Anchoring Yourself

To lead is dangerous. Leadership comes from the root -leit, which means "to go forth" and "to die." When exercising leadership, burnout, neutralization and even assassination are always constant possibilities, Heifetz reminds us.

To survive in this context, to continue making progress on adaptive challenges, requires not only listening to others and understanding the system, but also listening to and understanding your self.  It means self-care. Self-care not as a luxury, not as something you do once the work is done, but ongoing, daily, essential-to-your-existence self-care.

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When Your Job Is Your Identity, Professional Failure Hurts More

“It is critical that we learn to distinguish and differentiate our roles from our self. We get into trouble when we lose ourselves in our role instead of thinking in a detached way about how the role is viewed by others. It can be very rewarding to throw all our education, training, talent, and passion into our work roles, but we forget that others in our organizations are reacting to the role we represent in their work lives, not necessarily the interesting and thoughtful people we think we are.”

In his recent article on HBR, KONU partner and Harvard Lecturer Tim O’Brien shares insights from his courses at Harvard Kennedy School, where he helps students disentangle themselves from their roles so that they can be better leaders and make the differences they want to make.

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Tear down the Walls in our Minds - Leadership Lessons from Angela Merkel

A huge wave of excitement went through Harvard Kennedy School’s graduates at this year’s Commencement when German Chancellor Angela Merkel mentioned the course “Exercising Leadership” in her graduation speech. This course, originally developed by Ron Heifetz more than 35 years ago, and now also taught by KONU Partner Tim O’Brien, has been the cradle of the Adaptive Leadership framework, from which KONU draws much of its work.

Angela Merkel didn’t mention the class on accident. Both, her legacy and lessons, are filled with Adaptive Leadership principles. Here are six highlights that stuck out to us…

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Register now for the Young Leaders' Project on Crete, Greece!

For a third time since 2017, KONU joins the Andreas Papandreou Foundation to organize this years’ Young Leaders’ Project.

The Young Leaders Project serves as a model for preparing the next generation of influencers. They all share the passion to tackle the new wave of populism and authoritarianism and are eager to deepen their understanding how to distinguish simplistic solutions and “alternative-facts” from the real underlying root causes.

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Five Adaptive Leadership Insights Inspired by Dr. Blasey Ford

On Sept 27th, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee served as a potent reminder that in times of social upheaval - when the temptation to throw up our hands and give up is often at its strongest - acts of true leadership have the power to influence the road ahead.

Dr. Ford does not hold a position of formal authority in American society. She is not an elected official. But on Sept 27th, she exercised real leadership. And if we care to, there is quite a bit we can learn from her example. Here are five insights, five ‘aha!’ moments, I had after taking the past week to process and reflect upon her actions.

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Coaching - A Trusted Partner in a Complex World

What does it mean to practice leadership in the face of the complexities of the twenty-first century? At KONU, we believe that true leadership is not necessarily about being the most visible, or the most charismatic, or the most outspoken. True leadership means empowering communities to move towards a shared version, to place the common good front and center, to do the difficult work together.

From the smallest communities to the global stage, leadership challenges and opportunities of this nature abound. For instance, how might we revitalize local economies while preparing ourselves for the ever-increasing pace of technology? Or rethink our energy infrastructure to maximize our potential without continuous harm to the environment? How might we heal the wounds of centuries-old international conflicts? Or help local neighbors talk across lines of race, class, religion, and politics to live together?

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Holding Steady

One of the most important things you can do when you feel the pull of workplace intimacy is acknowledge that you’re human. As Ron Heifetz and Marty Linksy point out, “you cannot stay alive by simply putting a silencer on yourself.” Every human has needs, and the question here is not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘where.’ Where do we find agency and control in our lives? Where do we find meaning and purpose? Where do we turn for love, intimacy and affirmation? 

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Trust and Leadership

If we want to sustain our influence in service of our cause, if we truly want to be a leader and not simply a dictator, we can’t rely on fear and force. We must rely on trust. People trust you when they see things like your authenticity, your commitment, and your willingness to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work. So long as you play your role well, they will continue to allow you to lead.

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Sex and Power

The first thing you need to understand is that you (yes, you!) are at an even greater risk of falling under the sway of intimacy. When we add the dynamics of power and authority to the intoxicating mix of proximity and attraction, the intensity ratchets up, and we can become blinded by our own hungers.

Faced with a charismatic leader, it’s often hard to know whether we’re attracted to the person themself or to the power they wield. On the flipside, as a leader with people under our sway, we are all too easily seduced by the feelings of affirmation, control, and importance we get from the deference of our followers.

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Let's Talk About Sex

More specifically, let’s talk about sex, authority, and leadership. This topic is something that nearly everyone has an opinion on, but, unfortunately, discussion on the subject is often unwelcome in the public sphere, limited mainly to moral shaming and flag waving. And, to be sure, there are plenty of truly terrible and tragic examples of bad behavior. Too many to count. But when we (Elisabeth and Michael, Partners of KONU), decided to write this particular four-part series together, we felt it was important to come at it from a place of compassion and a recognition of our shared humanity; to explore challenges that even the most well-intentioned leaders face when it comes to sex and intimacy in our professional lives.

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Engaging with Populism

Thoughts about becoming a real boundary crosser

Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey. The AfD Party in Germany. Hugo Chaves in Venezuela. Nigel Farage and the Brexiters.

Donald Trump may be monopolizing the headlines, but the rise of Populism is a worldwide phenomenon. Politicians, both on the left and right, promising easy solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our times – all while calling into question our democratic institutions.

What is Populism, exactly? Simply put, it is a political approach that foments anger towards established institutions. It can be “paired” with any number of ideologies, from fascism to libertarianism, but the common thread in all cases is an effort to energize a vocal base of supporters by framing all opposition as corrupt, failing, fake, and even downright evil.

Sound familiar?

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Take Me to Your Leader

What would you do if an alien species dropped down out of the sky, came to you, and uttered this infamous cliché: “Take me to your leader.” Where would you take them? Who would you take them to?

This old saw has been played a dozen different ways, usually for comedic effect, and when Professor Dean Williams asked this very question during his keynote address at the third annual Adaptive Leadership Conference, there were plenty of appreciative chuckles. Particularly because the conference room overlooked the National Mall of Washington, DC. But as the laughter faded, and he took us further down the rabbit hole, spooling out the threads of the thought experiment, the question became clear.

Who, exactly, are our leaders?

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Welcome to The Leadership Life

At KONU, we’re committed to growing and provoking leadership because we recognize that leadership isn’t just a job title or a political appointment. Leadership is an art, and like every art, it is the practice of a lifetime. Our team combines decades of leadership development experience with research-driven experiential learning methods to help individuals and groups successfully tackle complex challenges. And today, we’re adding another arrow to our teaching and learning quiver: the KONU blog.

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