The Indispensable “I” in “Rebirth”

Can we all agree, the extraordinarily groan-worthy cliché, “There is no “I” in Team”, has been creeping around meeting rooms way too long?  So at the risk of being branded cliché-by-proximity, I would like to ask you to think about a different “I” – the indispensable “I” in Rebirth.

Pervasive, positive change invariably traces its origins to a place deep within one human heart.  Spawned and nurtured by constructive death, fragile seeds of transformation germinate and feed on the decaying remains of ego, namely:  Pride, Anger, Arrogance, Resentment and Greed. From the humus of hubris spring forth the delicate sprouts of intellectual progress, emotional evolution and spiritual awakening. It seems we humans require some form of crisis, turmoil, calamity, tragedy or disaster in order to stumble (wittingly or unwittingly) into a process of metanoia. Yet stumble we do and at least some percent of the time we emerge on the other end as radically transformed persons…for the better, no less. It is that uniquely self-aware human ability to transfigure psychic decay into growth, and then share the fruits of the experience with others, that so intrigues me and fills me with hope for evolution to a more transcendent form of organizational leadership.

“Sometimes with the bones of the black sticks left when the fire has gone out, someone has written something new in the ashes of your life.”   – David Whyte

These were the thoughts reverberating incessantly inside my head for several weeks as I was preparing an address to the Italian Lean Managers Association, at a conference in Brescia, Italy in June. It occurred to me this gathering of students and practitioners of enlightened leadership would be held just a few hundred kilometers up the road from Florence, the very birthplace of the Renaissance (aka Rebirth) in the late 1300’s.  Consider this – out of the fetid cauldron of the ‘Dark Ages’ and the decimation of ‘The Black Death’ emerged this willowy bud of enlightenment and hope on the fertile banks of the Arno, home and workplace of such creators of beauty as Donatello, Michelangelo, da Vinci and Botticelli.

What hope then might we muster for a similar rebirth out of the rotting carcass of Industrial Age bureaucratic thinking and authoritarian management?  We are witnessing first-hand the black death of disengagement in the workforce and the widespread belief that the company we work for cares not a whit about us…as people. Whence appears the fertile seed of transformation?  In what dark alleyway, under what faint streetlamp toils the neo Michelangelo long into the obscure night?

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again” – Thomas Paine, 1775

Look no further than your own mirror. The seed of pervasive, positive change dwells deep within your own bosom awaiting nothing more than the moment of egoistic demise and the nourishing humus of your own hubris, upon which it might germinate, suckle, and sprout forth in self-aware rebirth.  The blessing and the curse of the neo-cortex is the power of informed choice and it falls to each of us to choose the path to better self.

Conscious, authentic leadership has a name and that name is “I”.