Posts Tagged ‘common good’

Rules and Games

September 24, 2015


Creating change that matters often involves public arguments.

Important social practices we consider routine (like seatbelts, Kindergarten, recycling, minimum wages) would have never happened if change leaders hadn’t persuaded powerful interests what was necessary for the common good.

Rules and Games

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary and a public policy professor at UC Berkley, writes thoughtfully about how American markets are shaped through the rules government creates. In a recent essay about how Big Tech influences business, he wrote, “Legislators, agency heads and judges decide the rules of the game. And, over time, they change the rules. The important question, too rarely discussed, is who has the most influence over these decisions and in that way wins the game.”

Highly-effective, veteran lobbyist George Franklin, author of Cereal Wars, concurs with Reich. Franklin’s engaging text offers many sage tips and examples of navigating the corridors of Congress. The lessons he offers about relationships and strategy apply equally to state capitols and local councils.

Technically, advocacy is about organized efforts and actions that establish laws and policies that will create a just society. Practically,  advocacy is the capacity to understand and affect power towards a negotiated outcome. Advocacy may require participation in elections, mass mobilization, civil action, lobbying, bargaining and court actions. Influencing public (and administrative) policy can create important and sustainable shifts in resources and practices.

 Advocacy Strategy

Advocacy is nearly always part of change-making. It asks something of others, frames demands and intentionally (and unintentionally) provokes conflicts of interests. As you seek what’s more fair, create your advocacy strategy with an external and internal review. The Advocacy Institute suggests these focusing questions:

External Assessment         Internal Assessment
What do you want?        What have we got (allies, funds, other)?
Who can give it to you?        What resources do we need to develop?
What do they need to hear?        How do we begin?
Who do they need to hear it from?        How do we know if it’s working?
How can you get them to hear it?

Issues like AIDS prevention, deforestation, child welfare, fishing rights, water quality, food safety, equal pay and countless others are vital concerns for you, your organization and community. Big and little changes require timely advocacy. Capable advocates are “in the game” and players who help others make smart rules. Simply put, skilled leaders welcome public engagement; it’s a vital part of creating change.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See:

The Leadership Olympics: A Gold Medal Model

September 24, 2012




Do you know who taught U.S. Senator John  McCain “a thing or two about courage?”

A woman, who last week, was the most recent recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal.

In the misty vapors of big politics, the Medal is an undeniable signal of approval.

Manage Fear

McCain, who spent six horrible years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, quoted Aung San Suu Kyi’s famous dictum in an emotional tribute to her:” It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

Since the American Revolution, our Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions that will endure long past the achievement.The Medal requires an Act of Congress. It honors an individual – although not necessarily a US citizen.

Price Tag

The Gold Medal has often been awarded to those who serve the common good. Past winners include Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Jonas Salk and Rosa Parks. Notably, selfless heroism reflects the pinnacle of leadership but it always has a price tag.

In 1988, the brutal rule of a strongman who murdered protesters launched Myanmar’s difficult struggle for freedom. A remarkable woman, Suu Kyi committed more than two decades to challenging a repressive regime. She endured 15 years of house arrest in a shunning which completely restricted her speech and physical mobility. Although offered freedom in exchange for exile, she would not leave her people and their dreams of democracy.

Growth & Sustainability

In organizations and in communities, deficits in leadership affect sustainability.  First, because of intricate and growing interdependencies, weak or corrupt leaders have intolerable implications beyond their own sphere of influence. Second, because none of us has a grip on the macro trends that will deliver challenges we don’t anticipate. What is sure? The costs of poor leadership are failure, implosion, and decay while others, in a competitive world, make progress.

Aung San Suu Kyi gave up decades of her life for others. The NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently “few leaders now dare to throw caution and polls to the wind and tell people the truth about anything hard or controversial…Many won’t even give up a news cycle.”  His analysis underscores the patterns of political behavior that are deeply true and relevant: it is the fear of losing power that corrupts. He, like many others, thinks leaders are at their best when they dare to lead without fearing politics.

Courage Wins

So, how do any of us “honor The Lady from Myanmar in a way that really matters?”  Friedman suggests imitation. If you were fearless, what would you do?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See :

Constructive Power: Cheeks & Havel

January 23, 2012

When influence is used in constructive ways – people applaud. Literally.

One of the most stunning and very public examples of poise was witnessed by 25,000 basketball fans a few years ago. It’s likely millions have seen it by now.

From Jeers to Cheers

Picture a lovely and nervous teen girl in a strapless evening dress as she tentatively approaches a microphone in front of a big crowd at the Portland Rose Garden Arena. She stood between the fans and the game start to sing the national anthem. When the teen faltered for words many in the crowd began to jeer. Judgment was swift and cruel.

Portland Trailblazers head coach Maurice Cheeks saw a need. He recognized talent in trouble and walked quickly to her side. Then, he provided her the words she needed…singing along…so she could finish the anthem. (See video here.) The crowd exploded with raucous cheers, a standing ovation and applause.

Compassion Wins

What an instructive and thoughtful example. Although it wasn’t part of his job or an expectation, while someone else could have helped, he acted. The crowd was thrilled by his leadership.  Grounded in compassion, he acted in behalf of another and demonstrated grace. It was a kind and simple thing to do. It served far more than the trembling singer.

Modest and Brave

Just a few week ago, the death of a “decent” guy captured the mourning hearts of a nation. A playwright, Vaclav Havel, challenged the Czechoslovak Communist regime. An authentic sense of personal responsibility was Havel’s motivation. As leader of a dissident movement, reflective editorials indicate he talked constantly of “the need to live according to morality, conscience, and responsibility” as well as “the dangers of racism and corruption.”

While the expectations Havel set didn’t endear him to others in the beginning.  Observers say he was the first to admit his own flaws. He also showed a “synthesis of modesty and bravery” as well as “freedom from pride, hatred and fanaticism.” Eventually Havel became a deeply beloved president and was known worldwide for his perspectives.  His most famous essay is The Power of the Powerless. A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Havel authored more than 20 plays and books.

 A Decent Guy

The Toronto Star eulogized him. “Many will ask what made Havel exceptional. The answer is simple: decency. He was a decent principled man.” Havel fought against “an indecent, immoral system.” And, he governed without personal gain in mind. His “first commitment was to common decency and the common good, not to holding power.”

While none of us is likely to coach an NBA team or be president, everyone can take important actions.

  • Speak up when you witness an inequity or oppression,
  • Make the effort to remark on capable behavior or initiative that would go unnoticed,
  •  Welcome a chance to offer an enthusiastic letter of reference, and
  • Sit (or stand) with a person in distress.

These are small opportunities for your influence. Leaders lift others up. They often redistribute power. Although you may not be stage center, provide a leadership example we’re all hungry to see. Even if you don’t hear it – many will applaud.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See :

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