I Made a Startling Observation about Leadership

I recently noted something I want to talk about. A little while ago I attended a “town hall” meeting of a group to which I have been a member and one-time leader for well over a decade. At this meeting of about 200 people, I experienced a phenomenon that may have always been there. Let me explain.

There are members who feel comfortable in criticizing the leadership, the direction and other parts of the organization. They are vocal in their criticism, sometimes sparking controversy and sometimes adding fuel to fires already lit. But, often, something changes within them, that they do not see, when they become titled leaders of the overarching organization of the group.

Suddenly, as if a switch has been activated within them, their criticism transforms into a call for peace and understanding, for tolerance and respect. Those who criticized now call for an end to “negativity”, the negativity they had sparked or fueled, themselves, at one time.

Until recently I had not noticed anything askew about this change. But, for some reason, I now focused my attention on a question. I asked myself: “Why, as leaders, do we shut down criticism, when as followers we initiate or support criticism?” As leaders we tend to seek harmony and while as followers we tend to seek a voice. But so often, neither listens to the other. Each merely wants to shut the other down.

I find it interesting that we cannot look at both criticism and the role of “leadership” as being two sides of the same coin. Neither are inherently “better.” Neither are inherently “right.” I believe voices want to convey something even if their expression, or the words themselves, seem divisive. Leaders are not necessarily parents or moral authorities but can think they are, because they have been given implicit responsibilities or titles.

How do you view criticism? Do you try to shut it down? Do you tolerate it? Do you know how to speak to it, so it feels heard, while still maintaining your center? How do you view leadership? Does it have an implicit authority that overrules a “voice?” How do you build a bridge to listening and collaboration when criticism and harmony live together?



Finding My Way Back to My Core… I’m Ready

There are unexpected and unwelcomed times when I find that I am “off.” What do I mean by “being off?” It is those times that I feel off balanced, feel like I am reactionary rather than thoughtful and somehow, for some unexplained (to me) reason, cannot get back to my center, my core. I find myself mucking around in emotional states and unable to get out of them.

I try to trick myself by putting myself into another emotional state but that doesn’t bring me back to my center. It merely creates more gunk. It is so weird. Eventually, I remember what I must do. I have to say, when I first discovered this, twenty plus years ago, I was stunned by its power. I return to what is at the center of my being, my values.

Values represent the core of who we are. They represent our essence and when we lose sight of, forget or deny our core, we lose our focus. When we are adrift from our center, we take on different characteristics and find ourselves in the world of emotions with their endless judgments, pushes and pulls a circus-like universe of joy, disappointment, criticism, comparison, etc. None of it forwards the core of who we are.

I have been swimming in my emotions for the past few weeks, and only now, by writing this, am I realizing that I have abandoned the guidance my values provide and the compass they are in my life. Okay, I am ready, wisdom, go ahead, rule!

Share with me how your values lead you in your life, how you recognize when you have deviated from them, and how returning to them brings you back to the center of who you are.

Trust is like a Spider Web

In a book I recently read, trust was defined in one word: predictability. That was powerful. And I began to inquire: “Is that all? Maybe that’s what trust comes down to.”

So, I started looking at trust more carefully, or more specifically, my use of trust, I understood it to be more than predictability. But what more was it? I looked at trust for me and saw that what was missing in this one-word definition were the additional components that give trust its almost mercurial characteristic. I would like to mention them here.

I have found that trust includes a sense of reliance in someone’s character. Where predictability infers expectation, reliability infers consistency. Whether it is a sense of reliance in their sincerity, their competency, or the way they show up, reliance in someone is a major ingredient to trust.

Another component to trust rests in understanding one’s motivations. Motivations reveal intentions, priorities, goals and needs. When I understand someone’s motivation, I can bestow trust.

Yet another component to trust is the feeling of true authority born by experience and not merely by knowledge. When I sense that someone is a student of what they are talking about, rather than a transmitter or information, I can grant trust.

