Leading from any chair + school lunches

Part of my week allowed a lovely extended evening chat on leadership on a sunny patio.  On of the ideas we tossed about was the old chestnut that we can “lead from any chair.”

For those interested, there is a good short treatment of the topic in the excellent book by Rosamund and Ben Zander called “The Art of Possibility.”   The book talks about Ben Zander’s realization, twenty years into his conducting career, that the conductor is the only person in the orchestra not to make a sound.   Like any leader, he realizes that he should therefore be using his position to make others more powerful, lively and engaged in their work.  It’s a definition of leadership that works well for me.

One way that Zander puts this into practice is leaving blank sheets of paper on every stand during practices so that all players can offer feedback on how to improve the performance.  This is an explicit commitment to the idea that it is not only the person on the podium who is contributing to a great performance.

All of this gelled for me this week when I ran across this fantastic blog called “Never Seconds” about school lunches.

It’s a nine year old blogging with the support of her dad.  She documents the lunches with photos and ratings (which include the number of hairs found in the dish!).  The daily photos are pretty bleak but mixed with lots of nine-year old humanity (she has to write on her hand at one point to “count the mouthfuls” for her ratings).  And how is this leadership?  Through the documentation and subsequent advocacy, she  and her dad have have successfully lobbied the school council  so that kids can have unlimited fruit, vegetables and bread.  Bottom line, anyone can initiate things that improve their work, school, neighborhood, not just the ones formally in power.

I’ll put this in my mental file on how can Canada get rolling on a  “National Leadership Strategy” a concept mentioned in a book I read a bit ago. Any ideas?


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