Diane Loomans once reminisced, “If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d build self–esteem first, and the house later. I’d finger–paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and less tugging.”

Being a parent is both satisfying and challenging. Knowing exactly how to handle any situation can be very difficult. Sloan Wilson captured the central issue this way, “The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”

Although being a parent is very complex and will have many twists and turns over the years, knowing how you and your child are doing through the process is less daunting. If the following statements are most always tru for you as a parent, both you and your child are most likely making the journey rather successfully. Before we get to the statements though, there is a point that needs emphasis. Joyce Maynard made the point for us this way when she said, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.”

Okay, here we go. Think about each statement and honestly decide if it is true for you. If it is, you and your child are probably doing just fine. If not, you definitely have some work to do and possibly changes to make with your parent relationship with your child.

1. I am reasonable and fair when disciplining my child.

2. I know what my child needs and what is important to him or her.

3. I am able to get my child to cooperate with me.

4. I spend time with my child everyday.

5. My child likes to spend time with me.

6. I am pleased with and proud of my child.

7. I am familiar with and interested in my child’s activities.

8. I know about and am helping with my child’s problems and difficulties.

9. I set a good example for my child.

10. I give my child his or her space.

11. My child and I regularly talk with each other.

12. I am interested in my child’s ideas and thoughts about things.

13. I support and encourage my child’s being who he or she is and his or her unique style.

14. I am a good parent.

Now you know so there you go.


In their book “How Remarkable Women Lead,” Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston (New York, Crown Business, 2009,) share their perspectives on women and leadership. Here is a selection of their most interesting observations from their point of view and that of the women they studied.

I learned how they used their strengths, their optimism, their sense of belonging, their power, and their energy to prevail in service of a purpose.

I shifted from focusing only on my deficits to building on strength. I practiced reciprocity––and gained a powerful feeling of belonging. I took charge of my fears by reframing setbacks as opportunities and I went after them.

When the leader––or the parent––pauses, she not only gives herself a chance to really listen, she gives her team ahead and solve the problem.

Centered Leadership doesn’t make adversity go away and it doesn’t make life sunnier and more fun than it is in reality. What it does is help each of us become aware of our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions––extending our range of responses that make the difference between seizing the day and hiding from it.

Imagine a world with women and men leaders who are vulnerable and powerful, empathic and self–aware, grounded and connected––leaders equipped to address the enormous challenges of complexity, volatility, and increasing pace of change.

At its core were deep emotional connections: to work, to personal meaning and mission, to achievement, to nurturing instincts, and to a strong feeling of belonging. To joy.

You’ll know when your passions are engaged, because you’ll feel your heart race. You’ll know when you’ve found activities that engage you and build on your strengths, because you’ll look forward to them with anticipation. And you’ll know when you’ve discovered your purpose, because it will just feel right.

Simply deploying your strengths in activities you choose out of interest will get you to a deeper satisfaction. That’s engagement and it’s good in and of itself.

Purpose is what drives you. It’s the source of your inspiration and the compass that guides your way to making a difference, and at the same time, to the deepest level of happiness.

…it’s not just about the goal but about the journey toward it. The journey toward your goal provides happiness and meaning––more than actually reaching the goal ever can.

Still, you do have to protect yourself. You have to be sane. You have to be strong and healthy.

But it’s not about whether they love you. They just want to achieve.

Most problems can be solved if we ensure that the right people with the right ideas are allowed to solve them.

“If there is one common theme around how we managed it, it’s about communicating. By talking with everyone all the time, we were able to find solutions.”

Disputation involves re–examining the situation and consciously separating how you experienced the incident emotionally from what actually happened. Start by refuting the emotional distortions the way a good lawyer would break down faulty evidence. Challenge the beliefs and assumptions implicit in your negative interpretation and re–examine the facts. Then try to understand the consequences of those beliefs. Finally, reframe: Take the undistorted facts and look at what you can do with them. How can you move ahead and address the real issues? Reframing and moving to action will energize you.

