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October | 2011


Courageous Leadership

TED Talks

The Resilience Advantage

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Courageous Leadership

Take A Knee

On the morning of April 3, 2003, Lt. Col. Chris Hughes was leading a battalion of the Army's 101st Airborne Division soldiers into the Iraqi city of Najaf where they found themselves outside the holiest Shia mosque in all of Iraq. While Col. Hughes' mission was to liberate the City, rumors had spread that the US Army's intents was to seize the mosque and arrest the Imam who was the spiritual leader in that holy city.

The soldiers were soon surrounded by hundreds of Iraqi's who were waiting to see how the Army would respond. According to reports, Col. Hughes could have forced his way in but instead decided to take another option. He instructed his soldiers to smile, relax, to point their weapons towards the ground and to "take a knee". His soldiers took a deep breath as they dropped down and everyone noticed an immediate decrease in tension. The Colonel decided to withdraw from the situation and told his troops to get back into their vehicles and returned to their compound in silence. His courage worked, for in just a few days, the Grand Ayatollah issued a decree instructing the people of Najaf to welcome the soldiers. In interviews afterwards, Col Hughes said that his so-called quick thinking was based on one important element of the mission—that he stopped, accurately assessed the situation and recognized that respecting the people and their sacred monuments meant that he could better fulfill his mission by not taking action rather than by taking action.

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor to attend a conference sponsored by The Combat Stress Intervention Program, a 3-year Department of Defense funded project headquartered out of Washington and Jefferson College. The program addresses the mental health needs of returning soldiers completing a tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The program done in collaboration with local hospitals, VA centers and other academic institutions builds on a resiliency model to smooth out and improve the transition to civilian life for returning veterans, their families and people in their communities.

Among the speakers at the conference was a well known psychologist named Donald Meichenbaum. While Dr. Meichenbaum is highly respected as a co-founder of cognitive approaches to counseling (how your thoughts influence your behavior) today a large chunk of his "semi-retired" work has moved into researching and writing a roadmap about how individuals including leaders can be certain to deal with the most challenging situations in an effective manner. Included in his findings:

  1. Be mentally flexible and able to see alternative ways of viewing different situations.
  2. Develop a personal "moral compass" or shatterproof set of beliefs.
  3. Learn to recognize that you are scared or uncertain of how to proceed in certain situations.
  4. Develop active real time coping skills such as accurately perceiving a situation and responding appropriately to it.
  5. Find a role model who successfully deals with situations effectively and identify what they do that works.

As leaders we may sometimes feel as if it is incumbent on us to always take action meaning that we think we must be decisive and make certain that "something happens" in all situations. In Michenbaum's research as well as in Col. Hugh's experience, sometimes we may discover that it's better to have the presence of mind to take a knee, consider all the options, and make your choice based on what will yield ultimate success even if it is not what you first expected.


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TED Talks

Do you find yourself doodling while at work? While you may be accused of not paying attention, Sunni Brown has another idea that may become a manifesto for creativity. She promotes the idea that while doodling has been besmirched over the centuries it instead should be seen as an important contributor to intellectual creativity. Go ahead a sketch away while listening to this 5 minute TED Talk.


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My New E-Booklet on Stress Resilience

I am convinced that we need a new way of understanding stress and for addressing how we cope with the stresses at work and at home. Our current model of Stress Management with its emphasis on just coping with stress is ready for updating. We need an approach which respects the complexity of our 21st century life while at the same time gives us tools that allow us to use stress in a way that promotes our growth and doesn't stifle it.

I've just completed my first e-booklet on the topic, entitled The Resilience Advantage which details why resilience is a better model than management and how we can begin to include resilience strategies into our lives.

I am working on the next volumes which will point out strategies we can use to be personally resilient, to build resilient teams, and to make our work and community organizations better able to grow through stress. I'll keep you up to date on the progress of these, but in the meantime please download The Resilience Advantage and let me know your thoughts and ideas.


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