Leadership, Love and Change


Fall Trees

Photo by Donald R. Rickert, PhD

Change Is a Verb
Aspen trees paint the mountain landscape with a blaze of gold as fall approaches—a welcome change from the hot-dry summer months. We await the metamorphosis with great anticipation. Similarly, we often treat change in our lives as if its’ a manifestation of inevitable consequences. This viewpoint is embedded in our language: Change happens. We’re under the grip of change. Couples in love recognize that an effective relationship requires that we understand that love is a verb, not a noun. It’s not good enough to fall into love. We must constantly work at loving. And so it is with change. Spencer Johnson, MD, in his best-selling book, Who Moved My Cheese, uses cheese as a metaphor for change to teach us this lesson. He tells us that we have to plan for change—“Smell the cheese often.” Effective change requires that we view it not as something that happens to us, but something that we facilitate through the choices we make. We act so we aren’t acted upon and, as we do, we become a model for others.

couple holding handsEffective Change Inspires Others
St. Louis musical artist Erin Bode recently released a song, The Space Between, inspired by ten-year old Katelyn Jackson, who is afflicted with a congenital heart defect. Erin used audio recordings that doctors had made of Katelyn’s heartbeat, during her years of treatment, as the background rhythm for the song. As an artist, Erin understands that her music can tell a story. She created a song that allows us to connect with our deepest emotions, becoming a model for what her lyrics implore—“Maybe, if you hold my hand…” She demonstrates how we can become a positive force for change as her song helps, not only Katelyn, but thousands of others.

Effective Change Makes a Difference
It’s when we understand that we have the power to impact our future through the choices we make that we become truly effective. Accessing our emotions and connecting with our stories move us toward that goal. Our stories allow us to see ourselves with new understanding, providing an impetus for change, marked not by passivity and acceptance, but distinguished by active involvement and inspiration. Kyle, a character in The Parallax, learns this lesson from Nicole, another character in the book, who unsuspectingly through her leadership becomes his role mode, influencing a positive change in his behavior. Everyone has the opportunity for leadership.  Ken Blanchard, author of The One-Minute Manager, reminds us that “leadership is a journey, not a destination.” Leadership, love and change, they are all journeys. As we embark on these journeys, we learn that we each have a role as we interconnect with others, recognizing that the outstretched hand that we clasp may be the giver as well as the recipient of help. We discover a truth—“Maybe, if you hold my hand…”


21 thoughts on “Leadership, Love and Change

  1. After reading The Parallax I realized that we can all benefit from seeing thing from others point of view. Being recently married I have learned a lot more about love and the struggles of marriage, and that love truly is a verb. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest and that every day is something to work at and I whole heartily agree. Change and love can go hand in hand both must be worked at and both are worth it in the end. Compromises must be made. Love is a journey that we embark upon and it is all about the person that takes that journey with. The Parallax showed that by people realizing how they can change from seeing things from either others point of view or by being involved (not just listening) to others stories we can increase our emotional intelligence and therefore be more effective leaders in the long run. I feel that the more we learn about ourselves the better human beings (friend, lover, partner, co-worker, leader) we truly can become. Life is about the connections we make and the people that surround us, and by increasing our emotional intelligence and awareness we can make deeper, stronger connections with others.

  2. I completely agree with this article. I think it is important to keep in mind that Life is a journey, and by loving, leading, and changing, we travel through the journey of life. Love truly isn’t a noun, my parents have been married for 26 years, and the first thing they will tell anyone is that “It’s hard work!” They work everyday at communicating, being best friends, and staying in love. They have always been a wonderful example of what true love rally is, and I have a lot to look up to. When you love someone, you are a positive force in that persons life, and more likely than not, you will cause them to change themselves in some way. Not only is this a positive change, it is a necessary one. We react and change to those around us, and this change is what makes each day with someone else a new stretch of our journey. We all have the power to affect someone else, both by loving, changing ourselves for the better, and being a leader. Being a leader means having the power to react to new changes in your work environment. New things happen at work all the time. A good leader is one who can roll with the changes, and make an opportunity out of each change. People who aren’t “capable” of leading should really try to put themselves in leadership positions, they might be impressed with the capabilities of leading that they do have. Loving, leading, and changing are truly three spokes on the wheel of life, if you don’t have or don’t utilize one of the three, your life is going to be unbalanced.

