Feature Article: Leadership as a Way of Life
"To set out boldly in our work, is to make a pilgrimage of our labors, to understand that the consummation of work lies not only in what we have
done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task."
David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea
Tom Chappell left the corporate world in the 1970s to found Tom’s of Maine, a socially and environmentally responsible
business in natural care products. The compelling story of his Hero’s Journey is told by Clinton Sidle in The Leadership Wheel. Starting with a loan of $5000, Chappell has built a $40
million dollar business that is widely acclaimed for environmentally safe products and caring work environments.
Yet in the mid-80s, he hit a wall. He describes himself as judgmental, controlling, prideful, and a defensive know-it all.
Mostly, he was unhappy...his heart was no longer in it. His misery led him to Harvard Divinity School where he spent four
years connecting to what he calls “goodness”—goodness in himself and in other people. It was a transformation of heart
and mind that has inspired a new management philosophy aimed toward serving others. His leadership is now about
making customers, employees, and suppliers just as important as profits. He has rebuilt his business with a new mission,
vision, and values for his company that are an integral part of life and work at Tom’s. His efforts have resulted in a new culture
characterized by deep caring for employees, genuine participation in company business processes, and supportive
relationships for everyone to live to full potential. According to Chappell, “it doesn’t matter what business you are in, you can
have a respectful attitude about society, nature, and people.”
I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer House than Prose—
More numerous of Windows—
Of Chambers as the Cedar —
Impregnable of Eye—
And for an Everlasting Roof—
The Gambrels of the Sky—
Of Visitors-the fairest-For
The spreading wide my narrow Hands—To gather Paradise.
The Leadership Wheel
by C. Clinton Sidle
The Art of Possibility
by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness
by Peter Koestenbaum
by Peter Senge,
Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers
by Otto Scharmer
Leadership From the Inside Out
by Kevin Cashman
The leader’s journey often begins with a wake-up call just as Tom Chappell’s did. A life transition or crisis of some kind
causes us to question what we are doing, how we are doing it, and where we are headed. In fact, these are the very questions
my leadership coaching clients are exploring. Some are being affected directly or indirectly by the economic downturn and are
looking to make a more conscious and informed decision about their next career step. Several are at mid-life/mid-career and are
seeking more fulfilling work, work that is of service to the greater good. Others have been promoted into new leadership
positions or are being groomed for leadership roles in their organizations. They come to coaching seeking skills to become
more competent and something more— to figure out who they are and why they’re here.
Now don’t get me wrong...most don’t say that exactly. The deeper questions about work and life emerge through the
coaching conversation as they identify their unique gifts and connect with what matters most to them. These days we’re
talking about connecting to the “capital S Self” and the “capital W Work” — the root of creativity and leadership, according to
Michael Ray who has been called “the most creative man of Silicon Valley.” The Self means our highest self, our Self that is
in touch with our own basic goodness. “Capital-W Work” is not necessarily your current job but your purpose, what you are here
on earth to do. Truly great leaders who have made lasting positive contributions to the world, have a deeply held value
system that is grounded in the belief in the goodness of human nature. “The Heroic Journey is to learn first to see, and then to
take our seat in, our intrinsic nature, our own basic goodness and authentic presence,” says Clinton Sidle. Coming from this
place, we have the capacity to recognize and connect with the goodness in others for we can move beyond self-interest and
serve in ways that inspire trust and confidence.
The challenges of our world demand socially responsible leadership— balanced and principled leadership that emerges
from our inherent desire to seek a better world and to lead from a place that acknowledges the basic goodness in ourselves
and in others. “As the dominant force in the world today, business is our most important leverage for making the
changes and leadership is the fulcrum. Leadership is the vehicle through which people can become fully human and
transform organizations into movements of the human spirit.”
