Appreciative Leading is the topic of Season 3 of Positivity Strategist Podcast. In every episode of this season you will hear inspirational stories from people who are leading in their respective domains in appreciative, strengths-based, collaborative, positive ways..
Previewing the Inspirational Stories
I talk to a variety of guests from different professions and sectors, and you will hear from seven of them in this introductory episode. To learn more about them, visit my blog post What is Appreciative Leading? Who's Leading the Way? In that same post, you'll find out why I chose Appreciative Leading as the show's title instead of the more traditional words of “leadership” or “leader”.
Leading: It's About the Being and Doing
Leading is an action. That appeals because it implies that it also requires co-action. As my guests in this Season share their inspirational stories, a theme that connects them all is that their acts of leading involve being in relationship with others, thinking together, and co-creating to collaboratively make meaning with others.
Leading is much more than having the title of leader, or being engaged in the process of leadership. Leading can be a deliberate and conscious act; and it can come from spontaneity, and impulse. It's about innovation and making a difference. To learn more about the “appreciative” lens that facilitates leading in this relational, collaborative, strengths-based way, take a look at an overview of the method, principles and applications.
Guests with Inspirational Stories: Episodes' Excerpts
To whet your appetite, in this introductory episode you hear excerpts from some of my guests. Their full stories can be heard in the episodes that follow over the next weeks. A partial transcript is below. I encourage you to fill out the form on this page so you are among the first receive notifications of when the each show goes live.
As a context, included in this episode are inspirational stories from an American attorney who is transforming the legal profession globally to reframe the profession as peacemakers and changemakers! A Canadian journalist who is transforming the craft of investigative journalism to that of generative journalism. An Australian healthcare professional who is transforming how we talk about aging and death and design real partnerships. An American College President who is designing his institution's strategic plan as a community conversation. An American HR Vice-President in the eco-environmental industry talks about how her organization is embedding Appreciative Inquiry into its culture and making it stick. An American bureaucrat who is working to transform the leadership culture of her Agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A former Dutch CEO who has created a video series of portraits on the topic of “The Soul of Appreciative Leadership.”
Leading in Law
Robyn: When I invited Kim to say how she got into law, this is what she said:
Kim: I had a very complicated family situation and we were often bumping up against the legal system with a child custody or in the case of one of one of my stepchildren. She was a chronic runaway and we had a lot of issues with that. And then I was married to a man who liked to be arrested for civil disobedience and we decided that it was just so much easier to have a lawyer in the family.
Robyn: Many years and two books later on the topic of Lawyers as Peacemakers and Changemakers respectively, Kim offers on the topic of appreciative leading :
Kim: I think as I experienced it for myself is that I'm looking for what's possible. I'm looking for the strengths of the individual and also the profession because we are, I think natural changemakers as a profession. It's just that our training has had us forget that. I'm on a discovery process in the world and as I opened up new possibilities for people then they step into them and adjust and adapt in ways that I would never have imagined myself. So that's what comes to mind.
Leading in Journalism
Robyn: Appreciative leading in the context of journalism for Peter Pula has also been a journey of discovery. Peter Pula, founder of Axiom News – online news medium and convener of community conversations shares with us his passion around generative journalism and how each conversation has the potential to change us.
Peter: something I learned was that I have to be prepared to be changed by the experience myself. Yes, and I think it's the same with generative journalism. To be a generative journalist one is very much helped in that path by being prepared to be changed by each conversation, and if you are truly open to that, then you very quickly become a force of generativity or you offer an energy of generativity that isn't there if you remain more closed.
Leading for Continuity
Robyn: In a corporate context, Julie Reiter, Snr VP HR and Sustainability lights up as she describes the impact of embedding Appreciative practices across her organization, Clarke.
Julie: So you know, where once we were shades of gray, there is so much color and vibrancy to the organization today, there's such a profound sense, creativity and innovation and engagement and it's all over the place.
Robyn: An act of appreciative leading shows up in how she created a structure to help this appreciative way stick in her organization is a an act of appreciative leading.
