We Have a Leadership Problem

I Can Be Your Hero..

"Leadership" has been on my mind lately, maybe because of the many conversations I have with people about the "lack of leadership" in their organizations.  It also came up in the comments on my recent post on "Managing" People.  Everywhere I go, people are talking about "leadership." 

But I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the last thing we need right now is more leaders or even better leaders. The entire frame is fundamentally flawed. 

The Problem with "Leadership"

When we talk about "leaders," implicit in the notion is that there are going to be "followers." There is a power dynamic in the idea of leadership that is often unexamined and that makes it virtually impossible for us to address the complex issues that lie before us. 

Leadership has an heroic quality to it. It implies that a leader can save us from whatever situation we find ourselves in. It puts the onus on the leader to find answers, divine the way and to move us along that path. The leader determines the course of action and we decide if and how we will follow. 

In our mythology of the leader, they are lone gunslingers (or maybe a team of a few), riding in on their white horses to save the day. They are the saviors, the heroes, the dragon-slayers. They are exalted and somehow different from ordinary mortals, imbued with special powers and skills that the rest of us can only wish we had. 

Some leaders are better than others at inviting participation in their leadership. Certainly this is better than a dictatorship. But still, at the heart of any notion of leadership is a fundamental power imbalance where the leader wields power that followers do not. 

This is its fundamental flaw. "Leadership" mark some as "special" while others are not. 

Even when we pay lipservice to the idea that we are all leaders, we secretly know this is crap. The very word "lead" means that someone is in charge and others are following.  We may not want to admit this is true, but it is. 

Why Do We Love Leaders?

We love having leaders (even when we chafe against them) because it relieves us of any responsibility or accountability for where we are or where we want to go. I can sit back and blame what's happening on "a lack of leadership." I can operate from my stance as a helpless victim of the leaders who will not lead or who lead poorly.  We see this at work all the time--the people who want "leaders," but then who blame the leaders they find for not being sufficiently heroic in saving them. 

And for those of us who aspire to be leaders, there is that secret wish that we will be the hero. We love leadership because if we become leaders, then it casts us in that mystical glow that comes with our status as leaders. We see ourselves as participatory leaders--and maybe we are--but still, as leaders, we are "the ones in charge." 

Lately it seems to me that we are workshipping at the altar of leadership  because we are desparate for new solutions and ideas. If we can only build leaders, then we can all be saved. We are like children, looking for our parents to swoop in and save the day. Leaders are the heroes and we are looking for them to rescue us. Or we are looking to BE the heroes and do the rescuing. 

But this is a damaging, disempowering way of operating in the world. All this worship of leaders and leadership merely perpetuates a dynamic of savior/victim. It makes it harder for those who feel that they are not leaders to contribute their strengths, ideas and gifts to the collective good. And it causes us to expend energy on all the power struggles that go with this idea--who's the leader, who isn't, how does the leader preserve his/her special status as hero, how do the rest of us respond to that? 

From Leader to Citizen 

I think we need to retire the words "leader" and "leadership" and begin to talk differently about how we are working. "Leaders" are about hierarchy and if we are working in a dense collection of networks now, we cannot look to "leaders" to solve our problems. 

We need to find a different way of talking about what needs to be done, that engages all people in the work. I like the word "citizen," which to me implies that we have rights AND responsibilities in the communities where we operate--including responsibilities to participate in contributing to the collective good. 

What would happen if we stopped talking about ourselves as "leaders" and developing our "leadership' and we started talking about ourselves as "citizens" and what it means to be good citizens in our world?  How could that change the ways we interact and the solutions we find? 

What Do You Want MORE Of?

Abundance Plus

On Facebook yesterday, LaDonna Coy posed an interesting question:

Noodling--what would happen if we were actually able to figure out what we want in life (instead of what we don't want) and then focus on it? What would that make possible?

I've been doing a lot of reading in and work with appreciative inquiry lately and this is one of its key principles, called the Poetic Principle. In a nutshell, it says that what we choose to focus on in a person or situation becomes our reality. The more attention we give to what we've noticed, the more it becomes what we experience. 

