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Cam Danielson: Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Aug 13, 2016

Guest: Cam Danielson
Moderator:  Aryae Coopersmith
Host:  Deven P-Shah 

Deven:  Today our guest speaker is Cam Danielson.  He's a partner at MESA Research Group, a privately held global consulting and leadership development company, and co-founder and principal at Odyssey, Inc. His work focuses on assisting leaders and management teams to revise future direction and opportunity amid the turbulence of personal, organizational, and societal change. Cam has distinctive competence in delivery of mindfulness workshops, executive development programs, building and leading high performing teams, and executive coaching.

As we get going with this, we have a very thoughtful seed for reflection and I thought we could start with that.  And the question is, what are some of the traits and personal characteristics of the exceptional leaders you have come across?  In your experience, what is the role of the cultivation of mindfulness, self-knowledge and solitude in nurturing effective relationships?  What are some moments of effective leadership that you can recall in your life and what traits or practices do you think contributed to those or made them possible? 

When I think about it, the number one thing that comes to me is, do I trust my leader?  Or, am I trustworthy?  Trust is such a foundational trait for me for successful teamwork.  I can think of a number of things where I can see myself doing things differently and that feedback loop with myself, the real meditative mindset has gone so well for me and I could see when I was a complete jerk at times, and then I come back and I see how to make it work. 

So what are your thoughts on leadership, Aryae?

Aryae:  Thanks, Deven.  Reflecting on your question a couple stories pop into my mind.  I used to be a community college teacher and I got my first corporate job in Silicon Valley in sales and I was working in the high-tech corporate computer sales area.  The manager of our sales office, Diane, was very good--she was one of the most successful people in our company.  This was in the early 80s and the time came when the company was sold to another company and there was a lot of uncertainty.  None of us knew what was going to happen--would we have our jobs, if so, what will they be? 

So we were in this place of great uncertainty and the official corporate message was, don't worry, everything's going to be fine, this is going to be terrific.  At one point in the office we got together and we asked Diane to give us the real scoop.  She said, "Honestly, what's going on is nobody knows what's happening and everybody's worried, and their going to keep grinding out these positive messages to try to keep all of us from jumping ship and going to work somewhere else."

She said, "I don't know what's happening with my job or your job, but while we're here, let's hang in there together.  Let's have each other's backs."  And I knew this manager was really a leader.  She had my back.  I could trust her, and as a result our performance during that period of uncertainty was great.  And in the meantime I was getting ready to leave so when things kind of collapsed I had my next job ready.

I learned from that experience the same thing you're talking about.  It's about honesty and trust and human relations. 


Ayrae:  Cam, thank you so much for taking the time this morning.  Cam Danielson is an explorer.  He's an explorer in the world of consciousness and leadership.  He's also someone who breaks the rules.  In any particular discipline or set of rules you might imagine about how things ought to be done, Cam Danielson will explore the boundaries and go beyond those boundaries.  He's also an author and collector of stories about people who are actually changing themselves and changing the world.  He's an author, a researcher, a leadership consultant, coach, and global consortium convener.

Welcome again, Cam.

Cam:  Thank you, Ayrae. 

Aryae:  I want to start off with this question.  You guide people one-on-one and you put together programs and teams for business leaders and leaders of communities and organizations around the world.  What I want to ask you is, what's different in what you do from what other people who do leadership programs do?  What are people going to experience in your program that's different?

Cam:  First of all, let me just say a little bit about where I'm at in the work I'm doing.  I started at a place learning about leadership.  We all have to start someplace and it was a journey just understanding that leadership matters.  As you say, I was kind of an explorer.  I was out doing my own thing, interested in all kinds of questions, and leadership really wasn't one of them. 

I was really kind of backed into this question of leadership and that's part of my life story and therefore my attitude towards leadership.  It wasn't that I wanted to be a leader.  It wasn't that I necessarily cared that much about leadership, but when I got into this question of trying to understand what was happening in the world, I found myself talking to a lot of people who began to exude a certain attitude or intentional presence that became something that opened up new doorways for me into understanding what's going on in the world.

And that's one of the things that I would say about leadership, is these people who can be conduits to our understanding of what's going on outside of our own framework, outside of our own orientation, outside of our own horizons.  So this is one of the reasons why the title of the book I've written, Beyond Horizons, is based on individuals who opened up the horizons of others.  And this is one of the dimensions of leadership that I feel is relevant to the context that we are in in the world today. 

With the degree of uncertainty and complexity, there's a tendency to put our heads down because we can't make sense of what's going on around us.  And therefore we want a certain amount of certainty and stability, so our horizons get shorter.  We say, out there, I don't understand that.  But if I draw the line in the sand two feet in front of me, I can stand on this side and say, at least over here, this is true.  These things I do know.  And people tend to anchor, therefore, in short-term orientations, because they don't know what's predictable.

Aryae: So you're not only going beyond known boundaries yourself, but you're identifying others who are doing the same.

