Chapter 5: Leading from any chair– “a leader who feels he is superior is likely to suppress the voices of the very people on whom he must rely to deliver his vision alive and kicking.” (pg. 67)
I appreciated a few lines in this chapter, specifically the discussion on leadership. Ben states, “I began to shift my attention to how effective I was at enabling the musicians to play each phrase as beautifully as they were capable.” (pg. 69) I think Ben supports true “servant leadership” by recognizing a leader’s “true power derives from his ability to make other people powerful.” (pg. 69.) I think in too many leadership studies now the concept of servant leadership has been transformed to simply serving and the leadership action is dropped. I know many wonderful volunteers who serve in absolutely necessary capacities but they are not leaders because they serve. So, I like Ben’s statement about “true power” because I think that defines servant leadership. I also like the mention of the value of the leader who can and will admit mistakes. I am not sure that I agree with Ben as to why a leader should admit mistakes…I think it is more about credibility than from the standpoint of empowering others. But, I can see how it is empowering for your team to be willing to take risks if the standard is set that mistakes are “fascinating.”
I also think that the “white sheet” idea is interesting. It made me consider what might happen if principles dared to provide “white sheets” for the teachers on their campuses. I am often frustrated that teachers are rarely, if ever, given an opportunity to offer input on policies, processes, sometimes even curriculum. I really believe that the crew in the trenches could offer valuable and meaningful insight into making the best policy decisions.
Chapter 6: Rule Number 6 – Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Ok, so I buy in to the idea that relaxing the grip on …whatever could have positive results. But I have to say that I am not sure I necessarily agree with Frank Sulloway from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. It is one side, and one bullet point on the one side, of the age-old “nature/nurture” debate. I really don’t think I agree with the idea that personality is a survival strategy and that “each child in a family stakes out her own territory of attention and importance by developing certain aspects of her character into ‘winning ways’.” (pg. 82) And I think it is WAY over-analyzing to determine that the personality set as a child to survive becomes the “calculating self” in adulthood and “the prolonged nature of human childhood may contribute to the persistence of these habits long after their usefulness has passed.” First, the idea paints quite a bleak view of childhood and second that personality and uniqueness are not positive qualities but survival mechanisms calculatingly applied in adulthood.
I understand that the study questions ask us to consider the idea of “live, laugh and love” but I do not see that as the main point in the practice of chapter six. It seems that Ben and Roz are encouraging a release of the idea of identity and uniqueness.
Chapter 7- The Way Things Are-
In concept I understand the value of realistically assessing a situation so that you can identify a way to remedy the situation. I understand the futility of the duck’s fate in that there, apparently, is no way out so rather than accepting the fate the duck will “spend what he conceives to be his last days in misery, flapping against the walls of his cage.” (pg. 99)
I have to say that I am actually quite bothered by the idea of “presence without resistance” as prescribed on page 101. I sincerely believe a “presence without resistance” position, as a rule, is dangerous. In the worst extreme, of the worst example imaginable…isn’t “presence without resistance” the mentality of the Germans in Nazi run Germany? The atrocities of that time are bad enough but what I find even more terrifying is pondering the question of “why were SO many people willing to be involved and join Hitler’s plans?”
The idea of turning lemons and water into lemonade is not new and there is a subtle suggestion that is the meaning of this chapter. I, however, believe that the combination of the recommendations to stop being calculating, stop measuring, and stop being unique combined with “presence without resistance” is unnerving.
I did like the discussion on risk:
“risk…invites us to take…a joyous adventure…when we stretch beyond our known capacities while gladly affirming that we may fail. And if we make a mistake, we can mentally raise our arms and say, “How fascinating!” and reroute our attention to the higher purpose at hand. “ (pg. 103)
But I don’t like the recommendation to not strive for the way things “could be or should be.” I am not ignorant to their idea that hitting our heads against the cage trying to make something happen that isn’t going to happen, but, as scientifically inaccurate as this quote is, “shoot for the moon because even if you miss you’ll land in the stars,” I believe that reaching higher than is possible yields better results. I guess I’m back to “resistance while present.”
Chapter 8- Giving Way to Passion
This was a problematic chapter for me because I did not see the recommendation and support to give way to passion. Ben stated that people need to understand how they are “related to the waves in the sea…[and] the continuity with the movement of wind through the grass.” I am an English major and usually align with the Romantics who have an affinity for nature but I can’t see how people are related to the waves in the sea?” so the comparison for me is lost. How does the “long line” help a person give way to passion? Perhaps the idea is of “seeing the bigger picture” and the prize/goal? but then, isn’t that a remnant of the calculating measurement world where we are not supposed to strive to be unique but rather contributing to the whole? But isn’t giving way to passion unique? Ben and Roz recommend taking off our eyeglasses that make things clear and lose ourselves in a “helpless blur of color” in order to give way to passion??
I do agree that we should all “dare to let go of the edges of ourselves…participate!” (pg. 121) but I don’t see agreement between this suggestion and the rest of the book.
Valerie, I completely understand you’re frustration with not given the opportunity to be heard at your work site. Principals are also overwhelmed with duties and commitments, one of those should be an open door policy with teachers to hear the voices of those that you depend on to be successful. I would like to see what would happen if a white sheet was placed in front of the students in my classes once a month, I would hope their comments would an increase in critical thinking.