Here's a thought experiment to test this out. If I tell you to STOP thinking of a purple elephant, you can't. In fact, the more I tell you to stop thinking of a purple elephant, the more firmly embedded that purple elephant will become in your mind. The only way I can get you to stop focusing on the purple elephant is if I give you something else to think about--like a pink hippo. 

What happens to most of us is that we spend a lot of time thinking about the things we DON'T want in our lives. In fact, I've asked people, "What do you want in this situation," and more often than not will hear, "Well I can tell you what I don't want!" But the more attention we pay to what we don't want, the more likely we are to find it. So, as LaDonna suggests, we have to ask ourselves, how would things shift if we were able to focus on what we DO want, rather on what we don't want? 

One way to do this is to look at a situation or person and ask ourselves, "What do I want MORE of here?" Often when we are in negative situations--we have a problem with a client or a colleague, a spouse or a child--we will start thinking of all the things we want less of. If only she were LESS stubborn or he were LESS confrontational. Then, of course, all we see in that other person is how stubborn or confrontational they are. All we see is the purple elephant. 

By shifting our attention to what we want MORE of, we can start to shift our perceptions in a more positive direction. We can also start to shift outcomes. It's another version of "you get what you measure."

As part of our discussion, I shared with LaDonna one of my favorite Robert Kennedy quotes:

“The gross national product (of a country) does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
– Robert Kennedy, March 18, 1968

For me, this captures beautifully how we need to shift our attention. What DO we want more of, in our personal and professional lives? In our communities, schools, churches and workplaces? I think we could accomplish so much more if we defined what is important, healthy and meaningful and shot for those things, rather than focusing on all the things we don't want. 

So--here's our question of the day. What do you want MORE of? I'd love to hear from you in comments on this!

What Are You Doing to Invest in Yourself?

Invest Harold Jarche points us to a recently released study on corporate responses to the recession/depression we're currently in:

This morning the CLC (Corporate Leadership Council) released the results of a survey that asked CEOs which areas were to suffer the most in response to the crisis. L&D [learning & development] came out on top at 38%. So this means, globally, that a third of organisations surveyed will stop investing in development of employees. Recruiting was second and IT infrastructure was third.

Aside from the obvious implications for L&D (which Harold dissects nicely), the bigger issue is that here is yet another reason why no one can afford to depend on their company for professional development. You must take responsibility for your own learning.

Smart companies use the downturns to prepare for when the economy improves. That's what smart people do, too. So some questions to consider in preparation for what promises to be a long, cold winter:

  • Do you know what skills employers are looking for? (This article says that part of what we're dealing with here is a fundamental mismatch between what people know how to do and where the jobs are).
  • Do you know which of your skills are obsolete or on their way to becoming so? Are you doing something to build new ones?

Now is the time to invest in yourself. If you don't, no one else will. What can you do to make that investment?

Flickr photo via wonderwebby

Start Something

In times of great upheaval and negativity, there's a tendency to conserve. It's a natural human tendency to withdraw and "hunker down" when the outside world feels like it's on the attack. We're pulled into thinking small, focused on saving what we have rather than on thinking big and using downturns as an opportunity to make things happen

But this is a mistake. When we move into scarcity mode, we become competitive, not collaborative. We hoard information and ideas rather than sharing them freely. We stop learning because learning requires risks and the possibility of making mistakes and it feels like we can't afford mistakes when everything around us is falling down.

In bad times, we get stuck in doing things that "worked"  even when it's clear that they no longer do.   We're looking for any port in the storm, rather than finding a way to use the storm to take us some place better. We are reacting, using instincts and intuition that come from our animal brains and our need to just survive. We are not initiating, which requires us calm our fears and to be thoughtful and imaginative. We become victims of circumstances rather than actors in our own lives.

We have another choice, though. We can use bad times to do things differently, to start new habits and find new ideas, to get creative about where and how we want to move forward. In adversity, we can find new strengths within and new opportunities in the world around us.

