Final Reflection Essay

9 de julho de 2010 at 4:38 PM (MSLS - Advanced Societal Leadership Reflection Essays)

According to instructions, this final reflection should focus on what I have learned these past moths. Considering that I have covered all the required readings and my assessment on own learning objective in my previous essays, this one gives me more freedom to think of everything I have been exposed to – and what it all really means to me- and the lessons that I have learned during such process. In other words, I have here the opportunity to transform all my meditations into a conclusion.

Well, that was my feeling about this assignment when I first was remembered of it before winter break. The intention I had was to get away from articles, books, lectures and conversations about sustainability, leadership and related topics for a while to later self-assess what truly resonated with me. However, things did not exactly turn out this way. Instead of being immediately able to build certainty on me – giving room for all the ideas to settle down in my mind – I was once again filled with doubts and questions.

Two different occasions led me to this unconfident state of mind. The first was the COP-15 which I had the good fortune to attend as a party member. The UN side-events, the plenary and the conversations with NGO members, official delegation members and observers made me realize that the Bella Center (complex where the COP took place) was sheltering two completely different words:  few actually making decisions and thousands trying to make a difference, to raise awareness, to create a better future. And I wouldn’t mind to see this separation if those two worlds were in contact, if there was any kind of dialogue between them, but there was not.

On one side, there were for example Island people, threatened by the sea level rise, demanding more realistic CO2 emissions reduction targets. On the other side, businessmen invited as external consultants integrating official delegations discussing how to make money out of adaptation (considering mitigation not possible anymore) solutions, how to turn disgrace into profit,  or negotiators dedicating hour of a plenary meeting to discuss bureaucracies instead of attempting to compromise on an agreement.  Ordinary people are not entitled to directly voice their opinions so they trust the ones with the power to sign or not an agreement to represent their wishes. But how can a supposed leader represent his/her people if they do not understand each other, if they belong to complete different realities, if they do not share values and hopes? All I could feel was a deep lack of connection, of communication.

The second disenchantment happened during our winter break when I went for a backpack trip around neighbor countries. Each stop brought along the experience of getting to know new people and have contact with individuals outside of the MSLS world. And that is when reality showed its true face. From all the different people I had the chance to talk to only one (a girl with a bachelor degree in Environmental Sciences working as a researcher in Australia), knew what Sustainability meant. All the others, after asking me what was I doing in Sweden and listening to my answer (Masters Studies on Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability) dropped the painful question: “Sustaina…what?”.

No, it was never a matter of too much noise to hear my Brazilian accent in English, but ignorance; ignorance concerning the very meaning of the word and the importance of studying it. Most people pretended to understand after I repeated “sustainability”, some inquired if it had to do with environmental issues, others demanded a more specific area within sustainability – as if it was not possible to study something so broad – and just one was humble enough to request a definition.

How can you define sustainability in half a minute because this is the time you have of someone else’s attention? Should I rely on Brundtland’s definition of sustainable development? Should I explain the Funnel? Should I lay out the system conditions? I have to confess that I ended up falling back on the triple bottom line approach, maybe because of my “audience” at that very moment or maybe because I still cannot disconnect myself from my business oriented approach towards sustainability. I was not happy about it. Not happy with my answer and not happy with the fact that the whole word still does not live in the bubble we live here in Karlskrona. It is true that I somehow knew that from previous experiences in my country as I started to study and work with sustainability, but I think I expected more awareness from Europeans or cosmopolite travelers. I was wrong.

One guy, a furniture designer suggested that I should tell people that sustainability is about recycling. Good Lord, what about everything that can came before recycling? What about everything that can happen after it? I can even start with that but how many hours will I need to explain that sustainability comprehends absolutely every aspect of our life? Sometimes Sustainability felt like a religion, something that just followers can believe in.

So I started wondering how is it possible that we have experts on sustainability spread all over  the globe, companies making money out of sustainable technologies, political  leaders meeting to discuss how to combine development and sustainability and yet the ordinary people do not have a clue of what on Earth does sustainability mean. I guess, we can have all that (experts, companies, leaders) on subjects like quantum physics and still few people can understand it (including me), so it is normal to have these gaps of knowledge, right? But should not it be different when we are talking about sustainability since everyone’s live depend on moving towards it?   

