…thoughts on and about my PhD journey and beyond…


This post is a reflection on two of views from cyberspace that have have resonated with me over the last week …

1. Public Displays of Humanity (PDH)

I’ve recently connected with the work of LeadCap who are striving to develop 1 million leaders in India.  LeadCap’s founder is Sangeeth Varghese who is a regular blogger with Forbes Magazine.  In his most recent blog he talks about “the magic potion of hard power mixed with soft emotion” and gives examples of what perhaps can best be described as PDHs (public displays of humanity) by American presidents…He received mix reactions to this post but it resonated very much with my own work.

Here is my comment to Sangeeth’s blog:

I really like this post and it resonates so well with my own work and research too. It seems on balance that people who appreciate that other-centredness, relationships and ‘soft’ skills are so important now are the same people who have a worldview that is relevant for the knowledge era. Those who do not are generally deriving their values and worldview from the archaic industrial era.

One of the reasons I’m calling my work and research ‘leadership literacies’ is because I’ve come to realize that language (and in particular metaphors) is an important way to surface people’s underlying (and often unexamined) values. I also think that some translation is needed between the two worldviews, just as much as translation between foreign languages. Your example is a great case in point in that the gestures you have described by these two Presidents could be construed as ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ depending on the underlying worldview.

Perhaps this is our role–that of translators between the two worldviews. I am not in favor of oppositional language because I don’t think the planet has the luxury of waiting, we need to be bringing together these worldviews and all working together on the bigger issues.

I’ve written about oppositional language etc in a paper I’m giving at the Thinking Conference in Malaysia in May. The last para of the conclusion is relevant to your post?

It was also argued that oppositional language and the pitting of one deeply held worldview against another will not lead to resolving the underlying problems of the world or the workplace. Rather, space for conversations to surface underlying assumptions is required in order to find ways of integrating our economic and social systems in every layer of society, including the workplace. Perkins’s language of peace metaphor confirms that that there are always other lenses to view the world through, not just the one that hegemony prefers and privileges.

I’ve also talked more about this particular paper for the Thinking Conference on this recent post.

2.  The Art of Elegant Writing

Becoming a writer is an ongoing struggle for me and so blogging has become a visible and public action learning strategy to help me work through both the the craft of writing and the “text work is identity work” consequences of the PhD process.   Blogging helps me to think out loud and to archive the many threads that I’ll be calling on in the formal writing of my PhD.  

I’ve got such a long way to go to my goal of writing an ‘elegant’ thesis because I can’t even write an elegant blog post yet!!  Leo Babauta’s recent post on “the elegant art of writing less” was very much appreciated even though I’ll never become a ‘blogging ninja’!

Ask Seth Godin, the master of the short post. His ideas spread widely and rapidly, because he makes a point, and then gets out. He’s a blogging ninja.

Thanks Leo for your short and elegant post recommending that we:

1. Know your core message. State it in 4-5 words before writing. It’s probably your headline.

2. Write with the reader in mind. You can be extremely minimalist by writing something with just one or two words. But how useful is that to the reader? Be sure you’re meeting the reader’s needs, not just being brief.

3. Get to the point. Don’t waste time with a lengthy introduction — readers will skip it anyway. Get to the core message, right in the first sentence. Stay on that point, and finish it.

4. Edit ruthlessly. Go back over your writing, edit out needless ideas, sentences, words. Make sentences more compact. Then do it again, until you’re sure every word counts.

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