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Tag Archives: servant-leadership

Think Different

This poem, writen by Rob Siltanen, was part of an early Apple advertising campaign. He was a creative director for the company.

It stands out for me, because it echoed a phrase that emerged from my dissertation: “Differences make a difference.” It is in difference we discover what makes us each exceptional. Without the differences, we blend into an indistinguishable mass mere copies of one another. Worse yet, we might only copy the worst of the people we see succeeding.

The poem reminds of the Michelangelo quote: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

To be a teacher, is to inspire and allow each student to discover who they are. It is to be mindful and sensitive to what makes each of them different. It is to both serve and lead at the same time. It is to be different one’s self, as a teacher. How else could a teacher inspire?

The misfits.

The rebels.

The troublemakers.

The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.

And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,

glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They invent. They imagine. They heal.

They explore. They create. They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?

Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?

Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

And while some may see them as the crazy ones,

While we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think

they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

 

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Silver Star

When I looked for a poem, this one by William Stafford found me. Mountains appear to be immovable and unchangeable, yet as people do they do so without immediate notice. Yet, when we revisit them, we realize the changes that occurred.

In the case of teachers, Parker Palmer speaks about asking the question “who is the self who teaches?” We are each teachers in our own particular ways, so asking this question is essential. We often overlook this question in pursuit of easier to answer questions about the what, when, where, why, and how.

When we ask who we are, we explore the values that anchor us in living life. In times of crisis, those values guide us and help us through those tough times. Attending to them in mindful ways each day as a gardener would her/his garden grounds us in them in times of real need. They have spiritual meaning that come to life in living and expressing them daily through who we are as a human being.

If we serve our values well, “we will hear the world say, ‘Well done.'” The patience of living a good life, which in Aristotle‘s terms, is indefinable will be the reward. Like a mountain guiding us on our journey, the values we live and express guide us and others on a shared journey.

To be a mountain you have to climb alone

and accept all that rain and snow. You have to look

far away, when evening comes. If a forest

grows, you care; you stand there leaning against

the wind, waiting for someone with faith enough

to ask you to move. Great stones will tumble

against each other and gouge your sides. A storm

will live somewhere in your canyons hoarding its lightning.

If you are lucky, people will give you a dignified

name and bring crowds to admire how sturdy you are,

how long you can hold still for the camera. And some time,

they say, if you last long enough you will hear God;

a voice will roll down from the sky and all your patience

will be rewarded. The whole world will hear it: “Well done.”

The Uses of Not

Jacques Derrida wrote, when we speak of one thing, we invoke its opposite and what it is not. For example, to speak of a man or woman I speak of its opposite a woman or a man. Instead of understood as opposites, things, including words and ideas, complement each other, making them whole.

Albert Camus suggested “there is no love of life without despair of life.” Without one, we cannot have the other. Compassion means to share one’s love and suffering with each other. When we look deeper and are mindful of what we see, we recognize the how what is not readily evident is needed to make the whole of something.

This is not a new idea. Lao Tzu wrote this poem about what makes something useful is what complements it: the hub and spokes of a wheel; the hollow of a pot and the clay; and doors and windows and the room. Each profits from what it is not.

Often, there is paradox in understanding how things and people complement one another, making them whole.

Thirty spokes

meet in the hub.

Where the wheel isn’t

is where it’s useful

Hollowed out,

clay makes a pot.

Where the pot’s not

is where it’s useful.

Cut doors and windows

to make a room.

Where the room isn’t,

there’s room for you.

So the profit in what is

is in the use of what isn’t.

How do I listen?

When I began to look for a poem today, I chose one by Hafiz. It reminds me of the following Buddhist proverb:

How do I listen? The question is eloquent, as it does not have a fixed and expected answer. It suggests being present and mindful as another person speaks and as the universe speaks to me. Hafiz counsels me to treat what the other says as a gift to be cherished as the last words of a Master.

