F-35: How Culture Tames ComplexityUnknown

Simplicity is the goal of every design, but sometimes complexity is part of the puzzle.

The design and delivery of the F-35 Lightning fighter aircraft is one such example. For starters, in addition to Lockheed, the lead contractor, there were two other prime contractors and scores of subcontractors. Multiple nations were involved, and because the fight was paid for with government funding, Congress and the parliaments of countries like the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Australia, among others, needed to be involved.

Heading it was Tom Burbage, retired President of Lockheed Aircraft Systems and EVP for developing the F-35 and the F-22. He is the co-author of a new book about the project called, F-35: The Inside Story of the Lightning II

In a recent interview, Burbage told me that partnering with many parties was like dealing with a Rubik’s Cube. “We had many different interests. We had many different perspectives, many different countries, a huge industrial team, and we had to make all that come together into a pattern that actually worked.”

Ongoing technological advances

Because the F-35 is a next-generation aircraft, Burbage, a former Navy aviator, was heading a team developing new technology never tried before. “I think every program that pushes technical barriers along the way is under threat of being canceled. There’s always another group or another interest community that wants to program to go a different direction or wants to take the budget and do something else with it. So you’re constantly in a little bit of trench warfare as you go through these extensive programs.

Getting the pattern correct was getting people to agree to a joint mission, or as Burbage put it, putting on the Joint Strike Fighter t-shirt. “It was a big, huge team of people, a lot of really good leaders, good strong government program managers, good strong industry side, and people that were willing to sort of take off their company badges and put on their J S F T-shirt,” says Burbage. “We’re no longer trying to husband your company interests. You’re now totally committed to making the J S F program what it needs to be.”

Three-in-one aircraft

The F-35 is three different aircraft. One for the Air Force that uses long runway take-offs. One for the Navy using catapult launching short runways. And the third for the Marines, who needed the aircraft to take off and land vertically. “If I put the three airplanes in front of you… and sat in the cockpit, you wouldn’t know the difference. They’re, they’re identical.” 

The goal was to create a fleet where the planes could fly and fight together regardless of their branch of service. “Integrating those technologies those differences into an airplane that’s supersonic and stealthy” required the team to push the boundaries of physics.

When designing leading-edge technology programs, there are two essential types of individuals. Innovators can integrate new technologies in ways that enable new performance capabilities. You then need leaders who are “really good at managing teams.” As the metaphor goes, everyone has a seat on the bus. The challenge is matching innovators with managers who can cooperate and collaborate for the betterment of the mission.

Culture rules

In the Fort Worth facility alone, there were 4000 employees. “And every new employee that came on the program went through an onboarding process. Everyone got some of that ‘pixie dust’ sprinkled on them” to help them realize they were part of a team, not just the company that hired them. “You have to walk a thin line when you do that,” says Burbage, “because there are company interests that you have to respect.”

The team had to create a culture. “We had a common set of guiding principles. We had a common set of objectives.” Burbage employed what he calls “the best athlete concept.” That is selecting team leaders for their skills and abilities, not simply for the company that employed them.

Three top executives were called “The Wizards,” a nod to the Harry Potter series. “I didn’t want the wizards in their office. I wanted them walking around and mentoring the young folks,” says Burbage. The younger tech-savvy employees ended up “mentoring” their older colleagues. 

In turn, the veteran employees shared their experience and expertise. “It built this esprit d’corps among the team during some very challenging days.” Working on such programs is always demanding, so it was imperative that the culture be rooted in respect for one another, explains Burbage. It helped to drive “superior performance.”

Four leadership principles

Burbage told me that he gave his grandson, a recent graduate of the Naval Academy and now in flight training, some advice. His shared four principles are as relevant to aviators as leaders heading large teams. “The first is that enjoy every day, learn something new,” says Burbage. Challenge yourself to do more than you can because you can. 

“The second [principle] is to realize that every person has a unique perspective on the world. And a new sailor turning a wrench on an airplane or, or a new employee just out of college can be a valuable contributor and you can learn from him or her.” Get to know them. Advocate for them and remove barriers that prevent them from doing their best.

