MEN WHO MOBILIZE | MIKE ROWLANDS
Mike Rowlands is the President & CEO of Junxion Strategy.
Board Chair at Hollyhock, Director of Social Venture Circle.
Entrepreneur-in-Residence, RADIUS. Convener, Advisor, Philosopher.
'Men Who Mobilize' is an interesting turn of phrase... I'm reflecting on what it means for me to mobilize, as distinct from my work to mobilize others. Leadership, for me, is more often the latter — making space, providing conditions and support, and encouraging others to mobilize. I'm careful and discerning to choose with care those moments when I should 'take the lead' in a (stereo)typical sense. Some call it 'leading from behind,' which I've never liked.... It's always felt a bit manipulative, to me. I aspire to show up and to be seen as an ally — though I recognize that my effectiveness in this is really to be judged by those whom I try to support.
How far might we go if we can walk together?
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead
Tell us about yourself. Who are you as a leader?
'Leadership' is such an interesting topic... On the one hand, I have what I'd call positional leadership — as the CEO of my company, as a fiduciary with a number of other organizations, but I more often think of leadership in terms of how I 'show up,' no matter the context or position.
In that vein, I articulated years ago two core values: generosity and intelligence.
- By generosity, I mean a generosity of spirit. I try to show up in an accepting, supportive way. One of my colleagues likes to say it's a combination of speaking from the heart and listening from the heart. Put another way, I learned from Patrick Lencioni of the 'Fundamental Attribution Error.' We tend to judge other people based on the impacts of their actions, while we judge ourselves based on our intentions. One way to articulate what I mean by 'generosity' is to flip that: How might life be if we judged others based on their (overwhelmingly good) intentions, and ourselves on the impacts we actually have?
- By intelligence, I enjoy deep learning into a diversity of topics, sharing great ideas and talking about how to apply them. It has always seemed to me that the greatest experts are also the greatest teachers... That's how I want to show up. There's also a humility in 'intelligence,' for me: none of us can possibly know it all. So true intelligence requires us to learn continuously, and that in turn creates the space for us to hear from one another.
What is the #1 conversation you hope men & women are engaging in right now?
We're in an historic cultural moment. In the wake of movements like #metoo, Black Lives Matter, and others, there's a fragile and for many very challenging societal dialogue about inequity that's anchored in social justice and historical wrongdoing. There are many who are rightly and justifiably angry at social conditions that protect and preserve privilege, in its many forms. I acknowledge and respect this anger, whether it shows up as mere frustration or as vehement rage. This is the moment that we're in. I have learned it's important for me to allow space for that anger. It simply must be expressed. And at the same time, I hope the conversation men and women are engaging in is about how we come together in equitable relations. There is value in the masculine, as there is in the sacred feminine.
How do we reconcile these two and walk side by side?
Where is the best investment for our time, energy and influence and why?
This is so hard to answer... The challenges ahead are so big and so complex, none of us as individuals or even as leaders of organizations can hope to solve them. So to know the "best investment" is perhaps impossible! Or at least it's different for each of us.
A friend shared a quote with me years ago from Howard Thurman, the African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader—and mentor to Dr King: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Each of us must decide our own path, aligning our time, energy and influence toward 'the change we seek.'
Perhaps the best investment, then, is to sit with the question, 'What makes you come alive?' I also think it's imperative we each learn to share more openly, more fully, more vulnerably about that personal passion, so that we can find those who think as we do, and work together on the challenges we face.