Friday, July 27, 2012

a week in the life...

Crazy week of meeting with really cool people...I spent time with Concordia's newest Dean of Science and Math, Dr. Janet Whitson, talking about the importance of external relations and how to balance that with all of the internal demands this job puts on us.  I was able to demonstrate for her what I meant by that the next few days as I:

- met with COB alumnus Nick Cmerek who recently became a CPA and is working for a small firm in Austin
- met with COB Advisory Board member Amar Ramakrishnan who recently took a new position with a start up and is expecting his second child soon - put me on to the book This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking and Learning (a must read).  Follow Amar on Twitter @staysmall
- met with Dr. Kathryn Davis from Huston-Tillotson Business School and Concordia MBA student JC Otero about creating a data base for mentoring.  Great discussion and great new colleague
- met with COB alumnus Robby King who is working for Big Commerce and is doing incredibly well - loves his job!  find out more at
- met with a group of ECHO membersat the offices of I & O Communications (with CEO Elyse Yates - to brainstorm marketing and PR plans for ending homelessness in Austin.  Find out more about this great organization at
- met with Doug Bain of Bain Consulting (a new acquaintance that was facilitated by COB Advisory Board member Debbie Leverett).  Doug is a brilliant thinker and also serves on the Board for Conspiare.  Follow Doug @BainConsulting
- ended the week yesterday by meeting with the new Manager of Community Engagement for the Texas RFO of Thrivent Financial - Scott Armey.  While at that event, ran into Kurt Senske (Lutheran Social Services), Nicole Griesse (COB Alum who works at Lutheran Social Services), Dick Moeller (Water to Thrive), Chad Thompson (Thrivent), Kristen Cantu (Thrivent), and Dan Zieschang (Lutheran Social Services).

On top of all these exciting and great meetings during the week, I think I also got everything else done that was required internally.  What really excites me is to see what will happen in the future as a result of my external relations during this past week.  Just a glimpse into my life and the REALLY COOL PEOPLE I get to meet all the time.  Are you taking the time to meet new and exciting people each week?

Friday, July 20, 2012

revolutionary leadership

Two of the books I read over my vacation and Summer Reading Feast included biographies (LARGE biographies!) of Che Guevara and Malcolm X.  Since both of these men were assassinated prior to my 10th birthday, I missed all of the action and rhetoric that took place during their lifetimes - and for the most part was shielded from them and their accomplishments growing up (remember the days when communism = evil?).  I told someone this past week that I would have had the grand triumvirate if I had read the biography of Mao as well.  What struck me about both Che and Malcolm X is that they were considered revolutionaries...the same word that was used for the founding fathers of the United States of America.  And yet, my history books would never have put John Adams and George Washington in the same sentence as Che Guevara and Malcolm X.

Politics aside, I was struck by the way revolutionary leaders mobilize people and make things happen.  What would it mean for you and me to be a revolutionary leader?  Here are a few principles I gained about leadership - revolutionary leadership - as I read these biographies:

