Global Leadership Café IX: Empowering Organizations and Communities

Asia’s Global Leadership Cafe IX started as a conversation about the difference between community and organization. And ended by questioning connections between empowerment and productivity.

If you didn’t attend…why don’t you try the first challenge of our evening now? Pick up a pen and write a number. Without thinking too much – How many organizations and communities do you belong to?

On that Friday night in April 2015, forty marker pens scribbled figures – colours filled the corners of the white sheets spread over tables. As I moved around the room – world-café-style for each round of questions that followed – I noticed numbers from 4 to 44, acronyms scrawled roughly in the process of recall. Many numbers had been erased and re-written higher: 52, even 63 communities or organizations. We helped each other discover more that we were not conscious of belonging to at first….

Questions that expanded our awareness:

  • What are different categories of community and organization?
  • What organizations would you put on a resume?
  • What are conversations you would say “Me too!” to….like communities of left-handed people!?
  • What membership cards do you have in your wallet?
  • What educational alumini do you belong to?
  • What are your social identities or interests?
  • …Shared interests lead us to lunch.

What figure of belonging has yours risen to now?(!)

The spirit of this Tokyo-based global leadership laboratory extended to facilitators’ own collaboration with each other. The event’s volunteer leaders connected improvisation with prepared pieces that threaded their existing expertise through to their learningful edges.

Our opening facilitator jolted us out of our workdays and into his own developmental and experimental zone. Impromptu, he invited one of his co-organizers to ad-lib the etymology of the difference between “community and organization.” Something that perhaps had come up inconsequentially in conversation during a planning meeting, was put to a poignant purpose in the spur of the moment. His co-facilitator gracefully responded to the request.

Other facilitators navigated personal challenges with their public persona: controlling nervous apprehension, projecting vocally in competition with the echoing architecture of Tsukiji Temple, adjusting to ever-deviating time-management of co-facilitators, warming away the perceptible chill of a late winter or harvesting and thematizing insights gleaned by participants from dozens of domiciles. My admiration for these facilitators rose each time they rose to the challenges of leadership, collaboration and facilitation.

Guidelines not rules. Invite others to speak. Listen. Be open minded. “This GL community is like a new leadership school.” Said one facilitator as she addressed us.

Collective consciousness sustained palpably in paradox with authentic autonomy.

Just one of the beautiful things that this forum offers is the chance to re-connect with likeminded people. Serendipitous rencontres with old colleagues. Acquaintances recently made at Japan’s International Coach Federation’s Japan Chapter. Fond hugs from friends; memories of coaching Salons now disbanded. The permeable continuity of faces familiar and half-remembered from previous Global Leadership Cafes.

Like minds that share a common language of leadership – whatever their native tongue. The future of leadership; a possibility that fires human aspiration and renders organizational politics ***irrelevant.***

Global Leadership Café questions:
Q1: When have you felt empowered by a community and/or organization?

Q2: What would be different if your community or organization existed to empower *you*?

Q3: What would be different if your community or organization existed to empower *all* its members?

Q4: How do we empower our communities and organizations?

[WARNING: you may find some of what you are about to read offensive]

“Love, empathy and consideration for others.”

“Slap them on the face before they fall on their face! ‘Hard? It’s your f***ing job!’ …he felt the sting, but it empowered him.”

“Empowerment comes from within. From patience. From the ability to make mistakes…and learn.”

“I called him at 10am…he was still hungover from the night before. It wasn’t even SetTai (He wasn’t with clients). What can you say…?”

“Disempowerment is not being given credit for your work. Worse is when others take credit for something they didn’t contribute to.”

“To increase the bottom line for shareholders is to cut back on employee welfare resources…Productive organization does not need empowerment but empowerment needs productivity and proactivity. Too many rules and reducing resources is disempowering. Empowered employees have a freer hand on how to do their work.”

“Synergy makes profitability sustainable” I replied in agreement.

“Sharing my positive attitude, modelling my own empowerment for others, be all that I can be! Emphasis can be infectious.”

“Helping people fail safely.”

“No bulshit or flakeness. Empathy and playfulness. Steadfastness & accountability.”

“Empowerment leads to self respect and fulfilment/actualization… Whether or not it leads to higher productivity or profits is another question.”

Participants included:

HR generalist, start-up entrepreneur, MBA professor & students, own-business financier, leadership coaches, business consultants, engineering manager, NPO activists, SME board member, German-Japan project manager, translators, off-the-street participants, friends, colleagues, partners in love, life and work.

Facilitators in order of appearance:

Skip, David, Yuka & Selma, Dori & Rohini, Michael.


Mark the date:
Sat 16 May 2015 “The Future of Leadership Forum” with Global Leadership Partners Asia.