We can see upheaval as a time to stop . . . or as a time to start. It can be a time to hoard or a time to share. It's up to us.

What can you start today? How can you share?

Change Your Behavior, Change Your Mind

A.J. Jacobs, Esquire writer and author of two hilarious books is a man after my own heart. As he explains in this TED Talk, he spends much of his time immersing himself in learning experiments, such as what it's like to outsource your life (the best month of his life) or to be "radically honest" (the worst month of his life). Not only do these become fodder for his writing, they also teach him some important lessons. 

Jacobs' most recent book is The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. As he reveals in his TED Talk, one of the major things he learned from this experience was that the "outer affects the inner." That is, if you change your behavior, you change your mind.

This is one of those deceptively simple, profoundly important realizations. It's the "fake it till you make it" school of thought that says if you want to become something different, you have to start by behaving differently. We tend to think the opposite, that our beliefs must change first and then our behavior will come along later. Much of professional development is about trying to change people's attitudes by "training" them them that they should think differently. This is often unsuccessful because in many cases, we need to first change our behavior before we can change our beliefs. I'm not going to truly believe in the power of exercise until I actually begin doing it.  I have to start with acting differently and it's the process of engaging in new behaviors that helps me start to develop new attitudes.

Think, for example, of trust. Yesterday I wrote about how I think many of our failures of development are the result of a lack of trust. In comments, Roberta asked what we can do to change this. The simplest and best answer I can come up with is for us to start behaving as though we trust people and for us to behave in ways that encourage people to trust us. Act trusting and trustworthy and trust in yourself and in others will follow.

Same thing with using social media. We talk a lot about getting people to change their attitudes towards blogs, wikis, etc. This is really asking them to change their beliefs about these tools. What if, instead of trying to talk people into seeing value, we simply said, "There may be no value in these at all for you. But can you take a week to be open to using this tool, can you act as though there is value for 7 days? Just an experiment of immersing yourself in this world. If at the end of the 7 days, you still see no value, then it's back to your previous life." What if we could get people to "fake it" long enough for them to see how their outer changes are impacting their inner attitudes? That could create some really great changes.

Where else can this apply in our lives? How can we use outer changes to affect our inner thoughts? Is this something you've tried yourself? How has it worked?

A Dream: Learner-Centered Professional Development for Growth

One of my favorite Steve Jobs stories is the one he told during this Stanford Commencement address a few years ago:

Seventeen years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on (my emphasis). Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life (my emphasis). But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Every time I think about this story, I think about how we do staff development. If Steve Jobs had worked at a company, he never would have learned calligraphy--at least not on company time or on the company dime. He would have been busy attending the "required" courses for his job grade. There would have been the the compliance courses and the conflict management course his supervisor decided he needed since he didn't always get along that well with his co-workers. Maybe some coding classes and a "team-building class."Calligraphy

Most definitely Steve would not have taken something as "impractical" as calligraphy. Not only would he not have been allowed to pursue learning by following his "curiosity and intuition," he would probably have had little time or encouragement to even consider what he was curious about. The company would decide what he needed to learn and that would be that.

But think about what happened to Apple--in fact the entire industry--because a man pursued learning in an area that excited him and that piqued his curiosity. It transformed our lives. 

I know all the reasons why company-sponsored professional development isn't based on people's personal interests--there's no immediate pay-off for the company, certain kinds of training to meet regulatory requirements are required, companies aren't in the business of supporting individual growth, etc. I do question a company's ability to really know the future, though. How can they predict what skills people will need in 5 years? How might they be restricting their own growth because they aren't helping the knowledge workers they depend on to grow in ways that might actually have benefits for the company not immediately perceived by the organization? Steve Jobs had no way of knowing how a calligraphy course might apply, yet it was this investment in something that wasn't "practical" that helped him completely re-define the way personal computers operate.

I also recognize that the pay-off for Apple didn't come until 10 years later and that if Steve had learned calligraphy on company time, his company might not be the one to benefit.  For many (most) organizations, it is this concern more than any that holds them back.

