21st Century Skill Paradox – Part 1

We need your confident leadership in this turbulent and distracting 21st Century. It is a struggle of unnecessary proportion when you attempt to lead void of the time for self that confidence demands. For this reason, your Impact, I consider the first of 7 skills as foundational: Personal/Professional Growth Management.

Hold & Release is a paradox.

What I offer in this writing is for you to open to the truth and blessing found in holding each paradox on the path of growth and development as a leader.

Hold & Release; an active visual that has my attention. It helps me understand the pull I know these days to hold together the requirements I feel from both internal and external forces. This may be in part attributable to the time of life where I find myself. But I also find I am fascinated with the holding of opposites−a reality, that when honored, opens the seeing to beautiful vistas both inside and outside. In actuality I’m being taught the oneness in all I see; that I’m privileged to see.

“Nothing is abstract unless we abstract it.” −Mark Nepo

As Robert A. Johnson says in his book, Owning Your Own Shadow, a contradiction is a quarrel. True paradox is a binding together, a teacher in each opportunity, if we can hold such long enough to see something in the overlap of seeming opposites.

Paradox is a constant reality for you, the 21st Century leader. You benefit from each one only as you hold the two opposing truths together long enough to see what you must release into the intersection that is the more fully formed truth.

When it comes to our growth and development, the distracting contradiction is the mental quarrel that we allow between selfish and selfless as we listen to the narrow, opinionated voice that says we are selfish if we take time for self.

Hold-ReleaseIn order to move beyond the quarrel, you must see a dedication to your growth and development as selfless−making you better for those you lead, influence, and serve. This brings you to the paradox of Skill 1. The two truths you must hold together are Internal Accountability and External Responsibility. It is not one or the other, it is both, and.

In this intersection of truths is your creative tension as a leader. Your leadership boldly enters the 21st Century as you hold this tension, and, from what you see, release into the flow.

In the intersection, in the artful act of Hold & Release, you grow in Authentic Confidence. This is precisely what the world now needs from you, and it is found in this often painful and tense intersection.

Should you not meet the challenge and learning in this paradox, we are cheated as your most authentic strengths remain in the shadows: see the post Shadow Strengths – Chapter One (Impact).

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Skillfully Generous – Impact (I Choose Love)

I constantly proffer the encouragement that it is not selfish to give growth and development time to self−the True Self. To do so is selfless; and in such selflessness you are becoming more and more skillfully generous.

As we enter the autumn season in this hemisphere, I open the time where I plan: think on this work to which I’m married, where I am and where I ought to go. I try to be smart about it all, but I’m not entirely sure that ever happens; unless of course it is simply smart to do what I love.

It is this unworkable aspect that makes most marriages resistant to mere strategy as a way of improving them or saving them. Something more essential needs to be fed at its center. −David Whyte, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship

This planning season I will place love (my voice) at the center of my planning acts. If it comes down to trusting smart or love, I choose love−and this is smart. My responsibility−ability to respond−in and with it all is to be in the moment. For after all, when I’m doing my best work−having my Impact−I am fully present.

Love is the energetic center, my voice in all I do. Presence is the method; an objective holding me to what is good and right.

Sometimes personal and professional growth is about getting out of one’s own way. In this season of contemplation I will adjust to being with what is so that I am out of the way to what really ought to be through me; and with my soulful participation.

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Our Outer Accountability – Living Impact

What a delight to have a bit of one-on-one time with Julie after our presentation. Eric Benson and I were engaged with a group as we were unfolding one of our experiences on Impact and Potential.

As I was explaining the creative tension formed by the merger of one’s desire and intent, Julie was locked eye-to-eye with me and frowning some sort of message. Fortunately she didn’t bolt for the door after our group dialogue. So, in the post event mingling I caught her attention and inquired about the story behind that frown.

In the narrative of my presentation I ask the individuals attending “The Question“. In that post conversation, Julie declared that she didn’t do it right. I’ve heard that before. I then asked if she would share her answers with me. At the merge point of her driving desire and drawing intent was the word, Admiration.

We are each a river with a particular abiding character, but we show radically different aspects of our self according to the territory through which we travel. −David Whyte, The Three Marriages

While I know how to define admiration, I asked Julie to tell me about what it meant to her. As she explained she began to see her unique Impact−it was about connection with another (her very presence). It seems that admiration was her way of feeling the result of her own Impact. It was then that she connected eye-to-eye with me once again and said, “I guess I did it right.”

What a privilege, for a few moments, to share the territory through which Julie travels. I will pleasantly hold in memory the beautiful intersection of frown and smile!

See companion truth−Our Inner Territory – an Accountability to Impact

Know Thyself – Impact in the 21st Century

In this part of my journey−as I float in this second-half of life−it is a great blessing to share trust with someone both young and wise like Tara. Tara’s impact in this world is first deep, then wide. While I could write much to explain why I see what I do, I will instead tell a story of my experience with this extraordinary spirit.