“Third, there’s no limit to what your team can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. You know, give the credit where it’s deserved.”

The fourth principle is to understand the difference between management and leadership. “Management is the ability to look at data” to determine the project’s health. Leaders focus on another kind of health. “Leaders inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

Getting the F-35 into service required the efforts of thousands of highly trained people and leaders who understood how to balance innovation, management, and budget with a culture that enabled everyone to do their best.

First posted on Forbes.com 00.00.2023

Leanne Morgan: Hard Laughs

For anyone who thinks – or has been told – they are not good enough to make it in their chosen career, then Leanne Morgan is someone you might want to know more about.

Leanne Morgan is a 57-year-old married mother of three grown children and grandmother of two. She lives in Tennessee and has become one of the most in-demand comedians on the circuit. She tourns nationally and has a new self-produced special on Netflix called I’m Every Woman.

As Tonya Mosely noted in her introduction to her Fresh Air interview, Morgan is not an overnight success. Morgan has been doing comedy for thirty years, starting as a jewelry saleswoman doing three engagements per week in living rooms. After a time, women began booking her for her comedy rather than for jewelry.

Morgan hit the comedy circuit, starting in Austin, Texas, at age 32. She also did four different pilot episodes for television sitcoms. None was picked up that, while disappointing at the time, turned out to be better in the long run. She was able to spend time raising her children and perhaps honed her comedy chops even sharper. 

In 2019 she hired a firm comprised of two brothers who distributed clips of her show via social media. One clip went viral and bookings took off. Morgan continued posting throughout the pandemic. “I just really did what I thought… was authentic.” Her clips addressed caring for her elderly parents and family. “And I had no makeup on. I looked like a picked jaybird.”

Heartland humor

Leanne Morgan is funny. “I’m nurturing,” says Morgan. “If I make fun, it’s of myself, it’s not of anybody else. I’m not confrontational. And so I think people find comfort with me.”

Here she is talking about her marriage. When her husband first met her, he “was so enthralled with me and so in love with me and pursued me and bought me presents and vacuumed out my car… And did all kinds of things for me. And we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year. [PAUSE] And now I truly believe he would not pull me out of a burning vehicle.”

“I praise God Weight Watchers doesn’t have a limit on how many times you can join,” jokes Morgan. “I’ve joined WeightWatchers nine times… And lost seven pounds. Turns out you got to do it… I try to beat the system. And I’m signing up, and I’m paying them. And I’m like, I’m going to beat the man. I’m going to go in here, and they’re not going to keep me in those points.”

Lessons to learn

Those who do not make a living telling jokes in front of a live audience can learn a few things from Leanne Morgan.

Believe in your talent. Morgan calls herself the Mrs. Maisel of Appalachia. “Comedy is a hard business. I resonated with that character because she was fearless and she had those babies and her husband was a ding dong.” Like the fictional Midge Maisel, Leanne battled the odds, especially those telling her that women were not good at comedy. “When I saw that series, I thought, that’s what I did: I had three babies. I was in the Appalachian Mountains. I didn’t have a comedy club near me, and I just had to pave out another way than the traditional way that people do stand-up. And I did.” 

Know your audience. “It took me a long time to find my audience … but I always knew they were out there,” Morgan says. “I think Hollywood forgets us, and I think a lot of comedians that are cool and edgy and all of that, just forget about my demographic and I think we’re the best. I think we’re the people that make decisions to go buy tickets and want to get out and have a good time.”

Trust yourself. Morgan’s first husband, to whom she was married for a short time in her early twenties, told Morgan that she needed to take diction lessons to lose her Tennessee drawl. Her refusal reminded me of an entertainment executive advising comedian legend Bob Newhart to lose his stammer. “This stammer,” replied Newhart, “bought me a house in Beverly Hills.”

Leanne Morgan, like Newhart, knows her talent and herself. “I’m authentic. I feel like at my age now, it’s like this is who I am. You either like it or you don’t. It’s OK if you don’t. … I do find humor in hard things, but I think a lot of comedians do. That’s how we cope.”