All those questions where a little too overwhelming to deal with during break, so I let them be. I listened to them respectfully and I dedicated a place for them inside my head for a while. Getting back to the bubble feels safe, but it is now a complete different place. Now I see that this is like an incubator: the environment that is preparing me to go out there and play my role, it is providing me with the tools I will need and the network I will be able to count on. It is also a mental place where I can came back to re-energize when faced with situations like the above described.

I also looked differently at all that I lived, in a more appreciative manner if you want. The mere fact that about 45 thousand people attended the COP-15 activities during two weeks is meaningful in itself. I guess the sustainability bubble is not that small after all. To see people from all over the world, coming from completely distinct backgrounds, from 15 to 80 years old all gathered to fight for one cause was really impressive. If we count all the side-events and demonstrations all over the globe around Climate Change it is even more extraordinary. That is the feeling I decided to keep with me (instead of the frustration created by the lack of communication); a source of inspiration and the certainty that the path I have chosen to follow is purposeful.

I decided to see the whole lack of communication between stakeholders and the lack of understanding of the majority of “regular” people concerning sustainability as a great opportunity. After reading about Diffusion of Innovations, I understood that people like MSLSers are called early adopters (taking sustainability as a new idea; an innovation that needs to be diffused), we are not the vast majority, and this gives as a great advantage: we can lead the way, we can be change agents, spread the message through various types of networks and reach the necessary critical mass to arrive at a societal behavior change. That is our mission and this is only the beginning.

I realized that everything that I have learned since the very first day here in Karlskrona will be extremely useful to help me meet people where they are and bring them to my path towards sustainability.

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Reflection Essay #5

9 de julho de 2010 at 4:37 PM (MSLS - Advanced Societal Leadership Reflection Essays)

Twenty five years old. One quarter of a century. It feels like I am entering a new phase of my life. It is a little bit scary – I confess – to think that I am now closer to thirty than to twenty.

I am not talking about aging; wrinkles and grey hair are inevitable and even welcomed. What worries me is the responsibility that comes with it. Actually, it is not that I feel more responsible, but I sense an expectation from other people for me to act in a more responsible way, for me to make a difference, to put into action whatever it is that I am learning for the common good. I could call it a “subtle pressure” for me to be in control of my life.

Being here, exposed to all this concepts and practices related to personal development, has allowed me to revisit many of my individual principles so as to make me stronger to face other’s expectations and to deal with my owns. I remember reading one of the first required articles (that I simply cannot find right now to make a proper reference) saying that we should give up the illusion of being in control. I think I can do that – I can assume that I am only part of a much bigger whole on which I completely depend but also one that I can influence, even if just to a certain extent. I can let go the arrogance of knowing and move towards wondering.

All this will, nevertheless, bring me awareness of Ego, which means realizing that we are never solely responsible for our own success. Therefore, the hard task here is not really to give up the illusion of being in control, but to handle everyone else (the ones with the high expectations) that would resist and oppose it because they fear, they doubt, they mistrust.

What I am trying to say, I guess, is that even though it is necessary to reach a level of consciousness about yourselves as human beings and our role to take charge of a process of transformational change, having this deeper understanding does not automatically enable us to lead such process in the most effective and beneficial way. It seems to me that there is a bridge in between those two stages (the individual and the collective), a bridge where all the expectations lie.

In other words, I am missing the link between inner development – listening to what our SELF has to say, working on self-awareness, asking ourselves meaningful questions as to build personal visions, and all the other sorts of elucidation that contemplation can bring – and facilitating, motivating and inspiring change – which involves other people’s “inner Selfs” and their senses of purpose.

I can perfectly comprehend the importance of connecting to Source (“presencing” stage of Theory U: ability to sense and bring into the present one’s highest future potential), of being aware of our own state of mind, since the most important tool of leadership is our SELVES, however, the passage from this state of complete openness to the process of leading requires more than alertness.

To turn a positive condition (like the right mindset) into a transformative action (real change), we need skills. That is the bridge. Translating your characteristics into skills and enriching them through training and learning is the key, now I see it. At this very moment, all the theories, ideas and tools we have been introduced related to leadership make sense. It is all about dialoguing, engaging, sharing. It is about our responsibility to enable the proper circumstances to build momentum, to reach collective awareness, to connect SELVES.