  • revolutionary leaders are committed to a cause.  They see the need for change and work to make it happen.  Che was willing to join Fidel Castro in in the fight for liberation of Cuba - but his vision went much farther than one country.  He worked in both Africa and Bolivia to bring about change.
  • revolutionary leaders act from an inner sense of mission.  Both Che and  Malcolm did a lot of soul searching to understand what was important to them and WHY they were doing what they did.  Whether it was a long motorcycle journey or time spent in prison, they did the necessary INNER WORK to prepare them for their callings.
  • revolutionary leaders are articulate.  Malcolm X was a great speaker, and was able to articulate his message in a away that drew others to the cause.  Taking the time to craft the right message, and then learning to deliver it in a powerful manner are both an important part of using the voice as a tool of influence.
  • revolutionary leaders mobilize others.  A revolution does not happen if it only involves a few people.  Bringing others on board, organizing them, and deploying them into action were all techniques that allowed both Che and Malcolm to accomplish what they set out to do.  These leaders thought and acted strategically, engaging others in the process.
  • revolutionary leaders never worry about time spent on the cause.  Both Che and Malcolm suffered physically because of the time they spent doing their work.  There are no 8 hour work days for this type of leader - whether it is writing, speaking, organizing, traveling, or meeting with others, they use as many hours of the day they can to accomplish their mission.
  • revolutionary leaders are seen as a threat by others.  The mere word "revolutionary" strikes fear into most people's hearts, because it means deep change.  When leaders articulate a vision that challenges the status quo, others begin to see them as a threat and actively work to stop them.  Both Che and Malcolm X had multiple enemies (often from within their own organizations) and were fearful for their lives much of the time.
  • revolutionary leaders are willing to put their lives on the line for a cause.  It might have been easy for either Che or Malcolm to go into hiding once they knew they were being hunted, and yet they both moved forward in their causes to the point of an early and tragic death.  While one's mission may not lead them to this point, given other circumstances how many leaders would be willing to press forward knowing their actions might cause their death?
Whether one believes that Che Guevara or Malcolm X are truly great leaders or not, it is hard to deny that they exemplified the aspects of what leaders do best - they had a vision they believed in; they articulated that vision among others; they drew people to a common cause; they acted in a manner to bring that vision about; and they were not afraid to make things happen even when times got tough.  What cause would it take for you - or me - to become a revolutionary leader?  And where throughout the world today do we need more revolutionary leaders to enact positive change?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Reading Feast

I just returned from a month in Maine, and am ready to report on what I like to refer to as my Summer Reading Feast...28 days of good food, good movies, and good books.  Prior ot my trip, someone asked me if I did any "professional" reading on vacation or whether it was just for pleasure.  My reply to them sounded something like this: "I am always reading for pleasure - and I am always reading professionally.  Since I read with my leadership lenses on, it is professional; and since I love to read so much, it is pleasureable."  My Summer Reading Feast is often both a series of planned books (I put aside books all year long to take with me to Maine) as well as serendipitous (we have access to a great bookstore and my favorite public library in the world...not to mention Amazon).  While I don't plan any themes, several often emerge.  What follows is a quick overview of my Summer Reading Feast (with more to follow in weeks to come):

Fiction: I am a HUGE fan of fiction in that it helps me understand the "other" in my relationships with people.  I have also come to realize that great fiction is often wasted on the young, so I try to re-read many of the great novels I read (or didn't read) in high school and college during this Summer Reading Feast:
  • The Financier - Theodore Dreiser
  • The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Sodom and Gommorah - Marcel Proust (vol. 4 of Remembrance of Things Past)
  • The Odyssey - Homer (trans. Fagles)
  • To Have and Have Not - Ernest Hemingway
  • Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  • Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout (a collection of stories about life in Maine)
  • State of Wonder  - Ann Patchet
Non-Fiction: During the Summer Reading Feast, I get to spend about 8 hours a day reading, so it is time to tackle the "big books" that are sitting on my shelf all year long (sometimes longer):
  • Che - Jon Lee Anderson
  • Macolm X - Manning Marable (one of my favorite books of the summer)
  • The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris - John Baxter
  • A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway (okay, some fiction, some non-fiction)
  • Falling Upwards: A Spirituality for the Second Half of Life - Richard Rohr
  • A Kierkegaard Anthology - ed. by Robert Bretall
Graphic Novels: The Blue Hill LIbrary has a wonderful collection of graphic novels, so I decided to expand my repertiore in this area:
  • My Friend Dahmer - Derf Beckderf
  • Black Hole - Charles Burns
  • Are You My Mother? - Alison Bechdel
  • The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb
  • Maus I - Art Spiegelman
  • A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
I will expand some thoughts on these books in future blogs, noting the leadership lessons learned while reading them.  I hope everyone gets a chance to have some type of Summer Reading Feast, using the time for professional and pleasurable reading.