Have a lovely Golden Week. Hope to see you then…

Karenni Social Development Centerでのグローバルリーダーシップカフェ

数名のGLCファシリテーターが2月20日にタイ・ビルマ国境へ行き、Karenni Social Development Center (“SDC”)でグローバルリーダーシップカフェを開催します。SDCとは、カレンニ族の人権を推進し、環境を保護するための地域参画型コミュニティーです。SDCは、法律に基づいて新しい社会をつくりあげることを目標としています。目標達成のために、SDCは若いカレンニ避難民が非暴力による社会変革を推進するための教育を行っています。

2月20日のグローバルリーダーシップカフェの目的はi) SDCが長期ビジョンを作成すること、ii) カレンニ族各自が実際持っている力量を認識してもらうこと、そしてiii)世界中のコミュニティーがSDCの変革的な活動を広められるよう明確に告知すること、です。参加者はSDCリーダーシップチーム、教授団、学生、卒業生及びボランティアです。他のカレンニ族コミュニティーリーダーは、共有されているチャレンジやこれからの希望について多様な観点から対話に加わります。


Karenni Social Development Centerについては、こちらhereをご覧ください。

この意義深いプロジェクトはRefugees International Japanによって実現化されました。RIJの避難民活動については、こちらhereをご覧ください。

SDCグローバルリーダーシップカフェについては、David Nevin (まで、お問い合わせください。


Notes from GLC VIII Kick-Off Meeting

Below is a brief summary of the outcome of the GLC VIII Embodied Leadership Kick-off meeting – you can find the full summary of the meeting here.

  • We discussed the what Embodied Leadership means to us:
    • Being present with emotion
    • Intense emotion
    • Experience
    • Three intelligences in the body, head, heart and gut
    • Speaking from the felt unknown
  • We discussed possible Jolts related to Embodied Leadership
    • Posting as a sculpture, what does a leader look like?
    • Flash dance
  • Question to further explore: What stops you from embodying yourself as a leader?
  • We discussed possible theme for GLC IX – Agency (discussion to be continued).

Next meeting is planned for January 8 at 18:30-20:30 at Tokyo Creators.

Transforming our Relationship to TIME – A review

Transforming our Relationship to TIME – A review

Transforming our Relationship to TIME – A review by Aruna Byers

April 18th was a collective journey through time and space at the Global Taiju and Nino picLeadership Café IV! After entering the room we were invited to contribute thoughts about our relationship to Time on the Time wall. These provocative comments set the stage for deep introspection, as we selected a place at one of 10 tables that filled the room. After a brief introduction to the GLC and its intentions for the gathering, we were asked to introduce ourselves and talk about our personal relationship to Time. Why is it that most of us seem to feel that we never have enough of it? Here are some examples of the comments from my table:

  1. How we think about time is a matter of perception.
  2. We have different relationships with Time, depending on our own point of view. For example, a speaker may feel there is not enough time to get all his points across while giving his talk, while someone in his audience may feel his presentation was taking too long.
  3. We may relate differently to Time physically than we do psychologically.
  4. Today’s technology can affect the way we use our time, i.e. being distracted by Facebook or watching TV.
  5. We can do things to save time, like preparing a whole week’s meals in one day, instead of cooking every day.
  6. When you do things you love you can get into a flow where time is not an issue.

Before we knew it we were lost in time. The conversation picked up speed and it continued at the next table. After updating our new team as to what was previously discussed, we then incorporated these offerings into our new conversation, which took us into a deeper understanding of the subject. Some of the points that particularly spoke to me were:

TIME board

Time Themes

  1. We can actually shift time because the brain can hold onto and manifest any concept we choose.
  2. Meditation and its benefits can bring us into more self-awareness and improve the way we manage our use of Time.

After a break out of Time we joined a new table and dialogued around the question: “How does your relationship to Time affect your leadership style?” In my group, a comparison of the way different leaders deal with Time brought forth the consensus that while a structured, authoritarian approach to Time seems more efficient, and it may be in the short term, in the long run a collaborative approach is more effective because everyone shares ownership for the decision that has been made.

Those who previously sat at this table felt that most people generally run after Time instead of managing it—and this is perpetuated by the fear of not getting done what is expected or intended. This group then discussed the benefits of getting with “the flow,” where things seem to just happen magically.

We later returned to our starting position and summarized what had been brought forth from the group conversation and wrote our main points on large Post-its that were grouped in themes and placed on the walls. Finding the theme we felt the most attracted to was the next step on our journey through Time. These themes, in no particular order, were:

  1. Prioritizing around our values,
  2. Living habits,
  3. Perception of Time,
  4. Stopping and
  5. Natural Time

Skip and Michael picWith the help of a coach, each of us identified an action step we were willing to commit to that could improve our future relationship with Time. Everyone I spoke to after this meeting was extremely enthusiastic about the conversation and the way it was managed.

Conclusion: a great night with an amazing group of people. Many of us transformed our Relationships to TIME!

