Identity Beacon

Illuminating Possibilities

Identity Beacon - Illuminating Possibilities

But, what about the bird?

It’s almost spring and here come the birds, back from their southern migrations.

Ever wonder how birds get around, how they are able to fly? They use their strong breast muscles to flap their wings to give them the thrust they need to move through the air. Further, birds use a swimming-forward motion to get the lift needed to fly. 

Naturally, both wings need to move in unison to achieve lift-off and sustain flight. It doesn’t take much to imagine the flight path of a bird whose wings are working against each other, pulling (or pushing) in different directions, or flapping at different speeds. The chance of actually breaking a wing (or two) becomes a distinct possibility. 

Welcome to America.

Today, we have a Right Wing that is stretching as far to the right as possible. This Wing is advocating attitudes and preaching policies that are fueled by fear, my-way-or-the-highway injunctions and exclusionary imperatives.

We also have a Left Wing that is stretching as far to the left as possible. This wing is advocating attitudes and preaching policies that are delusional in their idealism, economically impossible and polyannaish to a fault. 

In the midst of this turmoil, I keep asking myself: But, what about the bird? What about America, the nation? The institution? Is it really all about the wings?

America “the bird” is in the throes of a full-blown identity crisis. Its’ wings are broken and its’ flight path is indeterminable and dangerously out of control. The notion that America is, in fact, in the midst of an identity crisis has been widely acknowledged for years. (Just Google America identity crisis and see what comes up.)

Politics, in my view, is a desperate game. I find it ironic that politics is killing the very body that it purports to represent. If you know of a candidate, a party, that is more interested in protecting the bird than its wings, let me know. He or she will get my vote. And my prayers.

Hillary is not just “Clinton!”

This political season is a wholesale rejection of convention…of dynasties, of DC-as-usual. If I were Hillary, I’d dump my last name and talk to people simply as Hillary Rodham.

Who is she absent the “Clinton?” Now, that would be interesting, refreshing, and would fit far better into this current political climate. I wonder if she has the wisdom and courage to “go there.”

It’s a VUCA world – or is it?

The term, VUCA has slipped stealthily into our lexicon over the past few years. It started out as military lingo, was then adopted by organizations to frame leadership development efforts, and now has become part of all of our lives. What does VUCA mean? Volatility. Uncertainty. Complexity. Ambiguity. Does that sound like a recipe for a headache? Well, it is.

In an article in The New York Times recently, Michael Beschloss talked about Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri in one eye-opening sentence. Doing so, dramatizes the fact that VUCA is with us, in spades.

The question is, how do we navigate life in a VUCA world? Which brings me to “COSS.”Let me explain.

The way I see it, the antidote to volatility is steadiness. The remedy for uncertainty is order. The treatment for complexity is simplicity. The cure for ambiguity is clarity. Allowing for a bit of editorial license in how these words are arranged, we have COSS.

If VUCA causes headaches, then COSS is the aspirin you need to counteract its effects. Good news! This particular brand of aspirin can be found already inside us, in the fabric of our identities that make us the unique individuals, leaders, and organizations we are.  Clarity, order, simplicity and steadiness are the natural result of aligning how you live with who you are.

I’m not saying it’s easy getting to that “aspirin.” But it’s worth it. You’ll sleep better. I promise.

 

Count your lucky STARZ

Starbucks just announced it will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University. The offer is being extended to the 135,000 U.S. employees. That’s a lot of potential brain power.

In the tradition of famous word couplings — think “Branjolina” and “bromance” — let’s call this partnership “STARZ.”

In taking this step, Starbucks is signaling that they understand the power of being — and being seen as — an institution. Not the kind that cares for people who have mental and emotional problems. Nor the type synonymous with large, faceless, bureaucratic corporations. (Insurance companies come to mind.)

The kind of institution I’m referring to is the kind that underpins a company’s ability to thrive and endure. Here, from Webster’s, is the definition that counts: An institution is “an organization that has a relationship with the culture or society of which it is necessarily a part.”

Starbucks gets this imperative and its investment in higher education is how it is bringing its understanding to life. Why education? Because education is the oxygen of progress. It breeds curiosity, innovation and opportunity — the stuff society needs to stay healthy. In Starbucks’ case, an investment in education will breed profits, too.

Are there other STARZ out there? I hope so. I’d put Google on the list, along with Zappos and Whole Foods. What organizations come to mind for you? Which ones have the potential to become true institutions? Which ones never will?

Rouhani’s identity imperative

“We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East. At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world.

 “The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program.” To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.”

I read these remarks by President Rouhani of Iran and was blown away. Finally, a world figure who seemingly “gets” the power and influence of identity; who understands the need to address the question of identity head-on, and not just refer to it as some existential notion lacking in practical implications.

Will we tackle the identity question, directly? I don’t know. I’m not sure we know how to go about it. But there are ways to do it. I know that. If you know my work, so do you.

 

Leaders wanted – Chameleons need not apply

Sometimes, it’s easier to not be who you are in this world. Your boss wants you to be whatever you need to be to get the job done on time and on budget. Your friends want you to be what they need you to be to fit in. Your kids want you to be the best mom or dad on earth, available when and as they need you. (They also want you to be unavailable, when they want nothing to do with you.)

So where is the “you” in your life? The authentic, self-aware person you are, or at least would like to be?

The good news: More and more companies are inviting the ‘true you’ to show up at work, in hopes of motivating you to give your all and, in turn, perhaps developing into a leader others will want to follow. Here’s an article on a new leadership model the shows I’m not making this up.

The bad news: After spending so much energy making other people happy, it can be challenging to muster the self-awareness needed to find, be, and show yourself. Getting there isn’t a function of taking an inventory of your experience, skills, or talents. It starts by answering three questions:

What do I love? What brings me joy? What brings me alive?

Embedded in your responses are clues to your potential for creating distinctive value in the world, which has everything to do with you as a leader, whether you aspire to lead a company, a family, a church, or simply yourself.

The idea of just being you in a world that tugs at you to be what it wants, can feel uncomfortable…what if people don’t like who I am? But the truth is, people are most drawn to, and most admire and respect, those who have the courage to be themselves.

So, get on with it: Answer the questions above and let me – and the world – know who you really are.

Obama’s handicap

Like you, I watched the debate last night. And, perhaps, like you, I think Romney beat Obama. Hands down. “No debate!”

I’m not necessarily a Romney fan. But here’s what I think is going on: Romney has the great, good fortune of not having to defend his presidential track record. Despite his Governorship, he’s a ‘Federal virgin’ – he hasn’t been the president and, so, can get up there and say whatever he wants to say, with little risk.

Obama on the other hand, is wearing his track record on his sleeve, for all to see (taste, touch, smell, feel) and judge. He’s got nowhere to hide. That’s his handicap and it showed last night.

So, what’s the President to do? He’ll never win playing defense, which is how he came across in the debate. Who said, when the going gets tough, the tough get going? Sounds like sound advice, to me.

Mr. President – Get tough. Stop worrying about what you have/haven’t done (and what’s been done to you). Find the fire you had 4 years ago and light it. If you don’t, you run the risk of flaming out.