"The factory of the future will have only two employees: a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment."
Prof. Warren Bennis

Get Leadership Notes by Email

The clouds outside are ominous, and I really hope that I'm able to fly home tonight. And I'm chuckling about how the ominous clouds outside reflect what for many has been an onimous time. The Canadian dollar plunging, oil prices plunging, not to mention the values of all those RRSPs!

I did experience a bright ray of sunshine on a course this week, learning under William P. Ryan of Harvard, talking about Governance as Leadership. (For those of you in credit union land, I'll be sharing more about Bill's work in CUDA workshops in the coming months). For the purposes of this short note, Bill suggested the following job description for leaders:

"The job of leaders is to figure out the job of a leader in a particular situation."

While at first blush this may look like a tautology, it struck me as being particularly wise. Yes, those of us who have lived through recession before will bring wisdom and insight to the present environment, however, we are not living in 1994, or 1987 or even 1929. As much as there are similarities, the leadership jobs in 2008 will require some new thinking, some new figuring out. And your job is to figure out what to do in your part of the world, with your resources, and with your people and their skills, knowledge and insight.

I might suggest an improvisational model is one that helps in these times: keep your eye on the big story, where are we trying to go? Work with your people to build their problem solving skills, the show is not entirely on your head. And learn to recognize that some scenes/projects/initiatives don't work and the best thing to do is end them, and move on.

I hope you find some time for yourself and time with your loved ones, this weekend.

Well, it has been 5 weeks since my last Leadership Notes. A 3 week vacation and then a very busy 2 weeks have kept me away from our conversation, but life returns to normal now. As has happened a couple of times in these emails, my friend and colleague, Peter Elliott has inspired me. Preaching yesterday he said, "Dr. James Hollis, in his wonderful new book What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life writes these words, 'We are not here to fit in, (or) be well balanced…We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves to the great mosaic of being.” What wonderfully liberating words! It seems to me anyway that we spend much too much of our lives trying to fit in, to be part of the crowd: we need the right clothes, the right car, the right partner! Part of our journey as leaders is to honor that wonderful uniqueness that is us, and to honour the uniqueness in all who work with us and for us. This week, as you continue your journeys, consider that part of you that is eccentric or unique and find a way to celebrate it. It's what makes you, you. 

Running last night listening to my ipod, and the Pink Floyd song "Us and Them" starts. I was immediately reminded of the record it came from, and that got me thinking about technology and my life.

I was born in 1959. I remember records played on turn-tables at three possible speeds; 33 1/3, 45, or 78. One or two people had reel to reel tape machines. And for most of my childhood, that was where music came from. Then, as adolescence dawned, some adventurous Dads had 8 Tracks in the car, then cassette decks. As I reached my late teens, the first Sony Walkmans hit the market. Then the amazing CD in my early twenties. And now, with MP3, ipods, and downloading sites music is everywhere.

From a leadership perspective, we lead now in a time where technology changes at such a dramatic pace that we cannot predict what the world will be like in 2 years. And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. People still need to feel connected to a greater good, to have meaning in their lives, to feel that they are needed, and respected. They need to feel accountable and responsible.

As you lead this week, keep in mind that as much as the world around us is changing, we are still fragile creatures filled with fear and courage, apathy and empathy, fantasy and clarity, hatred and love. Creating environments in our workplaces where courage, empathy, clarity and love are more likely may be what leadership is all about.

Have a wonderful week,


Good morning, another gorgeous day on the west coast. Summer is full swing. I trust the weather is co-operating wherever you are today.

I met last week with a group the included 5 young women, all students, on their way to parts of Africa, South East and South Asia to do human development work. All were going for different reasons, but with a common goal of helping to increase the health and well-being of local women.

I was then saddened by the violent death of 27 year old Neda Agha Soltan on a street in Tehran this weekend. (The video of the last 30 seconds of so of her life has gone viral.) I hope that as you speak with people in your offices and homes about this tragic death, you'll also remember that 5 other brave young women (and many many more every month) are embarking on their own journeys towards making a small difference in a very big world, in their actions, there is hope for us all.

Vietnam anti war activist William Coffin offered the following benediction that rings true to this day: may each one of us find the grace never sell ourselves short. May each one of us find the grace to risk something big for something good. And may each of us find the grace to know that the world is now too small for anything but truth and too dangerous for anything but love.


Good morning, and I trust all is well in your world.

I am very fortunate to count among my friends, the composer Rupert Lang. I have the pleasure of hearing his music often, and this past Sunday was no exception. He has written a most amazing piece of music to words of an Ute Nation prayer. (You can purchase a cd of his music, and cds of choirs he directs  by checking out www.cathedral.vancouver.bc.ca).

I thought the words of the Ute prayer would be good for us all to reflect on as leaders:

Earth Teach Me

Earth teach me stillness
as the grasses are stilled with light.

Earth teach me caring
as the mother who secures her young.

Earth teach me courage
as the tree which stands alone.

Earth teach me freedom
as the eagle which soars in the sky.

Earth teach me regeneration
as the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself
as the melted snow forgets its life.

Earth teach me to remember kindness
as the dry fields weep with rain.

Earth teach me.

May this week be one of learning for us all.

Good morning, and a Happy Canada Day this week. A speaker I heard once said that if you were born in Canada, you had won the only lottery worth winning! I'd add, if you immigrated here, you've shared in the winnings! 

I attended my second retirement party late last week; a rite of passage for those of a certain age.  One speaker found a memo the retiree had sent in 1987 that had challenged and provoked him. The two had been working in a large newspaper, and the retiree had been concerned about the calibre of the stories written by the team of reporters. He argued that taking the time to think was what was missing. It struck me that part of leadership was the responsibility to think before acting.

The memo had related that when fire fighters arrived at a fire, with all of the speed required and the importance of a fast response, most of the personnel and equipment hung back, and the most senior fire fighter donned a mask and went around and even into the burning building to decide on the best tactics for the particular fire. The memo ended with the caution, if fire fighters can take the time to think before acting, especially when faced with crisis, so can we.

I hope this week finds you thinking in the face of crisis. Your people are depending on it.