Jun 08, 2020

Leadership Fuel 4: The stories we choose

Alex Wickert

Here is your fortnightly Leadership Fuel newsletter – a dose of clarity and insight for a complex and distracted world.

1. A word from us: on stories and sense-making

What a year 2020 is turning out to be.

They say some decades crawl by with barely a year’s worth of change revealed, and some years are so dynamic that a decade of change unfolds inside 12 months.

It would be hard to argue that 2020 isn’t one of those transformational decade-in-a-year type periods – and we’ve only just made it to the half way mark.

For those of us based here in Australia, 2020 started with one of the worst bush fire seasons on record with enormous destruction of natural ecosystems across the eastern seaboard with massive loss of human and wildlife.

We had barely begun undertaking the immense task of healing our ecosystems and addressing the underlying the root causes of the disaster before the entire planet was plunged into lock-down with the emergence of the novel Coronavirus.

It’s now June and we’re now also experiencing the reverberations of the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minnesota. Floyd’s death, captured on video in broad daylight triggered an ongoing uproar of civil unrest across the United States and abroad not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s – highlighting deep-seated and unresolved issues of racial inequality and police brutality.

So what do we make of these events and how should we best respond?

Are these disparate and completely unrelated scenarios or do they constitute a broader confluence of systemic issues on our planet?

Should we be fearful, optimistic, opportunistic or nihilistic?

The list of questions goes on….

Ultimately, what you make of these events and the path forward you choose to walk will largely be determined by the stories you choose to explain them.

As a species, we are wired for and connected by stories. We see the world through a prism of narratives that for the most part, we have acquired and created without much intentional consideration or thought.

Stories about our origin, our purpose, what’s right and what’s wrong – they offer us meaning and free us from the discomfort and anxiety of what challenges us and what we don’t understand.

Stories that have an obvious beginning, middle & end, hero’s and villains and simple cause-effect relationships have a powerfully seductive allure to them.

But simple stories become particularly dangerous when applied to a world better defined by ambiguity, complexity, uncertainty and duality.

We are however blessed with the gift of choice.

So what stories will you choose to share and embody to make sense of the world you currently inhabit and ultimately create the world you wish to live in tomorrow?


2. Questions to consider

Here are 3 questions every effective leader must answer in order to answer the ultimate question of ‘why should anyone be led by you?’

  • Can I trust you? – Do I believe in you, your mission, your values and are you authentic in your embodiment of these elements?

  • Are you competent? – Do you have the requisite knowledge, skills & qualities to deliver on our mission?
  • Do you positively impact, develop and elevate the people around you? – Are you here to serve us and our mission or serve yourself?

3. Fuel for thought

A book to read

+ Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention – (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History) A truly mesmerising and comprehensively researched account of the many incarnations of Malcolm X, the American civil rights movement, racial injustice and one of the best examinations of purpose-led leadership we’ve come across.

Articles to check-out

+ When safety proves dangerous – A nice look at the cognitive distortion of risk compensation and how to avoid the tendency to take greater risks that cancel out the benefits of existing safety measures.

+ John Maeda’s 2020 CX Report – An interesting and thought provoking look at trends in customer experience, tech stacks for marketing and business in the computational era.

Videos to watch

+ Tristan Harris on The Tim Ferris Podcast – Important viewing to understand the arms race media and technology companies are participating in the fight for your attention and how you can safeguard you attention, focus and autonomy.

+ Stories and the Hero’s Journey – An amusing and educational exchange between Guy Ritchie & Joe Rogan on the structure of stories, narrative identity and personal accountability.

4. A final thought to ponder

“The business of stories is not enchantment. The business of stories is not escape. The business of stories is waking up.”

– Martin Shaw

Thank you for choosing to be part of our community and we hope you find great value in this newsletter.
Warmest Regards,
Alex & the Adapt Leadership Team

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