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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Transformation and Attention

Confident, flowing presence is the source energy for focus.

Ads for certain energy drinks spout tiring clichés in an effort to provide you with an answer to the focus they think you need. Such boiler plate bull is no help in the complexity we know in this 21st Century.

The focus needed in the whirl of this century is not what we might think; if we are fooled into believing what the hawkers of such hooey are slinging. It is a beautiful ability when one learns to simply pay attention.

Attention given to the moment−and to the other−frees your purpose as you focus through each success and above every failure. Such purposeful focus keeps us in the story with you.

I had a dream where I was employed at a firm where creativity was supposed to flow; but it was not in such abundance. Others began to look to me for inspiration in order to once again see creativity flow. As I was in the middle of my inspiring action, I awoke. Immediately I grabbed pen and paper and recorded the following;

Leaders look out beyond themselves …
Their power out there is in how they look out there …
They see out and beyond as they see thru themselves−they embrace who they are.
They see what is unfolding ahead of the union of the internal and the external.
To put it simply … They See!

As a 21st Century leader you have stepped into the accountability of artful presence. In such presence you share the power of a stand in the middle−a neutral stance facilitating each of us toward a collective energy. This collective energy is the story of us. Any story worth our collective attention pulls us into the present by the energetic flow of clarity to engagement to connection.

What does it mean to truly pay attention? In my own experiential joy in moments of presence, I find myself listening diligently−attending with an energy that allows me to even hear what is not said, to see beyond words.

“When we listen with our mind, we understand more of life. When we listen with our heart, we feel more of life. When we listen with our entire being and spirit, we are transformed and joined with life itself.”
Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

It is painfully impossible to listen with our entire being and spirit when we fail to be present. In this 21st Century, giving such attentive interest facilitates the collective energy needed to move us forward.

When you, as a leader, care enough to demonstrate such focus, we are drawn in by clarity and then out through individual engagement to co-facilitate connection.

BCL Blog 4


Our Outer Accountability – Living Love

Along my own work journey I’ve been told to tone down the passion. It seems there was something threatening to those uninvited advisors; maybe a lack of passion in their own work.

Fortunately things are changing as I hear leaders speak often about the need and place for passion in one’s work. This makes me happy for many reasons. At the top of the list is Love. For I believe when one allows passion to flow from the inner territory to the outer accountability, then this individual is living love.

For 30 years Bob has been leading change and growth projects and initiatives for this little town we now call home. The change and growth Bob leads doesn’t only impact his town; his efforts have consistently made the surrounding region better. He’s done more than his share to “put us on the map.”

I tell his story because he exemplifies the power of passion converted into living love. Bob’s passion for his work, and especially for his town, is powerful energy flowing out through each story he has to tell. And he loves to tell his stories about his Town of Jonesborough.

Storytelling is powerful because of love−living love. Stories of impact have power because of the love of the teller. Clearly, and obviously to my readers, I believe something deeply:

It’s okay to love your work, and in your work, love!

You know it, you feel it, when you hear a story from those like Bob. When, as a leader, you see the need for passion, trust your sense, then look for passion in others. It’s there. It simply needs your vision−and mostly your encouragement: a beautiful measure of your Living Love.

See companion truth – Our Inner Territory – A Path for Love

Our Outer Accountability – Living Presence

A river that flows north does not flow backward. For this river it is a natural flow. Regardless of natural direction, rivers have been known to reverse flow. Tidal rivers aside, in these backward occurrences disaster was the result.

017When the critic pushes you to make better art, art that you are capable of, then her response is worth cherishing. But the critic who pushes you to fit in or dumb down you work−take that criticism with caution.
−Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

What does it mean to live loudly? This I know certainly, it is not about sound. The volume of our presence is set at the intersection of our inner territory and our outer accountability. And the flow is always from the inner to the outer. The other direction is pollution.

Interest creates energy. Assuming accountability void of interest funded energy is a reverse flow dooming us to drown in a flood of meaningless action.

In Seth’s book quoted above, he asks two powerful questions. I share those here with my answers:
1) Who are my clients after they interact with me?
– They are “who they are.”
2) Who am I as a result?
– I am an authenticity artist in true giving.

Our presence appears lifeless without uniquely ordered flow. In a tragic reversal (like fitting in) we are silenced. Again, this is not about sound, but it is about voice: that core something that must be present in each interaction for potential to become reality. And when voice is present, others hear loud and clear.

