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Flow: A Curious Method and An Explanation

I was not in a flow state, I was eating lunch; chewing and staring at a few words about flow I’d jotted on paper.  Chewing, chewing, waiting for inspiration.

Which would be more engaging; an article on the concept of flow or one on a method to attain flow?  Could I write this post as a dialogue?  Could I link the method and the content that emerged from the flow state? Continue reading Flow: A Curious Method and An Explanation

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Moving Beyond Our Fear of Appearing Incompetent Into More Creativity

As successful leaders, we know how to act in the face of fear. We calculate risk and reward and step into ambiguity, risk, and constraints every day. But, for many less experienced leaders fear begets inaction while problems fester, disruptors emerge, windows of opportunities close and learning slows. Of course, we don’t allow that happen to us... very often.

No matter how experienced, leaders still feel fear, but what are we actually afraid of?

Might our primary fear be appearing incompetent to our team, peers, and superiors?

If so, then trusty Maslow’s hierarchy gives us some insight into the psychological needs we’re afraid won’t be met. These needs can be met with more, better work, more time invested in relationship building, etc.

Of course, as self-aware leaders, we know that with practice our psychology is consciously mutable and therefore under our creative control.

For most of us on most days, we’re well beyond meeting these core psychological needs. But, what interests me is how impassioned, richly fulfilled, self-actualizing leaders relate to fear? Are they somehow beyond fear?

As I walk this path, it seems that self-actualization requires stepping into even more fear, not less.

As I begin to pursue a new business model, I am seeing that a skillfully pursued counter-phobic approach to taking creative risks, to exposing our deepest desires, our personal insights, and our riskiest creations to a much wider audience is demanded by the path of self-actualization. Suddenly, I am not only seeking approval for my socially acceptable behavior and admirable accomplishments, but I am turning what I hope is my best possible self inside out and publicly revealing that more essential self.

This entails integrating more of my ethical and aesthetic values into my work; this means writing about the humanities as they relate to leaders rather than continuing to relying on my analytical skills to deliver value to business clients. It means stepping out of well-armored competence and into work that reveals deeper and more personal values and it certainly feels scary and has required new counterphobic actions.

What’s made this easier for me is to look into history to find intelligent leaders who have trod this road before me, people who have pursued personally and professionally risky goals without complete data to base their decisions upon. One I’ve found helpful was the Roman general and emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Based on a bit of wisdom in his Meditations, I’ve created a thinking tool, a Wisdom Jig as I call it, to let me apply his method for stepping into risky endeavors with more confidence and clarity. Click here to find the Turning Hindrances Into Advantages wisdom jig.


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The Introverted Network Builder: An Offering to John Hagel

Buried in a blog post on the measuring your real net worth, John Hagel recently opened this invitation,

I would welcome advice and insight on how introverts (and others) can be more intentional about cultivating the kinds of personal networks that I’ve described above.

So, Mr. Hagel, and all you introverts who might share his question and challenge, here is what I have learned in my years studying and practicing networking as an introvert. Continue reading The Introverted Network Builder: An Offering to John Hagel

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Leadership as Creative Work

This beautiful article on reading and imagination by Neil Gaiman reminded me of a leadership truism.

Leadership is a creative act.

Or, as John Maeda of RISD and Becky Bermont said in the HBR, “Every budget, every meeting, every presentation, every decision is a chance for a creative act.” Continue reading Leadership as Creative Work