There is no way I can ask people to search for their true voice, for them to feel the wholeness and to envision a common future if I have not yet done it myself. So, I decided that I should establish what are my core values (I realized that I was dedication hours of my life trying to come up with better core values for our partner company, so I should do the same towards myself), what is the basis of my ideology.

Integrity is something that I consider extremely relevant. Beyond honesty, integrity is a matter of making sense, of holding strong beliefs, of never being corrupted. I also admire Sincerity, not only saying the truth, but also being genuine, authentic, and true to your own values. Those would definitely be part of my set of core values, maybe it is not absolutely who I am today but certainly of who I want to be.

Openness. That is something that I truly treasure and probably the quality that I find most difficult to have. To welcome very experience as a source of learning, not to judge, not to assume, not to preconceive. To let go, to let come, to acknowledge our endless ignorance, to be nude, open hearted, free minded.

I was prone to state courage as one value. But how is courage different from openness?

Maybe is one step further, Maybe is seeing opportunity in adversity, maybe is not letting fear overcome passion, maybe is taken chances, facing risks. Maybe you can be courageous without being opened, but you certainly have to be courageous in order to be opened. So I will stick with Openness and the courage that lies within it.

So far I have Integrity, Sincerity and Openness. I feel I need something else, something related to my will to help people, to be involved in a great initiative, to work for a bigger cause. What about Purpose? Yes, having a purpose, a focus, an ultimate goal, a reason for existing sounds good. I have always set goals in my life, actually the few times I found myself without plans, I felt completely lost. So I value and I need to have a purpose. My purpose should be greater than myself, than my selfish wellbeing.

It is enough; four core values. Whatever I do, wherever I am, my behavior will always be directed by them. This comes from my better understanding of my SELF, comes from my connection to my own true voice. This will be the pillars of my work as a leader, the skills I develop will strengthen these values and the actions I will take will honor them.

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Reflection Essay #4

9 de julho de 2010 at 4:28 PM (MSLS - Advanced Societal Leadership Reflection Essays)

To “determine how ‘trust building’ relates to transformational change and what role could I play in such process” is my personal learning objective. I found that this was a good week to focus on the importance of trust as a driving force towards change.

To be honest, my original idea was to concentrate on building trust among members of society in general. I guess it is obvious that coming from a country that suffers from a great lack of social trust it has always been clear to me that people’s capacity to meet their needs would always be undermined in a society where no one feels confidence about relying on others.

If according to Max-Neef we have nine fundamental needs, universal and interdependent, even though the ways to actualize them might differ, I would add that no matter in what era, region or circumstance, in order for any need to be fulfilled, there must be a context in which trust is present.

My last reflection was built around the idea of how the human species is highly interdependent and how much the understanding of the wholeness is fundamental to comprehending that we cannot help but trust one another. However, this is not the current general state of mind. We are still pretty much driven by self-interest and, living according to the tragedy of the commons and the prisoner dilemma. Our rationality finds it difficult to cooperate since we have to be sure that everyone is moving at the same direction and no one wants to take the first step based on pure, genuine trust that others will follow.

We live suffocated by fear and drowned in cynicism.

Reading to Professor Bo Rothstein book summary, I realized that theories around social trust, social trap and the power of social capital itself are still being born, so that I probably would not be able to achieve my learning objective if I decided to center my efforts on building trust in the macro level (nations), but I might be more successful addressing the skills a leader must have to build trust in an organizational perspective (micro level).

Considering that Professor Bo Rothstein himself highlights the major role impartial and universal organizations (specially institutional of governmental administration) play in building an environment where trust is felt and nurtured1, my decision to study the skills of a leader seems relevant to all levels, after all organizations are subsystems of society, and any change done by or within them will affect society. So my basic assumption is that to have a trustful society we need trustful organizations/institutions run by trustful leaders.

So here we go: who can I, as a leader, help to build trust within a transformational change process?

First of all I have to accept the fact that trust is built on EXPECTATIONS, it is based on perceptions.

According to S.P. Robins , “trust is a positive expectation that another will not – through words, actions, or decisions – act opportunistically”. (S. P. ROBINS, 2000). Being trustworthy is, thus, not much about the things you say and what you do, but who you are and how others see you.

(According to Professor Bo Rothstein, social capital is developed from trusting the procedures of such institutions for being impartial and competent.)

