Posts Tagged ‘embrace controversy’

The Sum – Meaning of the Week: Crossroads

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis. Word of the week is CROSSROADS. As in a junction where two or more roads meet, offering the traveler multiple paths. As in an intersection, a point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far reaching consequences (yep, I googled this…

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The Sum Volume #6: Diverging from Freedom

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis. Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt. Word of the week is, as you would guess, freedom. And it’s also divergence. As in how the…

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5 Tips to Thrive in Chaos (or What Good Is Vision When You’re up to Your A** in Alligators?)


I knew there’d be pushback the minute I dubbed vision the #1 leadership characteristic.

“Get real,” several readers e-mailed. It reminded me of the cartoon a colleague once gave me, bearing the caption: “When you’re up to your a** in alligators, it’s hard to remember your goal was to drain the swamp.”

In a time of economic chaos, when many people are desperately trying to keep those writhing reptiles from nipping off their knees, lofty vision talk sounds unrealistic.

It’s difficult to keep your eyes on the prize, your focus on the vision, your hand steady to the wheel when the assumptions you thought were well grounded turn out to be quicksand. But a counterintuitive skill that can help you thrive in times of change and disruption is to embrace chaos as opportunity…

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Recently I spoke to the first “class” of Progressive Women’s Voices, an exciting new program of the Women’s Media Center, where I serve on the board. I was asked about the lessons I learned leading a social movement where I worked a great deal with the media and messages as vehicles of social change. Here are my comments:

Once, soon after we arrived in New York, my husband Alex and I were on the corner of 57th and 8th talking rather intensely with our realtor. A homeless man approached us and asked, “Will you give me the money for a lobster dinner?” We paid no attention and went on talking about our apartment options.

“Will you give me the money for a lobster dinner?” the man repeated a little louder. Again, we didn’t respond. Again the man made his request. At this point, my Brooklyn born husband quipped back, “What’s the matter, a hamburger isn’t good enough?” The man pulled himself up to full height, puffed out his chest, and precisely enunciated every word as he retorted: “Answer the question as asked!”

The lesson is this: when you are making change—and with Progressive Women’s Voices (PWV), we’re changing the way the media portrays women and women’s stories and issues–we do not answer the question as asked. We determine what we want the question to be and start there.

Your passion for your substantive areas of expertise and the power of your knowledge are key elements to enable you to frame the questions as you think they should be. That’s the obvious part.

But the most important thing is that you must also learn to embrace controversy, not run away from it if you want to use your message to get your ideas into the political and cultural bloodstream. Here’s why:

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