Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Separate the Drama from the Facts

Four years ago, I saw 12 Angry Men during a negotiations class in which I was a complete greenhorn without much of a business mindset. The last time I saw this film, a few days ago, I was challenged to write a paper identifying the techniques the leading character used to build community in an emotionally charged context compounded with a diverse set of worldviews and motivations. Dramatically I knew Henry Fonda's character did this with aplomb but my doubting voice said I would not be able to identify the transferable actions with any certainty. So did my paper turn into a watered-down version only a diploma-purchaser could be proud of?

Hardly. But I did gain some experience handling a new perspective. I learned to set aside my need for entertainment (and get caught up in the drama) to observe the facts for specific solutions.  I find this to be one of my greatest challenges, yet one that reaps the most for those whom I serve. Why? Because it means I have listened to them and put their needs above my own. Philosophically this is easy to do, but living up to these high standards is quite difficult.

I do confess I received my worst grade on this paper for this class.  Was it that big of a challenge? For me, yes. However becoming aware of an issue is, in my opinion, as much of a blessing as a friend or trusted colleague telling me I have something green stuck between my teeth. I would rather be challenged watching a movie and writing a paper than fail to make a situation right in my life when it is most needed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ethics: Must We Be So Serious?

Leadership ethics is serious business.  In the last month, I have spent a considerable amount of thought peeling back the onion to the origins of unethical decisions. In this process, to be successful, it's apparent we can neither be tangled in raw emotions or emotionless robots. Somehow we must learn to balance these two for a resolution we can live with. To start with, this class has helped me see how an individual's worldview built with different bricks produces much different results. It's been even more helpful to understand how I think the way I do.

I always take ethics seriously, however sometimes ethics can be better understood when we remove our emotions and our judgment from the situation.  Although my technique is not recommended when approaching the solution of an ethical problem, rather to shake myself out of moral judgments and thoughts which demonize decision makers. Perhaps you may be willing to try my way: finding a way to laugh at a common human approach to a situation rather than retaining a rigid stance and fighting to be right.
Ok, how do people ever get to be suck ups? Somewhere along the line the perception has been created being a suck up will get you ahead. We've all seen it, we can all think of at least one person who, in our minds, has gotten ahead because they were a suck up. But was this person an ethical suck up? Enchantment author, Guy Kawasaki argues on his blog to change the world there is an art to being a suck up to get what you want.

We all want something whether it's a paragraph from a teammate, an extra pen, or a promotion.  Is there a nice and ethical way to get what we want while working our wiles on our teammates, supply clerks, and bosses? Kawasaki says the art includes seven elements to be effective and I would add, ethical. These include: credibility, empathy, utility, gratitude, obligation, fluidity, and flattery. In a nut shell being an ethical suck up acknowledges we are human beings interacting with one another. Why not do it with these elements to have a pleasant engagement with someone rather than taking advantage of the person? It is the intent behind the action which is so important for us all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Karma and Leadership

There are few leaders who, through kind compassion, reach a global audience; few leaders who bear the weight of leadership yet view it as a blessing because of the opportunity to help others; and few leaders whom I know in my heart will never violate ethical principles. Name one?

He is the most humble man in the room, born into leadership with most of life under scrutiny, duress, and exile. Yet, the monk adopted the action statement borrowed from Shantideva: "As long as space endures, as long as sentient beings remain, until then, may I too remain and dispel the miseries of the world." It would be one thing if this was the philosophy of a great leader, but it is compounded many times over when it is pure action. 

Perhaps the most humble task leaders can start with is to recognize we are in a position to help others. To remove our ego from the equation and act As H.H. the Dalai Lama does, with a principled purpose: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.”  To be compassionate leaders.

Compassionate leaders have no concerns for their longevity. In a recent statement to his constituents, H.H. the Dalai Lama says it is time to consider whether the Dalai Lama position is still needed. He personally feels the position has served its purpose. Despite this, the Bodhisattva says it is up to the people to determine the answer. 

It has never been more clear to me that compassionate, ethical leaders put the people first. To be a leader of this magnitude requires deliberately removing the self or ego from the position. To do what is right for your people rather than yourself. To be honest, ethical, and compassionate is within the possibility of all human beings but it should be at the forefront of a No Excuses leader. Although H.H. the Dalai Lama has balanced his karma long ago and found enlightenment, it is a wonderful example to all of us the karma of leadership is what allows the leader to return or reincarnate again and again and again.

Om Mani Padme Hum.