Contextual Leadership Formation

Leadership development is best done in context. We are formed as leaders through action and reflection, individually and in groups, with mentors and coaches who can guide us along the way and build into us capacities for strength and confidence in the midst of the incredible challenges that leaders face today. Internships provide leaders the opportunity to develop and refine their competence “in real time” with the supervision and guidance of skilled facilitators.

I spent the last several days with leaders from three different Christian organizations discussing and exploring the emerging “new monastic” expressions as a form of “contextual leadership formation” (my phrase). Ben Bohren and Patti Case from the National Benevolent Association met with Elaine Heath, Wes Magruder, Daryn DeZengotita, Justin Hancock and others from the Missional Wisdom Foundation and Jim Ellison with the Fund for Theological Education. At the lunch meeting Thursday this group led a conversation with more than a dozen Disciples of Christ leaders from the Christian Church in the Southwest, the North Texas and Trinity Brazos areas, Juliette Fowler Communities, South Hills Christian Church, Northway Christian Church, East Dallas Christian Church, and Ridgelea Christian Church, among others.

I have also been in conversation with business school leaders, including Paula Strasser from the SMU Cox School of Business and Brad Hancock from the TCU Neeley School of Business Entrepreneurship Center. I met with folks at Success North Dallas, an organization founded by Bill Wallace that seeks to deepen and strengthen leaders. And I got to have conversation with Candace Fitzpatrick, founder of Core Clarity, an organization that helps individuals and organizations thrive by understanding and focusing energy in the areas of greatest talent and strength.

One of the common threads in these conversations is the importance of quality contextual leadership formation that includes a coaching and mentoring components. Coaching and mentoring are different and complementary disciplines. Each have a place in leadership formation, at its initiation, and throughout our careers, regardless of our field – business, government, healthcare, academy, non-profit, faith based, congregational. Learning from books and lectures is immeasurably valuable, but limited. Much of the integration of this learning arises in the field, in context, and is facilitated by working with mentors and coaches. These experiences are often labeled as internships.

It is also most valuable to do this work in community, with a group of peers from the same or different disciplines, who can offer peer mentoring and coaching, support, encouragement, challenge and accountability. The best programs (like the ones mentioned above) combine these practices of individual and group mentoring and coaching.

When have you struggled for lack of this kind of support? What was that like, and what did you do about it?
Where have you experienced good mentoring and coaching, individually and as part of a group? How did those experiences help to make you a better leader?

Tablet PC – Is BlackBerry CEO predicting or manipulating the future?

Bloomberg reports that BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins doubts the future of Tablet PCs. Obviously Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Google, etc thing differently. So what’s going on here. Is this the proverbial fox saying the grapes are sour simply because they are out of his reach? Does Heins genuinely believe that Tables really are not going to be profitable or a significant portion of the computing market? Is Heins wishing this to be so because his company has failed to get in on the action? Or is he trying to manipulate the game by speaking as an industry thought leader, in the hope that others will say, “Oh, well if that’s the case, we better shift our focus.” This would be an example of trying to reframe the conversation so you can say what puts your message in the best possible light. Nothing new or novel there.

Which is it? How do we tell? Perhaps there is a more important question:

What does Heins’ action say to you about your own behavior? How do you “spin” the story in an effort to manage the present and guide the future? What, if any, are the limits to such behavior?

The now deposed JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson spoke with certainty about the coming success of his “new” approach for the retail giant. Sadly for JCP employees and investors, he was wrong. May the new guy have better luck. Either way, Johnson was clearly, it seems to be, attempting to use the power of The Secret and the time honored “laws of attraction” to generate the energy to draw success toward his company.

Of course we all want and need to believe we will succeed. Psychological research suggests that the majority of people believe they are above average – a statistical impossibility. Even so, researchers go on to argue that if we did not have this exhuberance, if we were more realistic about our chances of success, we might not get out of bed in the morning. Imagine the sales person who started every call by saying, “I doubt you will want to buy from me – only 1 out of a 100 do – but let me tell you….” That approach equals failure.

Back to the original questions:
What is Heins doing here, and
How do we think about our own similar behavior
What are the moral boundaries or limits, if any, to such prognosticating?

What do you think?