Cam:  Exactly.  So one of these qualities about exceptional leaders is their willingness to explore beyond their boundaries and their identity.  And if there was something very common to what I've been writing about is that they're not necessarily tied to what I call a traditional career.  Vocation and avocation weave together in an almost seamless, fluid way.  And they have multiple interests across multiple fields.  And sometimes I feel like they're developing their ability to know in many different ways, through their bodies, through their feelings, through their mind, through their connection with others, through their inquiry into where they come from and where they're going. 

There are questions they ask that are never finally resolved.  You get a certain definition or idea for some period of time, but then you have to go back and review those questions because those answers continue to unfold in new ways. 

Their ability to be in transition is another quality about them which I find [inaudible], in that rather than feeling transition something that is disruptive and disorienting, which it is, they see it as full of potential and opportunity, which is also true.  And they tend to be much more attracted to the opportunity to transform than to be anchored in an old identity or the past.  And you could say that that's courage on the part of leaders to do that, but I'd also say that it's anchored in a certain kind of love.

I think the overriding characteristic of exceptional leaders is their ability to first learn how to love themselves, and through that process, learn to hold space for others to love themselves and create a deeper sense of connection with their own essential qualities.

Ayrae:  This sounds really important.  Can I ask you to give us a story of somebody you've worked with who demonstrates that sense of love that you're talking about?

Cam:  There's a young woman--I often share a story she wrote about growing up.  She and her older sister were adopted; she was quite young when she was adopted and her older sister was several years older.  Her older sister kind of blamed her for the fact that their parents abandoned them and they had to be adopted, and therefore the older sister beat her as she was growing up.  It was one of the things that she said, "we spent most of our lives working that out." 

At this point in the story, as she's telling it, she's saying, "my older sister is now dying of cancer.  She's reflecting on how generous and kind she's been, but she doesn't feel like she's been really compassionate with her sister.  She says, "it's something I expect of the universe, but it's not something that I have, in turn, offered."  And therefore, she made a commitment to her sister to spend more time with her, even though up to this point in time she could hardly stand to be in the room with her, could hardly stand to touch her.  Now she made a different kind of commitment in being there with her to help her prepare to die.  And in the process of that, there was a communion in which she felt herself grow in a way that she didn't expect in her relationship with her sister, given their upbringing. 

"As she died," she said, "I kissed her and it was kind of a generous grieving for this woman who had been the bane of my life, but helped me become more of who I really am."  And it was in her ability to see through this scar, this trauma in her life.  Through the essence of her own sister, she saw the essence of herself. 

It's a story that I've shared with other leaders about what it means to be open to the compassion that's here to us, and allows us to move past our own woundedness.  And this woundedness is a function of the trauma that we are experiencing in the world.


Ayrae:  That's an amazing story.  What I'm wondering as I'm listening is, for someone who has gone through that kind of experience--and my understanding is that many of the people who you've interviewed and researched in your book have--what does that kind of human quality look like at work in the corporate world?

Cam:  Here's a question that I pose to leaders, and it's one that helps me explain what this looks like in the corporate world.  And that is, as a leader, how do people feel about themselves in your presence?  What is the feeling, the energy, that you're creating that they're stepping into in your presence?  And how do they leave that presence?  Do they leave that presence more inspired, more frustrated, depressed?  What is their experience of themselves while you're with them?

As a leader, your ability to inform that feel, that energy, that presence with others is directly correlated to this ability to tap into that compassion, that love that is really core to your essential identity, essential qualities. 

So many individuals who I start this journey around leadership with, define leadership in terms of some kind of functional, technical expertise: "I need to master this so people will think of me as a leader."  That's one level of leadership, and it's not to be denied.  But it's not the leadership I'm talking about. 

The leadership I'm talking about goes beyond merely demonstrating competence in an area of relevance to the work of the organization.  That's necessary to get into the role, but it's not necessary to provide the sufficient leadership in the environment we're in of great uncertainty, great complexity, great ambiguity. 

Now, what we need to do is anchor into a presence that allows people to be more expansive, rather than getting their heads down.  They need to get their heads up, to look out.  In order to do that, they need to feel a certain kind of connection to something larger than themselves, to expand their experience of themselves beyond self-limiting beliefs that have been trained by many of the experiences that we acquire growing up, in school, in the workplace. 

One of the remarkable tensions of businesses and organizations generally is this competing orientations, competing commitments.  There's tension between what you want to do, what I want to do, what the organization want's to do.  It's holding those tensions in a way that it actually becomes creative, rather than destructive.

Ayrae:  Your description of a leader reminds me of something about spiritual teachers.  There was a time when my wife, Wendy, and I had the opportunity to meet a number of different spiritual teachers from different traditions, and the question we were asking ourselves is how do I know if someone is my spiritual teacher?  Our experience, the answer we came up with was, if I walk away and I feel really great about that person and say, wow, that's a really tremendous teacher, that's not my spiritual teacher.  But if I walk away and I feel really great about myself and I say, wow, I see things I didn't know about myself, that person's my spiritual teacher.

And it sounds like that's exactly what you're talking about with leaders.