This kind of leadership is meant for everyone, not just the people at the top—and it develops from the inside out. It’s about
an attitude toward life and a way of living in the world. Leadership development in this context is about
transformational learning—learning that is very relevant not only to our work but to how we lead our lives. The Leader’s Journey
is a call to wake up, get in touch with your capital S Self, discover your capital W Work, and bring forward your
unique gifts to make a difference in the world.
Are you ready to answer this call?
“The salvation of this world lies nowhere else but in the human heart.”
Leadership Lessons: Be A Contribution
Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and his wife, Rosamund , a therapist, have written an gem of a book called The Art of Possibility, in which they point to the fact that any accepted model
for doing things comes with an implicit set of rules, and these rules govern our behavior just as surely as the
rules of baseball govern the movements of players on the field. The nature of games is to provide a
framework for engagement, expression and growth. When we play a game, we agree to a set of limitations
to create a challenge. The fun part is that they challenge us to adapt and hone our skills “whisking us away
from the grimmer or more mundane context of the everyday.” So the purpose of describing your professional
life or your family traditions as a game is that you can instantly shift the context from one of survival to one of
opportunity for growth. You also can imagine other games you might prefer to play. Naming your activities as
a game breaks their hold on you and puts you in charge. “Just look carefully at the cover of the game box,
and if the rules do not light up your life, put it away, take out another one you like better, and play the new game wholeheartedly.”
Ben came up with the game called I am a contribution after his second marriage fell apart—a crisis that
jolted him to change the rules that had guided his life since childhood. In winning the game of success he
was haunted by the fear of failure-- questioning his worthiness, wondering if he was loved for who he was or
what he had accomplished. This undertow of anxiety exists for many of us because the drive to be
successful and the fear of failure are inseparably linked. The pressures of the game created immense
suffering for him and those around him. Realizing finally that he could change the “game” altogether, he conceived of a new game called I am a contribution. “Rather than judging yourself by the standards of
others, in the game of contribution you wake up each day and bask in the notion that you are a gift to
others. Naming oneself as a contribution produces a shift away from self-concern and engages us in a relationship with others that is an arena for making a difference
The Practice: Be A Contribution
- For seven days, simply notice when you are a contribution.
- At the end of each day jot down anything you said or did that you can call a contribution. No judgment…only
describe yourself in light of contribution.
- Declare yourself to be a contribution. Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference,
accepting that you may not understand how or why. Like a pebble in a pond imagine that everything you do sends ripples out beyond the
- At the end of each day, write down how you have “contributed.”
- At the end of the week, reflect on the effect of naming yourself as a contribution.
“Those who have a WHY endure any HOW, but it is the Why that is difficult.” Friedrich Nietzsche
TIPS, TOOLS AND PRACTICES: Why Am I Here?
Perhaps this question intrigues you, or confounds you, or even scares you a bit? Knowing the WHY is what
gives leaders the authenticity, the magic, and the power to achiever great things. Discovering that “why” is
the trick-- in many ways the whole trick. Set aside time dedicated to discovering your “why.”
Here is a process from The Leadership Wheel to guide you.
Identify your purpose. Your purpose is how you choose to use your innate gifts to make a difference in a
cause that has meaning. A purpose based in deep personal values becomes a source of strength,
inspiration and power. Being conscious of a driving purpose gives energy and commitment to achieve the extraordinary.
List some personal characteristics you feel great about. These should be nouns.
Examples: expertise, energy, courage, strength, enthusiasm, creativity, sense of humor
I have _____________________________________________________________
1. List ways you successfully interact with people. These should be verbs. Examples: teach, serve, lead,
support, collaborate, inspire, produce, plan, motivate
2. Visualize what your perfect world looks like. What are the people doing, and saying. Write a
description of this perfect world. My perfect world is ______________________________
Ex. “All people honor and respect the goodness in themselves and each other and work together in care for this planet, our home.”
3. Combine two of your nouns, two of your verbs, and your definition of your perfect world.
My Life Purpose is
(Exercise from Ken Blanchard & Clinton Sidle)
© 2008 Bette George & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
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help you begin to create the change you want to see in yourself, your workplace, your community.
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