The Power of Leading Through Inquiry

It’s extraordinary in so many ways to have a real leader at the helm of our country.   His first TV interview as President -  with Al Aribiya, a Saudi station – was magnificent in a number of ways.  

At the foundation was the power of a question:
“…the bottom line in all these talks and all these conversations is, is a child in the Palestinian Territories going to be better off? Do they have a future for themselves? And is the child in Israel going to feel confident about his or her safety and security?
Who can be indifferent to those questions?   The comments following the interview reveal McCain supporters joining middle eastern citizens in gratitude and optimism. 
  “And if we can keep our focus on making their lives better and look forward, and not simply think about all the conflicts and tragedies of the past, then I think that we have an opportunity to make real progress.”
I’m leading myself with questions, eg “What can I do to minimize the suffering in my community from the economic situation?”   The question moves me away from concern about my own bank account and focuses my attention on commonweal: the real wealth.  Like most living creatures,  humans thrive – or not - in communities. 
How are you stepping up to our many quandaries?  Any powerful questions you feel like sharing?   

It's One of Those Moments

When we most need courage and ingenuity. Our economy begs for sparks: fresh thinking, elegant ways to re-deploy resources and help constituents thrive together. Enterprises need our minds to be at their best.

Unfortunately, the brain’s first response to downbeat financial news is the opposite. Our neurons are highly sensitive to anything that looks like ‘danger’. In its presence, as many have observed, natural responses are Fight, Flight or Freeze. The pre-frontal cortex does not fire up - it shuts down.

Fear does more than blunt ingenuity; it all-but-obliterates the kind of intelligence we most need to maneuver.

We can develop better reactions - the human brain is enormously plastic. We can build high-performing business cultures that respond to market changes with curiosity. People can learn to respond with highly effective collaborative inquiry, like the engineers in the famous Apollo 13 crisis, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Neuroscience has a lot of value for business. Integrating some of those lessons into management practices for several years now, I’ve been deeply concerned about the ways that most workplaces dull brain function, rather than putting people at their best.

The current financial crisis makes the matter urgent. There’s much we can do. Two especially juicy items for the brain are experiences of belonging and of contributing. Leaders can re-kindle the spark of enterprise by responding to financial news with focus on customers’ increased vulnerability and by providing ways for employees and suppliers to band together to address them. Brain juice will flow, and new value will be generated.

Maybe you have somne other ways you’re using to make employees, customers, and suppliers smarter when we need them most? Please share.

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Are You Fit to Thrive in Any Economy?