I can't help but feel, though, that there's still a way to balance a company's interest in developing people for its own purposes and supporting the development of people for purposes beyond the job and work they have today.  If we did this, I think we'd have more Sachas in the world and more Steves, having more creative ideas and making greater contributions, both to their organizations and to the larger societal benefit of all of us. Not to mention what it would do for individual lives. For me, it's these possibilities that drive my own belief in the need for professional development that's based on individual growth.

What do you think would happen if professional development started with people's curiosity and passion? Would it be a good thing? How would it benefit organizations? How would we start doing professional development differently?

From the Mouths of Babes

Last week we held our Community Forum on at-risk youth. This was without a doubt one of the most personally and professionally rewarding projects I've ever worked on. With a team of 10 young people, ranging in age from 17-22, we looked at the issues facing teens who drop out of high school, age out of foster care and who become teen parents. We collected peer interviews and researched national, state and local data to pull together a story of these issues in our community.  Then we invited schools, community-based organizations, businesses, churches, government and everyone else we could think of to hear what these young people had to say.  We wanted to pull the community together so that they could hear the stories behind the numbers. We wanted them to understand that when we talk about 704 kids dropping out of high school in a year, this isn't just some abstract number. These are human beings who are facing challenges some of us can't even imagine. And they're facing them with no support, as adolescents.

The young people we worked with just blew me away with their honesty and passion for the issues. One young woman stood up and talked about she got pregnant to have someone in her life who would always love her and would never judge her. Isn't that what parents should be doing? Or church? Or members of her community? This isn't a weight that should be put on a baby, but it's completely understandable when you consider the lack of any other supports in the lives of these young people.

Another shared the story of how when she sought daycare for her young son, a case worker condescendingly told her, "When I was your age, I was playing hopscotch." This girl broke down in sobs as she told us this, saying "Please don't judge us. We know we've made mistakes but we're trying to do the right thing." How incredibly sad, especially when you consider that she's someone who's been in foster care since she was 8 years old and is now enrolled in college to try to have a better life for her and her child. What she needs is not our judgment but our congratulations for getting this far on her own and our support to keep moving ahead with her plans.

One young man in the project dropped out of school at 17 in part because he was scared to go to school because he refused to be affiliated with a gang for protection. He survives because he stays "below the radar" as much as possible. Right now, he's working on getting his GED and helping to register voters in his city. At the forum, he talked about how he wanted to experience something beyond the few blocks of the neighborhood he's lived in for the past 19 years. "It's not that I hate where I live, it's that I want to know what else is out there. I want to find out what it's like to live someplace else and do other things," he said. Isn't that what we'd all like for our children? Mine have gone on a European vacation with their dad, while this poor kid just wants to get out of his tiny Pennsylvania neighborhood

Working with these young people was just incredible. Most people consider them "lost causes," but what I found was that they will do anything if they feel you personally care for them and you involve them in the process as co-decision makers, something they often have not experienced. They also LOVED using media to tell a story. It was a big part of what kept them engaged in the process. We had them get the videos and they decided on the key themes to highlight in our final presentation.  At first we were going to script out the entire Forum to present it in more of a report format, but at their urging, we decided to let them respond to audience questions to further share information about their personal experiences. Even when people asked questions like "Why aren't you taking more personal responsibility for what you've done?" (a ludicrous question because the kids were taking responsibility), these young people handled their responses with a grace and professionalism that, frankly, was far greater than some of what I've seen from the so-called adults I've worked with in this arena.

I was also blown away by how these young people want to give back. They want to take their show on the road, going into local high schools to share their experiences and persuade kids to stay in school. They don't want other kids to make some of the mistakes they've made and their willingness to open their lives to other people so that they can all learn is really amazing to me.

