Sunday, October 31, 2010

The intersection of thoughts: Attendee or Participant?

This week represented a unique intersection of experiences for me. I am on a speaking tour of east coast USA for three weeks and it is 5 AM on Sunday morning in Boston. No, not jetlag - my mind is wide awake and bursting with ideas. For the last four days I have been attending the International Leadership Association (ILA) conference and heard a wide range of ideas about what leadership should be and how leaders how leaders need to act for a sustainable future. The four keynotes were excellent and inspirational - holding the hearts and minds of the thousand attendees in their hands through their inspirational words. Each received a standing ovation demonstrating the level of appreciation for sharing their thoughts and experiences. Their key messages for me were the importance of spirit and compassion across cultures and beliefs from Karen Armstrong. Jeff Swartz explained why business performance and sustainable practices are allies not enemies. Rosabeth Moss Kanter pointedly and repeatedly asked “Leadership for what?” and explained that “Advanced leadership” requires capability, connections and cash (resources) with commitment and concern. The importance of adjusting your perspective and approach as our new challenges emerge was highlighted by Howard Gardner. All four strongly emphasised the importance of action rather than just talk and, quite appropriately, this was the overall theme of the conference, “Leadership 2.0: Time for Action”.

My other engagements as I migrate south with winter approaching are a series of workshops on leveraging collaborative knowledge to drive innovation and finally chairing/speaking at the Project Management World conference in Florida. This unique boundary spanning combination of activities going through my head (at the same time as designing a new course on internal research in organisations) has created my brain implosion and awareness at such an uncivilised hour. This is one of those moments when both right and left brain are actively generating new thoughts from this diverse mix of concepts and I felt compelled to share this with others. Attending sessions on “transcendent moments” in leadership, the influence of art in innovation and the significance of place for our sense of identity, all helped to fuel a powerful concoction of new ideas. The act of being open to ideas from outside one’s normal emotional and intellectual boundaries creates new emergent opportunities, which I now need to act on in order to harvest the fruits of to reap the potential benefits.


My last two Twitter posts (@Metaphorage using #ILA) for the conference were: “Have we just attended a conference or participated in a series of conversations that have developed our perspectives and matured our approach?” and “THE question is how many of the 1000 attendees will think, behave and ACT differently as a result of attending?” For me this is the essence and purpose of participating in such events – how do we use it to make a positive difference, for ourselves and others? As Theodore Zeldin stated “The kind of conversation I like is the one in which you are prepared to emerge a slightly different person”. What is the point of listening and providing a standing ovation, if we do not act on what we have learnt? It dishonours the speakers and limits our own performance. The wiser alternative is to ACT and further develop the ideas through ongoing experience, shared conversations and helping others to understand the value of what we have had the privilege of being exposed to. Engaging in this way will further mature our own capabilities and connections at the same time increase the capacity of our organisations to apply the ideas more widely. Ultimately, shared insights leading to more sustainable actions increases performance and relationships – Isn’t that what advanced leadership is about?


I know what I am going to do and the process has already begun. Other than sharing what I got from the experience though this blog (and two more drafted), I have created three new book titles with structures for wider sharing and added several maturations to my new course. When I return home, I am ready to participate in richer conversations with my mentee groups and further develop the mentor program and networks I facilitate. I also have a new bunch of challenging question to engage my students with in our interactive tutorials.


What have you done recently to put your advanced leadership into action? Will you continue to “just attend” events or will you participate in them and engage with others to create a difference through enhanced interactions?

4 comments:

Helen Mitchell said...

Hi Arthur,

Wow. The energy that's been generated from your experiences so far in the USA is certainly emanating from your blog post! It sounds like the speakers were so highly enagaged in their topics, it led to the audience from being merely 'attendees' to be 'participants', where something changed for them in that moment. Look forward to reading and hearing more about your adventures.

Ashley said...

Arthur,

A great post. Glad to read that you got so much from ILA and I'm especially glad to read that at least one participant (you're exactly right to draw a distinction between 'attendee' and 'participant'; the former is much too passive) is embodying our conference's theme: "Leadership 2.0: Time for Active."

While I know you have a number of groups with which you are already engaged, another 'action' I could recommend is to share some of these blog posts or start a forum or two at ILASpace (www.ilaspace.org).

Cheers,

ajw

Arthur Shelley said...

Thanks helen,
Sorry I missed your comment earlier. the great thing about conferences is getting to engage in conversations with people (like yourself) - always good to exchange views and extend networks.
A

Arthur Shelley said...

Ashley,
I hope to get some time in January to go into some of the ILA spaces and create a link to these blogs. Thanks for the reminder.