Leadership and the New Science, posited that we need to fundamentally change our worldview, that the very eyes that we use to view the world are not the right tools for today's challenges. Otto Scharmer would argue that the future is a challenging thing to prepare for, because it is still emerging from the present. This is a truth that many people can only arrive at after deep exploration of organizational systems, and not everyone is ready to process a future that is being created even as you live it. Too much quantum theory crossing over into organizational practice. In reading Wheatley and Scharmer, you will discover that change is not a thing, not a project for a committee, but a process. Outcomes are less important than the approach you use to explore. But we live in a very demanding, unyielding world that demands accountability, efficiency, and expects instant resolutions. How many of you have become spoiled by Amazon Prime and cannot believe that it takes more than two days to receive anything you order online? Me too. So, how do we start to slow down and be present where change happens? How do we begin to change our attitudes and our expectations so that we can, as Wheatley advocates, change our worldview? One answer arrives from Peter Block, an author and consultant best known for his guidebook Flawless Consulting. Block, in The Answer to How is Yes, explores how people and organizations can focus on what matters and push away from questions, processes, and approaches that do not have purpose. Maybe it's because I'm engaged in a long term consulting process with a large nonprofit organization, but one question stuck in my mind, a question I've poured over for hours. Block argues that instead of asking "How long will it take?", we should instead ask "What commitment am I willing to make?" Asking how long a process takes implies that you have better things to do with your time, that you do not believe in the outcome enough to invest your time. In short, it says you don't care. So, instead of asking the first question, challenge yourself to ask the second. Instead of trying to find ways to speed up a process, look deeply into yourself and ask what you are willing to give to make change happen. If you are looking for the most expedient solution, then you're really just trying to check something off your list. Change requires commitment. Commitment of money, of time, of resources, of people, of yourself. So, as a leader, ask yourself if you are committed to investing yourself in being part of the change, not how much time the process might take.During my three year journey at Gonzaga, one of the enduring lessons I learned was that no organization is exactly where it wants to be; that is, every organization should be thinking about, planning, or currently engaged in transforming itself into the organization it needs to be. Organizations, however, are much more static and immobile than we hope. They are slow to receive feedback and even slower to integrate that learning into their processes and structures. Most organizations view change as a thing we do, something that requires a committee, or even worse, a task force, to initiate. Change comes in the form of a report, neatly bound and breathlessly delivered. If you've been in the corporate or nonprofit world for long, you already know where these reports end up: neatly lining a shelf, collecting dust, while the organization continues on its original course. We live in a chaotic world, one that requires organizations to be nimble and ready to respond to ever-changing situations. Margaret Wheatley, in
Leadership and Diversity was my first academic experience focused on exploring the role of race, class, and gender. Through this course, I began to identify the influence of these roles on my life and my leadership experience. This course began with an exploration of my own worldview and my identity, and then moved into exploring the influence of gender and race stereotypes on our lives. At this point, Leadership and Diversity was the most challenging course in the program, one that forced me to genuinely reflect on my life and my own biases. This course was the first to deeply challenge my approaches to leadership, largely through the work of Allen and Hooks. Both books laid out an alternative history of the world, a history that was unavailable to me as a white, middle-income male. Most challenging to me was the work of bell hooks (2000) and her discussion of the role of class. Our nation has become more comfortable discussing race and gender, though we still have a long way to go, but class is a subject that we frequently avoid. Over the past generation, our nation has seen a stagnation of income for the middle class and an increasing concentration of wealth in the upper levels of our society. What challenges us here is that many people who are in middle to lower-income situations aspire to be more wealthy, so they are cautious to actively discuss the oppression that exists in our society, because they, ultimately, aspire to reach that higher level. We, as a society and as individuals, ignore the systemic oppression that exists across class lines. We work to ascribe this difference to variations in work ethic or offer platitudes about how everyone can be whatever they want to be if they work for their success. But this approach ignores the cultural and societal limitations that we have created that keep people in their places and deny true equality to all. If you desire to be truly challenged, in what you perceive and what you believe about race, then this course, and these texts, provide all the fodder you need to be uncomfortable.
- Allen, B. (2010). Difference matters: Communicating social identity. Longrove, IL: Waveland Press.
- Bordas, J. (2007). Salsa, soul, and spirit: Leadership for a multicultual age. San Francisco, CA: Berrett Koehler.
- Hooks, bell (2000) Where we stand: Class matters. New York, NY: Routledge