May 9, 2012 by Crane Wood Stookey
“The bad leader is hated and feared.
The good leader is loved and praised.
The great leader, when their work is done,
The people say, “We did this ourselves.”“
I too aspire to be the leader that Lao Tzu describes, to make my leadership not about me. But generous leadership, selfless leadership, is hard to give. I crave love and praise as much as the next guy. And I often find that in the pressure of the moment, in the rush to get things done or under the weight of my responsibility, I fall back into the small, fearful, controlling view of making it all about me. But when I succeed in leading generously, the results always exceed my expectations.
November 26, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Captain Jan Miles has been captain of the PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II for over 25 years, and I sailed with him on PRIDE as one of the Mates on a nine-month voyage from Baltimore up the Atlantic coast into the Great Lakes and back. The PRIDE is a Tall Ship, a 157’ square-topsail schooner carrying over 9,000 square feet of sail, and she sails all over the world as goodwill ambassador for Baltimore and the State of Maryland.
On our way back from Chicago we were approaching Mackinac Island at the northern tip of Michigan. It was late evening, getting dark, with a moderate breeze from the northwest. Mackinac harbour is formed by rock breakwaters, and the widest part inside where PRIDE could anchor is only about eight times the length of the ship. Cruising boats at anchor are scattered throughout, and a lane has to be left open for the ferry. For a ship the size of PRIDE, it’s a crowded spot. Read more…
November 17, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
I once sailed with a young woman named Stephanie on the brigantine CORWITH CRAMER. We sailed from Key West on a two-month voyage to the Dominican Republic, the Cayman Islands and back to Key West, taking a somewhat circuitous route to collect scientific marine samples.
The CRAMER is a modern steel sailing research vessel that takes students to sea for semesters of oceanographic science and seamanship training. We were looking for the extent and condition of Sargasso seaweed (the Sargasso Sea is vanishing), the distribution of plastic debris and so on. We anchored on Silver Bank, seventy miles off the north coast of the Dominican Republic but only sixty feet deep. It’s where the humpback whales come to breed. We lowered a hydrophone over the side with a speaker on deck and listened to the songs of the whales all night. In the morning one of the whales followed close behind the ship for several miles as we sailed away. Read more…
May 9, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Our state of mind is generally pretty fickle, easily influenced by whatever we encounter. If we walk into a room full of little gilt chairs with white cloth covers tied over their backs, or into a room of stacking plastic chairs, or a room with random cushions and bean bags spread around, we feel different in each room as soon as we walk in. The chairs alone have the ability to influence our state of mind. When we try to create conditions that engage the people we want to work with, we miss an opportunity if we ignore the chairs.
One person who understood the importance of chairs was Nelson Mandela.
Mandela needed to make peace with General Viljoen, an Afrikaner who led the militant white resistance to change in South Africa. After some work through intermediaries, the general was willing to meet and talk. He expected this meeting to be with himself and his aides on one side of a conference table, Mandela and his aides on the other, Read more…
February 9, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Near the middle of a ten-day Nova Scotia Sea School voyage, when the crew was starting to get good at handling the boat, two boys, Peter and Jay, were in command for the day. They were both veterans of other Sea School voyages and I expected big things from them.
Coming into a narrow, tricky harbour entrance I said, “You two are in charge, I won’t say anything unless I have to.” They decided to make a cautious approach, organizing the crew to take down the sails and make ready to get the oars out and row in.
But I thought, with the experience they had, that they should be up to sailing in, tricky as it might be, and I interrupted. “Wait a minute. You’re not sailing in?” Read more…
January 15, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
What is the proper way to change the name of a blog?
For a boat, changing the name is considered very bad luck. This is because at the christening we ask Neptune to protect her and all who sail in her. If Neptune agrees (he can be a bit inscrutable so you don’t always know), and then you change the name, and you’re playing bait and switch with Neptune. Bad idea.
So what to do? Read more…
December 31, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
This is an invitation to you to please tell a success story of being in command, or being commanded, in a useful way. A generous way. An effective way.
Perhaps it’s your own story, perhaps it’s about something you experienced with someone else.
Please share your story in the comments, so we can all be inspired by each other.
December 29, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Good morning everyone! The child is born, the candles are lit, the days grow longer again. The celebrations are soon over, and it’s time to enjoy ourselves.
At sea, the sun rises from the edge of the world and the ship’s crew rises with it. We scrub the decks and polish the brass before breakfast. When the ship is clean and shiny, she becomes a worthy mirror for the new day, a mirror that reflects back to us the best we each have to offer.
In the city, my cooking pot is clean and bright, and my oatmeal bowl is patterned in blue. There is a chip in the rim, which fits my thumb nicely, and brings a moment of sharpness and attention when I touch it.
In the dojo, the Aikido master Wendy Palmer works with her Japanese teacher to bring the fullness of herself to her training. Her teacher cries out to her, “I want to see your NOBLE. I want to see your AWESOME. I want to see your SHINY.”
Our noble awesome shiny is with us always, of course. But when it’s hard to find, the world can be our mirror. Polishing our brass, cleaning our pot, touching the sharpness of real things, whatever we do to make the world bright and vivid makes life mirror-like. The mirror commands us, and the command is, “See this noble awesome shiny. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy yourSELF.”
When this command is hard to give, the mirror-like world can give it for us.
What works for you?
December 21, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Here are some reflections on Alice’s story from the last post. I hope you will add your own reflections to the discussion in the comments.
To me, the main point is that Alice didn’t try to shift the people in her team. She didn’t hand out copies of an article on being a team player for everyone to read. Rather she shifted the environment the people were in, with flowers and food, and then the environment shifted the people for her. Her approach was not directive. It was cultural.
She didn’t propose team-building exercises or other made-up activities. Her flowers and food were real, and had the power of real things.
She used this power of real things to cut a space in the stuckness of the situation. Her gift of flowers woke people up for a moment and paused the momentum of negativity. In this space there was a possibility for something new to arise.
She took her time. She applied her technique in stages, allowing its influence to accumulate. When one of the men asked for his favourite cookie she offered instead her first command, “Maybe you’d like to bring some next time.” It was a command that could be obeyed. It might have backfired, the man responding, “I don’t bring cookies. That’s your job, isn’t it?” But things had already progressed to the point that such a response was no longer necessary. Read more…
December 19, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Alice worked in a company where her team had weekly all-team meetings. They were hellish occasions, thick with territoriality and blame, a regular weekly gut-shot to morale, creativity and effectiveness. They were also male-dominated and hierarchical, with an entrenched and fearful leadership. Alice, in a new position at the bottom of the ladder, hardly said anything, and what she did say was dismissed.
Alice really didn’t want to get sucked into this culture, which everyone else seemed resigned to as the norm, but she felt powerless to address it. To introduce some softness into this inhospitable environment, she began bringing small flower arrangements to put on her desk. Finally one week, she took her flowers and put them on the side table against the wall in the meeting room before people came in. Read more…