Byron's Babbles

Arguing The Value Of Our Experiences Is Futile!

Posted in 3D Leadership, Humble Leadership, Leadership, Ontological Humility, ontology, Radical Candor by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 27, 2020

I just finished reading one of my favorite books for the third time. If you’ve ever had one of those books that you learn something new from or discover something you missed the first times you read it, you understand where I’m coming from. The great book I’m referring to is Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humility by Kim Scott. I’m not sure a person shouldn’t read this book once a month, but more importantly one should put in place the lessons learned from this great book.

Something I believe separates her writing from other books in the leadership genre is how Scott shares her mistakes and missteps right along with the successes. In other words, she practiced what she preached in the writing of this book. Scott truly takes her commitment to herself as seriously as any other professional responsibility. Ironically, as I was writing this post I got a text from a school leader I am mentoring asking me to share my top five leadership books. This book will, no doubt, be on the list I suggest to her.

I have always been impressed with the ontological approach to leadership and with ontology. Much of what Scott taught us was how to form the work community necessary for each of us to “be” when answering the question of “what can we create together?”

In the book, Scott refers to “ontological humility.” The source she referenced is Fred Kofman’s book Conscious Business: How To Build Values Through Values. Ontological humility is the idea that none of us has sole claim on reality or truth. We must recognize that others have equally valid perspectives that deserve our consideration and respect. You don’t have to read very many tweets, be a part of an organizational team, or be involved in very many meetings to know ontological humility is not practiced very well in many settings. Make no mistake, it is tough to live this as a value. But, it is an important leadership trait to hone.

In fact, I try to bring ontological approaches into all leadership development gatherings I do. Additionally, it is an important part of the coaching and mentoring I do. I blogged about it in Leading With Natural Self Expression. This intuitive and natural expression that forms our leadership comes from our recognizing our experiences and the experiences of others. In education it is these experiences that enable teachers to bring real world relevance into lessons for students. Bottom line is we must understand the experiences that form our colleagues’ reality. Scott posited in the book we need to understand the past experiences of our colleagues all the way back to kindergarten.

One of my favorite quotes that I wish I knew who to credit it to is:

“To argue with someone else’s experience of reality is futile…To add their experience to yours is possibly useful.”

Read that one more time and let it sink in. Pretty deep, right? This is why the teaching of Scott in Radical Candor is so important. We must better understand ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions. Then, and only then, by understanding those on our team can we understand how to coach, mentor, provide praise, criticism, or other guidance effectively. Notice, Scott promoted guidance versus feedback. Just the term “feedback” alone, she taught us, makes us bristle. We need to care personally and challenge directly. These are the ingredients necessary for Radical Candor™️ to flourish. How well are you practicing ontological humility?

Leading With Natural Self-Expression

Apple 🍎 Instead Of Potato 🥔

Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head are great examples to use as models for leadership development activities. The idea for the original Mr. Potato Head came from a Brooklyn-born toy inventor by the name of George Lerner.  He developed the idea of pronged like body parts that could be pinned into fruits, and vegetables.  He sold the idea to Hasbro toys in 1952 and they developed his idea into Mr. Potato Head which sold for 98 cents. We love using Mr. & Mrs. Potato Heads as a model to use during our first gathering of each cohort of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program. I am also proud we are one of the largest distributors for Hasbro of Mr. & Mrs. Potato Heads. Pretty cool to get pallets of these great toys delivered.

Our sixth President, John Quincy Adams, said, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you’re a leader.” I would like to change this and say, “If you have been inspired to dream more, learn more, and become more, you’ve been engaged in a 3D Leadership gathering.” This is how I always feel, and I believe the attendees do too, after one of our 3D Leadership gatherings.

This past week was no exception. I was in Florida and at the last gathering I facilitated in Apollo Beach, Florida one of our teachers redid the configuration of his Mr. Potato Head and really inspired the group and myself. He took an apple from the table (we always have fruit available for eating) and used it as the body instead of the provided plastic potato.

His explanation is what blew us away. He told us he not want to be constrained as a leader by using only the standard, provided pieces. He did not want to be constrained by the pre-made holes for the then pieces to be placed – with the apple, he could put them anywhere. The key to what he was saying was “constraint.” I love that he realized he needed to break the shackles of what has always been done. He did not want to be constrained by the “standard” Mr. Potato Head design. He had not let himself be constrained and took chances to run with an idea that allowed for maximum success.

When we do not let ourselves become constrained by the standard ways that things have always been done, or the way things have always been thought about then our personal way of being and acting will result naturally in our being our best. This is really an ontological approach to leadership. Personally, I want to be a part of developing leaders that leaves the individuals actually being leaders by exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression.

By thinking about natural self-expression, I want participants to understand we all have a way of being and acting in any leadership situation that is a spontaneous and intuitive effective response to what we are dealing with. We also want leaders whose world view is not constrained by what already exists and uses symbols and ideas to foster meaningful change. I believe our young teacher leader was exhibiting these leadership dispositions.

Leadership development should always be future oriented. We need to continue to think outside the normal pieces provided in the standard package and look for ways to develop our own effective natural self-expression leadership skills.