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Archive for February, 2011

 

Transforming Leadership Through the Power of the Imagination

Michael Jones

www.pianoscapes.com

There is so much that inspires the free flow of the music beyond the physical notes, a stream of  emergent creation which cannot always be anticipated or planned in advance , this is the gift in art, to be surprised  by our own work –   Michael Jones

In my last Leading Artfully Blog, I explored the idea that there is not one, but two dimensions of human experience. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was considered superior to the other. They were not in conflict but complementary. Logos was the voice of reason and mythos the language of our felt life together. With the rise of the industrial economy we found ourselves in a world out of balance. Scientific logos quickly rose to dominance and our mythic and imaginative life fell into disrepute.

But perhaps we are on the threshold of crafting a renaissance in leadership practice—the challenges ahead are not technical but transformational. Letting go of our industrial age mindset will require not just intellectual understanding but the full power of the imagination.

Most of us, at a young age, have experienced the power of the imagination—we have tasted the sweet elixir of being set free and unconstrained—riding on the fresh wind, the doorway flying open wide and… ‘Life rushing in’.

As a friend said to me after reading the lines of the poem about the beast being caged behind the music bars….

“You don’t cage the animals do you? You dance with them!”

And it is true that as a pianist the melody I listened for was not only in the notes but also in the pauses, the tone, the rhythm, the feeling and the sensitivity of touch—the dance that lay in the spaces between.

This Winter I have had two essays published in  leadership journals that explore what’s involved in engaging the life of the imagination. The first in The Journal of Leadership Studies explored the ‘marriage’ between logs and mythos.

The second on Transforming Leadership which appears in the series; Building Leadership Bridges explores what emerges in our  awareness when  we begin to listen downward to the unheard melody, a song that lies in the spaces between the notes.

Here is an excerpt – to read the full article please visit my publications page at;

http://www.pianoscapes.com/writings.html

I hope you enjoy it – and that this story may bring to light your own memories of  a time when you first tapped into the the power of  your own imagination.

Michael

 

My Business is Circumference

“My business is circumference,” Poet Emily Dickinson writes. This is also the business of leadership.

To understand the significance of circumference we need to acknowledge the new mindset required of leaders for integrative whole mind learning. As we struggle with new discontinuities, fragmentation and sudden change it is vital for leaders to think in more complex and holistic ways. This involves a shift in focus from a narrow and reductive emphasis on individualism based upon an industrial model of managing where the leader is the strong dependable self-made individual or hero towards a style of leading which expands the circumference within which the leader leads.

In the future leaders will not be remembered for their professional, technical or cost cutting skills but for their wisdom, empathy, presence, intuition and artistry. It will be a way of leading that is more relational focused and based upon creating an empathic resonance with others as a networker, connector and convener of webs and communities. We could imagine this new relationship to be like the musician’s open stage where individuals with diverse voices come together in an ever-widening circumference of collective engagement and where—even when they are ‘strangers’ to one another—create beautiful musical collaborations together.

For leaders to engage in the shift of mind from being heroes to artists involves cultivating new disciplines for accessing the subtle power of the imagination. It involves understanding that while strategy and tactics may help leaders be effective technicians, in order to be good artists they need to also listen deeply and get a feeling for things—in other words to be attuned to the unheard melody that is emerging in the space between the notes. Emily Dickinson brings to light this unheard melody—of the sense of being touched from another place—when she writes – This world is not a conclusion; A sequel stands beyond, Invisible as music, But positive as sound.

Listening for The Unheard Melody

Her words bring to mind a line from another poem, one that describes, “The beast of sound caged within the music bars”. These words offer a contrasting world in which what speaks to us from that another place is not wild and free but contained and caged behind the bars. It is a world where, if we are to maintain order and predictability, the wild and unruly elements—the beasts—of the imagination must be constrained. Too often we assume a Faustian bargain—one in which we willingly trade off the promise of a sequel, of something greater and more beautiful just beyond—for the assurance of certainty, clarity and predictability in the moment.

Yet most if only at a young age have experienced the power of the imagination—we have tasted the sweet elixir of being set free and unconstrained—riding on the fresh wind, the doorway flying open wide and… ‘Life rushing in’.

As a friend said to me after reading the lines of the poem about the beast being caged behind the music bars….

“You don’t cage the animals do you? You dance with them!”

And it is true that as a pianist the melody I listened for was not only in the notes but also in the pauses, the tone, the rhythm, the feeling and the sensitivity of touch—the dance that lay in the spaces between. In order to be attuned to the deeper music, to let go and let be, I learned to listen and be open and responsive to whatever was coming next, to be alive to the moment and to every possibility. The surroundings, the listeners, sense impressions everything that danced along the periphery of my attention became a part of the melody and inspiration I heard in my mind and heart.

There is so much that inspires the free flow of the music beyond the physical notes, a stream of conscious and emergent creation which cannot always be anticipated or planned in advance. This is the artist’s work, to make the invisible visible through being alive to their own felt experience including all that they have seen and been nourished by. With this aliveness they can be responsive to what the moment calls for.

In a time of rapid and unexpected change when so little can be understood or controlled in advance, this is the work of leadership as well.

To read the complete essay please visit http://www.pianoscapes.com/writings.html

(Transforming Leadership is published now in Building Leadership Bridges /Leadership for Transformation a series of essays on  transforming leadership published in partnership between The International Leadership Association and Jossey – Bass Publishers, Winter 2011)

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