Cam:  That's very nicely put, Ayrae.  The leaders that I'm applying the label "Leader" to are not leaders by role or title.  They're leaders by the way in which other people look to them for inspiration.  They inspire them, they tap into something inside of them as individuals that becomes more expansive, becomes more elated, more motivated, more willing to take a step beyond because they feel there's a system to this support, there's a safe environment here.

So this goes back to the notion of trust.  Trust is really instrumental to growth.  But I would say by nature, as human beings, we're striving for growth.  Growth is inherent in our nature.  We are moving forward, either in a learning orientation or in a growth orientation to become more fully realized beings.  Our journey in this world is stewarding, for each of us, what that means.  And what efforts we need to make to become more wholehearted or whole. 

And this is where I talk about these tensions.  These tensions are there so that allows something new to come forward.  The leaders I work with, in the most difficult situations, you feel like something good is going to happen.  As opposed to something bad is going to happen.  What are they tapping into?  There's another quality.  I refer to it as playfulness. 

When I went in to engage leaders in this study, and the underlying premise of the study is looking at the long-term effects of a meditation practice on leadership.  We can talk about the difference meditation makes in terms of its efficacy around the experience--is this a good practice or what happens to you when you're in that practice--but I was looking more from the standpoint of what difference is it making in your leadership.

Ayrae:  Is this the study that you did for your book, Beyond the Horizon?

Cam:  Yes.

Ayrae:  I was going to ask you about that.  Please share with us what you studied and what you learned. 

Cam:  The individuals all had one dimension of their practice that was common.  And that's how I found them.  They had no knowledge of each other, and I did not know them from around the world, primarily anglo-speaking countries.  But they were individuals from all walks of life, all kinds of organizations, all kinds of roles they played: military, government, NGOs, business corporations, various kinds of organizations.  It's a very diverse and dispersed group, equal men and women, age ranges of 40-60.  So you're seeing people with not a lot of demographic similarities. 

Yet, what was common from my experience with them was I would come in with this protocol conducting these interviews.  I felt like I was the one in charge and they're the ones being interviewed, and I often felt that it was the other way around.  After a short period of time, it was more like they're really the ones controlling this conversation, not me.  It's more like they saw me as somebody to play with. 

So they would begin to play with their energy field and open up and they would change the dynamic of the conversation.  So I found myself getting elevated in the dialogue with them.  I found myself moving into a more meditative and expansive state with them.  And that's why I know what I'm saying about how their presence influenced my experience in their presence.  That's exactly what they were doing with other people. 

Ayrae:  You were messing with the boundaries of the roles.

Cam:  And so I came out of the interviews inspired by them.  What I noticed was they would have this very subtle humor.  One woman, who had her own business, was talking about having lost her husband and living alone now for fourteen years.  And I said, "do you ever miss the intimacy of being married and living with someone?"  And she says, "yeah, oftentimes I miss that--cuddling up on the sofa with my husband."

 But then she moves into this other story where she has a whole cabin by a lake and she would go there periodically in the summer.  She was relating a story of being on a rowboat out on the lake.  Just sitting and musing with her eyes closed and the next thing she knew there was this large loon, a big bird that came up to the boat.  And they looked at each other, eye to eye.  Just locked in a gaze with each other.  She said, "I felt this communion with this bird."  And then she smiled.  And that was her answer to my question of do you miss the connection with your husband.  And she said, "this is another form of intimacy that I have."  And she said it in a way and you could tell this was something she was moved to share, but it was really not trying to answer the question directly, but by trying to open up another way of understanding what it means to be intimate with a living being.

Ayrae:  Wow, beautiful.  You were mentioning the role of meditation in people's practices and I'm curious if, as a result of this study, is there something that we know about the relationship between meditation practice and how leaders perform in the workplace, according to business measurements as well as human measurements?

Cam:  Yeah.  Here's one of the dilemmas for leaders, this notion of authentic leadership, showing up authentically, rather than a manufactured persona.  While we have personas for multiple situations we face, and therefore we can choose how we want to show up situation to situation, how do we know that we're being authentic and not artificial?  Not trying to, in a subtle and not-so-subtle way, manipulate.  And it's back to your earlier story about the leader that was very honest with you about the situation that the organization faced. 

So here's one of these really interesting dilemmas, that it's all really scary out there.  My private truth is, "I don't know."  And quite frankly, there's a certain amount of anxiety around not knowing.  So how do I authentically own that and show up with leadership, my "royal face" in the language of Henry V, show up with composure, with poise?  So here's my private and my public face, these are things that are in conflict with each other.  How do I authentically show up with this kind of presence, this calm, this poise in the midst of my feeling of uncertainty? 

And this is where I would say meditation, as a practice, is really important.  It allows you to move to a space where you are connected to something larger than this specific incident or situation.  To connect to that essence of yourself that transcends this specific experience.  To the degree to which you can do that, you can be both present as a witness to what's going on and feeling what you're feeling. 

