bigidea_2Building momentum for a world where everybody leads by sharing their voice. We are all connected. Worry less about how others need to change. Instead, focus more on how YOU might change. Be the transformation you wish to see.

Excerpts from The Seventh Power:

Evan’s Notebook: The start of school in Maine is just a few days away, and while most fifth graders are clinging to the last days of summer, Evan Duprey waits on the granite steps of his house, notebook and pen in hand, ready for a soul-searching book discussion about the importance of looking inward and the social consequences of overreaching.

The New Peacemaker’s of the Navajo Nation: The STAR School sits inconspicuously on the site of a former junkyard at the edge of the Colorado Plateau. To the west the four sacred peaks of the Navajo Nation cast their shadows. It is a charter elementary and middle school, serving Indian Country, and the most unlikely of places to find a living culture that could change the entire planet for the better.

Searching for Voices in the City of Music: On this sunny Saturday in early May the city of Nashville, Tennessee, is hosting the annual symposium of the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association, and I am blessed to be their keynote speaker. I have come to realize that there are lots of ways to lose your voice in this world, and this understanding is what brings me here.

The Wisdom of Wild Places:  This is prime buffalo country, and I can see their black forms dotting the landscape in the distance. Since my first trip to the American West as a teenager I have been fascinated with wild buffalo. Despite my competitive spirit and drive to get things done, I can sit in the grass and watch buffalo all day.

The New Church:  It is ten minutes past nine on Sunday morning near Copley Square in Boston’s historic Back Bay, and each of us is tapping deep into the sacred energy that lives within us all. Maddy’s yelling now, pulling everything she can out of a room full of aspiring warriors. Pulsating lights break the darkness. Everyone is in rhythm, reciprocating Maddy’s intensity. Darkness is followed by light. Everyone is sweating . . . everyone is chanting . . . everyone is moving in unison. It all feels to me like a modern-day sweat lodge. It’s the sacred rite of the Sioux reinvented for twenty-first-century Boston. Across cultures and transcending epochs, humans have found rituals that release the sacred light hat dwells within us all.

Seeds of Peace: The critical ingredient is that we ask each camper to work hardest on themselves. They come here focused on others, but we turn their attention inward. We do this by giving each camper—we call them “Seeds”—the skills they need to work on themselves.

The Holodomor:  The odds that Hanna Soroka would survive the winter of 1932 and live to see her eighth birthday were too small to calculate. Her parents were both dead. Her younger brother and sister were also dead. The truth was that in every house Hanna knew, people were dead, and were it not for her nine-year-old sister Marina, Hanna herself never would have survived.

Creating a New Normal:  “The idea of creating a new normal permeates everything we do,” Pankaj explained to me on the day we first spoke. “What do we mean by this? A new normal is something—anything, really—that allows us to accelerate the evolution of humans through inspired purpose. As each individual on Earth moves closer to their potential, all of humanity is advanced.”

There’s No Place like Home: “Somebody on our team was crunching numbers,” Jose says, “checking data from our interviews with former guerrillas, and in doing so they discovered an important trend: Every year, when Christmas came around, the number of defections went up. Soldiers who worked for the government fighting the rebels could take leave and go home for the Christmas holiday, but the guerrillas—well, they could never take leave, they could never go home, and it is here that we found a weakness.”

The Elephant in the Room:  The festive poster depicts the grandeur of the big top and its colorful flags, with two mischievous clowns and one giant elephant in the foreground. Few at the time would have guessed that the elephant, the icon of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” would ultimately play a leading role in the circus’s demise.

Excerpts from Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse:

LEADERSHIP: First, as a business leader, I am supposed to be ‘on the job’ all the time, pushing for more. I am not supposed to be sitting on fence lines, feeling my connectivity with the energy of all living things.  The partial loss of my voice made me revisit this assumption; then, I learned the power of making room for others to lead. This led to a new goal of making the role of the traditional leader smaller, so that everyone’s voice could become stronger.

SPASMODIC DYSPHONIA: I can’t help but see parallels between spasmodic dysphonia and Pine Ridge.  I have lost my voice.  My condition feels permanent.  I have been told there is no cure.  Drugs are the only source of relief.  I am stuck in a difficult pattern, a circle, without end.

REFLECTION: In the years that followed the partial loss of my voice, I began to see that my old management style was not optimal. It was just old. I began to see that there was a more powerful way to lead and manage, which involved restraint. The secret lay in doing less, not more. Spasmodic dysphonia made me listen. Yes, to others, but, even more importantly, to myself. In a circle of irony, it took losing my speaking voice to find my soul’s voice. Getting lost is the first step to being found. In my experience, this is what happens when a CEO loses consistent access to his or her voice:

  • You listen more.
  • You talk less.
  • You ask more questions.
  • You look at more data.
  • You show more restraint.
  • You let others run meetings.
  • You don’t break the silence.
  • You share responsibility for representing the organization.
  • You trust and empower others more completely.
  • I have jokingly said that all CEOs should lose their voice.