  3. I am not one to accept change very easily. It provokes great anxiety, whether it be just as simple as the start of a new semester or as big as getting married. Throughout the years, I have had a lot of change in my life and I think I am finally able to recognize it and accept it emotionally. For example, as my wedding date approached last summer, I began to get anxious. It was not the “normal butterflies in the stomach” anxious; it was the “in my head, what’s going to happen in the future, will I still be considered my dad’s little girl, I’m spending the rest of my life with this person” anxious. My husband and I had been together for 6 years at that point and had been living together for 3 years. I knew I wanted to marry him. I knew that nothing was really going to change, but I was scared. I think that over the years, I have gained more and more emotional intelligence.
    So, when I felt the thoughts of “marriage anxiety” creeping upon me over the summer, I was able to sort my thoughts and dismiss any irrational thoughts I was having because I am able to recognize them as irrational. I think that this skill (self-awareness, emotional intelligence) is necessary to live a happy and fulfilling life without constant worry. Change is constantly happening and how well you accept that change will dictate how well you are able to handle life.

  4. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This famous quote by Gandhi fits right in with the theme of this entry. If we want something to happen or change, we must be the first to take a step towards that happening; ideas are useless unless they are acted upon. This means to me that change starts from within, and if I want something to happen, I need to be responsible for making that happen. I must be the one to create change- I must change. Taking the first step and making change can lead to something bigger than imagined. People are partially defined by their experiences and by those with whom they interact. By changing yourself, you never know what could come as a result, and you just might inspire someone else to do something great.

  5. By defining love as a verb, we are more able to recognize the work that goes into loving someone rather than just the initial falling in love. Seeing love as a verb is not only something that helps us in our relationships with our significant others, but also in our relationships with other loved ones such as parents and siblings. Just as love is a verb, change is also something that we must work at. As fifth year students, we are getting ready to make one of the biggest changes of our lives this coming May. Stepping out of the classroom and into the real world is one of the most exciting and terrifying changes I have faced in my life to date. As I think about my future, I often find myself scared of the unknown, wondering what will come of the important changes I am about to make. As I begin to think about these changes, it is important for me to remember to consider my feelings and what I truly want, which will ultimately lead me to reach my goals and be the most effective I can possibly be.

  6. I agree with this article. Life is a journey and the decisions we make everyday will create our journey for the future. With all the decisions that we make comes the change we see. I used not like change very much and was more for the way things are. But I have slowly accepted change and now look at it in a positive manner. The change that we accept can also influence us to make a difference. Also, everyone has the power to make a difference in the world, community, to their friends, family, and loved ones. The one thing that is never constant is change itself. I also feel that the more we reflect on our own experiences, the more we learn about ourselves. This process us can help us learn from our mistakes and become a better person in this world and in our own life. In the book, The Parallax, you can see how the characters go through change as well and some of them reflected back on their lives to realize the change they need to make. Life is a journey and change will constantly occur, might as well take it head on!

  7. I am also a type of person who does not like change, even though people say change is always for the better. I find it hard to adjust to change because in my mind, I want everything in my life to stay the same as it always has been. I guess I am just comfortable with how I have been living my life and change just gives me anxiety. However, even though I may not like it, things in my life have changed as I have grown up. I moved to a brand new city after high school (st. louis), I have become close to many people I go to school with that I never knew before, and I have changed as a student because of the rigorous program I decided to enroll in. I think change happens to everyone and you may not even know that it is taking place. In the parallex, people changed after listening to Frank’s story without even realizing it. However, they changed for the better because they gained insight about their lives and others in a way they never had before. This just proves that change really is for the better.