So one of the things about anxiety that's been a teacher for me is that it's not about getting rid of it.  It's always going to be there.  It's about being able to be private to the anxiety, but also witnessing it.  So I'm observing what's happening even as I'm experiencing it.  And it's in that observer state that I'm going to be in some essential quality of self that transcends this specific situation.  So I'm both a participant and observer simultaneously.

To me, that's the benefit of mediation.  It allows me to tap into what many of the healers refer to as their own inner guidance, their own sense of their higher self, of the Dao, of God, whatever label they use to describe being in touch with something that extends beyond time and space, the specific context of a specific situation. 

You're not trying to divorce yourself from the situation.  You want to be present, so you want to be grounded in your feelings, but you also want to be able to observe your feelings.  That way you can be present, but not overwhelmed, to have your feelings, but not be overwhelmed by them.

Ayrae:  So if I am a corporate leader and I have to deal with specific business situations, then what meditation will open for me is access to a greater consciousness, a greater sense of awareness and experience that goes way beyond the current situation and that allows me to act with more wisdom, with more effectiveness in the current situation.  Is that right?

Cam:  Yeah, like the experience of the astronauts looking back at the earth.  Everything is now in a different perspective.

Ayrae:  Right.  I want to ask you something.  Both in your book and some writing about your book, one of the background communities that shows up is the Monroe Institute.  And as I understand it, people that you've interviewed were also people who also had been involved with the Monroe Institute.  Can you share a little about that, what role it played in your experience in the development of your thinking about leadership?

Cam:  Sure.  That was what was common in the leaders.  They had other practices, but they all had also attended multiple programs through the institute, which was an institute dedicated to the study and research of consciousness.  And they had developed a technology, audio-based, around the concept of binaural beats for allowing you to move into difference states of consciousness, or brain states. 

One of the difficulties of using audio technologies is the ear can only hear within a certain range.  But the brain operates in ranges outside of what the ear can hear.  So when we think about moving into states of deep relaxation and sleep--and these are altered states of consciousness is another way to think about it--is how do we help people move into those states.  Well, that's what meditation is supposed to do, but with these audio technologies it also helps to facilitate changing the brain states so you begin to experience deep states of relaxation while awake.

So it's a very similar practice with meditation, it's just what you might call an accelerator of that practice.  These technologies help create neural pathways for people to move into deep states of relaxation that they can then begin to do without the audio technology.  That's the intent.  So you reinforce those pathways by attending these programs and then you continue to use those pathways as part of your meditation practice.

So all of these individuals had developed their pathways through using neural as well as other programs and teachers.  Neural was a foundation piece for many of them.  There was a way in which they kind of got introduced to this concept of a higher self the way they got introduced to the experiencing of themselves without all the baggage they're carrying.  It's a way in which to begin to see themselves in their more essential qualities and therefore to learn what it means to be more wholehearted, more whole.  And it's how they elevated beyond the trauma and the tragedy of their own lives.

Ayrae: So it was a technique and a technology which basically guided people to be able to reach and experience the meditative state?

Cam:  Right, and in that meditative state, begin to move beyond the what I call the filters or the assumptions or the beliefs that held them into a certain state of being.  It was the notion that said, if you let these go, you'll die.  So another way to say this is allowing the ego to be moved to one side you can access the full spectrum of consciousness.  And then bring the ego back in as part of the integration of the experience. 

So how do you go explore?  Well, you have to move the ego aside to go explore.  But then how do you make meaning from what you've been receiving from this exploration?  That's when you bring the ego back in.  It's a translation/integration process.  So what are you going to do with this?  This is one of the things about leadership as distinct from merely a spiritual practice.  You do have to act on this in the world in some way.  And you have to find a translation from the experience into how you show up.


Ayrae:  So, leadership is like a spiritual practice plus action.

Cam:  Correct.

Ayrae:  When you and I were talking earlier this week there was something I was wondering out loud about that I want to ask you now.  If any of us find ourselves in the position where I am a manager or a leader in a business and as such I'm responsible for delivering results.  In order to deliver results, I have to take certain actions and maybe I have to fire people or do something that people don't like.  On the other hand, as a leader in the way you've defined it, I'm committed to a greater awareness and a greater commitment to everyone's well-being.  That is a paradoxical situation to be it.  And I'm curious if you have any stories you can share with us about people who found themselves having to balance those two competing sets of values and how they went about doing that?

Cam: Again, this is a great example of how I describe business as a grade school:  it's learning.  It's developmental if we want to take that attitude about it.  Because you're constantly going to get tested.  You're going to get tested around your values and your principles because situation upon situation is going to come forward and what you've done in the past isn't going to necessarily be relevant or even minorly relevant to the situation you're facing.  So you've got to find new ways forward.  And this is the notion of being able to, first of all, step out of the situation and not overreact.  So this ability of self-regulation is extremely important. 

Again, part of the meditation/mindfulness practice is instilling greater self-regulation.  Certainly, stress-management is an important aspect of self-regulation and well-being, but I think mindfulness goes well beyond that.  This ability to step out of a situation in order for you to begin to open up to what wants to be spoken truly into the situation right now.  What wants to be manifest, what wants to come forward now. 