So, when stuff happens, remember to take time for a healthy distraction. You’ll not only feel better, but you may find a creative solution to what seems like an intractable problem. A break often leads to a breakthrough, when relief from stress allows your subconscious mind to relax and mull over the problem. And sometimes, you just need to move on. Displacement gives you the distance you need to be able to make that tough call.

You don’t have to find the impossible compromise that makes everybody happy. In challenging work situations, doing the same thing more intensely may be the worst thing we can do. Consider an entirely new strategy––and quickly. That’s adaptability.

Harvard professors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky contend that many leaders fail to meet adaptive challenges because they cannot make the mental leap of faith to pursue a new course that does not have a guaranteed outcome.

But as much as many women work their hardest to be liked, don’t expect everyone to like you. … Everyone won’t go along, and some will try to block you. And as they show their displeasure, you may encounter resistance from a new face––you. Facing your own fears first will make you a better leader.

I think building a great team is the most important characteristic in a leader––the ability to touch people, give them a vision toward a higher goal, show them the path, and reward them when they do it, whether they do it with big steps or little ones.

I don’t think I’d be respected if I left a problem to fester or had the wrong person in the wrong job for too long and didn’t address it.

Connectedness is core to Centered Leadership because it addresses a deep human need. A leader with strong connections to colleagues and team members can share her sense of meaning and mission––inspiring others to make extraordinary commitment to the work. She can also draw wisdom, energy, and joy from those whom she connects with.

…when things go badly in the workplace, men are more likely to start shouting at one another, while women try to smooth over differences.

It goes back to how do you let them help. We changed from, “Let me tell you the answer” to “What do you think we ought to do?” Did we make them feel like they were worthwhile, or did we make them feel like they weren’t at all?

When we asked women leaders about connections, almost every one of them spoke about her team and the people in her company as much or even more than about her senior sponsors. They talked about the magic of teams and their pride in seeing the organization pulling together. They reported the same satisfaction from watching their people grow that they derive from their own families. Indeed, they often described their organizations as families.

While it’s hardly a breakthrough discovery that inclusiveness is a valuable leadership trait, the emphasis that our women leaders placed on it was too strong to ignore. As we learned, women are biologically primed to seek out and nurture relationships. The ancient reflex to “tend and befriend” survives today, passed down through social hormones that still influence our survival––and our success.

When community develops in the workplace, it makes the job rewarding….

…she wants people to tell her exactly what they think, as long as they communicate with kindness.

Research suggests that women often feel comfortable speaking up on someone else’s behalf but have a hard time speaking up for themselves. So we wait for others to recognize what we want. Yes, we wait. Why? Because it “means more” if someone else notices without our asking, women told us.

You also have many hardwired advantages: an emotional core, an ability to reframe, an ability to build deep relationships, adaptability.


Prejudice and The Fallacy of Average

There is usually at least a tiny grain of truth hidden somewhere behind even the most absurd belief. For example, if you lend a book to someone, you might as well kiss it good–bye. You won’t get it back without asking for it back, and maybe not even then. If you’re a library, you’ll probably get it back; but for anyone else, lending books is about the same as giving them away.

What is the belief? People don’t return borrowed books when they borrow them from other people.

There is a grain of truth here. Some people aren’t good about returning borrowed books and perhaps that’s most people, depending on who you lend your books to.

Is this true on average? I don’t know and doubt that you know either. Even so, I believe it. How about you? Do people return books other people lend to them?

Now suppose that I ask you to lend me a book. If you think people don’t return borrowed books, you might give the book to me, not expecting it to be returned. However, if you think people are good and usually return borrowed books, you still may not lend it to me, depending on the value of the book to you. But why?

When we make choices involving other people, we are always playing the odds, using our own idiosyncratic computational system. We attach odds to their doing or not doing something, the likelihood of their behaving one way or another, the probability of their reacting as we expect or surprising us instead. Our action, behavior or involvement with them then depends on those calculations. First comes the calculation and then we act, based on our nearly instantaneous decision process.

