighbors, and cities. We are isolated from our fellow citizens and only tenuously connected as a community and as a nation. Clearly in Egypt that isolation was helped by the technology and popularity of Facebook.
Unfortunately, many of us in organizations are isolated from each other, whether by barriers of space or geography. When we lose the sense that each of us is inextricably linked together at work, when we begin to stop caring and having concern for each other, and when we act as if what we do has no effect on the rest of the organization, then we experience separation, mistrust, and fear.
Community-building is so important that it should be the first step for leaders who attempt to initiate and lead change. Without a true sense of community, no leader will ever be able to successfully implement change or sustain improvements.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I just saw Wicked for the second time this past weekend. What a great show with some GREAT leadership lessons, not the least of which is how we view authenticity.
The story is about the early lives of Elphaba (who will eventually become The Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda (who will eventually become Glinda, The Good Witch of the North) in the Land of Oz. Elphaba is misunderstood and ostracized because of her frightful green appearance. Despite this, she desires only to fulfill what she believes to be her true calling by working with the Wizard of Oz.
Her trust in the Wizard of Oz comes abruptly to a halt, however, when she and Galinda discover that the talking animals of Oz are being forced into silence and that the Wizard is actually behind the oppression of the talking animals. Galinda and Elphaba, in this moment of discovery, are both forced to choose: will they go along with the Wizard’s plans, thus gaining his favor and obtaining prestigious positions in the Land of Oz, or will they reject him and all he stands for?
Galinda chooses the self-serving route of convention. Elphaba, however, is appalled and cannot in good conscience align herself with the Wizard. Ultimately, she is declared wicked by the people of Oz; her story is mythologized and retold, casting Galinda into the role of Heroine and Elphaba as Evil Incarnate. Yet, Galinda knows the truth, and later she begins to question her own choice, troubled by her inauthentic behavior and her separation from Elphaba. Elphaba, on the other hand, by remaining authentic to her convictions, suffers the fate of being ostracized by the majority in power.
The lesson that Wicked offers leaders is that the greater danger is not in being declared wicked, but in accepting what appears to be goodness, but which is not authentic. That is, the most difficult part of being an authentic leader is to recognize and accept authenticity, with all the consequences inherent in that authenticity. It means striving to be yourself at all times. And, though it means accepting your own imperfections, as well as your gifts, as part of who you truly are, it also means realizing that you are always working to attain your higher self.
Authentic leadership—leadership that reflects your beliefs and values and those of your organization—can be seen and experienced in the ways that you treat and work with other people. Authentic leaders know that they personally have to live and model the values and behaviors that they stand for.
It's really hot outside right now, but it can also get hot in the "leadership seat." However, avoiding the temptation to be something you aren't will ultimately be in everyone's best interest. And although we all need practice in being a "Good" Leader, if we remain authentic to our true selves, at least we won't be seen as a "Wicked" one!