First posted on Forbes.com 8.08.2023

Tony Bennett: Musical Memories

Music is the universal language. Or, to be more precise, a universal awakener.

On the passing of Tony Bennett, it is good to remember that he was still performing well into his nineties and after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. While his short-term memory was limited or nonexistent, his ability to singhis hit songs, whether in his living room or on stage, remained vibrant. In a recollection by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who did a profile of Bennett for 60 Minutes, interviewing him was challenging, but when he took to the piano to sing, his personality and energy returned as he performed.

Lifelong pursuit 

Bennett’s roots in music ran deeply. In an interview with Jeffrey Brown on NewsHour in 2014, Bennet spoke about performing for his relatives as a ten-year-old. Having lost his father, Bennett’s family helped nurture his talent, enabling him to pursue his passion for music and painting. 

Bennett served in World War II, saw combat in Europe, and later saw the horrors of Dachau. After getting out of what he and men of his generation called “the service,” he attended art school. He also pursued his passion for painting and, in time, started singing in public. His career was respectable, garnering respect from his contemporaries and elders like Frank Sinatra. 

At age 70, his career seemed stalled. His son, Danny, helped him gain wider recognition in part by recording with women and men a generation or two or three younger than himself. These included Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Celine Dion, and, most notably, Lady Gaga. As Bennett said on NewsHour, part of his reasoning for working with younger artists was to keep jazz – America’s homegrown music – alive and resonant. Fans of the younger performers embraced Bennett.

Bennett’s passion for music keeps his spirit alive. As Anderson Cooper recalled on CNN, Bennett brought him to tears when he watched him perform in his own living room. Cooper said that he may not have known who Cooper was, but he knew he was Tony Bennett, an artist with something to say. His example has heightened awareness of dementia.

Music as connection

Bennett is one of many musicians whose talent did not diminish with his memory. A few years ago, I was playing piano as a volunteer in a cardiac care center, and an elderly gentleman approached me to tell me that his wife used to play piano; then, he gestured to his head, indicating that her memory was fading. When his wife returned from her visit, I invited her to sit down at the piano and play. Which she did. Masterfully. No sheet music, just channeling the piece from memory. 

When I glanced at her husband, I could see tears forming. He put his hand over his heart and said, “You don’t know how good this makes me feel.” I urged him to continue having his wife play since they still owned her piano. He nodded, and when the woman finished, she rose from the piano bench smiling. Moments later, after I had begun playing again, she approached me and, with a smile, slapped a crisp two-dollar bill on the piano headboard as “my tip.”

Music can reach those with memory loss by enabling them to return a semblance of themselves when they hear music, especially played live. When I ask for requests, I seldom get a response, but when I play a tune, I can see smiles appear, and after every song, there is a smattering of applause. It indicates not my performance (always sorely lacking) but their appreciation for music.

Music speaks to us and maybe even more as we age and our memories dim. Music reminds us of our humanity and our connectedness to the world.

First posted on Forbes.com 7.25.2023

Dale Carnegie Teaches Us Today

Practice what you preach!

So often, we hear this, but so often, too, we see individuals who can talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. That is why speaking to a senior leader who embodies this dictum was such a pleasure. Even more so, he runs a company based on this mantra. He is Joe Hart, CEO of the Dale Carnegie company, one of the world’s leading training and development firms and based upon the work of the man who became one of the world’s leading authors in what would be known as the “self-help movement.”

Hart, along with co-author Michael Crom (a grandson of Dale Carnegie), explores the ideas of taking control of yourself and your destiny through thought, application, and practice in their new book, Take Command: Find Your Inner Strength, Build Enduring Relationships, and Live the Life You Want.

Course correction

Hart began his career in law and made steady progress but felt something was missing. A Dale Carnegie course changed his life. As he told me in an interview, “It changed the way I saw myself, and it changed the way I saw the people… Dale Carnegie’s principles, I think, are about respecting and appreciating and valuing and listening to other people, which I started to do a lot more.”