  8. Change is a hard concept for most people to deal with. I know that I do not deal with big changes in my life. I struggled coming to college and living on my own for the first year of school. At that point in time it was one of the biggest changes in my life. It was the support of family and friend that I made it through the years away from home. They gave me insight to look towards the future and what it will hold. Most people think that they can’t control change. Excepting it and realizing that choices you have made in your life have led you to that point will give you the power to control the changes. In the story it was amazing that one person sharing their story and how it made them change their thought process impacted so many people. It allowed the other people in the group to share their story and realize that their story was really about a big change in their life. I also though it was amazing that by just simply asking someone to write about their life they unkowningly wrote about life changing events or things they regret in their life. It also allowed them to see events in other peoples point of view which is important in being effective at making changes.

  9. Perhaps the most enlightening and shocking point I encountered in the story was when Marianne, the young, insightful woman, states, ” ‘We’ve become a hedonistic, disposable culture. We’ve got to stop and take a look at what’s important.’ ” Her point is further supplemented by a young, intelligent professional, who states with a hint of narcissism, ” ‘Business would behoove themselves to understand that leadership is a relationship, not a position. Leadership is a relationship built on trust…It’s all really common sense, but it’s seldom the norm’ ” Furthermore, another young man named Andrew adds to Samuel’s comment by mentioning the emotion of helplessness and how abundantly prevalent, yet seriously un-acknowledged this emotion is. He states, ” ‘Powerlessness is a feeling that hampers us in the workplace all of the time. It can be overwhelming.’ ” Powerlessness is a ubiquitous emotion, no matter the context, and one to which everyone can relate. It is often the most debilitating and all-consuming, leaving one helpless and at a loss, searching for a guiding light, but often finding nothing, maybe a bleak, faint glow at best. This is an emotion that affects everyone at some point and to fully comprehend and address this emotion in another individual, we must take a step back, empathizing with the other person and contemplate their point of view. The events that cause people to feel powerless take on a variety of forms, from simple quotidian encounters such as traffic jams, to life-altering moments, such as the death of a loved one or diagnosis of a disease. No matter the situation, the emotion must be recognized and dealt with upfront, otherwise it possesses the nasty potential to send the person into a downward spiral. It is all too common among these situations that the “leader” lacks emotional intelligence or simply does not care to empathize or even take the time to address the person’s emotions. As stated in the book, “common sense isn’t necessarily always common practice.” Enhancing a leader’s emotional intelligence not only improves communication between the leader and other “subordinates,” for lack of a better term, but improves the efficacy of his or her leadership skills and quality as a professional. Addressing emotions immediately, especially one of melancholy, will not only improve outcomes for both parties involved, but will instill a sense of trust and compassion, strengthening the relationship and enhancing communication on both sides. Because helplessness is an emotion often sequestered and seldom illustrated by a person, possessing the intrinsic ability to assess a one’s emotions is absolutely critical and of utmost importance. I never truly considered the magnitude of effect a feeling of impotence or lachrymose can have on a situation and its true impact as a result. Oftentimes, the emotions which truly need to be addressed and enlightened, are those that are sequestered and hidden and consequently, must be drawn out of a person, albeit slowly, to assess the route cause and core of the issue.

  10. Ken Blanchard’s statement that “leadership is a journey, not a destination” is something that those who strive to be leaders of tomorrow should really understand and take into account when on their path to becoming successful and more importantly, effective leaders. Many times it seems that those who strive to be leaders are not looking to inspire an effective change, but are more commonly competing for a position or some hollow, meaningless title. Recently, we had a lecture on what it means to be a manager in a pharmacy. A manager was defined as someone who planned and organized, while a leader was someone who inspired and motivated their workers. A manager can be seen as someone who makes sure that the day-to-day operations of a particular area are running smoothly; however, they fail to focus on people on a deeper level, but rather see their workers are part of the operation. In order to be an effective leader, we must be willing to accept change, whether it happens on its own or we initiate it, because eventually that change will influence someone else’s life. In The Parallax, Frank’s story had a profound effect on many people, and by sharing the changes and experiences that they had faced in their lives there were able to inspire each other. Change whether good or bad helps us to understand and better navigate through the difficulties of life, and shapes our journey towards becoming a leader and allows us to better connect with others on a personal level, thus illustrating how “leadership is a journey”.