That is why we tend to trust the people we know better, that is why we are comfortable being vulnerable around those who behavior we can predict, that is why we are more willing to take risks once we have established a relationship that inspire confidence.

In other for me to be able to provide my peers with an environment where we trust each other and ourselves to be capable of changing towards a better future, there is some characteristics I should have to inspire trust. Some of them I will need to give more attention when it comes to personal development, but I can relate all of them to what we have been studying and practicing during this Programme, especially to the Leadership Thread. Let me briefly explain them.

Integrity: moral character. According to S. R. Covey, integrity means “conforming reality to our words”, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. It is more than being honest, is about being loyal to those who are not present, since that when we defend those who are absent, we retain the trust of those present. (S. R. Covey, 1989)

Being integral, also means being discreet and reliable: maintaining confidences. Many people would prefer to take the course of belittling, criticizing, betraying, or participating in gossip about others behind their backs. But in the long run, people will trust and respect us if we honest, open and kind with them. And, as S.R. Covey states, “to be trusted, it is said, is better than to be loved. In the long run, I am convinced; to be trusted will be also to be loved”. (S. R. Covey, 1989)

Competence: knowledge and skills instigate respect and credibility. This is particularly important when we are talking about team work. The entire team has to believe that the person who is responsible for the final outcome is the capable of doing so as well as to trust each member’s ability to complete the tasks. The leader should develop the admiration and respect of others by demonstrating technical and professional ability; displaying communication, negotiation and other interpersonal skills.

Consistency: predictability and good judgment in handling situations. Basically is walking the talk. The suggestion here is to take the time to think about our values and beliefs so that our sense of purpose guides our decisions.

Openness: to keep people informed, to have clear decision criteria, to disclose relevant data, and to be frank about our problems.

We put our cards on the table. We should know that, even though we might see things differently, we will be willing to listen with respect, in a commitment to try to understand each other’s point of view deeply and to work together for the synergistic solution.

Putting the cards on the table, includes speak our feelings as to be seen as real and humans and also clarifying expectations, aligning assumptions. If we understand that unclear expectations lead to misunderstanding,  isappointment, and withdraw of trust, whenever we come into a new situation, we must get all the expectations out on table. People will begin to judge each other through those expectations. The main idea here is that expectations are not self-evident, hey need to be understood and shared.

Promise: we must never make a promise we cannot keep. This is the only way to be dependable: keep your words and commitments. We should always remind ourselves to make promises carefully, being aware of as many variables and contingencies as possible.

The issues above described seem very elementary and even common sense. But I had never seen them as foundations to ‘trust building’. Maybe I thought such characteristics were too personal to affect dynamics of an organization or too subjective to influence any process of change. Well, I guess I was wrong. Now, all I have to do is to TRUST myself as being trustworthy in all its dimensions.

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Reflection Essay #3

9 de julho de 2010 at 4:21 PM (MSLS - Advanced Societal Leadership Reflection Essays)

It is interesting how we can re-evaluate our knowledge, re-interpret concepts and find new meaning and applications to what we have learned previously. I am specifically making reference to the theory of Positive Thinking. I was already familiar with the idea, but after reading to S. Eakes and H. Williams’ article and researching for my next group assignment on Appreciative Inquiry, I ended up re-visiting the notion of how powerful thoughts, images and words can be and how can we make the best use of them when creating a desired future.

S. Eakes and H Williams’ article addresses how positive affirmations can overcome resistance to change. Based on scientific data; on the fact that the same brain cell network involved in executing a task are also involved in imagining it, the authors emphasize that by ”visualizing something repeatedly, we stimulate our subconscious to search for neural circuits that will evoke behaviors to bring about the very thing we visualize”. They are talking about working with our inner system and not against it to enable changes to happen, using the power of our imagination to make positive changes possible.

Appreciative Inquiry goes in the same lines. Based on the theory of social constructivism, it recognizes that as human systems are constructions of our imagination (built by all types of discourse) they are capable of change at the speed of imagination. Therefore, all it takes is a shift in people’s perspective for them to begin to invent their most wanted future.

Believing that the momentum for change requires positive thinking, hope, excitement, inspiration, caring, camaraderie, sense of urgent purpose, and sheer joy in creating something meaningful together, the creators of Appreciative Inquiry defend that we should focus on the positive aspects of our lives and leverage them to correct the negative, instead of looking for what is wrong in accordance to a problem-solving mindset.