Interacting with self

There are three key elements to Take Command. The first is “Take Command of Your Thoughts and Emotions.” “The first step is to pay attention to our thoughts, to notice the things that we think and to notice the things that we feel,” says Hart. From there, it is important to define those feelings and why you have them- self-awareness. “The second step is really about action. This is taking Command. It’s about being intentional.” For some, that might entail “flipping the thought” from negative to positive to seek clarity and possibility.

Courage is essential to taking Command, and as Hart says, it comes from building a sense of self-confidence. He tells a story about a young woman in a Dale Carnegie class who was petrified about presenting in front of an audience. By the end of the course, she was not only proficient in public speaking, she was looking forward to the next challenge.

How to interact with others

The second is “Take Command of Your Relationships.” “The most successful people,” says Hart, “are really good at interacting with other people. Taking command of our relationships simply means I’m going to be intentional about how I interact with people.” Command, as Hart explained, is not the same as control. You do not seek power over others; only seek that discipline for yourself.

Essential to intention is ownership, especially when you make a mistake that causes harm to others. Doing so erodes trust; building it back up requires acknowledgment and ownership of the problem. That begins with a sincere apology and follows up with positive changes.

Creating your future

Third is “Take Command of Your Future.” Knowing your value and what you stand for is essential. So too, is the desire to make an impact. That impact can be global, as Hart cites the story of Daniela Fernandez, who started a global movement as a 19-year-old student at Georgetown University that resulted in the creation of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance. Or it can be more personal – being your best with your colleagues to enable the team and yourself to achieve intended goals.

Hart believes strongly in what he writes and said that he would consider the book to be a failure if people read it but did not act on it. “I would encourage people to create space so that they can have a routine. Whether the routine is around implementing the book or, or implementing you know, the improvements that they want in their lives.” Reflection on what you have done and what you want to do enables focus on what is important now.

Changing yourself is a challenging task. It takes commitment – effort, and practice. It also takes courage to look inside and see areas to improve. Understanding your own abilities and strengths may help you take that first step in energizing – or re-energizing – your commitment to personal change.

Note: Click here to watch or listen to the full LinkedIn Live interview with Joe Hart.

First posted on Smartbrief.com 8.09.2023

Ted Lasso: Life Lessons – Take 3

Oooh, I will miss him.

So sorry to see it going away.

Darn, I loved it so much.

These are the kind of remarks that fans of the Apple TV+ series, Ted Lasso, have expressed since the show’s final episode ran last month. Viewers loved the simple, uplifting spirit that Ted, an American football coach transported to London to coach an English football club, exuded. As played (and co-created ) by Jason Sudeikis, the series won loyal fans worldwide, including some at the White House, where the cast met in the Oval Office and later in the press briefing room.

And it’s easy to figure out why. First, the show is funny. Its characters are quirky. Its dark moments were sobering, but redemption lurked. What’s not to like about a lead character, the response to insults with smiles – an antidote to the vitriol so prevalent in our real lives? The series has inspired me to write about more than once.

My first post from 2020 focused on the effect of Ted’s open-hearted management style. My second post, which ran earlier this year, highlighted the sense of community that evolved from the team, its management, its coaches, and its fans. My conclusion for my third post is that the series’s secret is just that – community. We fans feel part of AFC Richmond; we all have become greyhounds (team mascot) at heart.

Shared community lessons

Community is what we all need now more than ever. Our world is upside down, and the future is unclear, but we all know deep down that we need one another. So we take comfort in the lessons of a fictional character (Lasso) who says, “If you care about someone, and you got a little love in your heart, there ain’t nothing you can’t get through together.”

Community builds upon four principles.

Shared experience. Nothing binds people together more than experiencing hardship. We certainly experienced that feeling during lockdown due to the pandemic. Isolation grew, but so did connections, often fostered by video connections. Organizations that leverage what they have experienced build bonds that contribute to resilience as well as an ability to weather the next hardship.

