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Looking Back to Look Forward

The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership was first published in 2004 and has become the cornerstone of my body of work. In preparing for the launch of the 10th Anniversary edition (coming in September!), I found myself looking back through my original notes and scratchings from twelve years ago, when I was first giving birth to this thing.

As an avid reader, I always find it fascinating when I can get a glimpse into the creative process of writers I admire, but I’ve never shared my own process with anyone else.

Until now.

In celebration of the impending release of the new edition, it’s my pleasure to open up my notebooks to you with you a series of revealing–and sometimes awkward, sometimes inane–snippets from my personal archive of handwritten scrawls.

Maybe it’ll help you get some insight into your own creative process. At the very least, you can have yourself a chuckle at mine.

Here now, is an entry from my notebook on November 19, 2002.  (I’ve transcribed it into a text that you can actually read, too):

Farber Notebook 11 19 02

I feel stuck. Is the story moving in a way that makes the essential points of Extreme Leadership? The Extreme Leader’s journey is extremely personal – maybe the essence is to bring one’s self fully into work – show who you are with boldness.  Make Janice more guarded to begin with. Make my character more despairing to begin with. Character/leadership development is a process of self-discovery and self-revelation (i.e.: reveal yourself publicly) and focus that powerful intent on an audacious mission (change the world).

Cultivate Love, Generate Energy by understanding/discovering/re-connecting with your deepest motivation, individually and collectively; Inspire Audacity by expanding your intent beyond the “normal constraints”; Provide Proof through bold, consistent, loving, urgent action (What can I do today to prove I mean it?)

Cultivate Love by desiring to do so; finding the lovable in people, products, company; lowering your gratitude threshold; expressing your appreciation; putting your attention on the good in people; building relationships.

A New Standard for Public Service?

John Morgan, the founder of The Chinook Institute for Civic Leadership, is, at his core, a civil servant. An urban planner, to be precise.

Given the stereotypes that many attribute to government workers, you may think that “love” and “urban planning” would be words that you’d never find in the same sentence.

Think again.

John recently received the Planner of the Year award from the Oregon chapter of the American Planning Association, and his acceptance speech is a primer for Extreme Leadership in service of the public.

What if John’s words are a harbinger of a future model of the stereotypical public servant?

Imagine the implications.

Here is an excerpt from his remarks:

“I can think of no better reason for me to accept this award than to understand the work I do is focused on the concepts expressed in this adage from The Radical Leapdo what you love in the service of people who love what you do.

“The phrase has three distinct parts. The first, do what you love, is at the core of our profession for we all made the conscience choice to seek an education and pursue a career in urban planning, not because of the high pay, the easy riches, the ease of the task, the fun of the work; far from it.

“We did it for the love. We did it, and do it, because we love what we do. It gives us meaning, purpose, optimism, hope, and perhaps, a sense of noble cause. We stick with it even in times of great chaos and angst and strife because we love something much bigger than us.

“We love a hope of a better future for our communities, our society, even our world. We are doing what we love.

“The third part I’ll discuss next, of people who love what you do. We must never interpret these words as accolades for our processes or products. We must never think a person loves what we do as they might love the sculpture a fine artist creates. Rather, they love us because of what we do to allow them to create something they love.

“We are but a vehicle, a catalyst, a teacher, a facilitator, a builder of frameworks, an enabler. We are totally focused on helping people perceive, define, and create a future they love. We do not do it for them. We help them do it themselves -creating something they love.

“We help create courage to change, create, transform, fight if necessary, and to believe. Those who love what we do, are really loving what they do themselves, and they acknowledge through love that, but for us, it could not have come to pass.

“We come last to the middle part of the phrase, in the service. We must always remember that none of this is about us. It is about those we serve.

“It is about the communities of purpose and place who entrust us to help guide them in creating the future. It is about the individuals, the families, the teams we serve with our professional work, lives, and love.

“It is not about us; it is about them and always will be. Being rooted in that service to others is the foundation not only of our work, but of any nobility we earn.

“I try every day to be purposefully mindful of doing what I love in the service of people who love what I do.  Perhaps it took many years to understand that purpose and calling in life. Perhaps that created the environment in which my work was recognized by this award for which I am extremely grateful.

“I do know that I have faced a myriad of excruciating challenges along this path, but courage to face them is always rooted in my gratitude for being able to work in this noble cause, and in my love for what I do, for what we do, and for what we are about.”

A Declaration for Your Wall

A declaration is a powerful thing.

By making a declaration, you not only announce something, you proclaim it to be a true and accurate representation of who you are and what you believe in. You make a vow to anyone who reads or listens that you will abide by and live up to the words. And they can count on you for it.

Here in the US, we’ve just finished celebrating Independence Day, which was codified for posterity (that’s us) in the Declaration of Independence.

Wherever you are in the world, and whatever tradition or history you come from, I invite you to read another declaration–a Declaration of Extreme Leadership–which you see pictured here.

I don’t mean to suggest that this declaration rivals the other, but as a reader of this blog, you may find that these words resonate with you, inspire you, and compel you to change your piece of the world for the better. And that’s good enough for me.

And to take it another step, I encourage you to download a printable copy, print it out, share it with your team, and invite them to sign it.

Then, take a group picture with the declaration and send it to me.

Not only will I share the pics on this site, but one team will win a free, private webinar or conference call with me to talk about whatever’s on your mind.

Click here to download a printable poster of The Declaration of Extreme Leadership.


A Declaration of Extreme Leadership

We, the undersigned, have devoted ourselves–personally and professionally–to changing the world, in some way, for the better.

We strive to use what we have–passion, talent, desire, resources, imagination, time–to make a difference, to expand the rightness of things.

We don’t consider ourselves to be naive or idealistic–although others certainly may.  We are pragmatists of the highest order: we believe there is nothing more eminently practical than looking at the world, asking, “how can this be better?” and then holding ourselves personally accountable for getting it done.

We recognize that big, broad, systemic changes need to happen in our society: policies need to shift, attitudes need to evolve, and priorities need to change—and we’ll do whatever we can to contribute to those transformations over time.

In the meantime,

Regardless of what is or is not happening “out there”, and regardless of what other people are or are not doing to change things for the better, we commit to making a difference in the way we lead TODAY.

We are business people, educators, volunteers, friends and neighbors who share a common desire: to help each other to help each other–and we’ll take a Radical Leap to do so.

We are today’s Extreme Leaders, and we invite you to join us.


Click here to download a printable poster of The Declaration of Extreme Leadership.


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