Luckily we video-taped the Forum presentation, so our plan is to use some of that video for ongoing dialog and work. In the meantime, you can see the videos we put together and shared at the forum here. There are three videos on the channel. The first summarizes some of the statistics and research we found. The second is on advice that the kids who were interviewed have on dropping out ("DON'T DO IT!") and the third includes interview excerpts on issues like why students dropped out, whether or not their schools tried to engage them in staying in school, etc. This is raw, powerful stuff and I'm really proud of what these young people accomplished in a few short months.

Success in Scary Times

Scary I'm a freelance consultant and for the past 10 years that's meant finding the delicate balance between getting the work done today that needs to get done and finding new work to do once my current projects are finished. People who work for organizations think that their situations are very different from mine, but in reality, the only difference is that I'm always aware of the fact that I have to constantly be looking for my next opportunity.

At the end of June, a few major projects of mine will be ending and I'm now in the process of trying to find new business to replace them. This is a scary thing, I don't mind telling you, especially when I'm the primary breadwinner and we're buying a new house at the end of the month. Work has always come to me, so on some deep level I have faith that it will all work out in the end, but in the meantime, there's a lot of angst going on inside me. After reading this article on the fourth straight month of job losses in the US and this one on Philadelphians pawning their valuables to buy food and gas, I know I'm not alone in my anxiety.

Fortunately, as a friend mentioned to me this morning, the universe has a way of bringing you what you need when you need it. This morning I found The Scary Times Success Manual via Pam Slim's Escape from Cubicle Nation. It's 10 tips that I think can serve us well in scary economic times, but also in other times of our life when we're gripped by fear and anxiety. In a nutshell, they are:

  1. Forget about yourself, focus on others.
  2. Forget about your commodity, focus on your relationships.
  3. Forget about the sale, focus on creating value.
  4. Forget about your losses, focus on your opportunities.
  5. Forget about your difficulties, focus on your progress.
  6. Forget about the "future," focus on today.
  7. Forget about who you were, focus on who you can be.
  8. Forget about events, focus on your responses.
  9. Forget about what's missing, focus on what's available.
  10. Forget about your complaints, focus on your gratitude.

These were written for individuals, but a lot of organizations could benefit from this advice, too. How many companies, schools and nonprofits are operating primarily from a place of fear and anxiety, rather than a place of optimism? It feels to me like there's a lot for us to unlearn and forget so that we can focus on the important things that will move us out of our fears and into a brighter future. I have some forgetting to do myself right now.

Photo via BGLewandowski

From the "I Couldn't Have Said This Better Myself" Files

Learning_2_2 When it comes to professional development and who's in charge of learning, you know I come down on the side of individuals. I don't care who you're working for--we're all independent contractors in a global economy and we have a responsibility to ourselves and our families to always remember that. This is something I keep harping on, but it's a sentiment that bears repeating.

Now, via Stephen Downes comes a great post from Ian Delaney that pretty much summarizes my opinion on the subject. He's talking about the results of a recent report on "Learning 2.0":

  • People nowadays don’t have jobs or even careers for life. We have these portfolio careers and we’re all entrepreneurial about those careers. The average in-house marketer stays in a job for four years; it’s even lower in agency land.
  • Our employers don’t have our individual agenda at heart when they design training or development programmes. They have the company’s interests in mind.
  • There’s a conflict of interest here, of course - you might want to do a public speaking course, for example, because you envisage yourself as an effective public speaker. But if your boss doesn’t think that’s part of your job, the chances are, you won’t be doing one.
  • Employers also tend to confuse training and learning. Training gets done to you. Learning is something an individual does themselves. Companies tend to think of training as their responsibility, rather than learning. They also think (62% of them - HROs - do) that “done to” training is the most effective way to deliver education for the job, according to survey results.
  • Educationalists have identified at least 37 different types of ways in which we learn stuff, from reading a book to playing simulations. Each individual will have their own preferred and most effective learning styles. In-house training tends to focus on one - sit in a room with a bunch of other people and get talked at.

Yes, Yes, Yes! This is the problem with the state of professional development right now--too many people are willing to abdicate the experience to their employers and too many employers don't really operate from a strengths-based place that looks at how you can build your organization based on the interests and talents of your employees. Individually, we're really screwing ourselves if we don't start taking a more pro-active role in our own learning and organizations aren't benefiting from our growth either.

