Byron's Babbles

Obstacles ARE The Path

Posted in Adaptive Leadership, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Shape-Shifter by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 26, 2020

IMG_7804I heard a great quote from the late Jane Lotter that really got me thinking this morning: “And may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.” I have blogged about obstacles and barriers before and most recently in Obstacles Vs. Barriers and Overcoming Obstacles. I really liked and was inspired by the Lotter quote because I had not ever really thought of the obstacles as being the path, or even a part of the path. When we begin to look at these obstacles as just part of the path it gives us an entirely new perspective. Leaders who live with a fearless approach and embrace the adventures in daily pursuits, are able to shape-shift and mold ourselves into the leaders we truly desire to be. I actually blogged about shapeshifting in Teacher Leader Shape-Shifter, last summer.

As I was thinking about this, I remembered watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine and there being shapeshifting species, called Changlings, who could adapt their shape to whatever was necessary to the situation. Odo, a shapeshifter, was so cool; he could change from solid to liquid, male to female, or living being to inanimate object. How cool is that? Better yet, how useful could that be? Particularly when thinking about obstacles. So, can we shape-shift to let obstacles just be part of the path? Probably not, but there are things we can do to be a shapeshifting leader.

We can:

  1. Create an environment where everyone is empowered at the right time.
  2. We can have empathy, show our emotions, and have compassion. This will let our teams know we are vulnerable and care.
  3. Develop an atmosphere where everything is a joint effort. Everyone has value in this environment and the project will be looked at from every vantage point.
  4. Be observant. When we can see and plan for obstacles in advance, they can be viewed more as parts of the path.
  5. Become more taciturn. Odo, in Star Trek, was considered taciturn. In this sense I believe the character was not snobby, but a very reflective and active listener.

We must develop our capacity to embrace ambiguity and achieve results in unfamiliar environments. As I always say, “I am uncomfortable with being uncomfortable.” As we become a more and more global society, we must continue to develop our personal abilities to understand and appreciate the different values of our global counterparts. When we become adaptive leaders, we are able to select behaviors that are best suited help those we serve on the path of success. We must be able to adapt to the nature and demands of a particular situation.

Are you ready for the path ahead?

 

Teacher Leader Shape-Shifter

This morning I did a session for our Teacher Academy where I had the teachers pick a toy from a bag of lots of different cool toys. I gave them two minutes to play with the toy and then they had to report out how the toy related to their classroom, serving students, and them personally. This is a great reflective activity that really makes participants think. Then, of course, these reflections really get me thinking and I end up writing blog posts like this one.

One of the teachers chose a Slinky® and while reporting out she described herself as a shape-shifter. She stated that she needed to adjust and adapt according to student needs. This was genius. I have always tried to inspire team members to be continually comfortable shape-shifters. I am such a big fan of fluid change; whether that is organizationally, personally, or in the classroom. We need to be comfortable with the one thing that is constant – change.

Here’s the deal: as leaders, teacher leaders, and organizations, we must be comfortable with an ever-changing skin; no matter what we call it. Whether we call it change, changeover, conversion, metamorphosis, mutation, shift, transfiguration, transformation, translation, transmutation, transubstantiation we must have the resilience that shape-shifting brings to be successful. I would suggest that leaders and teachers must become adept at negotiating multiple, sometimes divergent, identities. We must be adaptive because everything we do during the day as teachers is situational – it shifts from context to context.

In other words we all need to use our portfolio of attributes, skills, and experiences to arrange, re-arrange, and adapt to meet the needs of our current situation. The concept of shape-shifting implies a sense of individuality and free agency in making choices, removed from constraints. By creating her own meanings for curriculum and leading of learning, the teacher who inspired this post, will be able to apply it within the context she is teaching. We then need to be able to demonstrate the resourcefulness and ability to change as contexts change.

Shape-shifters can be seen as innovators, rebels, or even a compromiser, but I see this as an important adaptive leadership trait. I do believe that shape-shifting also allows us to push away from the status-quo way of doing things and adapt to changing needs.