Leadership in a time of (midlife) crisis

According to Daniel Levinson, I’m in a transitional phase.

In his theory of life structure, adulthood isn’t just one big blob of stability between childhood and old age, it’s a phased period with islands of stability separated by chunks of transition.

I’m in one of those chunks.

I’m in the “midlife transition“. This happens to people my age, people forced to tick the 40-45 age bracket on forms. Sometimes the word “transition” is changed to “crisis” when discussing this phase.

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The success chain

I thought of the phrase “the success chain” the other day.

I was writing an article on Runa Tea and its founder Tyler Gage (for Youth LeadeR magazine), and I noticed how cleverly joined up the Runa supply chain was.

What I mean is this:

  1. Tyler and the US company want to achieve financial success by selling Runa’s guayusa tea in the American marketplace.
  2. To get the tea, there must be an economically successful wholesale tea seller in Ecuador … so, Runa’s US success is dependent on the quality of the Ecuadorian guayusa tea product (and the reliability of its infrastructure).
  3. This gives the indigenous Kichwa tribes an economically viable lifestyle that relies on the success of the native guayusa tree.
  4. There’s more … because the guayusa grows in the shadow of other trees, it thrives in a biodiverse environment, meaning that the success of the tea-plant is directly dependent on the success of a biodiverse rainforest.
  5. To grow the business in the US, the whole chain must grow, meaning a growing US market equals a growing biodiverse rainforest in Ecuadorian Amazonia tended by economically viable indigenous tribes.

Here’s a link to a YouTube clip about how Runa Tea works.

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Team of Rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns-Goodwin

I don’t like to include book reviews in this blog because I don’t like writing book reviews, but I had to make an exception for this gem: “Team of Rivals, the political genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I have a special interest in this period of American history due to my love of Mark Twain. I am drawn to the excitement of opportunity and newness, and the challenge of building a nation on great principles such as government by the people for the people, and on freedom and opportunity.

It was a time of truly great men – and I mean men, not sure women always had such a great time (and I will now follow up on two more greats, Frederick Douglass and Ulysses S Grant, for starters), and Lincoln’s own story is one of remarkable resilience and resourcefulness in the face of a terribly bleak childhood on the harsh Illinois frontier.

Lincoln’s genius was combining this determination with his humour, kindness and wisdom, to not just bring the fledgling and divided Republican party with him on issues as controversial and divisive as war and slavery, but to bring an entire nation with him (or at least the northern Yankee part).

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Leading Change by John P Kotter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book that changed my life. It got me interested in things like organisational psychology, change, management, and leadership, things I’d previously never considered worthy of my attention.

Kotter’s main thesis is to set out an 8-step structure for organisational transformation, a structure that maps clearly onto Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze change management model.

The main value in Lewin’s model is the two ends: unfreeze and refreeze, these are the phases that get least attention as most organisations simply rush to change things (without unfreezing) and then fail to embed the new way of doing things in the culture (refreeze).

This is why change management is not project management – the change project is the easy, the bit in the middle, but achieving organisational change is the whole piece.

LeadingChange

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