Ian goes on to point out that so much of what passes for professional development right now is event-based ("Hey--you should go to that training on phone sales we'll be running next month."), when in fact we'd learn more and develop faster if we started blogging, networking and using our RSS feeds more effectively. I agree wholeheartedly, but continue to wonder what needs to be done to help people recognize this and make a transition into being more self-directed in their learning. I can see, too, that there's a need to provide the right kinds of structure for people to look at their learning styles and the available tools so that they can begin to construct for themselves a more effective personal learning environment.

Take a look at the post and let me know your thoughts.

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No Excuses Leadership

No_excuses Katya Andresen has a GREAT post on operating your organization with no excuses. Apparently she recently did a presentation on tweaking your marketing messages, where she was told by her audience that her suggestions weren't possible because:

1. I don’t have the budget to do that.
2. I don’t have the staff to do that.
3. I don’t have the time to do that.
4. I don’t have the internal support to do that.
5. I don’t have the expertise to do that.

Katya goes on to take each of these "constraints" and turn them into possibilities, urging us to think in terms of what we CAN do, not what we can't.

Katya's experience is something I get all the time, particularly when it comes to suggesting that staff change how they are currently operating. It seems that it's easier to spend time making excuses for why things can't change, rather than trying to figure out how they can change.

I suspect that this goes back to how scarcity thinking seems to rule in most organizations. Even though there's a lot of evidence to suggest that creativity actually does better when constraints exist, most people persist in the belief that constraints hold us back, rather than giving us a framework within which we can find solutions to our problems.

I'm doing a lot of thinking lately about leadership in organizations and Katya's post underscores the point that leadership is about making solutions, not excuses.  It's about recognizing where there may be some constraints and then using those constraints to propel you forward.

One of my favorite leadership books of all time, Good to Great, talks about how the great companies use The Stockdale Paradox:


The Stockdale Paradox


Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.


AND at the same time


Confront the most brutal facts of  your current reality, whatever they might be.

Many companies have failed because they are unwilling to confront the brutal facts, but I suspect that in the nonprofit sector, the bigger problem is going beyond the brutal facts to create something different. There seems to be a pervasive mindset that a lack of resources means an inability to change or have impact. From what I've observed, however, it's often not the lack of resources that is the problem. It is how the resources are being allocated and used that is the issue. In Katya's post, for example, she points out that instead of thinking "I don't have enough time to tweak my marketing messages," the answer should be "My time is better spent fixing a bad message rather than sending out more bad messages."  It isn't about the lack of time as much as how the time is being used.

In so many cases, it seems that organizations just sort of give up and give in to their excuses. This, to me, is one of the most profound failures of leadership. It's impossible to have any kind of vision if your sight is clouded by all that you can't do. Vision, by it's nature, is about seeing the possibilities, not the limitations. It's about seeing what CAN happen, not what isn't working. Excuses don't create change. They maintain the status quo, something that presumably many organizations are trying to change.

It also seems like this kind of "excuses only" leadership could become one of the primary reasons that  many nonprofits may find themselves becoming irrelevant. In a recent post, Seth Godin talks about the death of direct mail and how he he's worried about the ability of the largest nonprofits to change:

I'll start with the bad news: I despair for most of the top 50 non-profits in the US. These are the big guys, and they're stuck. Unlike the Fortune 100, not known for being cutting edge in themselves, the top charities rarely change... if you're big, you're used to being big and you expect to stay big. That means that generation after generation of staff has been hired to keep doing what's working. Big risks and crazy schemes are certainly frowned upon.

What I see here is the potential for more "excuses only" leadership--"We can't change because we've already invested so much into doing what we've been doing" (a constraint), rather than "The rules of the game are changing, so how can we keep up?" (a possibility).

What Katya's post opens up for me is a call to "No Excuses Leadership" that individuals and organizations must learn to heed. If they don't, then they'll get left behind.

Photo via vandy.