Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Circumstance Calling Forth a Champion

I've been thinking alot about leadership lately. What's it going to take to really bring the sort of change and transformation we, as people, and as a planet, truly need?

I was talking with my Australian friends, Susie Surtees and Earl deBlonville, who run a leadership consulting and training business called Bear Clan, near Melbourne, about what leadership is becoming now in the Intuition Age. Earl, who is a well-known Arctic explorer and expedition leader, and who has survived some harrowing circumstances, has been evolving a view of leadership that involves “democratization.”

He said to me, “I used to laugh off (my miracles of survival and leadership success), saying that a busload of angels followed me around. But now I know that all my life I have relied solely on intuition. It has enabled me to see, amid major confusion, what the one key action was. It has turned my head at the right moment to act and save my life, and many other lives. It has enabled me to walk into totally unfamiliar situations as if led by a guide. And it has given me unquestioning confidence to go with the flow and succeed in new ventures.

“My blinding realisation, a decade ago, was that leadership is not a formal position but a role that certain people find themselves in. And it could be anyone, anywhere, at any time. It involves an approach to life that has us all alert to the difference we can make and how we can be present and be effective, and be more than just
functioning: we can BE the difference."

In the prologue (slightly edited by me) of deBlonville’s new book, Seventh Journey, he says: “. . .there are no destinations, only journeys. This book tells of two. One was a journey through the Arctic of early winter — a place we should never have been. The other was a journey into the landscape of leadership: a far more forbidding place.

"The first thing I discovered is that leadership cannot be taught. If it is being taught, it may just be management, rebadged at a higher price. The second discovery was that leadership is not about the leader, which will confound those with a needy ego. There were two more things that revealed themselves to me: leadership is all about paradox, which is why it resists attempts to tame it into a curriculum, and at its core leadership is lonely, requiring the strength that could only come from a grasp of its intrinsic paradox. . . .those who have the advantage of tough experience will understand the ineluctable truth: leadership is neither born nor taught; it is circumstance calling forth a champion.”

I then commented: “This view is so important, Earl, because in the near future, we all may need to be leaders in various circumstances. Because we may be isolated from those who we think have the answers, or we may not have the right resources and have to make do with what's at hand, etc. I recently remembered this quote from John Denver's autobiography:

'If not me, who then will lead? . . .If not me, who then? In the wilderness, when you find yourself without a compass and you start to feel lost, you look for moss on a tree to tell you which way north is, you look for a stream to see which way the water is running, you wait for the stars to be visible to see which way they move across the sky. With not much more than those aids as moral compass, I decided to set off in some new directions.'

This relates to your idea of democratization because you realize you can't/don't do it all alone: there are not only other people but unselfish nonphysical influences as well that factor in.”

Earl responded by sending me the following newsclipping (edited by me slightly). He said, "You may not be aware that here in Victoria there have been some highly publicised attacks on Indian students. We have a lot of them in Melbourne, where education is big business. Correspondingly, we have a big problem with yobbos and binge drinking. Put them together, especially at night, and the sparks fly."

We were talking about the democracy of leadership. In this story we have precisely that. One woman, a mere graphic designer with no political affiliation or leadership training, has become an overnight leadership sensation. Just like Rosa Parks on the bus, 35-year-old Mia Northrop just saw a need, and a solution, and stepped forward into action.

The expected 100 friends became a tidal wave of support — 17,000 strong. She tapped a rich vein and offered strong and inspired leadership. Circumstance calling forth a champion, just like I said."

Top cop blasts Indian student spokesman
by Steve Lillebuen

The voice of Melbourne's Indian students has been discredited by the state's police chief as thousands across Australia gathered in a show of solidarity with the Indian community.

Over the past two years, Gautam Gupta has been a frequent commentator and spokesman for the Federation of Indian Students of Australia amid a spate of violent and racist attacks in Victoria. But Victoria's Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said he had stopped listening to Mr. Gupta.

"I don't think Mr. Gupta has played a very constructive role in trying to deal with this issue," he told reporters in Melbourne's Carlton Gardens at one of hundreds of Vindaloo Against Violence events across Australia. "I'm reluctant to respond to a broad-based question if in fact it's sourced from an individual who I don't think has played a very constructive role in this broader issue."

"Why is he singling me out? I'm really confused," Gupta said. "I think this is a case of shoot the messenger. If you don't like the message, then shoot the messenger."

The grassroots Vindaloo Against Violence protest was started last month by Melbourne graphic designer Mia Northrop who wanted Australians to take a stand against racial violence by eating out at their local Indian restaurant.

That message was repeated at over 400 restaurants across Melbourne for lunch and dinner, including in Toorak where Ms. Northrop was cheered and applauded by Melbourne high school students. Ms. Northrop said she never expected a Facebook event she sent to 100 friends in January to grow into 17,000 confirmed guests and attract attention from schools and workplaces across the country.

The 35-year-old said she was aware of criticism of her idea but didn't want to complicate the planning of the event by including fundraising at this time. Indian restaurants around Melbourne reported a massive surge in business today, while Queensland parliament only had curries on its lunchtime menus.