See companion truth – Our Inner Territory – The Art of Presence

Our Outer Accountability – Living A New Confidence

My part in the phone conference was coming to an end. We were talking about our upcoming work together with strategy and story. Knowing her peers had not worked with me as closely as she, Vicki spoke up in support of the upcoming preparation. She said some wonderful things to her peers about the experience she had in our one-on-one work as coach and coachee. I am truly grateful for, and uplifted by, her words. Most importantly was what Vicki was exhibiting in her comments.

Vicki is deeply respected by these fellow leaders. This respect was built long before we met and worked together. If I did anything for her (and her kind words testify that is so) it was simply to bring her true self to present consciousness.

Through a commitment to her unique Desire & Intent, Vicki is more deliberate in flowing this authenticity outward toward others.

What does this look like?

In summary, Vicki’s Impact is in how she supports others in becoming stronger contributors. She lives in this new confidence holding the creative tension formed by the intersection of her Desire for creative diversity and her Intent that others be confidently fulfilled.

Vicki’s outward confidence is A New Confidence in that she has simply reconnected with an inward source−her own authenticity. Our outer accountability is rooted in the inner territory of who we are−our trueness. Like Vicki, our trueness is expressed through the Impact of who we are−a collision of desire and intent for those we lead, influence, and serve.

See companion truth – Our Inner Territory – Standing with A New Confidence

Skill 7: A Generational Alliance

It is most likely impossible to help one younger see how their story is developing if not embracing the tension to understand the unfoldment of our own story.

As one from an older generation, I have embraced my opportunity to flow into, and with, the second-half of life and living. With this comes great accountability to those younger.

Mentor as Teacher/Learner of Experience
(Skill 7: Storytelling)

There are individual stories, but there are no separate stories; and the larger, collective story is not divided into chapters of age. In every chapter we swirl in collaborative experience. If we miss the experience it is because we simply choose to not partake. The experience is there whether recognized or not.

At the core of individual story is a gift; unique to who you are. It is in the convergence of gifts that we find the larger story rich and full.

Mentee as Learner/Teacher in Experience
(Skill 7: Writing a Better Story)

The world is changing at a blindingly fast pace. To remain relevant, we must embrace change. We look for new and exciting challenges, seeking out environments that provide new insight, offer the ability to build new networks, and the chance to positively impact a wide range of people that we lead and serve with. Evolve with us. Offer us opportunities to take on dramatically new challenges. More than anything else, we desire to make our lives very interesting stories. Cultivate an inspiring environment that allows us to live a richer, more colorful story. −Jason Guinn

Join the unfolding story in the power and reality of this generational alliance. To do so is to participate (teach and learn/learn and teach) in a full conversation.

Regardless of generational providence, be present with your gift and allow us the gift of your presence.

Skill 6: A Generational Alliance

You may have noticed a theme building in Jason’s definitions with each of these 7 21st Century Leadership Skills. He is clearly expressing a desire for inclusion; to be in on the why and to be a partner in bringing about a vision (a story).

Mentor as Teacher/Learner of Experience
(Skill 6: Collective Facilitation)

Think of a leader in your experience who truly prepared you for the journey. This would be someone who did not guide you from the periphery of their own context. Instead, they guided from the core of their own experience undeterred by border distractions.

As my wade has taken me to the middle of my stream of experience, I feel the definite current of accountability.

Interest creates energy.

Mentee as Learner/Teacher in Experience
(Skill 6: Guidance and Steering)

Creating interest in a common vision is of incredible importance. Help us to first understand the direction we are heading and what “success” might look like. Then give us the freedom to fill in the blanks by using the particular skills and assets that we bring in a manner that is familiar, comfortable, and productive. Create meaningful boundaries that focus efforts. Then genuinely allow us the freedom to devise new strategies and develop new processes to reach the desired end. Challenge fundamental beliefs about the mechanics of “work” – where, when, and how it must take place. Realize that we want desperately to succeed and that we will demonstrate desired outcomes, even if we use nontraditional processes to achieve those results. −Jason Guinn

More than ever, free the core of who you are, launch into the skill of Collective Facilitation, and share focused guidance with an attentive generation.

Individual and collective impact is a complex outcome from the simplicity of focus−illuminated by your confident stance in the flow of accountability for those led, influenced, and served.