What I find interesting about trust is that we can provide trust quickly, slowly, or not at all. There seems to be a continuum for the application of trust. I have found that this continuum revolves around feelings of safety, feelings of reciprocity, and feelings of being understood. Trust is a mighty bridge to building and sustaining connection. And like a spider web-strand which is ten times stronger than steel at its same weight, trust is a strong bond between people. And again, like the spider strand which can be easily broken and change the nature of the web, trust can be broken or withdrawn suddenly, and like the spider web, changes the nature of the relationship to which it was bound.

Let me know your thoughts on trust. How do you experience trust? How do you dole out trust? What causes you to withdraw trust?

Partner with your Strengths. They Are Ready to Serve You

Without our strengths, we would not be able to dispel threats, dangers and alarms. We would not be able to demonstrate skill, or show off, or be able to intercede when necessary.  Strengths are like breathing. We need to use them and often do, without thinking. The problem is like breathing, if we don’t know how to use them in various conditions, they may not be able to serve us when we need them most.

If you were in a smoke-filled house, wouldn’t it be important to know how to hold your breath as you got past the smoke; the smoke that kills more people than fire?  Your strengths are also how you show yourself to the world around you. When you want to impress, when you want to show off, when you want to make a statement or add value to a situation, you call on your strengths to “introduce” you. Your strengths are how people see you. They are a tangible representation of who you are.  We use them to perform and most people judge us by our performances.

Researchers in positive psychology have discovered that when we identify and regularly use our signature character strengths, life becomes more satisfying and meaningful.

Strengths are what I call your “Outer Cloak.” They are what you “wear” when you are out in the world expressing yourself, when you want to make an impression, when you need to accomplish a task or serious endeavor. You use your strengths. For example, you might express your strength in generosity when you are out with friends, your ability to organize in accomplishing a task, or your ability to persevere when undertaking serious endeavor.

Most of the time, however, you are unaware of the strengths you are applying. Most of the time you are unaware of how others see these strengths in you.

How do your top three strengths add meaning to your life? Let me know as I would like to hear what you say.

The Importance of Living a Meaningful Life Through Your Values

Values provide us a compass by which we live our lives. Although values are always present, we rarely give them much thought. Much like a compass we use on an unfamiliar hike, values provide us the platform from which we direct our lives. We judge based on the consistency of values utilized by someone.


The Barrett Values Center, in 2010, found, in researching more than two thousand private and public institutions in more than sixty countries, that: “Values-driven organizations are the most successful organizations on the planet. They found that values drive the culture as well as contribute to the employees’ fulfillment. In the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the noted the same outcome in companies they observed over several decades.


Martin Seligman, a leader in the positive psychology movement, found, through his questionnaire, that signature strengths and values fundamentally contribute to a meaningful life.


I remember, many years ago, thinking that emotions were fleeting and mercurial. They seemed to be missing a key ingredient to living fully.  When I was first introduced to the concept of values I thought they were a wonderful state to aspire to.  Years later, when I identified my core values, I felt a strong resonance and connection to my life. I realized that I could live from my values and when I did, life was clearer and more satisfying, with richer meaning and depth. I realized that they were my compass, the one I had been missing and to which my emotions could not relate.


What are your values? How cognizant are you of them on a daily basis?

As They Removed Their Masks, This Choir Left Us in Tears

I recently returned from the GALA Choruses’ tenth quadrennial music festival held in Denver. With over 130 choruses and 6,500 singers from all across the U.S. and overseas, men and women commanded the various stages at the Denver Performance Art Center, the Convention Center and other downtown locations, with amazing shows.

One chorus, The Beijing Queer Choir made its debut at this festival. For this courageous and ground breaking group, joining a welcoming and supportive family of singers was very important. You see, in China, their lives as gay and lesbian people has to remain in the shadows. Family ostracization, lack of community support, and pressure from the government to marry and have children keep their identities concealed when they are performing on stage.