If we combine both concepts and think about the co-creation of a shared vision for our future (the Success level of the FSSD or the C-Step of an ABCD analysis, if we want to talk the “MSLS language”), we shouldn’t focus on a future where everything that is bad about our reality does not exist, but on a future where everything that is good about today would not only be present, but also much better. A future in which there is room for everything that we currently treasure to be even more developed and respected, in which the uniqueness of every individual and the wholeness of collectivity are both valued as necessary forces to make a greater tomorrow real.

It is all about making the positive stronger, believing everything is possible if we can imagine it and act accordingly. We need to be the change we want to see. We need to embody the change, incorporating it in our language, thoughts, beliefs, stories, and images as if the transformation we aim has already occurred.

That is a true vision, a north star that is pursued with the same certainty that exists in all that is concrete. Not a reference to keep in the back of our mind, but a sure destiny.

I am not saying that considering the current reality (like baseline analysis) is less important. Being aware of the problems, obstacles, paradigms, limitations and resistances is extremely important to the process of making sure that the vision we create is feasible, but it shouldn’t be an impediment to the construction of a hopeful future. Negativity cannot suppress positivity. There is nothing naïve about choosing to see the bright side of things. It is inspiring, motivating, engaging and empowering.

During our World Café Session today around the idea of the old versus the new paradigm, the tables in which I participated focused on the power of understanding the “everythingness” and how much we are all interconnected; the need to see what is it that all human beings have in common, what is it that we all share that could be the basis of a general and universal new paradigm; and the importance of building trust in all levels (from individual to systems) in order to facilitate change.

I will try here to put together all that was discussed around those issues and to establish how it can relate to Positive Thinking. Excuse me if I fail in my attempt as these thoughts are still being processed and the lesson learned is joyfully being born as I write these words.

What we all share, in every country, in any context is our fundamental needs. Having distinct satisfiers excluded, Max-Neef’s human basic needs can be defined as our common denominator. Those needs, however, are only truly actualized through relationships. Humans are a relational species, our survival deeply depend on it. Once we understand that in order for us to exist we need to cooperate, the consciousness of the wholeness start to rise. And if we extend that consciousness to the sense of belonging not only to society but to the environment in which it is contained, we also understand how we are part of Nature and how everything, absolutely every being in every form, is connected. We are one and the same thing. Finally, if we feel the interdependence, the significance of trusting becomes even greater. How can our relationships not be based on trust? How can we be suspicious of those who depend on us and on whom we depend?

Positive thinking plays an important role at this process of accepting the wholeness. If we relate to each other driven by fear, if we perceive interdependence as an obstacle to the superiority of Men over Nature, and if we cannot trust others (or even ourselves) because we focus on flaws and uncertainties, no enduring constructive change will be made. No new paradigm will triumph over the old.

We need to value all that we have lived; bad and good experiences, we need to take into consideration all that the past can teach us, we need to be critical and realistic about the challenges we are facing, but we can do all this without being overwhelmed by unhelpful emotions and negative approaches.

I leave you with a Swedish proverb:

Fear less, hope more;

Eat less, chew more;

Whine less, breathe more;

Talk less, say more;

Love more, and all good things will be yours”.

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Reflection Essay #2

9 de julho de 2010 at 4:08 PM (MSLS - Advanced Societal Leadership Reflection Essays)

It is time for more reflection. Actually, time to get all the ongoing daily reflections organized and written down, documented, so that I can came back to them and re-reflect later. Before getting started, I feel like I should explore the meaning of the word reflection itself. Let me consult the dictionary:

“Etymology: Middle English, alteration of reflexion, from Late Latin reflexion-, reflexio act of bendingback, from Latin reflectere

1: an instance of reflecting; especially : the return of light or sound waves from a surface.

2: the production of an image by or as if by a mirror.

3 a: the action of bending or folding back. b: a reflected part : fold.

4: something produced by reflecting: as a: an image given back by a reflecting surface b: an effect produced by an influence <the high crime rate is a reflection of our violent society>.

5: an often obscure or indirect criticism: reproach <a reflection on his character>.

6: a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation.

7: consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose.

8: obsolete : turning back : return.