Shared knowledge. Good communities are open about what they know and willingly share it. High-performing teams bring new members into the team through their rituals, some humorous, some strict, all important to team cohesion. Underlying is the practice of tacit knowledge, the way we do things here because we know they work.

Shared goals. So often, we hear that individuals from all walks of life need something bigger than themselves to believe in. We want to pull together to achieve an objective, a goal, or even a vision that gives us the feeling that what we do means something. It is purposeful.

Shared success. When a group works hard achieves what it has worked hard to achieve, individuals feel good about what they have accomplished. And as with hardship, it fuels them to face the next challenge.

On we go into the future

When experiences, knowledge, and goals are shared, people do come together. Not because they have to but because they want to. The takeaway lesson from Ted Lasso is that every character has a role to play – on the pitch, in the coaches’ office, or the stands – even in the pub. Of course, everyone wants Richmond to win, but more importantly, everyone wants to belong.

We will miss Ted Lasso, but the lessons remain. Trent Crim, the team’s beat reporter, once quipped, “If the Lasso way is wrong, it’s hard to imagine being right.”

Go Greyhounds!

First posted on Forbes.com 6.06.2023

A Lesson from Willie Nelson

There is a line in a Willie Nelson song that brought me up straight in my chair. In his tune, The Songwriters, Nelson sings about all the fun songwriters have crafting songs about breaking out of prison, shooting bad guys and hanging out with big stars.

But here’s the line that got me.

Teach lessons but don’t bother to learn ‘em.


How often do we teach others but fail to abide by those lessons? Why? Let Willie list the reasons – as they pertain to songwriters. And by extension to all of us.

We’re heroes, we’re schemers

We’re drunks and we’re dreamers

We’re lovers and sometimes we’re fighters

We’re the truth, we’re the lies.

We’re stupid, we’re wise.

We may not drink, we may not fight, but deep down we sometimes do not abide by the truth we hold true. After all, we are human – frail and failed. At the same time – and in the spirit can opposites can be true — we are strong, and wise and able to learn. If we allow ourselves to listen to the better angels of our nature.

Hope is on our side

There is, of course, hope for us. But hope cannot be a method. It can be what focuses our attention on what we need to do for others as well as ourselves. As legendary basketball coach John Wooden advised, focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot do.

Here’s Willie with the last word:

Remember the good times

They’re smaller in number and easier to recall

Don’t spend too much time on the bad times

Their staggering number will heavy as lead on your mind.

Amen, Willie.

Note: The Songwriters is included in his book Willie Nelson’s Letters to America.

First posted on my LinkedIn Live newsletter. 5.21.2023

Sweet Talk Your Way to Harmony

If you are seeking to persuade someone with whom you disagree, make certain you don’t insult them. Seems obvious, but so often ignored.

It is a lesson that Lyndon Johnson – the Master Persuader himself – applied his entire adult life.

As historian Jon Meacham writes in The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, Johnson had been invited to speak at his presidential library at the University of Texas in Austin. The night before he had been very ill, battling as he did with chronic heart disease. Lady Bird Johnson urged him not to make the trip, and so too did his doctors. Worse, bad weather had set in with snow and ice covering the roads from his home in Johnson City to Austin. Johnson, of course, would not be dissuaded and on the way even took the wheel of the car from his driver who in Johnson’s opinion was not driving quickly enough.

Johnson gave an eloquent speech, the last of his life and he even closed with the words he had closed his presidential address to Congress on Civil Rights in 1964 “We shall overcome.” What came next is the persuasion part. Some hecklers in the audience called for President Nixon to be denounced by the committee. Johnson strode to the dais once again.

“Let’s try to get our folks reasoning together,” Johnson said. “And you don’t need to start off by saying [Nixon’s] terrible because he doesn’t think he is terrible. Start talking about how you believe that he wants to do what’s right and how you believe this is right, and you’ll be surprised how many who want to do what’s right will try to help you.”

Five weeks later in January 1973, Johnson died.

