Issue #62
#62 - On Leadership: Finding the Conviction Needed to “Shape the Wave”, and “Take People to Where They Don’t Want to Go"
April 14, 2023

#62 - On Leadership: Finding the Conviction Needed to “Shape the Wave”,

and “Take People to Where They Don’t Want to Go"

What's up, everybody?

The long Easter weekend in the Taha household was meant to be all soccer: 3 games a day, 3 days, 2 kids -- 18 games with squads from Taipei, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Lots of ⚽️, lots of Singapore ☀️ -- lots of 🙌.

Only we wound up playing just 6 games. On Saturday we were told that our teams had "pulled out" of the tournament. No more soccer this weekend, dear parents. But fear not: just keep calm, and carry on.

[Errr...ok. 👀]

Confusion gave way to benefit of the doubt; then to parents sleuthing on WhatsApp; then to learning that our team had been ejected from the tournament. Given the boot. Kicked out. Heave hoed.

It turned out our coach tried to doctor a player's birthdate; he got caught and got thrown out of the tournament. He could have come clean at that point, but instead, he lied and told us he chose to pull out. When the league found out he lied, it banned our teams from competing in the league for the rest of the season, too.

No bueno, folks. Not good.

And of course, who was left holding the bag?

The kids. Thirty kids who thought they'd be playing soccer all weekend, could not. Then a few hours later they were told they could no longer play in the league they'd been battling in either.

Alas, this is not a sob story about "the kids". We guilt-pumped them full of Easter candy, and they're always more resilient than they get credit for. They will be just fine.

It is, however, a story about leadership. About trust, accountability, and consequence. All themes core to TalentStories and our belief that understanding the tectonic shifts at work requires an appreciation of the massive lack of trust that organizations have created there.

So this week, we use our 3 Stories to highlight the urgent need to repair and reallocate that trust, through leadership. We explore what it means to truly lead. And we ask together: if great leadership is such a herculean task 💪, then where we can we find the conviction required to pull it off?

Story #1 - A simple, provocative​ definition of leadership from a hyper-popular Internet writer-illustrator with a penchant for viral posts about work.

Story #2 -
This humbling definition of leadership -- about "taking people to where they don't want to go" -- reminds us of the awesome responsibility we assume whenever we set out to lead other people.

Story #3
- On the surface of things, solitude as a key component of leadership seems awfully counterintuitive. Which is probably why it so often gets overlooked. But here in our final Story, we learn why that oversight is to our detriment, and why solitude and the deep thought it allows for is one of the ways out of the leadership mess we now find ourselves in. 🙌🏻

Thanks for reading and exploring with us -- and have a great week!

Aki + Usman

P.S. Our podcast discussion of last week's issue #61 -- "Maybe your kid oughta study literature, after all?" -- is right here.


#Leadership #ShapeTheWave #Vocab

Most of us have bumped into the thoughtful content from writer-blogger-illustrator Tim Urban on Wait But Why Here, though, it was his take on what it means to lead that got us thinking. 🤔

We love how his quote defines leadership as fundamentally about going against a "cultural wave". The term is evocative because we know that culture is such a big, powerful force; nebulous and hard to sway. And it's useful as a metaphor because it distinguishes people who are merely riding a wave, from those who are attempting to shape one.

We like that idea -- the notion of changing the shape or direction of a wave 🌊 -- and we'll be keeping this one around for inspiration. 🙌🏻


#Leadership #Vocab #BringThemWithYou

Rosalynn Carter served as First Lady of the United States during Jimmy Carter's presidency (1976-1980). As with Urban's definition in Story 1, Carter's take on leadership is powerful because it reminds us just how audacious "great leadership" is. We like it because it places that task into the context of the people whom leaders are charged with guiding, too. And because it reminds us of the responsibility involved.

So what do we get then if we combine the two definitions?

When we do we can begin to appreciate just how much effort and courage -- even moxie -- true leadership requires. And it begs the question: where are we to find the quantum of conviction required to go against the grain; how do we get to the conviction required to bring people -- who may or may not want to join us, mind you -- along for the ride, in that other direction?

Lucky for us, we have our next Story to explore precisely that.


#Leadership #Solitude #Conviction #ThinkingDeeply

Dear TalentStories reader: Will you carve out the time to read this fantastic talk on how and why modern leadership is failing us, and the counterintuitive solution that the author proposes?

Pretty please? 🙃

It is that good. It is that insightful.

William Deresiewicz is the author of, among other books, “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, and the Way to a Meaningful Life”. The quote above is from a talk he delivered in 2009 to “plebes” -- freshman cadets -- at the United States Military Academy at West Point; students who would go on to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army.

In the talk, "Solitude and Leadership", Deresiewicz explores the relationship between solitude and true leadership. His argument: in order to be an effective leader you have to spend time alone in reflection and contemplation. That solitude is required for conviction; it is required to lead; to make hard decisions, to foster creativity; even to avoid burnout.

Changing the wave, pulling people to where they don't want to go -- we have established -- is not easy. Deresiewicz's speech allows us to understand how we might arrive at the conviction required to pull it off.

And every time we read this speech (we return to it several times a year) it prompts us to ask these same questions:

  1. What am I working on and thinking deeply about right now?
  2. Is it something I truly care about? Is it something I want to lead on, if even in some small way?
  3. If so, am I making the time and space -- and quiet -- to be able to really think deeply and work deeply on it?

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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