What you are doing is exploring.

{Wendell Berry}

Always in the deep wood when you leave
Familiar ground and step off alone into a
New place there will be, along with feelings
Of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging
Of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown
And it is your first bond with the wilderness
You are going into.

What you are doing is exploring.

What would it mean, could it mean, to lead from a mindset of exploration?

What impression would it make on the team if their leader transmitted to them both their feelings of curiosity and excitement as well as that little nagging of dread?

What might happen if the team felt trusted enough with those darker feelings, common as they are to the human experience, while also being asked to animate their own curiosity and excitement as a way to prevent them from taking over?

What if the leader began with the assumption that healthy, professional adults are able to work with the competing demands of exploration and want to be invited into a more spacious conversation about what role they might play on the expedition?

What if the leader normalized that ancient fear of the unknown by facilitating a full and ongoing discussion about the possibilities that await on the trail, the real risks and the potential rewards?

What if the team was trusted to make the plans, to plot the course, to safely light up both their strengths and their weaknesses so that learning becomes a companion for the journey rather than an excuse to stay home?

What if the leader stepped onto the trail first, into the known-unknown, and held the light up so that others could follow?

These are the deep woods. We are all explorers. You are our leader.

How do you wish to proceed?

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Again, and again, and again

It is not because you do not know the truth that I write to you, but because you know it already.
– 1 John 2:21

People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.
Samuel Johnson

I am not writing this piece for you, I am writing it for me.

I am not trying – though it often sounds that way, I’m sure – to convince you of anything, to make you change anything, to swing your vote to my side.

It is through writing that I remember what I care about, why I care about it and what I need to do every day to live out those beliefs.

I care about self-knowledge and personal accountability for acting on that self-knowledge as consistently as possible.

I care about building relationships that are based on love more than fear, respect more than intimidation, and open-hearted vulnerability.

I care about learning, the relentless exploration of the frontiers to which each of us is called.

Every time I write I am inviting myself back to those three themes, checking on my integrity, exploring my commitment. Every day I bake a new cake of those beliefs, combining the ingredients once more to find out if I have them in the right proportion, to see again if I am living out what I so easily espouse.

If what I put down moves or shifts your point of view in any way, that’s the frosting, but I am not concerned with that.

I am concerned with the cake. If it’s not right, nothing else matters.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Welcome to the Age of Meaning

January-2The divisiveness in the world today is all the evidence we need that we have entered the “Age of Meaning.” Our fragile society convulses with the recognition that what has come before no longer serves us and what will be has not quite taken shape. It is into this middle ground, this breach of both opportunity and uncertainty, that today’s leaders must step if tomorrow’s world will become what it must.

Those leaders, powerful in their conviction and beautiful in their humanity, will hold that space because they have demonstrated the ability to express the elements of meaningful change. They will have equipped themselves – through courageous discovery and deep commitment – to speak in three essential ways:

First, they will speak with the voice of understanding. They will articulate a depth of knowledge about who they are and what they believe. They will start within, never asking someone else to change before they have done so themselves. It is their modeling we will honor, their going first we will prize, because it will offer both the permission and the push we need to do it ourselves.

Second, they will speak with the voice of connection. Their strength of understanding will fortify them to reach out, building relationships of mutuality and trust regardless of power or position. They will make themselves known to us first as human beings, inviting relationships based on essential truths rather than of convenience or opportunism. Their vulnerability will knit us together, a catalyst for common purpose and greater impact.

Finally, they will speak with the voice of exploration. Learning, always learning, will be their invitation, their expectation. They will refuse the seduction of the status quo and will rely on us to help them do so. Together, we will question, challenge, invite and listen. We will examine our need for certainty, our resistance to change, as we take the tentative and purposeful steps we must take to reach the edge of our understanding. And then we will go further.

We are at the dawn of the “Age of Meaning,” the full possibility of which will be revealed by those leaders who speak it into existence. More and more, people are listening for a better way. Will you speak to them? Will you be heard?

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world, especially the parts where he doesn’t handle it very well.