Lift up

Rather than criticize the man, it’s better to speak about what you can do together. It was advice Johnson had applied to mentors such as Sam Rayburn and Richard Russell as well as adversaries and allies alike. The Johnson Treatment often had the coating of honey before the dousing of vinegar, if necessary.

Such is good advice, especially now when public discourse is resonates more with defamation than dignity. Reality says that you seldom, if ever, persuade people by belittling them. Better to find common ground.

Experts who work in negotiations find solutions by following these steps.

One, affirm the person’s integrity. This may require biting your tongue. When you disagree with an individual, it’s easy to employ animus. Bad move. Keep the discussion on an even keel. Look at the argument, not the individual. Each side can advocate for their ideas but not impugn the motives of the other.

Two, find common ground. Often people who disagree may share a single idea – make things better. Their approach, however, is oppositional. One may want to spend; the other may want to save. Look for the reasoning behind the strategy. Therein may lie the common purpose, e.g., ensure the future of the organization.

Three, look for one solution. Once you understand each other, look for win-win opportunities. For the saver, identify things that could be eliminated. For the spender, find items that require investment. Split the difference, if need be. Most important, keep talking.

Then do a little dreaming. This technique was a specialty of Johnson. As Meacham writes, when President Johnson met with Governor George Wallace of Alabama in the White House in 1965 he asked him how he wanted to be remembered. He noted that Wallace had begun his career as a “liberal” working for the common man. Johnson challenged Wallace to think about the future, not 1968 but 1988. Would he be recalled as a man of hate or a man who sought to make things better for all men?

The art of persuasion is founded on the understanding that good ideas can become better ones if you are willing to work with people with whom you initially disagree.

First posted on Forbes.com 5.17.2023

Steven Spielberg and John Williams: The Art and Magic of Collaboration

People who work together often coordinate activities and cooperate to get things done. Ideally, however, performance improves when individuals begin to collaborate and share ideas that compound exponentially. That is 1 + 1 = 5 or 50.

Such is the case with director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams. The two first met in 1972. Shortly after, Williams scored Spielberg’s first theatrical release, The Sugarland Express. After that, it was off to the races with films such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, and most recently, The Fabelmans, Spielberg’s most personal film.

Big question

The two sat down with Late Show’s Stephen Colbert for an interview about their efforts. First, Colbert askedWilliams a simple question: “What’s your job?”

“It’s a wonderful question. It’s very simple. I don’t know if I can give you a simple answer. I think the first answer I can give you is to inform and improve the process of storytelling through music, if I Can. Describe the characters. Describe the atmosphere, the ambiance of what the story requires. My job is to be a collaborator with the director in achieving all these things the atmospherics, emotional content, and so on.”

Later Spielberg added that his efforts could bring an audience to feel emotions, but Williams’s scores take them over the edge. “I can get an audience to the brink of crying, but Johnny’s music makes the tears fall. He takes it the rest of the way without being sentimental about it. Without being maudlin or mawkish.”

Two films dissected

Their second collaboration was Jaws. The score is based on two notes (E and F, with a D, added later). The music became, as Spielberg said, a “character in the film.” It created a sense of anxiety that heightened the tension of an approaching shark. As Williams explains, “Another big issue with us was that if you play this very softly and slowly, you advertise or you advance the thoughts. The shock is there just by hearing the music. There is no shark nearby, but if it speeds up and comes closer to you and gets louder and louder… You’ve got an actor that you can’t see and a threat that by some primordial instinct you are threatened by, as we should be by a great predator.”

And it worked exceptionally well. The mechanical shark, nicknamed Bruce, was often in the shop being repaired. “Johnny sort of saved the movie because he became the shark, and then music substituted for the absent shark, which made it a hell of a lot scarier and more suspenseful than had I had the shark working perfectly,” Spielberg says.

Williams employed a fuller palate of notes — five — for their next effort — Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These became the ones used to communicate with the alien spaceship that arrives on screen at the film’s climax. Spielberg said that he either could have used math or music to communicate. “Music is math in that sense. I didn’t want them putting complicated equations on a blackboard so that music would be the quickest way to the heart of the audience to get them to understand this sort of first contact between an extraordinary extraterrestrial civilization, advanced civilization.”