It is when I listen that the teacher appears. I am ready for the teachings of the Other. Emmanuel Levinas capitalized other to point out an unconditional responsibility for the Other. How I listen reveres the Other, who is my teacher in that moment.

How

Do I

Listen to Others?

As if everyone were my Master

Speaking to me

His

Cherished

Last

Words.

 

 

 

From “The Rock Will Wear Away”

Today on the way home, we stopped the Okotoks Erratic or Big Rock. In the Blackfoot language, it is Okotok, which means rock. It weighs about 16, 500 tonnes (18, 000 tons), is about 41 by 18 metres (135 by 60) feet wide, and is about 9 metres high (30 feet).

During the Pleistocene Era between 12, 000 and 17, ooo years, a glacier dropped the big rock in what is now prairie just below the foothills and Rocky Mountains. There are two rocks and on the flat of the prairie they seem erratic and out-of-place. The size of the rocks speaks to the power of nature.

I have a question about this rock. How big was it when the glacier dropped it in its place?

Holly Near is a singer-songwriter. The following is a short excerpt from one of her songs. As she proposes, the rock appears stronger than water. But, is it?

Humans and water are resilient, they come back time and again. Our fragility makes us vulnerable, but, at the same time, provides durability. Like water slowly eroding a large rock down into smaller and smaller bits, humans, through their mindful and collective efforts, can bring about dramatic change to the world.

Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone

Splashing, breaking, disbursing in air

Weaker than the stone by far but be aware

That as time goes by the rock will wear away

And the water comes again

The Contract: A Word from the Led

William Ayot wrote this poem as a reminder to those who aspire to lead that there are people who are led. This weekend is important to me as I am being “hooded” for my PhD in the Philosophy of Leadership Studies.

In my dissertation, I argued teachers are leaders. To educate means to lead out of childhood and youth in a caring way. Pedagogy is to lead children. The leading teachers undertake is serving and transforming the world they inhabit, preparing a new generation for the unknown beyond the walls of the classroom and the moment.

I understand teaching as a vocation and calling that gives me voice. It is expressing who I am at the very core of my being and becoming. It was a dream I pursued for years and shared with others. Hannah Arendt said action transforms the world in ways we cannot anticipate and know. Unlike work and labour action transcends time and space. Teaching was never work for me and it was always voluntary.

As a PhD in the field of leadership it is essential to recall this as I move forward and become involved in teacher education at the university level, working with teachers, and writing about the leading teachers undertake. Andragogy is leading adults.

And in the end we follow them –
not because we are paid,
not because we might see some advantage,
not because of the things they have accomplished,
not even because of the dreams they dream
but simply because of who they are:
the man, the woman, the leader, the boss,
standing up there when the wave hits the rock,
passing out faith and confidence like life jackets,
knowing the currents, holding the doubts,
imagining the delights and terrors of every landfall;
captain, pirate, and parent by turns,
the bearer of our countless hopes and expectations.
We give them our trust. We give them our effort.
What we ask in return is that they stay true.

For the Children

Gary Snyder wrote this beautiful poem about children being adult’s saving grace in the world. What is new fascinates and they wonder about the newness. For a small child, most of what they encounter is new and calls out to the child to explore and wonder over it.

There is zen and mystical quality to the poem with a reference to meeting in peace somewhere in the future. The essential part of peace is staying together, learning the flowers, and going lightly.

It is not learning about flowers, but learning flowers and going lightly, which I think will take a different way of teaching. This is not a new way of teaching. Instead, it is more likely we have forgotten it, being together and living gently in a world that only has so much to offer us.

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us,
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light.

“Natural objects should be sought and seen as they are, not to suit observers, but respectfully as if they were divine beings.” — Goethe

I took this picture several years ago as I drove through Jasper National Park. It was late August before the rutting began, but the bulls were trying to assert dominance. Despite this, people ran into the ditch and talking loudly. I kept my distance and got some great shots from about 100 feet away. As Gary Snyder counseled, I went light.

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