Byron's Babbles


Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on June 3, 2021

I finished a great book this week by the great author and leader, Sara Canaday. The book was Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom For Breakthrough Performance. Anyone who knows me, would know that I’m going to read anything that’s about defying being “conventional.” I had the chance to meet Sara last year. She is such a unique and gifted leader. It is immediately evident when meeting her and reading her work that she “walks the talk.” I was reminded when reading Leadership Unchained that defying conventionality requires allowing for creativity, flexibility, and risk taking. Leadership free of conventionality is the key to creating the unconventional cultures needed today to attract and retain top talent, have engaged and motivated team members, be innovative, and have a notable competitive advantage.

In all this, Sara emphasized that while it is important to not just do things the way we always have, it is imperative we stay true to five timeless qualities:

  1. Always being present
  2. Demonstrate grace and humility
  3. Development of employees
  4. Integrity
  5. Contributing on a higher level

One story Sara told in the book that really got me thinking was about the “black belt.” She taught us that being a black belt wasn’t about being an expert, because many times being an expert hinders new learning. The black belt wasn’t a pinnacle, but was about continuing to advance and learn. I’ve never liked or been comfortable with the term expert. It’s too final. When someone says, “Let’s hear from the experts,” it is probably not going to include much curiosity or openness to divergent thinking. In expert mode we are thinking about “what is” instead of “what if.”

Sara used the fact that we tend to think of those with black belts in karate or other disciplines as masters of their craft who have learned everything there is to know about it – a so called expert. But, that’s not true. A person who has achieved the black belt does represent great experience and learning, but according to the World Martial Arts Center, those earning the black belt “seek[s] new, more profound knowledge of the Art.” Just like the greatest leaders are constantly learning, growing, and evolving. I like to think of myself as being in a perpetual learning mode. Actually, I’m kind of weird in that I can learn from the most unlikely of things – a television show, fiction novels, a gummy bear, a song, a Manatee, or even a Platypus. If you don’t belief this, search through my blog.

There is much more that can be learned about all the different “belts” that started out as just white and black when Master Jigoro Kano first introduced the system in 1883. I learned from digging a little deeper that the black color symbolizes the darkness beyond the sun, and a person who has been awarded a black belt seeks to gain a deeper and further understanding. I am committed to continually seeking deeper and further understanding. How about you?


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  1. […] Canaday jumped out at me. I already blogged once from inspiration gained from this great book in Unconventionality, but the comment she made saying, “Innovation happens at the intersection of different […]


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