So what you're looking for is guidance that is not just simply doing what I've done before, I call it my "default position."  Leaders, no different than other people, acquire patterns of behavior based on repeated situations or circumstances that reinforced that behavior.  And if it works, you tend to use it again.  So individuals develop their own personal success strategies around what they've done in the past that's allowed them to be successful in those situations and allowed them to take on more responsibility, different jobs.  And it becomes part of their "default position." 

And when we're facing situations that are unknown or different from anything we've done before, if we merely respond to it the way we've responded to other situations in the past, chances are it's not going to work at best, and at worst it's going to be destructive.  So again, part of the practice of meditation and mindfulness is the ability to step out of the situation and begin to inquire, "I'm feeling something here."  You've got to get back in your body, you can't stay in your mind or in your head.  You've got to get into your body and say, "what's happening?"  Because you're going to experience it in a felt way before you understand it in a cognitive way.  And therefore, this notion of saying, "What's happening?  Why am I experiencing this?  What's it telling me about how I want to show up?" 
So this is one of the exercises I often use.  In the situation, you grab two coworkers who have an agreement with each other.  One wants to get the certificate that will be helpful to this individual's career and every Wednesday from 1 to 2 the other coworker will be in the office so this person can leave to go do this class.  It stands over eight weeks.  So four or five weeks in this person is sitting there waiting for the coworker to show up.  He's late again for the third time. 

So I ask people, what about this situation annoys you the most?  There are multiple responses here.  One response is, I don't like the fact this person isn't showing me any respect.  We have an agreement.  I feel like by violating this agreement, it's saying I'm not important and what I'm trying to get done doesn't mean anything to this individual.  So there's one response and in my terms you're feeling victimized.  This person is doing something to me that's preventing me from meeting my goals. 

A second response to that is to say, I don't like being in this situation, but as I reflect on this, I realize this arrangement isn't working.  And if I really want to get the certificate, I better come up with a different solution.  Same situation, different response.  So what's different?  In this particular situation, the person is able to be a little more objective about what's going on, rather than reactive. 

Now, there's a third position.  And this one is much more attuned to the leaders in this book, my study.  The third position is, what am I doing in this relationship with my coworker that my coworker can't tell me no?  That feels like when I ask, they have to say yes?  Even though they know that they can't meet the obligation.  How am I contributing to this relationship in the way that they can't be as honest with me as they need to be. 

They recognize that they have contributed to the situation.  That the other person's behavior is not in a vacuum.  That they're in a relationship with each other and that relationship shows up in a certain way.  Now they're reflecting on what they're doing that's informing this relationship in a certain way so that this coworker can't say, no I'm sorry but I can't abide by that right now.

Ayrae:  Are these in a certain order of consciousness, like, first is I blame the other, and second is How can I change it? and third I say, What is my role?

Cam:  Right, exactly.  And I see that in states of mind.  I'm using Bob Kegan's language here.  Kegan and Lisa Layhe have done a lot of work together looking at adult development and the way in which we organize our experiences.  Meaning-making is a function of how we organize our experiences.  We can organize our experiences with more sophisticated understanding or nuance into these events.

One is a victim orientation and they refer to that as Socialized Mind: I'm only as good as what other people say about me.  I define myself in terms of how other people see me.  That's a necessary stage of development.  It's necessary because we move out of childhood into adulthood with that mind.  We become sensitive to the need of others.  Until we become sensitive to the needs of others, we can't acquire more autonomy, because we can't be trusted. 

To be trusted means you're aware of my needs.  But if all I do is simply respond in terms of how you think about me, I have a certain limit to what I'm able to accomplish in my own growth.  I can be independent.  I can get a job.  I can choose to have a family.  I can act like an adult, but I'm socialized into a collective in which other people in that collective are an important sign post for understanding how I fit in and how I contribute. 

It's a very necessary stage, but as a leader, that will take you so far, as the example shows.  Because at some point in time, you're going to have competing needs.  You can't make everybody happy.  And when you attempt to to that, you stay in a socialized mind.  If you're attempting to make everybody happy, meet everybody's needs, so you have a degree of autonomy.  If everyone feels like they're getting what they need from me, then I now have space to do what I want to do.  But I'm constantly adjusting what I want to do to make sure that everybody's getting what they need. 

The more mature leader begins to go into a self-authoring mind, in which you now use your own knowledge of yourself--so self-knowledge and self-awareness--you become much more self-monitoring, self-evaluating, self-correcting.  It's around this second example--there's no straight line between point A and point B.  There's always going to be stuff that comes up.  So it's about how do you figure out how to move towards the goal you want to go to, meeting all the obstacles that come up, and then negotiating them in a way that says, alright, this is forcing me to reflect on how badly I want that certificate.  Maybe this isn't the right time.  But that's my choice now.  I'm reflecting on it as I know I have a choice in how I want to show up here.  As opposed to, "I don't have a choice."

