Leadership, Vulnerability, & Warmth (great article)

Here’s my favorite article of the week... It was recently published in the Harvard Business Review on connection, vulnerability, and leadership.  I’m definitely thinking about the role women and females play in leadership.  (Thanks, Molly James, for sharing this!)

… Let me know what you think!

Artwork: Jessica Snow, Curly Words, 2011, acrylic on paper, 17" x 21"
Artwork: Jessica Snow, Curly Words, 2011, acrylic on paper, 17″ x 21″

Connect, Then Lead

So which is better, being lovable or being strong? Most leaders today tend to emphasize their strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace, but that is exactly the wrong approach.

Leaders who project strength before establishing trust run the risk of eliciting fear, and along with it a host of dysfunctional behaviors. Fear can undermine cognitive potential, creativity, and problem solving, and cause employees to get stuck and even disengage. It’s a “hot” emotion, with long-lasting effects. It burns into our memory in a way that cooler emotions don’t.

Research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman drives this point home: In a study of 51,836 leaders, only 27 of them were rated in the bottom quartile in terms of likability and in the top quartile in terms of overall leadership effectiveness—in other words, the chances that a manager who is strongly disliked will be considered a good leader are only about one in 2,000.

A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. 

Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns.

Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.”

Read more: http://hbr.org/2013/07/connect-then-lead/ar/5

Why I Abandoned My Startup

cropped-tumblr_lmv3xcnnf91qbo6g8o1_500_thumb.jpgI just read this great blog — “Why I Abandoned My Startup” — (Thanks to my friend, Lisa!) and it feels totally true.  And wow… it received 19,000 new readers in just 36 hours and made it to the top 10 in Hacker News.

“Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that if you want to make money, don’t start a company. You should start a company if you can’t sleep at night because there’s a problem you can’t stop thinking about. You should start a company if you’ve literally been brought to tears by talking to your customers. If you don’t have that level of empathy and commitment, why bother? How long do you expect to have energy to work on this problem?”

Read more here: http://westonmcbride.com/blog/2013/05/06/why-i-abandoned-my-startup/

Occupy the Farm: What farming teaches us about movement building

An Oasis in Albany

We heard the police were threatening eviction, so we showed up at 11pm. Coming upon the farm in the middle of Albany felt like a surprising breath of fresh air.  I crossed the street from the bright lights of the gas station where cars were zipping in and out playing loud music.

Suddenly things were a lot more still. It smelled like soil.  An oasis in the middle of the city.

In the dark of night, the Gill Tract reminded me of a festival. (Without the dubstep djs and glow sticks.)  People wandered about; a slightly mysterious vibe. It was hard to see faces but we still said hello.  As I walked in with my bike, I passed a few security guards talking quieting by their truck.  They smiled and said good evening.

I walked down a tree lined road. People were huddled in groups talking and laughing. It was cold. Everything was dark expect for a few flashlights and the light from the gas stations across the road.  Tents pitched haphazardly in the fields.  Security guards milled the premises with bright flashlights that sometimes streaked across the rows of crops.

Midnight Meditation

Around midnight, a small group of us gathered in the Seed Library to do a meditation. Inside of a frame of bamboo stalks tied loosely together, we sat on straw that covered the cold soil in the shape somewhat like a mandala.

There was a hint of tension in the air.  Like we could be raided at any moment. But mostly everything was peaceful and silent.

A few security guards walked by with flashlights. A man was walking with them with a small video camera. Someone shouted, “Hey guys look out! There’s an occupier behind you!”

Everyone laughed lightheartedly.

But it felt like a front, as we all knew the UC Berkeley chancellor wanted us gone.

Pancho sat a small camping light in the center of our circle. He said, “we need the spiritual people to act, and activists to get spiritual”.  As violence increases, we are responding with greater love.

We got quiet and closed our eyes.  The stillness of the farm got quiet around us as people wandered off to their sleeping bags. I realized I was sitting on the soil (soul) of our Earth.  This land could soon be covered by the cement floor of a shopping mall or apartment building.  But right now, it’s cold, damp, alive soil.

In the middle of the city, we found ourselves on a farm. Growing real food. Surreal and incredibly real at the same time.

Seeding a Movement

Earlier that night, I attended my friend Joshua Kahn Russel’s book launch, Organizing Cools the Planet. An audience of dedicated activists gathered in a small bookstore in San Francisco. We engaged in a heated discussion about the Occupy movement, Keystone pipeline, marginalized communities, and building a utopia vision for the future. Joshua offered an analogy:

“Movement building is like farming,” he said.

You take a bunch of people new to farming to a farm harvest time and they might wander around in awe the abundance.  They might see all the food and start picking it to eat.   But when you ask them to till the land or plant seeds, they will say, “No way, we have so much food here! There is no need for that.”

But anyone who has farmed knows a lot more goes into farming than just harvesting.

When we mobilize people to rally or call to action, that’s kind of like harvesting.  And we’ve been harvesting a lot lately with Occupy Wall Street.  We forget how much work it takes to get to a point where people now feel compelled to act. It takes a lot more than actions to build a movement.  We need to build relationships, take care of ourselves, and design for the future.  We need to till the soil and plant seeds.