  11. After reading The Parallax, I have learned of the impact that storytelling can bring not only to readers but also to the writer. I have read many books up to this point in my life but I have not looked at storytelling from the perspectives of multiple points of view. In The Parallax, the author presents a way for the reader to reflect and discover through reading personal stories and reveals how the author has the power to not only write from their point of view but from the point of view of others and by doing so we realize how they potentially went through a situation but from their perspective. A large scope of individuals sharing their stories as a collection provides the feeling of completeness and understanding. I made a connection to the overall story of the book as it wants its reader to know that this is a way of writing that can help the individual with their internal thoughts and struggles. I can see how these people were able to face underlying issues some did not realize they still carried with them from past experiences till they began to write. This approach can serve as an aid to people in their development of addressing an experience and learning from it in a positive and comfortable way.

  12. I think to become a successful leader, you must initially get an open mind and listen to others. You must be able to dream and to stick firmly to your dreams. The most important, is to be capable to accept changes and others evaluation of you. It’s harsh, but accepting criticism and converting the most painful comments of others to something to be considered is a devastating thing.

  13. Reading The Parallax showed me that reflection can be a really helpful tool in leadership. Though I consider myself a strong leader, I struggle when I need to deal with the emotions of those in a group. I try to use facts, when sometimes, I must emotionally connect and empathize in order to get the best ideas and collaboration with those I am working with. Asking more questions and reflecting on my experiences may help me increase my comfort level to become a more effective leader.

  14. I agree with the statement “leadership is a journey, not a destination.” Being in a leadership position requires life- long building and refining a set of skills that will shape you into the person that will allow you to inspire, guide and work with others. A good leader is someone who encompasses the skills, experience and knowledge to take on a challenger and takes on tasks at hand that is expected of them. As a leader, it is very important to accept change no matter how comfortable you have become with your life. Life is a journey filled with life- long learning experiences and change is a key factor into shaping yourself into a better person and leader.

  15. Parallax post
    “Do you really know who you are?” The question of all questions. Most would not even give it a second thought. Yes of course you know yourself. You are an adult, after all. But, are you able to truly reflect on things in your life that have shaped who you are as an individual? Most people would say that events like 9/11, things with intense magnitude and emotional conflict have shaped their lives, but did you really have a close, personal connection to these events? Close enough to define who you are as a person? After reading the Parallax, I found myself connecting with Kyle, the arrogant CEO from Manhattan who “had it worse than everyone else”, the most. After doing the exercise, Kyle wrote about two very different men. One man’s story described his life, and the other was very different. This got me thinking about why he wrote about these two men. Could it be that the polar opposite man was someone he used to be, or someone he would be if he didn’t have the successes he currently had? It inspired me to find out who I really am and just write; just like the exercise. I wrote about two things in my life that conflict with each other. I wrote two different scenarios; what my life would be like if I were to choose one solution, and how it would be if I chose the other. It was then, after writing my reflection, obvious about which solution I should choose and be absolved of this conflict for good.

  16. In the section title change is a verb, I completely agree with everything that is said in this paragraph. I am currently in the process of falling in love with my boyfriend and I completely agree that love is a verb and not a noun. There are so many things that need to be done to show/prove love. Right now my boyfriend’s grandma is really sick and in the hospital and I go up there and sit with his family and I have taken his 10 year old sister away from the hospital to do something fun and no have her in such a sad depressing place. I think with love that makes you do things like that. Working at love helps you improve/strengthen your relationship. My boyfriend and I are completely different when it comes to the things that we are interested in and I work to try to understand and do the things that he likes while he tries to do the same for me. As his interests change I will adapt and learn to try the new things that he is now interested.

