January 2009 | Volume 2, Issue #7

In This Issue
Peter Drucker's Core Chart for Great Leadership
From Brian's Bookshelves
What Brian's Been Writing
Jazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month
What People are Saying about Brian's Speaking
The Cellar Jazz Club
Quick Links
Conversations, suggests Peter Block in his new book, Community: The Structure of Belonging (2008), are the only things that will create the communities that will transform the world for the better.  Leadership, he says, is about convening the conversations that will build such communities.  It's a bold position and he presents it well.  He's provoked me to refine my thinking on conversations a bit further.
I believe we need to ramp up conversations to the power of 4.  Four kinds of conversation that interweave, reinforce, and enrich each other are required to create transformational communities, be they where you work, where you worship, or where you live.
Convening Conversations - these conversations invite and draw people together - they honour and respect all those in the room as the right people to be there with the right ideas to be stimulated and shared
Considerate Conversations - these conversations set the tone for the quality of relationships that emerge through the conversations - they intentionally blend the caring of the heart and the thinking of the head, bringing empathy and analysis together into the kind of savvy that builds strong teams that can thrive in turbulent and trying times
Catalytic Conversations - these conversations accelerate the results you want to achieve by bringing the disciplines of focus, alignment, and execution into an effective mix - they identify the possibilities to be realized and the barriers to remove in achieving the goal, along with the support best suited to getting the job done
Consequential Conversations - these conversations make sure that what you are doing is worth doing - they identify the core values that shape your activities and offer benefit to the world - without a powerful positive reason for working together, you will not discover the resilience to hold the team together, bring heart and mind to the task, or accelerate the beneficial results
Read on to review Peter Drucker's advice on how to manage your leadership influence well enough to generate and sustain conversations to the power of 4.  There's also a short review of Block's book in our new From Brian's Bookshelves section.

brian at desk 2008 
Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker's Core Chart for Great Leadership
The best description of Peter Drucker I have run across, and I can't remember who said it, is that he was a social ecologist.  It's a rich image.  His depth and breadth of understanding the complex interactions of human relationships in organizations has challenged and inspired me since I began reading his work 30 years ago.
In the latter part of his life, he shifted the focus of his research and writing from the corporate sector to the not-for-profit sector, including the church.  In fact, he once wrote that the Christian church was the most successful organization in Western culture, sustaining its positive influence through continual adaptation around its core values and purpose for over 2000 years.
I remember hearing Drucker on his 90th birthday in Los Angeles at a meeting of his foundation for nonprofit management.  In that speech, he talked about his conviction that the key leadership skill for the 21st century was self-management.  A version of his speech can be read by clicking here.
Great leadership comes from those who choose to learn continuously how to exercise an increasingly positive influence through their conversations and relationships.  Here's a brief summary of what Drucker thinks needs to be learned and the means best suited to learning it:
 Learn your strengths through feedback
 Learn how you perform through practice
 Learn what you value through spirited reflection
 Learn how to contribute through choosing what will make a positive difference
 Learn how to achieve results through taking responsibility for relationships
2009 promises to be a turbulent and trying year for organizational communities around the world.  The practices of leadership and teamwork that got us into this situation, as Einstein has pointed out, will not get us out of it.  We will need to manage ourselves differently in order to generate the conversations that will create a new and improved future.  My resolution for 2009 is to continue with even greater fervour to provoke your brilliance in leadership and teamwork with focus and grace.

From Brian's Bookshelves
Brian's BookshelfPeter Block, Community:  The Structure of Belonging.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2008.


Peter Block is concerned about the fragmentation of our society.  He sees our communities and organizations separated into silos, a collection of institutions and programs operating near each other, but not overlapping or touching.  The cost of this detachment, rooted in individuality and independence, is isolation, loneliness, fear, fault-finding, and the waste of gifts left on the margins.  This creates a community problem of massive proportions, but Block does not want to focus on the problems.  Instead, he insists that we can create a restorative community of possibilities, belonging, and gifts.  That's what Block focuses on and explores in considerable depth in this book.
He believes fervently that communites of possibility are co-created through conversations.  There are six kinds of conversations that ingrain accountability and commitment into the fabric of the relationships that create community for all involved: 1) the invitation is extended to create a future different from the past and people are free to accept or not; 2) the possibility is something that works on us and evolves through the conversations as an act of imagining what we can create together; 3) ownership comes only when everyone is involved and believes they are cause rather than effect; 4) dissent & doubt respects every person's views and ensures that the passions and concerns of everyone are on the table, heard, and valued; 5) commitment is the promise to participate for the sake of the larger purpose; and 6) gifts rather than deficiencies and weaknesses become the focus for moving forward towards the possibilities of healthier communities.  In healthy communities, all six of these conversations weave together to create the structures of belonging.
This is a very important book that should spark transformative dialogues in our institutions and organizations.  Leadership, Block asserts, is the art of convening conversations that will create communities.  Convening a conversation around this book would be a great place to start.

What Brian's Been Writing

I am privileged to have another article published in the Winter 2008-2009 issue of Leadership Compass from the Leadership Development Programs at The Banff Centre.  Click here to get the issue.  My article is on pp.10-11.

Jazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month
"Max De Pree likened leadership to jazz. For me this captures the essence of leadership and learning communities. Jazz bands are collegial. Their members learn from each other, follow each other, lead each other. They are passionate about what they do. They continually experiment, change the rules, take risks. And when it all works, it thrills and excites the participants and the listeners."  
Dame Patricia Collarbone

What People are Saying about Brian's Speaking

"On behalf of all the Peak Leaders here at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, thank you for making our first year at hit.  Your presentation was unique, creative, and thought-provoking."
Christine Ramage
BCIT Student Association


Enjoy Great Jazz in Vancouver 

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