Relationship at work

It is easy to discern their respect and love for each other when they converse. Spielberg is in his mid-seventies, and Williams is in his early nineties. Yet, watching their conversation, with Colbert there to guide them, you see sparks of creativity fly. They are collaborating the sharing their stories in real-time.

Collaboration is rooted in trust; when you work closely together for decades, trust becomes the bond that holds the relationship together and brings stories to life in ways that entertain, charm, and enlighten.

“I have never not liked something that John has written for one of my movies,” says Spielberg about the 29 films they have done together. “I’ve never said, ‘Oh, I don’t feel that’s right for my movie.’ Or ‘I don’t think we should use this piece of music at this point.’ everything johnny has written has fit like a glove. There’s never been bumps about my disagreeing with something that he has composed. Ever.”

First posted on Forbes.com 00.00.2023

Why Do Leaders Need to Learn the Art of Reconciliation?

When people disagree, they do so for various reasons – ego, rivalry, and even orneriness. When agreement is found, tensions do not always disappear. They linger. What one party regards as correct may conflict with the “rights” and beliefs of the other. Resentments develop and fester. 

What is needed is a reconciliation, a coming together to resolve differences. Solving issues is often a dilemma, so the new book by Justin Welby, The Power of Reconciliation, is a welcome resource. Welby knows his topic well. He began his oil business career chiefly in sub-Saharan Africa. After a decade, he felt a calling and became an Anglican priest after being rejected initially. Welby then worked on and studied reconciliation issues throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Welby is now Archbishop Canterbury, the leading cleric of the Church of England.

What is reconciliation?

His background, both civic and cleric, gives him a grounding in personal differences that fester. In conclusion to his book, he offers four perspectives on reconciliation that, while based on his faith, are grounded in the reality of human behavior. “Reconciliation is the transformation of destructive conflict into disagreeing well,” Welby writes. “The impact of disagreeing may continue to be disagreement… even a state of well-contained hostility.” But its outcome is “new possibilities of mitigating the harm.” No namby-pamby here. Stop fighting as a means of alleviating harm. 

Welby continues by writing, “Reconciliation offers the possibility of forgiveness, of the victim being liberated from the perpetrator’s control.” Furthermore, Welby argues that “reconciliation is a way of hope because it requires the stronger party to make the sacrifice of choosing to live with the weaker, and not to control, dominate and rule them.” Finally, “reconciliation opens the way to justice and truth. When sacrifice is made, then truth can be told.” And when that happens, “justice and mercy can meet and can be seen to be real.”

What emerges from Welby’s argument are vital concepts relevant to leadership:  stop the harm through forgiveness, sacrifice, and mercy. Justice emerges from these elements. However, implementing these concepts can take time and effort. The challenge is to take the long view. What matters now is less important than what occurs in the future.

What is the leader’s role?

The leader’s role is to illuminate the way by setting direction and bringing people together. Simple, except that you are dealing with people, each of whom may have their ideas of how to do things based on their personal experience. And when things have gone wrong, and people get hurt, achieving unity is much harder. 

Leaders can facilitate reconciliation by making it clear that the power for healing lies within the disagreeing parties. Listen carefully to each party, separately and together. Invite both parties to have a discussion. Underscore the challenges and make no promises. Confirm that only the parties themselves can find a reckoning. Thank them for their willingness to listen. These steps are easy to state but may take a long time if ever, to implement.

The recognition that it may be impossible is not comforting, but it is reality. Addressing reality is a leader’s responsibility. Directly and conclusively. However, recognizing that some things are beyond us does not mean we do not try. On the contrary, it means we need to make an effort, if not for ourselves, but for those who come after us.

Peace through sacrifice and trust

Justice and peace can come about. President Bill Clinton, who was instrumental in instigating the Good Friday peace accords that ended sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, described his perspective in an op-ed for the Washington Post marking the 25th anniversary of their signing. 