The members did not want to obtain individual visas for fear that “coming out” would led to harassment and imprisonment.  Although being gay is legal, it is not tolerated. Finally, three weeks before the festival in Denver began, the group was given permission to leave China and travel on a group visa, keeping their individual information protected.

Once visas were secured, plane tickets had to be purchased. As you can imagine, the cost of airline tickets this close to departure, was very high. After many conversations with various airlines, and ten days before the start of the festival, tickets were secured.

When performing in China, this eight-year-old choir performs with masks on so they cannot be individually identified. When they stepped on the Denver stage each had a mask on to cover their faces to keep their identities secret while they performed. As the interpreter talked about the great welcome and support they were experiencing in Denver, the singers, one by one, removed their masks. It was a powerful moment for the audience to watch these performers one after another, remove their masks, and reveal, for an audience, their faces, for the first time. And one singer kept their mask on to highlight the fear of retribution gay and lesbian people in Beijing have in “coming out.”

As you can imagine, the audience erupted in howling applause, tears and standing ovation for this chorus armed with courage, purpose, tenacity and commitment.

It was powerful to witness and experience the Beijing Queer Choir as they made their debut in Denver, unmasked.

Leave me a comment on how you have used courage and strength to identify and become who you are.

Thank You for Being Part of My Fulfilling Year



Thank you for who you are to me—people of grace and profound commitment to bringing a richer weave to the fabric of life-your own and the world around you.


When I reflect on you,

You who have deliberately chosen to direct your lives

Purposefully and with great meaning

I see shimmering stars lighting my path

I see the beauty of persistence and determination in you.


As I think of you

I feel the essence of the freedom you feel

When enduring strength and power replace your initial fears and doubt.

I am touched by your commitment to being your best

With your Legacy, your Life and your Money



We welcome your comments

Shocking Headlines Take a Back Seat to One Uexpectingly Powerful Trait

In a time where headlines point unflinchingly to the shocking, there is a quiet voice emerging in research that confirms what has been known but rarely spoken of through the ages. It is the power of humility.

What is humility? Humility is a state of respect where you allow others to shine as well or better than you do. It is where you give praise where it is due, where you can trust others because there is nothing to hide or protect.

I recently came across a study that was published in the Organizational Dynamics Journal that found humility to be a critical strength for leaders. It gives a leader the ability to reflect with empathy. In other words, a humble leader can look at situations and see how their actions affect others and allow for the other’s perspective as well when determining outcomes. This is huge and this is not easy.

As an example of the power of humility I want to introduce you to Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic, the largest Japanese consumer electronics company and known as the ’god of management.’

Panasonic opened its doors in 1918 and with hope, exuberance, fear and excitement. Matsushita asked his employees to adopt and apply the value of humility as they conducted their business with and on behalf of Panasonic. With the spirit of humility, he did what most companies don’t do. He shared the company’s “secrets” with all his employees. He wanted Panasonic, even as it grew to thousands of employees, to be focused on being an inclusive team and he knew that the best way to form this type of team was through humility rather than through coercion or elitist ideology. He traded the air of superiority he easily could have perpetuated through the company with humility because he wanted his employees to feel part of his success rather than laborers of it. As a result he was revered by his employees, by the Japanese government who awarded him with many great honors and by other business owners who hired him to help them become more humble business people.

Humility, as in the case of Mr. Matsushita, included having a moderate self- regard, with a strong vision and voice so that his struggling company could become a giant both in the tech world and in the world of business management.

How do you foster humility in yourself? Do you notice a difference in your communications and connections with others when you use humility? Write a comment, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Distinguishing Between the Experts and the Scammers Isn’t Easy

How can you tell the good from the bad, the experts from the scammers, and the capable from the inexperienced?

