How do strong leaders navigate uncharted waters?

This was THE question I had when I began the difficult task of conducting doctoral research and writing a dissertation. At the time I had been working in the area of organization change for about 10 years and was often frustrated when leaders I had thought were effective became ineffective during times of change. These leaders were great when they were in familiar territory, but when the surroundings or the rules or the crew members changed significantly, their strong leadership wavered.  Like any good academic, I went to the literature and I came up pretty empty. I found a lot of theory without supporting evidence. I found books with lists of leadership actions that lacked depth. I found stories of super hero change leaders like Jack Welch or Lincoln, but no stories about the everyday type of men and women I was working with. Where were these people that had figured out how to be strong leaders when they were weak in the knees and found themselves walking on brand new paths? Where were their stories of what they experienced? I couldn't find them, so I went in search of them.


What I found was not only great stuff for leaders, but fascinating stories that can teach any of us valuable lessons about how to successfully move through uncertain and challenging times. For nearly 3 years, I have been trying to take this research that landed me a doctorate and transform it into a book that will benefit everyday people like you and I. I have not yet figured out how to do it.

That bothers me - not just a little bit, but a ton. There isn't a day of my life that I don't have a disappointing thought about this unwritten book. I have an alter ego who loves to sabotage my writing by feeding me different stories about why I can't write this book. One of the stories my saboteur tells me is that no one would be interested in the stories these leaders have to tell.  I've bought into that undermining message long enough!  Tonight, I am going to start to tell you about these leaders - I'm going to share their stories with you. I want to hear what you think about them. Are they interesting characters? Do their stories teach you anything? Shall I charge ahead and try to figure out how to make a book from their stories and share the lessons they learned with the world? As the keeper of their stories, I feel a sense of responsibility to share them and allow others to learn as I learned; to keep it to myself seems selfish.


There are 10 leaders. I may not share all 10 stories, but then again I might. I won't share more than one story per week.  I may not share a story every week. Their stories aren't short. They don't really belong in a blog. I'm going to do it despite all the reasons I shouldn't because that is who I am. If you never want to read any of them, I understand. If you do read them, I need to ask you to do two things each time I share a story!

#1 - Please send the story/blog to anyone you can think of that is facing changing times. It is especially important to send it to anyone you know that works in a management or leadership position, as I believe they are my target audience.

#2 - Please post comments on this site and you share your thoughts about the leader's story. What was interesting? What did you learn? What could you relate to? What did it make you think about?

This at least feels like I am taking a step toward sharing these stories in a "voice" that can be heard by people outside the walls of a library at an institution of higher education!