When dealing with other people, we may occasionally stop and think, do some research, carefully consider why we will or will not make a particular choice, and otherwise be more deliberate than we typically are. Even then, we mostly focus on our side of the equation. Will we be better off or less well off, what is or is not in our interest, what will be the consequences for us if we do or do not proceed? Most of the time though, we just go with our first calculation. We make a flash judgment about the person and the situation and then do or not do whatever the calculation calls for.

Do we often get burned or disappointed? If not, we are definitely toward the safe end, running the risk of being too skeptical, too mistrusting. If we often are disappointed or get burned, we are too far toward the other end where naive and gullible come to mind.

As we see, whether borrowing a book or having any other interaction with people, we infrequently give much if any consideration to the criteria we use with respect to the other person, especially if we haven’t spent much time and effort in getting to know them. –– And we have actually invested that level of time and energy in only a very small minority of people we know or come into contact with. – For most people, most of the time and in most situations, we put them into our sorting algorithm, assigning them to “average,” on whatever sorting criteria we are used to using.

How do we know what is average? Well, we usually don’t. It’s like people who borrow books from other people. On average, do they return the borrowed books without needing to be reminded? We don’t actually know; but nevertheless, we likely have a quick criterion we instantly apply whenever anyone asks to borrow a book, particularly if they want to borrow our first edition of a rare book or perhaps our checkbook.

Here’s the rub. It’s that idiosyncratic computational system and its algorithm. The automatic criteria we use to judge people and to make decisions and choices is based on averages, as we understand them. The problem is twofold. First, “average” is a tricky concept. If on average, men are more violent than women, knowing that tells us nothing about most men or most women, because most men are not more violent than most women. It’s only at the extreme that men are more violent than women. If we drop the extremes from our algorithm, men and women have about the same tendency toward violence. Along with being true for men and women, it’s also true for whites and non–whites, citizens and emigrants, younger people and older people, poor people and the more affluent, or most any other way you tend to classify people.

The same fallacy of average slips into our computational algorithm in far more insidious ways. Let me repeat an earlier sentence. “Along with being true for men and women, it’s also true for whites and non–whites, citizens and emigrants, younger people and older people, poor people and the more affluent, or most any other way you tend to classify people.” Is it still slipping past you?

When talking about violence, the point was made that, at the extreme, men tend to be slightly more violent than women. In the same context, there is an unspoken implication that extreme violence somehow applies to whites and non–whites, citizens and emigrants, younger people and older people, poor people and the more affluent, when it only applies to men and women as classifications. Whites are no more violent than non–whites, citizens no more than emigrants, younger people no more than older people, poor people no more than affluent people.

We could spend an hour or so just enumerating the classifications we use in our computational algorithms for relating to and interacting with other people. For each classification, we have automatic criteria we use to signal us about who they are, how and what they think, how they do and do not behave, what they will and won’t do, what they can and can’t be trusted with, where they do and don’t fit in relation to us, and on and on. For a few of those criteria, we know why we use them, how valid they are, when they do and do not apply, and when we tend to misuse them. Think of these as our carefully curated criteria for judging others. We also know that they are based on more solid ground than tradition, culture, group norms, and personal belief and preference. They have a strong claim to reasoned and validated truth.

Along side our relatively small stash of carefully curated criteria for judging and relating to other people, we have a much larger stash of non–curated criteria that we regularly use on a day to day basis. We are not aware of most of those criteria; and for the ones we are aware of, we don’t know much about them or where they came from. We just have them and use them with confidence. Those non–curated criteria are the foundation of our prejudice and more often than not, are that prejudice itself.

Are we prejudiced? Most definitely – every last one of us. We all have our supplies of non–curated criteria we use when judging and interacting with other people. The good news is that most of our non–curated criteria serve us well enough, are usually reasonably in sync with reality and are seldom harmful or counterproductive. They serve us and our interests without impinging on the rights, interests and well being of others.

The bad news is this. Far too many of us do have non–curated criteria that are harmful to the needs, interests and well being of others. Many of us also have what we think are curated criteria that are little more than inherited beliefs and values that we think are real and valid but are not. They represent what we can think of as our cognitive and cultural blind–spots. Collectively these represent prejudice in its worst sense. When this level of prejudice spreads too far for too long, as it has, we end up with xenophobia, institutional racism, ideological schisms and pervasive divisiveness.