I am engaging in a website redo and it has been a rough path to walk down.  The first possible provider was introduced by a marketing firm with which I am affiliated. Although this provider was good at the early pre-contract conversations, he got agitated when, in late November, I decided to the potential issues as people’s minds switch between work and personal things that need to get done before the end of the year. In our final conversation, he questioned my ability to make a decision to move ahead. I had made a decision, no actually two of them: work with him, start in Jan. 2014. I pulled the plug with him, decision number three. In hindsight it was fortunate I did not choose him as only a few months later I heard his company was being investigated by his domicile state authorities for questionable business practices brought by clients. If I had run into problems with him, I would have had to get on a plane and go east.

The second designer was a referral by someone who had not used this designer but liked him as a person. This gentleman seemed to be nice and receptive to our questions and concerns. Eight months after signing the contract, which did have and I asked that he remove, no refunds or guarantees (WHAT???!), we had two pdf documents on a website that all providers, including the one we hired, told us would take 5-12 weeks to complete and be up and running.  We just settled our dispute, through satisfying mediation, a few days ago.

We have hired another firm. We received our first mock up in two weeks. So far, so good.

But my question is this: How do you know the capable ones, the experts, the good, from those who are not?

I remember many years ago, in conversation with my hygienist, telling her I was frustrated with the work I had done by dentists. Crowns, for example seemed to fail within five years. This hygienist who was respected because of her own high standard of dental competency, told me who she thought the best dentist in the area was. She said he was the dentist’s dentist. The hard cases went to him. He took care to do it right. He referred so he could stick to what he did best. He interviewed his referral partners and knew their work to be at the standard he expected. A little apprehensive, I decided to visit this dentist. Although he was taken aback by my initial questions, over time we established a great respect for each other. As I expected and as he confirmed, a good crown, well placed and well-constructed, can last decades.

Back to the question.  I don’t know who to trust so I have created a checklist to help me decipher between the two.  It includes: types of guarantees and refunds they have; what they read or write for me to gain an understanding if they are leaders, thinkers, or doers; whether they create the same thing again and again; how they approach their industry; their references; how they deal with me as a person; what their entire contract says. I also ask them what values core to them they use in their business and how these core values are manifested with their clients. If any of these trigger concerns to me I will seek clarification which can lead to them being dismissed from consideration or being given my signature on a contract to work together.

How can you tell the good from the bad, the experts from the scammers, and the capable from the inexperienced?

Leave a comment I would love to know how you distinguish between the capable and the scammers.


Opening the Curtain to the Power of Using Your Strengths

Today I want to illustrate the importance of your strengths by telling you a story.

Hundreds of years ago, kings brought in their most trusted knights to the roundtable. It was here that they discussed critical topics like protecting their community, strengthening diplomatic ties with other communities, and key battle strategies.

Each knight was selected to join the table because of a particular strength they portrayed. It was the combination of all their unique strengths that together made the group so powerful.

The word that represented each knight’s strength was carved around the edge of the round table, in front of the high backed chair they sat on.

When a topic was introduced, each knight talked about how their unique and nurtured strengths would carry them through their mission. The other knights would add to the conversation with their observations of support to this strength.  For example, if there was an unexpected storm that ravaged the fields, one knight’s strength of communication coupled with another knight’s strength of organizing along with yet another’s strength  of maintaining security around the kingdom were combined to reduce the challenges of the disaster and keep the community united.

They understood that merely being strong warriors and personable diplomats was not enough. Most armies and sentries did that. They understood that a group firmly rooted in understanding the value of their strengths individually as well as in combination was their greatest weapon. And it was, bringing great leadership and respected safety and security to their community.

Today, strengths are still key components to a significant life. They act as great servants in times of challenge or conflict, presenting themselves as our inner advisors. We merely need to listen to and for them.

Strengths show up as attributes like: flexibility, focus, decisiveness, analysis, insight, humor, creativity, balance or a host of others to guide us in taking the most appropriate action. I just referred to two of mine this morning-calm and decisiveness- for a challenging situation in my own life.

Let me know what your top strengths are. How do your strengths guide you in your life? Where have you recently used them? Leave me a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you use your strengths.