Well, literally.

Check out Occupy the Farm on Facebook or get your hands dirty at the corner of San Pablo & Marin in Albany, CA.

Photo credit: Shadia Fayne Wood

Dance is love made visible.

“Work is love made visible.” – Kahlil Gibran

Reflections from Dancing Freedom Mastery, Dec 2011:

Today, I’m sitting in this beautiful lodge in Mount Shasta, California.  The mountain behind me out the window, the sun just starting to set. The parrot is eating his parrot food.

A few dozen of us are here to dance for 10 days. Right now, Michael is playing the piano. I’m trying to write a post to capture this experience and why I show up to dance, more.

Today the lesson was to LOVE, more. To really see how much I love every person who has chosen to show up here and do their work.  I was dancing around the room, really trying to see love in every single person.  It wasn’t hard.  The puddles on the floor in tears. The screaming, growling, shaking.  The ones connected to something greater. The mystery we’re not supposed to understand.

It’s all love, and it’s all of us.

And we’re not just doing our work on the dance floor, we are doing our work and then taking it into the world to make our love visible.  We are the journey.

We’re exploring consciousness, leadership, spirituality, old patterns, how our bodies move, and how our bodies move together. You can’t hide anything. And you have nothing to hide.

Who knew such a place existed? This is real. This is life. All of you, every part, is welcome.

We like to say, “You had a terrible week? Great. Come dance.
Had an awesome week? Great. Come dance.”

We are right where we need to be.

See you there,

Biking through the Occupy Oakland strike

Just came across this entry I never published from last year… Reflecting on our movement… ~ms

On November 2nd

the people of Oakland took to the streets.

Even the little ones

with a superwoman cape that read

“people over profits”

We climbed on the trucks.

They asked why.

We said:

to get a better view.

And we danced.

As a movement took to it’s feet. 2011-11-02 18.02.26

dance with us

the more I dance
the more I know this

my body says yes!
it becomes clear

shake up what’s inside
and listen

its not hard
let go

take nothing personally

you were born
to move

you are fucking beautiful
thank you

don’t come to help
without first dancing with us

this is what I know about community:

the community was dancing before you
and will continue to dance when you’re gone

but if you’d like to dance with us,

don’t take it personally
you’re just another body moving

but as we move together
different shapes and motions and expressions
breaking down
building up

nature is just as interested in death
as it is life

nature is just as interested in stillness
as it is motion

the more I dance,
I know all of this is true

and more than I will ever know

occupy your body, first.
then step into the world with that.

you’re not the same
and neither is the dance

because of you
because of your unique expression

yes, you’re following something bigger
but the choice of how to show up

is. all. you.

so, we need you.
dance with us.

Virabhadrasana III (Airplane)

I am going to practice smiling
Because this is it

The best ice cream
San Francisco in the Summer

I believe in silly love
Sweaty yoga bodies
Little baby smiles

Evolution is evolving
I want to paint the sky
with words that sound like mine

Success has no opposite
Living, we get better
That’s what we’re here for

Can you let go
To let?

Get over your fear of flying
Balance is found in instability

When you let go enough to trust,
when you trust enough to let go

Through the chaos, bliss is waiting
for you to be still enough to notice it

No where to be
The practice of being



I think we are always in love
with everything and everyone
the cat turns over
in the middle of dreams
in the midday sun
my back curves and sweat drips
from my skin
I look up past the mirrors
yogis bending to God

feet feel floors shake
the fear of anything inside
what’s going on?
falling in love
happens every time
a laugh escapes
or a tear sinks into warm arms
we feel our bodies align
with our selves
a mix of heartache and bliss

I make love with every step
every feeling
every time I connect eyes with a stranger

are you aware your heart is beating?
how do you feel your body breathing?

Gratitude for men

“Men can mentor men in a way that women will never be able to.”

Giving thanks today for all of the wonderful men in my life holding masculinity, power, strength, and leadership in a way that is transforming our world.

Yesterday, in a contact improv class the male instructor spontaneously instigated a very important conversation about boundaries and respect during the intimate practice of contact dance.  I felt gratitude for this conversation, and that a man initiated it.  Women need to express when their boundaries are crossed or if they feel uncomfortable in any contact situation, but men also need to take responsibility for their strength and power.  In this case, I’m talking about physical strength (the ability to lift a women off the ground without too much struggle) as well as societal structures of masculine power that need to be considered (women in many parts of the world are forced to submit to men).

I often find myself in a position of a ally for women’s rights, pushing back against patriarchal systems of thinking and acting.  But as with all forms of oppression, it is never  one way street. As we gain more justice for women and respect for the divine feminine, masculinity is also liberated — the men I know are taking responsibility of their sacred masculine power, harnessing strength by expressing vulnerability, and being ‘father’ role models for younger men.

I am in deep admiration of the men who have taken it upon themselves to embrace masculinity in this way. I’m celebrating how you support one another to be leaders in this transformation of humanity. Thank you.