Ayrae:  This raises another question.  If I'm a leader and I want to be in that state where I'm not defined by the business or the corporate entity or by someone else's definition of my role, but I'm defined by a larger consciousness, then to what extent do I have to be ready to do stuff that might get me fired?  Is it important for a leader to be willing to get fired?

Cam:  My view around this is everyone who becomes much more aware that their purpose of leadership is larger than any organization they're part of, that's how they get more expansive and put things into a different kind of perspective.  Success is not just measured in career terms.  The socialized mind measures success in career terms.  The self-authored mind measures success in terms of, how well aligned is my work with my purpose?

And in this context, what am I acquiring, in terms of competencies, so that I can more powerfully do my work?  That's how I see the context.  It's a place for developing myself so I can more powerfully align my work with my purpose.  And there are times where that purpose is now larger--I'm ready now to take this purpose into other areas of my life.  So it may be that that organization has served its purpose for me, getting me to another point so I can begin to think more broadly than the organization itself. 

You're saying, so why would a company want to send somebody to a program to think about doing something outside of their organization, or possibly leaving the organization?  The point here is, where does innovation come from?  If you're not willing to think outside of the context in which the current organization is operating, there's limitation to what you can bring to it, in terms of vision, direction, and guidance.  You're operating with what's already there and trying to maximize it. 

But if you want to introduce something that isn't there, you've got to think bigger than the organization is currently operating.  Therefore you've got to get outside of it.  This is back to the notion of the astronauts.  You've got to get outside of it and look back at it.  And what elevates you outside the organization?  A sense of connection to your purpose, which becomes larger than any particular organization.

As an example of one of the leaders: a combination poet, conservationist, entrepreneur.  And one of the things we talked about, the issues he was trying to address around poverty and planetary health was larger than any organization he was a part of.  So it's more about how does where you find you're footing in taking action around these things that allow you to work within different organizations.  This organization right now is aligned with this work at the point in time where there are certain issues you are trying to address.  There's a partnership, you're involved together to do good work together.  But take you as an individual and the relationship you have with your organization.  There's a collaboration as opposed to merely an employment.  It's a way of reframing it and putting it in a different light. 


Deven:  Thank you.  How insightful, your comments about leadership and what it means.  I'm blown away by the part of reflection and being able to revisit your own thinking pattern to help out. 

We have one question from Jay Z.: "Cam, in your book, you speak about engagement of multiple intelligences.  Can you speak a bit more about how corporations and organizations can practically do that?"

Cam:  Thank you for the question.  In reference to multiple intelligences is research that others have done on tapping into and using that label.  It's the idea that individuals develop as people and as leaders through different aspects of their being.  So some people are much more learners in their body--think in terms of athletes, how they acquire the ability to do certain things physically.  Other people have a more spatial intelligence.  In other words, they're able to envision in a three-dimensional way and picture things that others can't see.  Other people are much more analytic and can look at numbers and see relationships there, or in the arts they can begin to look at figures or listen to music and experience nuance in the tones or in the colors that others can't see. 

The theory is that you can develop these intelligences.  It's not just simply that you have them, but they are developmental.  The point is that if you actually develop them across some array of them, what difference does it make?  It's back to the notion of how do we explore beyond the known?  And if we're in an environment of great uncertainty, if all we're doing in looking forward into that unknown is extrapolating through a process of learning that we have used in the past, there may be things that we're not going to see, or are not going to show up or be acknowledged. 

We're going to miss it because we don't know how to expand our filters.  This goes on all the time in high stress environments.  When under a lot of stress we are only following certain signals because we are very quickly trying to understand something or come to some sense of stability in the middle of it.  So we're missing things. 

Maybe you've seen the video of the players playing basketball in black shirts and white shirts and the black shirts are passing the ball back and forth to each other and the white players are moving around.  And in the middle of this a gorilla walks through.  If people are focused on how many passes the black shirt people are making, they don't see the gorilla.  Their focus of attention keeps that from being visible.  It isn't something they anticipate and therefore it isn't something they see.  That's part of the problem of operating in a high-stress environment with a great deal of uncertainty and ambiguity.  Using and developing multiple intelligences is another way to balance what is coming at us so we can actually know more, be able to move into the unknown with a little more confidence.  That's the purpose of it.

Deven:  Building on Jay Z.'s question--and this is so insightful--when you are a leader and you are trying to cultivate or encourage people about multiple intelligences, I suppose that you being a good role model and exploring between yourself and sharing it can inspire them.  Could there be incentive that we could create so that people actually have motivation to develop those things themselves?

Cam:  Yeah, one is valuing learning.  Organizations that give people time to invest in this exploration, in the learning of any kind is creating an environment of greater inquiry and reflection.  One of the problems when we first introduced online learning in the work we were doing is that companies were not giving people time to do the work, to go online.  It was one of the lies of online learning is that there's no time for it.  If you are working online in your own course, you're not doing your work.  So the only way you could do it is outside of work. 

