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Being authentic?
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Saturday, 23 June 2007
Authenticity should be easy, right? Being who you are? Are you naive enough to think it is? Well, it isn't that easy. Tom Heuerman, the man who changed the Star Tribune Newspaper (Minneapolis) 'forever' - despite intractable union-management problems and terrible customer service - left at the peak of his success to go solo. He writes inspiring newsletters (and takes photos - see here and below). Here is what he has written about life today and authenticity:

"Our world, at all levels, is undergoing a fundamental creative reordering necessary for sustainability. The deeper creative process we are in has complex and organic underlying patterns of violence, disruption, and death and, at the same time, creativity, synthesis, and integration. In such chaos, our institutions flounder and seem unable to solve the problems of today. International crisis after crisis threatens our way of life.

"We live in a time when one only has to read the daily newspaper or watch CNN for an hour to see endless expressions of wickedness, tragedy, and corruption and the fear, despair, horror, and insanity in our world and, tragically, even in our schools. These realities trigger deep personal fears and anxieties of betrayal, insecurity, hopelessness, helplessness, and even death.

"With so much destruction it can be difficult to see new growth emerge. It is close by, and we need to notice it, nurture it, and be grateful for it. Recently I attended a fifth and sixth grade violin concert. The children renewed my hope for this world. I felt inspired by the pride, passion, innocence, excitement, enthusiasm, and good feeling of the event. The two classes demonstrated how much children can learn and improve their performance in one year. They demonstrated how fast change can happen when people make commitments. I now go to more fifth and sixth grade concerts and watch less CNN...

"The bravest amongst us-locally and globally--in our institutions and our organizations--including our schools--will step boldly into the mystery of life with no preconceived solutions and will create the future-learning and adapting as they proceed. They will take the best of the old and merge it with the new to create sustainable new enterprises. We may soon look back on our world and our institutions-including our schools-and wonder how we could have been so primitive."


Heuerman then introduces one the concepts that plague our organisations today: "Our traditional model of leadership looks for the hero to lead us in times of chaos and crisis. In his book Leadership James MacGregor Burns described heroic leadership as a relationship between leader and follower in which followers place great faith, often unfounded, in the heroes ability to overcome obstacles and crises. The followers avoid personal responsibility by projecting their fears, aggressions, and aspirations onto the hero as a symbolic solution to the conflict inherent in transformation.

"Heroic leadership is to be distinguished from The Hero's Journey I mentioned earlier. The Hero's Journey expands the spirit of the traveler and of those impacted by the Hero. Heroic leadership, on the other hand, ultimately diminishes the spirit of the leader and the follower.

"The heroic model of leadership, born of another time and set of circumstances, flounders, doomed to fail in a chaotic world for no one person can have the energy, talent, skills, and knowledge to bring a desired order to such chaos in our institutional and organizational worlds. How stressful it must be to be a heroic leader who has to pretend to have all the answers in such a complex world. How it diminishes our spirits to look for heroes to do our work for us. (I can only wish California and Arnold Schwarzenegger well.)" [He wrote this in 2003. In many ways Schwarzenegger has done well for us all. But we had better not expect him to do the lot!]

"Instead of looking for heroic leaders to save us, each of us needs to be a hero or heroine. The call today asks for courageous and authentic people to connect with one another, to convene others, and to welcome and honor diversity to bring form to the creative potential of the times in which we live.

"Why authenticity and courage now? Because only by freeing the mental, emotional, and spiritual potentials within us and connecting our energy with that of others can we overcome darker forces within humankind and create the light that is possible for all people in this world.


"Authenticity is the expression of our beliefs into action--the intrapersonal congruency of ideas and behaviors-personally, professionally, and organizationally.

"Authenticity is not the norm in our society or in our organizations.

"My friend, the late Bob Terry, wrote in Authentic Leadership:

"Authenticity is speaking, however dimly, to more and more of us, calling us to recognize the pervasiveness of the new inauthenticity. Something is not right and we sense that what is not right is expressing itself in many forms, from global issues to personal concerns. We have an intuitive sense of disconnection from the very institutions and people we believe we should be connected with.

"Let me tell you a story of authenticity in an organization:

"I consulted with a department in a company in Maine. They had been through lots of difficult changes in their operations. The manager had driven the change. People were mad. One said, "I went to the doctor. I wished for cancer. Not because I wanted to be sick. But because I didn't want to go to work."

"I met with the group. The room was tense as the meeting began. An employee expressed his anger about how the changes had been handled-with no regard for the emotional and physical impact on employees. The room got tenser. People looked at the manager. He looked at the group, hesitated, and said, "I had no idea how my behavior had impacted each of you. I am so sorry."

"The room went silence. Privately, I felt relieved. I knew that this authentic moment would change the whole dynamic of the meeting. I also knew that this manager would never be the same.

"The meeting went on for two hours and we enjoyed a wonderful exchange of authentic emotion, thoughts, and ideas. The connection was electric and healing.

"Two years later I met with the group again. I knew generally that things had gone well but didn't know much beyond that. I asked the people to go around the room and tell me what had gone on since we were last together. For two hours they told story after story about how relationships among them and with the manager had improved-I hadn't asked them to talk about relationships. I felt inspired by how things had changed. Oh, by the way, the manager had been promoted and the department was setting records for customer service."

And, once more, I have to say, we see the full justification for Upward Feedback in all our organisations.
[more from Heuerman]

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posted by Dr Ron @ 09:01  
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