On a gray winter day Tara and I met to simply catch-up over warm chicken pot-pie and a salad. In conversation that day I learned many things that unfolded into an understanding behind the beautiful flow of spirit I know as Tara. Little did I know the surprising gift she held for me.

Reflecting on a talk I gave where Tara was present, she asked, “Do you remember Allison?” As it was a group of about 25, I hated to admit that I didn’t remember anyone by that name. As my topic was Desire & Intent, my talk includes an exercise built around what I’ve learned to be a powerful question. It seems Allison was afraid to talk with me after the talk because she could not answer the question. Tara then told me about how Allison did later answer the question; and then Tara described to me the impact this was having on Allison, and the confidence-building changes she was seeing unfold for Allison.

You might think someone doing this work I do would be very conscious of such impact. I admit it, I am not as often as I must learn to be. So all the more surprising and wonderful was this gift from Tara that day. Tara’s impact in this world is clearly flowing through her unique knowledge of, and application of, love. That love is just part of who she is. Thank you Tara!

Only when I know both seed and system, self and community, can I embody the great commandment to love both neighbor and myself.
Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

A Soul Dance with Impact

The call of the wild is a call to the elemental levels of the soul, the places of intuition, kinship, swiftness, fluency and the consolation of the lonesome that is not lonely. Our fear of our own wildness derives in part from our fear of the formless; but the wild is not the formless−it holds immense refinement and, indeed, clarity. −John O’Donohue in Beauty

George is a leader with a serving presence. He does not overshadow others as he builds individual confidence leveraging integrity and clarity. As George is bringing to my consciousness, there is no impact without clarity.

Our impact in this world demands present attention and focused intention. The soul does not dance to commercially produced music. A soul dance is uninhibited art as it flows from our wild clarity. Impact comes into view only in the marriage of attention and intention. Care, however, is required in the purification toward clarity; do not continue to invest all your energy to only attention or to attention before intention.

Attention is about focus outwardly. Intention is authored in your purpose inwardly. The flow is from the internal to the external. It is in this order that we balance intention and attention toward impact; where we perfect the dance into a soul dance.

While George and I have just begun our work together, I look forward to the grace of discovery as he courageously journeys into the coherent territory of purpose and clarity.

For George, clarity is an abiding value given in the beginning. I am excited to see what he discovers in the clarity of his own wildness. This I know, we are benefactors as his intention gives rhythm to his attention and we are dignified in the impact of a soul dance.

Skill 1: A Generational Alliance

With this post I begin a series of seven that will work to bridge the desire of experienced leaders with the desire of those in earlier stages of experience. Each post will bridge one of the 7 Skills for 21st Century Leadership between the two.

For the experienced viewpoint, I will offer a summary representative of what I’ve learned coaching leaders in the 21st Century. For the earlier stages, I will offer the precise words of Jason, a young leader of impact.

Mentor as Teacher/Learner of Experience
(Skill 1: Personal/Professional Growth Management)

For the individual to be most powerful, they must be whole. The whole individual is the worker for the 21st Century. Whether within the hierarchy of a multi-national, Fortune 100 company or as a freelance consultant, the ultimate accountability for the development of the individual resides with the individual themselves. … only the individual can choose to explore and discover the wider world for those development opportunities that will help them achieve their life goals. −Ricardo Gonzalez

Mentee as Learner/Teacher in Experience
(Skill 1: Continual Learning and Committed Mentor Relationships)

We have spent over a decade in academic environments and only recently have the opportunity to gain true workplace insight. Be patient in assisting with the transition from the academic environment to the professional environment. Continually provide feedback−honest feedback−and let us know how to better serve before the annual performance review. We need the most guidance in determining where our focus should be; where do we focus our efforts?
−Jason Guinn

Further your reach. Stand firm, arms extended to the left and to the right, and reach across the generations with what you have learned while learning and unlearning with the excitement of a child.

Release Impact into Skill 1

My premise is that the impact of one person on others in a corporation is a function of his or her breadth of consciousness. −Charles E. Smith, The Merlin Factor (p. 71)

How beautiful was the moment. Leslie had responded to my message about growing my speaking presence. She is a brilliant, creative leader. As she had offered to assist in designing and marketing a special event, we were meeting to brainstorm.

As we talked about possible content, I shared a bit about personal purpose (brand)−one way to answer the question, “What do you do?” That is when Leslie said simply, “I’m a 40 year-old cheerleader.” That’s perfect was my response! More than anything I was deeply impressed with her confident stance in this simple statement.

Leslie left an environment not supportive of the release required of her unique impact. She found an environment that welcomed, and needed, this cheerleader. And because of the impact of her loving and accountable cheers, she has been asked to broaden impact on yet another division in her organization.

As I thought on this blessed time with Leslie, I was taken to a deeper understanding of the skill I call Personal/Professional Growth Management. As Leslie models, one must stand in a delicate, tight space of understanding. She knows that ‘one thing’ she cannot help but do−be a cheerleader holding me accountable to give the best of who I am. And it is around this stance around which all learning, unlearning, growth, and development is focused for authentic impact.

Thank you Leslie for your leadership.

See sister post, Letting Go into Impact