August 2015

The venerable Sir Patrick Stewart, known to legions of fans as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Professor Charles Xavier in “X-Men,” lets it all hang out as a crass, cocaine-snorting, over-the-top TV pundit on “Blunt Talk,” his new comedy series on Starz.

In showbiz, this is called playing against type.

Bryan Cranston in “Breaking Bad.” Julie Andrews in “Victor/Victoria.” Steve Carrell in “Foxcatcher.” Rachel McAdams in “True Detective.”

Actors love to show their range. They crave playing against type. (Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2015).

At work, at home, in every part of life, playing against type is a bit more complicated. It’s also hugely rewarding.

When Mr. Stewart plays against type, he surrenders to the core, the values, the history of a different character.

In work and life, we hold on to our core.

We experiment with the expression of this core.

That’s our personal range.

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Part of me simply cannot take politics seriously.

Part of me is fascinated by the drama of it all.

As the political machinery at home swings into gear, here’s a comment I hear on a current affairs program:

Donald Trump seems to be enjoying himself.

Yes, he seems to, doesn’t he?

Bernie Sanders seems to be enjoying himself, as well.

It helps when you’re surging in the polls. Then again, you’re unlikely to surge if you don’t convey a smidgen of joy.

We witness the wanna-be-leader who is dour, passionless, robotically scripted, fake-happy – and who, yes, does NOT seem to be enjoying the ride.

And you want to be elected?

I will not debate political positions with you. But this is the simple joy principle that applies to all of us, in every moment of our everyday leadership.

If you want people to follow you, you gotta enjoy the ride.

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Life lessons come when we least expect them.

A sliver of a beach, hidden at the far end of Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. Considered one of the finest beaches in the US. Crystal-clear water. Few people. A serene patch of heaven on earth.

I sit in my beach chair, flip through Pico Iyer’s “The Man Inside My Head,” when they come.

The clan.

Three women, three umbrellas, chairs, a gaggle of young teenage children.

The clan settles in proximity to me. The clan does not believe in speaking softly.

Serenity gone.

I feel myself getting aggravated. And I weigh my options. I can give up my little spot on the beach – the spot I so love, a little cove where the sand of the beach reaches into the dunes – and move away from the noise of the clan.

Or I can try to make peace with the presence of the clan.

As I start to gather my belongings, two of the women slide into the water with their snorkeling gear. The noise level lessens. I stay put.

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On a Skype call with my colleague Daniela in Munich, sweat trickles down her cheeks. The German heat wave.

Yes, it’s August.

When I lived in Manhattan, many firms switched to summertime hours. Short Fridays, long week-ends.

When I lived in Trinidad and Tobago, it was August 365 days a year.

You slow down.

That is one of the gifts of August heat.

Many of us slow down the second we exit a building, switch back to rush-rush mode the moment we’re back inside.

Experiment with slowing down even when the air-conditioning says go ahead, keep rushing. Experience some of the subtle benefits of slower time:

  • Slower walks

As you walk down the office hallway to a meeting room or kitchenette, walk slower than you normally might. Less briskly, more calmly. You will be more aware of the space around you. Less in your thoughts, more in the physical environment. You will suddenly feel a lot more alert.

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Wanna be a better leader? Go to a museum. Study a painting or two.

Yes, really.

If you’re a medical student at the University of Miami, you will spend some of your school time looking at art.

You will be exposed to Visual Thinking Strategies. VTS for short. With the help of a trained VTS facilitator, a class of physicians-in-training looks at 5 paintings. Each painting features people.

Simple idea. As we study a painting, we examine the nuances that are depicted. We decode ambiguity. We infer certain information based on what we see. We take an inquisitive look at the unspoken.

Starting to sound like leadership skills?

When one of my clients does a DISC assessment with a leadership team and charts the group’s intrinsic Workplace Motivators, Aesthetic Motivation consistently scores at the bottom. Aesthetic Motivation, in DISC lingo, isn’t art appreciation. It’s defined as a passion to add balance and harmony in one’s own life and protect our natural resources.

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