NES 2014 – Disruptive Innovation for the Airline Business

NES 2014 – Disruptive Innovation for the Airline Business

Session 6 started with, as mentioned in the Day 2 Summary post, an entertaining, insightful and inspiring talk by Tony Fernandes (Group CEO, AirAsia). Mr. Fernandes is a great storyteller that kept us captivated throughout the 30 minutes or so that he was on stage.

His talk was a story about disruptive innovation. It was also a story about disruptive branding and unconventional leadership. And tying it all together was a story about AirAsia that he bought for 25 cents in 2001. The airline Tony Fernandes bought in 2001 had 2 planes, 200 employees and $10 million in debt.

It all began “with the dream of making flying possible for everyone,” and no clue about airline business.

Tony Fernandes (CEO, AirAsia)
Each of Mr. Fernandes’ slides contained one message that was followed by anecdotes from AirAsia and his own experience as examples to underscore the message.

Begin with a dream. Dream big because sometimes dreams are realised. The dream story was about the acquisition of AirAsia for 25 cents and has since then been named the World’s Best Low Cost Airline 5 consecutive years, and is now worth billions.

Break away from tradition. When SARS hit in 2002-2003 travel basically stopped. The traditional response from airlines was to cut back on everything. AirAsia saw this as an opportunity. They tripled the marketing budget and lowered the price. They were the only airline doing marketing, and if prices are low enough people will travel. Building brand and loyalty.

Shake up old hierarchies. To enable cross-functional communication required to have an efficient airline (e.g. pilots and engineers communicating) they partnered up “enemies” with each other. They had to carry a photos of each other and eat together. But the groups started to understand each other efficiency was improved significantly.

Be accessible. Referring to the clothes his wearing on stage as a “dress-up” compared to when he is working, Mr. Fernandes emphasise his belief in dressing down to encourage people at all levels to approach him. All 15,000 employees at AirAsia has Mr. Fernandes phone number and can call him at any time about issues or to share a great idea. The core idea is to have 15,000 people working for him.

Enable everyone’s potential. Introduced a pilot program that anyone can enter. Mention a success story about a boy that 7 years ago was working as a belt loader that entered the pilot program, was best in class, and is now a captain. Mr. Fernandes also tells us about a young woman that approached him to ask if she can get a flight to Thailand to compete in Miss Thailand. She can get the flight on the condition that if she wins AirAsia can use her photos as promotion for a lifetime. She did, and was number 5 in Miss Universe. And is now the only Miss Thai pilot in the world.

Do dirty work. Don’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty. It’s the best way to learn how your business work and where there are problems. Tony Fernandes explains how he refused to invest in a belt from ground to airplane. The loaders that had to do the work manually asked him to work with them for a day. This story ends with a soar back and new belts to help the loaders in their daily work.

In summary, this was one of the best and most inspiring sessions in the New Economy Summit 2014. We got insights in how AirAsia disruptive the airline business, and how Mr. Fernandes is thinking about business, branding and leadership. Maybe the best way to describe it is to end with… AirAsia is a company I could work for!

New Economy Summit 2014 – Day 1 Summary

New Economy Summit 2014 – Day 1 Summary

Day 1 (April 9th) of New Economy Summit 2014 (Organized by Japan Association of New Economy) started with a guest speech from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, emphasizing the importance of generating new businesses. He mentioned that venture capital investment has been increasing recently, citing its relation to 3rd arrow of Abenomics.

While Day 1 event had 4 sessions including innovations in Social Network, Connected world & Education and as well other guest speakers, the highlight of the day was the keynote speech from Larry Ellison about Data Privacy. In simple words, he spoke about how all of us are trading privacy for convenience all along with his viewpoint on Edward Snowden’s claims against Government. There was an interview afterwards where Ellison reckoned that Oracle is bridging the gap, in a way, crossing the chasm between traditional data center and cloud computing.

Larry Ellison (Oracle)
John Roos, Former US Ambassador to Japan, supported Prime Minister’s effective administration and encouraged businesses to develop cross-border thinking.

Session 1 – Innovations in Social Network had a panelists of CEOs from Pinterest & Yelp discussing about content business and what it takes to win in this new social economy.

Session 2 – Innovations in Connected world highlighted the evolving phenomenon of ‘Connected Commerce’. Panelists discussed about products like Fitbit, LiveScribe, etc, being designed to seamlessly connect with each other and reckoned that world will move towards connectedness.

Session 3 – Innovations in Education highlighted that Education field provides a lot of opportunity to innovate. The concept of MOOC – Massive Open Online Course has been discussed and panelists strongly advised entrepreneurs, teachers & everyone to contribute to the innovation in Education.

Session4 was a wrap-up session where Rakuten CEO Mr. Mikitani told that what’s happening now is more than innovation and it’s a disruptive revolution in the internet Business.

NES 2014 Speakers