What to do? Try to initially relate to and interact with everyone through a default filter, using the same set of criteria for each person with whom you have contact. Avoid classifying anyone. Force or at least encourage yourself to withhold judgment until you know enough and have had enough experience with the individual or group to have an opinion and perspective informed by their actions and behavior, not by your non–curated criteria. It’s pretty simple, although not all that easy.

Please relate to me and judge me based on who my actions and behavior tell you I am and not on who you assume I am. If you’ll do that for me, I’ll for sure make my best effort to do the same for you.


Does 20 seconds ring any bells for you? Had I asked you that just a few weeks ago, you likely wouldn’t have had a clue. These days though, most everyone knows about 20 seconds. Think washing your hands while social distancing and sheltering in place.

I certainly have no advice about how to wash your hands, when to wash or how often. I’m just helping with that 20 seconds thing. It’s not very long but seems like a long time to wash my hands. I’m just washing away, wondering if the 20 seconds are up yet.

Let’s start with just how long 20 seconds is. Listen for the bell. When it stops, the 20 seconds are up.

Are you ready for a pop quiz? I’ll play the time keeping bell and you can add the selection of your choice. Bonus points for choosing the presidents, extra points for Peter Piper, and double bonus points for Jack and Jill.

Now you know so there you go. Be well, stay safe, and don’t forget to wash those hands. Yes, they are the same hands that you keep away from your face.


Even a cursory review of leadership literature and what purports to be expert opinion forces a simple conclusion. There is low consensus around a single definition of leadership and similarly low agreement about the roles and responsibilities of leaders. Accept the observation as cautionary. The propositions here represent one perspective among many. Test their validity against your experience and expertise as you evaluate their merit and utility.

Proposition one:

“Organizations continuously transition from the present state to a future state. The leader’s role is to affect the transition so as to actualize the desired future state by reducing and eliminating the disparity between the present and future states, without redefining or compromising the future state.”

Action corollary 1: Manage for today, lead for tomorrow.

Action corollary 2: Focus management on what is, leadership on what aught to be.

Action corollary 3: Management keeps the organization on the road and moving forward; leadership assures the road taken leads to what aught to be.

Action corollary 4: Managers typically determine Plan “A” will not work as expected; leaders expeditiously move the organization to plan “B.”

Proposition two:

“The leadership of an organization is always an exact fit with the current path of the organization.”

Action corollary 1: Managers maintain the status quo and control whatever threatens or may threaten the current state; leaders seek Change and Transformation in the interest of an envisioned future state.

Action corollary 2: Managers preserve; leaders innovate.

Proposition three:

“Organizations trend toward stabilization.”

Corollary 1: Management and leadership are inherently opposing forces within an organization.


Conclusion 1: Management represents organizational stability and permanence. Leadership represents instability and impermanence.

Conclusion 2: Change and transformation threaten the status quo and intensify organizational inertia.

Conclusion 3: The effectiveness of leadership is inversely related to the degree of inertia intensification caused by leadership.


An intermediary between management and leadership is needed. Think of it as a modulating function. This function serves to mitigate the threat coming from leadership on the one hand and weaken the inertia coming from management on the other. Managers come to see benefit in change and transformation, and leaders moderate their enthusiasm and insistence. The touch point occurs when inertia reduces enough to permit change, and leadership exuberance and insistence are restrained enough to avoid increasing resistance and further management opposition.

This modulating function could be the responsibility of an individual; but in all but the smallest organizations, it is likely best assumed by a small modulation team. Just as organizational leadership and organizational management each has recognized position, status, and authority, so must the modulation team have equivalent position, status, and authority. The modulation team succeeds when the momentum for change slightly exceeds the level of inertia required to maintain the status quo, with neither side (management nor leadership) reverting to more structured or intensified strategies to support their interests. The tension is present and continuous but remains within the comfort zones of both.