In my mind, proportionally, the greater the uncertainty of the environment, the more times needs to be invested in learning.  But there's a tendency to do just the opposite.  The greater the uncertainty, the more we focus on results.  We put the stress on the people to put their heads down and do less and less inquiry beyond something that they know they can control. 

Deven:  You reminded me of my manager at my very first job.  He used to say, slow down to speed up.  What you say is so true, that when there is uncertainty or pressure, we just try to grind it out and make it faster.  But it only actually makes the problem worse.  So just give time for reflection and value that and that can encourage people to do more of that.

Cam:  And there's another insidious element to organizations and it's that there's a tendency to create more rules to counter the complexity.  And all that does is send signals that you don't trust your people.  That they can't take initiative without someone telling them whether they can or not.  They can't exercise their autonomy without somebody saying, "here's how you're supposed to do that."  So people become more and more disengaged even as leadership at the top is trying to exercise more influence on driving results.

Deven:  It's not just time, but give people space where they can explore things in their own way.  If they feel bogged down in too many rules, if they feel it's too rigid, then obviously they're not going to do that.  So give them time and give them space where they can be themselves and they can reflect and refine and devise.

Cam:  And then be a role model of that yourself as a leader.  In other words, demonstrate your own inquiry, your own way of learning, your own way of surfacing the questions and putting them forward as part of the dialogue or engagement with your team and with others, rather than coming in with, "here's what needs to be done," start with the question, with the inquiry.  Start with exploring assumptions: "we're doing things this way.  Is this the way we should be thinking about this?  Is there something else that we're missing?"  So by the way in which you frame the conversation, you give everybody permission to engage differently, show up differently.

Deven:  So well said.  So when people say that you are actually exploring and opening yourself up for different options and alternatives, when people see your inner dialogue it's a reflection for themselves and they would start doing that as well. 

Thank you, Cam, for developing that so well.  We have one more comment that comes from Ingrid.  It says, "it seems that people are connected to the spirit, like you said, as we should do.  It seems that self-organization would be much easier and natural.  What do you think about self-organizing or Chaordic organizing a la Dee Hock?"

Cam:  I reference Dee and his work in my book and there's a statement Dee makes and I want to make certain I do justice to it.  I want to read this little piece that Dee wrote.  He says, "there's no way to give people purpose and principles.  Nor can there be self-governance without them.  The only possibility is to evoke the gift of self-governance from the people to themselves."

This is a powerful statement here. So he's saying basically, we all have to connect with our own inner guidance, with our own sense of purpose, with our own sense of principles derived from that purpose.  And each of us as individuals need to do that in order to evoke self-governance.  So we can't be self-organizing without first being aware of our own inner guidance, our own sense of purpose, our own set of principles.  Nobody can give that to you.  And that's why I want to work in leadership.

Deven:  If I think of how I can empower people, let them be their natural selves, explore themselves and be open to ideas. 

Cam:  This is the role of creating the space, the energy, in which people in your presence as the leader, you feel them evoking in you your connection with your own purpose, with your calling.  You step into the space with a leader knowing that you will be challenging yourself around who you are, what you're about, what difference you want to make.  The leader is not the one doing that to you. 

You're having to access that for yourself and come forward into the conversation with some of that guidance that you've received from yourself to offer to the group.  Until you do that work yourself, then you're really sitting on the sidelines waiting for somebody to tell you what to do.

Ayrae:  I wanted to jump in here.  My wife Wendy left a question based on her career and I imagine a lot of others, and that is, "what if I buy into all these principles, but I am not in any kind of management role in my organization?  I'm not temperamentally cut out for that.  How are your lessons about leadership relevant for someone like me?"

Cam:  There are individuals in the study who are probably seen as individual contributors.  I call them leaders.  I call them leaders because people seek them out.  People come to consult, to think out loud with them, to work through issues.  One woman in a very large global company, who got herself a title.  She says, "my work here is creating a [inaudible]."  I don't get hung up with the titles.

Deven: If I may interject, we have a caller in the queue.  We would love to hear his voice.

Nipun:  Thank you for your insights.  I'm looking at your book and the chapter six title says, "Leadership as Soul Work."  In ServiceSpace circles we often think of leadership as laddership.  The more common word for it might be servant leadership, although we tend to go one step further.  But I'd love to hear your thoughts on servant leadership, and I want to illustrate that by this beautiful story you share in chapter six of your book. 

You said, "this story was told to me by a colleague who was in attendance at a conference when Mother Teresa gave a keynote address. It was a conference for Human Resource leaders across India with several hundred present for her presentation.  She was introduced to great expectations before she walked to the podium.  When she began to speak, she wondered aloud why she had been invited to give a talk to such an esteemed group of leaders.  She acknowledged her lack of business knowledge and instead put two questions to the group.  'Do you know your people?' and 'Do you love them?'  At that point she stopped a moment, looking at the audience before walking off the stage.  The silence that followed was deafening, and then one individual and then a second, and finally everyone began to stand and applaud."

