When I was a kid, I loved photography. Loved the way the camera mimicked the eye. A machine that imitates the body. Camera is to eye like computer is to brain. Composition particularly intrigued me; the way you framed a photograph defined its aesthetic and the context shaped its tone. You could explain your point of view to the ‘reader’ of the picture.
One of my favourite exercises, set by my photography teacher, Mr Brenker, was to find an ordinary still-life object and abstract it using composition – however you chose…focus, zoom, aperture settings. It was fantastic to make a beautiful, unrecognisable “new” image of something familiar. It is possible to get so close to a subject that you can’t tell what it is anymore.
And so the same phenomenon occurs when we deal with people… sometimes we’re so close that we can’t tell what we’re looking at. We can make better sense of the world by taking the photographer’s approach. Zoom in, zoom out, focus and refocus or change the change angle for a clearer understanding of the situation we are in.
I have a friend who runs a very successful professional services company. In her company, the expertise of her people is paramount. In fact, it’s all her clients care about. So she’s always on the lookout for potential.
She has a secret policy for emerging leaders. Secret? What kind of a policy is that?
Her secret policy supports her best employees through their post grad studies. You see, the only people who qualify for consideration are those with the initiative, spark and determination to wonder about what’s possible. The only people in her company who ever get to hear about the secret policy, are those who actually talk to her about what they can do together.
She’s believes in the underlying principle that we should each be responsible for making things happen for ourselves. And so having leaders self-select for development is the perfect way to allocate very limited resources towards those people who are determined to use them well.
So the next time you hear a whisper around the water cooler at your office, you might wonder if you’re missing out on a really useful secret.
Last summer, in less than a mouse-click, I snapped my fibula and tibia and dislocated my ankle at roughly 45 degrees to my shin. Now, I’m a big fan of experiential learning but I have to admit, as a I lay screaming, the idea of reviewing David Kolb’s axiomatic model of reflection, the Cycle of Learning, wasn’t on my to-do list. I did come to learn, not long after, that there is indeed a website for everything. http://www.mybrokenleg.com does exist.
When Christopher Hitchens invoked the Nietzschean phrase, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, he professed serious doubt about cancer and it’s treatment making him stronger. Ha, but a broken leg…nothing really, in the scheme of things.
Did it actually make me stronger. Doubtful. Though it did give me a lot of time to think. Mostly, I lay calmly and thought about the calming effecting of laying calmly. Nice feeling, if you can get it.
I try to recall that restfulness now that I’m upright and mobile and occassionally stressed to the eyeballs. I have to admit it is difficult to remember. I’m not sure I have any lasting lessons from the orthopaedic zone. Or maybe there is this…sometimes unexpected things happen and then you get up, get moving and get on with it.
A friend of mine has cancer. In fact, he’s coming out the other side of some pretty nasty, visceral treatment. And so far, he’s on top. But he said something recently that made me stop, and think.
“I used to be pretty shy,” he said, “but I’m learning to tell people what I want…when I want it. I mean, what am I waiting for.”
How does one become a leader? I see and hear this question a lot. People want to know how they can become leaders, or better leaders. More influential, more successful.
Leadership is like anything else. You’ve got to practice…and practice and practice…
Lead is a verb. So you can practice leadership by leading.
Do leadership everyday. The results might not be obvious each day. But like piano, public speaking, tennis or writing, over weeks and months and years you will improve and may even become pretty good. You may even attain greatness – you will certainly become your best.
Practice by showing people what can be. Lead people to new understandings. Lead people by getting it wrong and trying again. Ask people what they think. Examine your style. Experiment. Understand your defaults and try switching them. Do the difficult and be honest with yourself and others. Be courageous and keep at it.
Do one act of leading today.
Opinion is often derided (”well that’s just your opinion”) as inferior to fact.
I happen to value opinions a great deal. Next time someone asks you for a fact or some data, think about how you can provide them with value by offering your opinion. This might require some thinking and a little extra time but I guarantee that you’ll enrich yourself, learn more and win points with the recipient.
I have a broken leg is a fact…my opinion is that having a broken leg has made me more sanguine and tolerant and has enabled me to see life through a different lens.
Give and ask for opinions. See what you get back – you might be delighted (that’s just my opinion)