“First, the process was driven by the people. They’d grown weary of the killing and the arbitrary tragedies of nonlethal political violence, and weary of the economic deprivation born of the divisions.” Political leaders, too, put their lives and careers on the line. “Trust was built slowly but surely through years of confidence-building measures, such as prisoner releases and cease-fires.”

 “Though power-sharing has at times yielded frustration and even gridlock,” writes Clinton, “it has given each side the opportunity to make its concerns heard and work toward consensus.”

Justice comes only with acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Reconciliation supersedes justice because it embraces the notion of forgiveness and mercy. Justice is institutional; forgiveness and mercy are personal choices. Both are easy and may never occur. Yet, as Welby argues, we must try to reconcile. Doing so can bring peace to the heart and soul, even if pain and suffering remain. And it is in the suffering that we learn our strengths, what we can take, what we can endure, and what we cannot. Reconciliation, therefore, is the embracing of our humanity.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 4.18.23

Leading with a Spirit of Abundance

What does it mean to lead with grace? 

That’s a question that I have been exploring for the last couple of years, and likely longer, as I write and teach what grace means to us as individually and culturally. My definition of grace is that it is the catalyst for the greater good. Such a definition complements what leaders do because their role is as one who works to do what’s best for the whole. In doing such it involves stepping back in order to allow others to step forward. A true leader does not relinquish authority; she shares it, reserving for herself only the biggest and toughest decisions that only she, and she alone, can make.

Thinking more deeply, however, I think leading with grace comes down to something more basic. It is how you view the outside world, with an open mind and heart, or with fear and trepidation. Big chasm, yes, and while open hearted leaders can, and should, feel fear, they do not let it dictate how they interact with others and more importantly how they lead.

What is abundance?

More basically, you can sum up the duality as abundance versus scarcity. Abundance is a way of looking at the world as bountiful. Scarcity is an approach that focuses on lack of resources. Abundance encourages generosity; scarcity leads to hoarding.

Abundance is an embracing as well as bracing philosophy. It embraces the goodness of others, but it also makes demands upon us to share. It challenges our notions of what it means to be human as well as what it means to lead. As a human we must look at others as kindred spirits, not others. As leaders, we must look at employees as contributors.

Leaders who act with grace believe that in a country as rich as resourceful as the United States there must be resources for the most disadvantaged. They applied a vision of abundance to address a problem of scarcity.

While abundance versus scarcity is a dichotomy. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Abundant leadership should not be an excuse for profligacy, speaking of resources. The servant school of leadership teaches us to husband our resources and to be good stewards of what we have, who we are, and what we want to accomplish. Leaders in business cannot give away the store, otherwise there will be no more business, and consequently they will put people on the street without jobs. There must always be prudence in leadership.

Similarly, those who live with a scarcity mindset need to ease up, too. Rigidity to one belief or another leads to a tunnel vision that blocks influences from the outside world. Leaders can never divorce what they do from reality; doing so leads to assumptions that are based more on gut instinct than data. You need both good instincts as well as good command of data to lead effectively.

Applying resources properly

Organizationally there are at least two kinds of resources, capital and human. Capital includes assets; human includes people, of course. Capital resources may never be fully abundant but capital resources can be. That is, while you may not have enough funds to build another factory or store, you do have the right people in the right places to conduct business in ways that enrich stakeholders. Those with an abundance mindset place more emphasis on human capital rather than financial. That does not mean they ignore finances. It is that they believe that people are the true edge in determining organization success, not just finances.

Leaders who lead with abundance are those who look at employees as contributors. They assume the people have the best intentions until proven otherwise. They lead with a spirit of grace in that they view their role as one whose job it is to make things better. They also demand that everyone in the organization do likewise. Values of respect and compassion underscore a commitment to ethics and integrity.

Leading with abundance is to lead with head and heart, a head to ensure proper guidance and a heart to insure people come first.

This post reflects themes explored in my newest book, Grace Under Pressure: Leading Through Change and Crisis by John Baldoni Savio Republic 2023

First posted on SmartBrief.com 4.24.2023