Julie: And so the, what we did was we set up a multi-pronged approach to make sure that we had good structure in place in terms of roles and responsibilities and that included leadership for various initiatives, executive sponsors and accounts and kind of mentors for those leaders. So that was really important that every, that we knew who was going to do what and everybody knew what their role was.
Leading from the Whole
Robyn: Appreciative leading is all about whole systems engagement for Don Laackman, President of Champlain college who is co-creating the strategic plan for his college, with all stakeholders as a community wide conversation
Don: since I arrived here five years ago, I've wanted to have a conversation of the whole so that we could tap into the energy, passion, excitement and good ideas across our community to understand how we are going to navigate these very interesting times in higher education.
Robyn: Don is committed to leading a strengths-based organization. The Strengths-Finder and the VIA Character Strengths surveys guide him and he calls upon the strengths of his team. He knows it's not easy.
Don: There is always a sense of people wanting to rush into what's wrong and fixing problems and that's that's necessary work that we have to do, but even when we have to address a momentary crisis or a a fairly negative development, we do want to take a step back and say, what are the strengths that we bring to this challenge and how do we. How do we use those strengths to address that challenge your ways that are going to sustain us, address the issue and help us grow.
Leading with Partnerships
Robyn: Continuing on the thread of community engagement, Wendy Gain's appreciative leading shows up in her field of palliative care and aged care with a focus on what constitutes real, respectful and sustainable partnerships.
Wendy: I think a partnership is a word that is used way too frequently and inappropriately. So when you talk about a partnership, it's really about an ongoing relationship where the risks and the benefits are going to be shared across those that are in the partnership.
Robyn: When it comes to appreciative leading, Wendy offers:
Wendy: the importance of challenging all of your assumptions. Because we come to things thinking, oh, that's like that because of this. And it's like, no, no, you need to challenge your assumptions because it's in challenging those assumptions there's the greatest opportunity for change and the opportunity to really understand, or to say, you know what, I don't understand this. I really need to understand it better. So I suppose, I'd leave it at that. I would say challenge your assumptions.
Leading with Love
Robyn: A well-loved colleague in our appreciative inquiry global community is Joep de Jong. In a reflective tone, he offers:
Joep: the purpose in life is to find your gift for each and every one of us, but then life really gets meaning when you share that gift, when you pass it on.
Robyn: and with his research into the soul of appreciative leading, he's finding the common denominator is this:
Joep: it will require that you love people. Some people find that a strange notion for a CEO to say, or for an executive or a manager say that you need to love people, but I think you need to. You need to because that's where the talent is hidden if you wish.
Robyn: And here's just another piece to listen to to entice you to listen to Joep's episode.
Joep: And use the metaphor of the tango where the leading….. if you really want to lead well and you want to understand what leading is, you have to understand that you have to connect and the process of connecting in the tango through what is called the “cabeceo” which is the invite. And before you start dancing that you first listened to the music.
Leading with Humility
Robyn: Following on from that exquisite metaphor, Lisa Rees, a career bureaucrat reminds us that in most challenging times finding new ways IS the way forward:
Lisa: Right now, as you know, immigration is at the forefront of, of many topics, in the news. And you can imagine the work space is challenging. We have to continue to carry out our mission, but we have to find new ways of doing business. We have to be innovative.
Robyn: Lisa offers, as all my guests acknowledge, appreciative leading comes down to character strengths, and being open, and vulnerable, and build relationships: because, as she beautifully sums it up:
Lisa: You're going to be asked to bring your strengths to the table, but you need to find out where everybody's shoulders are, the widest, what are they good at, what are they passionate about, what do they enjoy doing, but the key is to really have the humility to know when we don't have all the answers and also the courage to invite others into a discussion around the unknown. Oh my goodness, that's so powerful.
What a privilege to have such wisdom to share. I hope I have whet your appetite with these excerpts that come from some of my inspiring quests and you're excited to join me in this season to explore more about appreciative leading. I want you to be surprised and delighted.
What about You?
I invite you to reflect on how you are showing up from this frame of appreciative leading in whatever capacity. How are you applying your gifts, your strengths, and your sense of purpose?
In my next show, I'm so thrilled that my first guest is Peter Pula from Canada, who is leading in the space of generative journalism. If you've not familiar with generative journalism, you will be after listening to my next show.
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