And you go on to say that her questions are not typically asked of business leaders.  So my question, Cam, to you would be, if you could share a little bit about what you think of this idea of servant leadership, or what we call at ServiceSpace, laddership, where you're really trying to do what Mother Teresa was pointing at:  Do you know your people?  Do you love them?  Do you care for them?  Do you care for them to go succeed beyond you?  For you to be a ladder for their potential.  Can you share a little bit about that.  I'd love to get some reflections and also some examples of people who you think are amazing servant leaders from all the works that you've done and all the research you've done.

Cam:  To this point, we have to unpack the word love, because it means different things to people at difference points in their journey.  It is an essential quality of our natures.  But if we see it merely in a romantic way, we interpret it within a limited range.  But if we delve into another part of the book where I go into reflecting on different dimensions of love, this notion of Christ's injunction, to love others as yourself. 

Oftentimes, the emphasis is on loving others.  And I say, what does it mean to love yourself?  And how you love yourself is how you're going to love others.  And if you are not wholehearted in your love of yourself, then how can you be that in your love of others? 

This is the question of wholeness, once again.  How am I becoming more fully that which was given to me to steward in this life?  How do I bring that forward?  How do I honor that gift that was given to me to bring forward in this world?  And through that process instill or evoke that same gift each person is carrying for themselves? 

That's a different notion of love, and that's where it gets confusing.  There are times when organizations are reducing the workforce.  Is it right or wrong?  I think the question is not so much is it right or wrong, as it is how are you showing this notion of love towards your people.  Which is, how are you helping them evoke the gift that's been given to them to bring into this world?  That supersedes any employment contract, supersedes any measure of success in material terms.  It is this notion of the richness of the essence of who we are and how that's being manifested. 

And so the example of leadership to me is how these individuals evoke that.  They're there doing that for themselves.  The richness of the interior life, how that channels through them and creates this radiant energy field that instills an expanded consciousness for those who are present.  And in the presence of that they feel something being evoked out of them, being brought out of them, led from them.  That's the true meaning of education.  Educare, to be led out. 

Here's an example of one of the great leaders in my life.  He developed a very unique educational program at the University of Kansas where I was an undergraduate and I was privileged to go through it.  There was a point where I told him, we read great works of literature and philosophy and history, and we listened to these wonderful lectures and we were told, take no notes.  Just sit, listen.  Learn how to listen.  Then we went out and went stargazing, learned constellations.  And then we went and memorized poetry orally.  And we would recite that and spend evenings with each other.  And there were no tests.  And somebody asked, how do you get a grade in this class?  And he looked at her very seriously and he said, "by the light in your eyes." 

That is a different gift that's being evoked from that person to themselves through this experience.  What does it mean?  That person knows how to impact, but that's your journey now.  It's been evoked, you have had this elevated experience, this light goes on, you see something you haven't seen, and now you begin to journey in pursuit of, what does this mean?  What am I meant to do with this?  How do I live according to this? 

The notion of self-governance comes out of that experience.  That's my notion of inspired leadership or servant leadership.

Nipun: Beautiful.

Deven:  How do you evoke the feeling in people to follow and pursue their own gifts?

Cam:  They first have to acknowledge the gifts.

Deven:  Cam, how can we, all of us Service Space volunteers, help you in such a meaningful and instructive journey that you are leading?

Cam:  I've been reflecting on that question for a few days now.  The truth of the matter is that you're helping me by what you're doing with others.  You're doing the work that I'm talking about in my book.  You're doing the work.  So I want to encourage that work and support and acknowledge that work.  It's consistent with what I think we need in the world, this ability to help people evoke their own gift, to bring it forward in the world and realize it.  This Ladder leadership, the servant leadership model, this is what you're doing.  By you doing that work, you're helping me.  And I hope that by my participation in something like this, I'm reinforcing that work for you.

I would also ask that there are many forms in which this work shows up, and I would love to hear from people about their examples of inspired leadership, their examples in life around people they've worked with.  That is something I love to collect and use in building out this story and this capacity to work with other people to begin to help them bring forward their unique gifts, their sense of purpose, and make a difference in the world. 

So people listening and members of ServiceSpace who have stories of their own they'd like to share with me, I'd be very happy to talk with them or just receive them, acknowledge that.  Whatever they feel comfortable doing.  In that way, we're reinforcing the work of the Conscious Leadership Institute, which, by the way, is the new form of Odyssey. 

The company that I formed many years ago is now operating under the umbrella of the Conscious Leadership Institute.  We now have a research focus around what difference does developing greater consciousness make in leadership.  That's one of our ongoing questions.  So stories from your membership would be very helpful to us.

Deven:  Thank you, Cam for that call to action.

Ayrae:  Cam, I want to say thanks again for holding this space with us, for all of us to open up our minds, hearts, our soul to bring in the larger consciousness into our conversation.  To cross the boundaries and to enjoy this time together.  Thank you.

Cam:  Thank you Ayrae.  And thank you, Nipun, for inviting me.

Deven:  How honored we are for the opportunity.

Cam:  Thank you.