December 2003 Insight Newsletter

Is Peace Ever Possible?

Human nature is turbulent. We feel conflict inside ourselves, let alone with others. Fortunately we’re geared to face problems and solve them. Peace becomes possible if everyone exercises the leadership they’re capable of – creative problem-solving in every situation instead of battle.

It’s easy to feel we’ve run out of ideas at times. We need to step back, relax and re-think. Creative ideas flow when we ease up. Everyone has the ability to amaze themselves. Understanding how to “be creative” is one of those invisible skills we all need to build.

1. Creative Ideas from Contradictions

“Necessity, the mother of invention” – George Farquhar, playwright (1678-1707)

The young playwright who named necessity ‘the mother of invention’ captured an idea wise beyond his years. Creative ideas appear most often from contradictions or conflicts. That’s fortunate since we have so many to draw on.

My role as leader often came down to helping others clarify conflicts they faced while staying as positive as possible. When asked to do something difficult, it seems so because of some conflict. We’re torn between two opposing wishes. In business, often it is to save money, but increase output, for instance. If we concentrate on the core contradiction we begin to generate ideas. The contradiction, treated positively, becomes a question – “HOW can we do this” – rather than “can we?”

By talking with others, sleeping on the question and researching possible solutions that others have tried, slowly answers emerge that begin to fit our circumstances. by definition these are creative. They begin to be tailored to our unique situations, different from everyone else’s.

A key step is encouraging everyone to put forward ideas. People will insist they have none, that they’re not creative, but they’ll light up when you get excited about something they’ve mentioned or pondered. I tried always to give that person credit when speaking to others, so all staff knew if they came up with an idea, no matter how small it seemed to them, that someone would praise it, repeat it and most important of all try to find a way to put it into action.

The simple act of using an idea makes the originator see how valuable it is and strive to produce more. A dozen people can rapidly create amazing solutions that a single person would never achieve. A key role of leaders is to keep these solutions circulating and expanding until the answers are obvious. A great by-product is that the team buys in because these are their ideas and the success belongs to them. Great leadership truly strives to be invisible, but becomes visible through the shining light of their teams’ results.

“When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, “we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

2. Another Useful Leadership Site

Luck occurs when seeking opportunity and knowledge. I stumbled onto this site which contain some great material and incidentally highlights this important aspect of leadership – continuous learning… click here.

Please take a moment and send me your favorite site: I’ll highlight some in future issues for our readers.

3. How Complex is Leadership(2)?

A speaker piqued my curiosity by mentioning a search for “leadership” on produced 14,000 hits. I tried it. The number is actually nearly 58,000 when searching books alone. Yet I rarely see one which doesn’t reduce the necessary skills to 5 or 7 or 25 or so. The reason: every single situation is unique. Each author is struck by variations of the key principles.

Much as I love reading, the real point is what you personally can do in your own special circumstances to make yourself fully effective. Reading 58,000 books would only help if you find a way to see the common elements clearly – what works in every situation and how to adapt them.

I believe there’s no higher goal than helping others see how they can succeed. Peace will come on earth when we reveal the truth that every one of us can get what we want by legitimate means, without reducing opportunity for others, in fact, by increasing it for all of us. Best wishes for the season and the new year wherever you are reading this.