9 a: a transformation of a figure in which each point is replaced by a point symmetric with respect to a line or plane. b: a transformation that involves reflection in more than one axis of a rectangular coordinate system.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reflection).

I guess I could say that whatever is the product of this reflection, it would be just an image produced by me as a mirror of what I see, an effect of the influence that reality has on me or of the influence that my mindset has on what I experience. However shape it takes, it is certainly a result of meditation and I believe that the meditation itself is the whole purpose of the exercise of trying to write this reflection.

I am sorry, maybe this introduction makes no sense to readers, but I am in a place of mind where I everything has to be meaningful and purposeful, that is why I was wondering about the reasons behind this apparently simple assignment: reflection essay.

The past week was filled with emotions. Feelings brought by demanding group working, by inspiring readings, by intimate conversations, by hopeful messages, by positive examples, by grey rainy days, by being homesick, by realizing how much we just take for granted (sunsets, hugs, good coffee).

Some emotions pass by, some stay long enough to become a memory and some are so lifechanging that they are transformed into knowledge. Max –Neef say that we can only truly understand (which is different from know) the things that we have lived; “we can only attempt to understand that of which we become a part”. I could not agree more. And some of the things that I have experience this week will certainly bring me closer to understanding. (Max-Neff, M. 2004)

I am talking about the stories from home. Not just the stories told and dramatized by others groups, some of to which I truly felt connected and that genuinely resonated with me, but also the process of creating my group’s story, the Americas story of hope. To deeply listen to my peers’ experiences and to deal with perceptions, with sensations, with memoirs was not only complex and beautiful process.

We managed to tell stories within stories, in an attempt to gather a whole continent, as well as all our opinions. We decided to value diversity but to find what we have in common, to search back for an ancient wisdom that unites us all and that, if rescued, could lead us to a better future. Power and resilience lies in integration; a just, conservative and respectful integration. More than countries reuniting, we thought about people reuniting, sharing one purpose, one vision, one America.

So far, it was the process that most allowed us to be creative. To find what we were more passionate about to share with others. I had to trust the process, since we changed our minds hundreds of times. Since it was a project completely based on performance, no paper, no handout, no written messages, it required us to find the most natural, true, yet clear and effective way of communicating, of creating momentum. I have never thought telling a story could be so challenging and I never thought listening to a story could be so powerful.

I was also surprised by the variety of ways a story can be told, or a subject can be addressed.

One can focus on real cruel stories to bring awareness and discomfort so that the listeners understand action has to be taken to transform such reality. One can give voice to true stories of hope, having participated on them or not, to inspire people to follow the way. One can make fun of the absurdity in life; parodying stereotypes, thus stimulating a critical view, a paradigm shift. One can base a story on facts, scientific consensus, figures and all sources of evidences. One can build a story upon a testimonial, a prophecy, a legend, a myth, a fairytale, an anecdote, a dream that speaks to people’s heart in some way.

After all, sometimes, the delivery is as important as the message, right? We have to find the right language to use, the most proper channel, the best form of expressing a feeling, the most effective way of manifesting an opinion. I think this is the type of thing that takes time to be figured out. Even though one can learn some techniques around storytelling and try it out with different audiences, it is mainly a matter of being true to oneself; find that inner voice that ends up magically winning over all kinds of listeners because of the sincerity in it and the way it understandably unfolds.

I was touched by every group, in completely distinct ways, obviously, but all the messages resonated with me to some extent. There are so many stories waiting to be told, so many others waiting to become. Paraphrasing Jarowski, when he says that the secret lies in the ability to create the conditions for miracles to occur, I would say that the secret lies in creating the conditions to a story to be listened, understood and meditated upon. Every story of hope is the piece of a miracle. (Jarowski, J. 1999)

I guess a good leader should be able to tell inspiring stories as well as to make history. A good leader would real listen and learn from people’s stories, would make sure that sad stories have no chance to be relived while the happy ones have room to be multiplied.

By the time this program is over, I do not know if I will be ready to be a great leader, but I can surely say that I will have great stories to tell.

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First Reflection Essay – hope is not optimism

1 de abril de 2010 at 8:10 PM (MSLS - Advanced Societal Leadership Reflection Essays)

I spoke my mind during today’s lecture. I normally do not do it because my questions or comments end up being brought up by someone else so that I do not need to verbalize my thoughts myself. Today, however, it was different.