  17. Every experience that we go through as humans forces us to take on a different perspective from that of other people. A leader of our nation, President Barack Obama once stated, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Change is perhaps one of the characteristic most well known known possessed by leaders. Leaders communicate change effectively and efficiently to those who they lead and are connected with. Leaders strive to make change through their own abilities, but they also have to be willing to accept change imposed outside of their control. This involves human emotions – how does one feel to have to conform to the ideas of others, and vice versa. It is important to keep in mind that although leaders foster change, they are not perfect. Leaders must understand how others feel about change, and adjust accordingly. The “outstretched hand that we clasp may be the giver” – as leaders, one must give a part of themselves to those they are reaching out to – that is, their understanding and empathy. But leaders must also recognize that they are also the “recipient of help” – that is, the help that is being given to them by those they are reaching out to, including their thoughts and their feelings. The exchange of feelings is prevalent between the connection shared by Kyle and Nicole in The Parallax, and is a perfect example of change that can happen between two people. Bonds are essential in building relationships, strengthening leaderships, and is a large factor in the development of change between those involved in the bond. Sometimes one must be willing to take a chance and venture on the path unexpected, and along the way, conform to whatever changes may be. The complete title of the Parallax says it all – “See Yourself With New Understanding”. The process of self-discovery comes with the changes associated that we encounter in our everyday lives, in our everyday surroundings. Through our own eyes, we see different things. Through our own minds, we think different thoughts. All of these conclusively lead to us seeing ourselves with new understanding – we realize our inner traits and characteristics, our weaknesses and strengths, and our capabilities and potentials.

  18. I really enjoyed reading this article, and it really put change into a new perspective. I am definitely the type of person who can be hesitant to change. However, I’m starting to see more and more how important change is in life. The author quoted Spence Johnson by saying, “effective changes requires that we view it not as something that happens to us, but something that we facilitate through the choices we make.” We each have goals in life, and to reach these goals we must make active changes that set us in the direction of achieving our goals. We can’t view our goals as something that is just going to happen to us, we have to be willing to make the changes necessary to reach our goals. When I first was reading this article I was only thinking about my personal life, but as the article went on to talk about leadership I started to think about change in the perspective of my future career. The author states that, “leadership is a journey, not a destination.” I think the author is trying to get the point across, that to become a leader one must make a lot of changes along the way. I also think by saying that leadership is not a destination he is also saying that the skill of being a perfect leader is never achieved, and there are always ways to improve and become better. I know that I am always going to have to make changes in my life, both personal and professional. There are several goals I want to achieve, and I know to do so I must make the necessary changes. It can be scary, but I have to remind myself that it will all be worth it in the end.

  19. Change is a very scary word to all of us. Our society looks at change as a bad thing, but in reality, it can be good depending on how you view at it. For example, everyone at STLCOP has changed in one way or another since beginning here first year, whether that change was intentional or not. We all had to change the way we used to study, or didn’t study, in high school and maybe even some had to endure their first “C”. Personally, these changes have made me into a better student as well as a harder worker. “The only thing constant is change” said Heraclitus. One must change some way or another to achieve their goals and dreams. Ultimately, change is something that occurs whether we like it or not and the best way to go on is to accept it and grow.

  20. As someone who has been married for three years, I can agree that couples must constantly work at loving. Change happens to all people in various aspects of their lives. In order to successfully take on and adapt to change, couples must be willing to be in frequent and open communication with one another. First, each member of the couple must look at their own stories and connect with them in a way that offers deeper understanding of their emotions. Once each member of the couple has tapped into their personal stories, then the couples must be willing to share their stories and all of the emotion that comes with it. Just like Frank opened up to his wife about his past with Jenny and his father, couples must be willing and able to express their inner thoughts and emotions. Through constant dialogue (both with self and partner), people continuously reshape their perspectives of themselves and their partners, which allows for change to be anticipated and welcomed. This decreases spontaneous arguments, brings couples closer together, and gives couples the ability to be more equipped at responding to situations that might normally cause relationships to fall apart.

  21. This concept of change resonates deeply with me. Over the past six months I have witnessed first-hand how this can affect an entire family. Due to a few unfortunate events in my sister’s choices of living, my parents have been left to raise her three very young children. I remember the tearful phone call early this past spring and was not sure where things would go from there. Unfortunately, my father did not want to take on this daunting task, but fortunately he realized just how much it meant to my mother to be there for them. Ultimately the children ended up with my parents. I understand his frustration at not wanting to start over in raising children, but the change he made in his attitude has brought my family closer together. I enjoy going home and seeing just how much closer together my parents have grown over the past six months and how the love those three small children offer with their giant hugs and cheerful attitudes never ends. Change may not always seem like it is for the better, and even when it seems dark, stepping back and looking at how it has altered your point of few can truly mean the world.

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