As we were discussing the need for change – having some colleagues manifesting their opinions on how we need to modify or habits or on how we might need a crisis to strike so that people finally realize that our society must be redesigned or even on how we should work on educating and providing the general public with the information and knowledge on sustainability issues as to enable them to create a better future –  I saw a way to address all those topics and relate them to the articles I have been reading.

So I said, or at least I meant to say, that I understand real change has to start as a transformation at the individual level (thanks to Willis Harman for that insight) ; a change in human minds that has to be  global and universal, respecting diversity but seeking for a common denominator (as Václav Havel wrote). We are talking about a change in values and beliefs, something deeper and more fundamental than habits.  It connects to inner truths and has to occur voluntarily, cannot be imposed, cannot be suggested, it has to be created, built, felt.

Our role, therefore, would relate to “educating” in the sense of rising awareness, facilitating change processes where they are welcomed. This education, nevertheless, should not focus on crisis, on an apocalyptical approach (which might create apathy, resistance and nihilism), but should be based on HOPE.

Yes, I am talking about HOPE, not optimism (which Eric Young has just taught me that comes from the head, while hope comes from the heart). I am talking about that strange certainty that something will work out for the best because that is the way it makes more sense.

People are motivated by positive examples, by stories of success, by opportunities and not by dark and doomed scenarios. That is something that, in my opinion, we should always keep in mind.

The more we study, the more access we have to scientific data on all the sustainability challenges that we are already facing and the ones to come if we do not experience a shift of paradigms, the more we tend to be overwhelmed by the possibilities of disaster and the angrier we get at those who apparently cannot see the bigger picture and dangers we are living with.

Fear and frustration are not the answer. I came to this program to find HOPE, to believe that my beliefs are strong and real enough to be shared. I know that beliefs have to be turned into practices and that, sometimes, actions are more urgent and effective than words. However, what my experience has shown me so far is that I can learn how to talk different languages to better engage my audience, I can learn how to meet people where they are at, I can learn how to co-create an inspiring vision, but none of this would be of any good if I do not believe in myself, if I do not have faith in our capacity to change, if I do not have HOPE in my heart.

  I am not talking being hopeful in the sense of trusting that the universe would rearrange itself as to transform the reality I want to see changed, I am not talking about being hopeful in the sense of waiting for someone else that I find more capable to take responsibility for leading the way. What I mean is having HOPE as a warming feeling inside to go back when things seem to be getting more and more complicated, a driver, a source of ultimate strength, an oasis of peace. As I see it, hope and purpose are intimately related. When a meaningful purpose is created, either individually or collectively, there is a concrete reason to be hopeful. Hope can be translated into a purpose, which can be translated into goals.

HOPE is something that cannot be transferred, forced or rationally explained. It is something that has to grow within each and every one of us. It can be influenced, inspired, built, and nurtured. And to nurture that fragile feeling, we need achievements, little or big ones, we need tangible results, we need to maintain the inner motivation, to endure inspiration through action.  

Without hope, there is no room for change. Hope is what keeps the magic canoes around the world fighting against the current. As Eric Young states, “to give up hope is not just to deny the possibilities of the future. It is also to deny the lessons of the past.”  Hope is what connects human kind throughout generations and cultures. Might be hope on different futures, but certainly better ones. HOPE is what makes us humans, is what all spiritual values and essential beliefs are made of.

A sustainable global society would be based on HOPE, not fear as it is nowadays. Every relationship would be built upon trust, we will have the conviction that we all working for the common good, the self-benefit will mean the general benefit because we all hope for the best for all.

The funny thing about it all is that I used to be a very pessimist person. Maybe because of the reality of my country, where we do not seem to learn from our mistakes, maybe because of the critical nature of my mother, always analyzing things with the lens of crude reality, maybe because I was taught to keep my expectations low and always be prepared for the worst, I do not know. The only thing I do know is that I have already changed. I am not that person anymore. I am the person who raised her hand and voiced.

I am glad I made my contribution to today’s session. And taking in consideration my colleagues’ feedback on what I have said, the class also appreciated it. Some came to talk to me during the break to thank me for my comment, others got emotional about it and felt like hugging me to express support, and others gave me that tender and carrying look. It seems we needed a hopeful message, a bit of light into the darkness of a rainy Monday morning.

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