The Dance of Positive Deviants

A member of the business school staff sent me a list of quotes she liked. Three of them particularly caught my attention.

  • It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are (E.E. Cummings).
  • Radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air. It is a huge gift to the world (Ann Lamont).
  • The world is changed by your example, not your opinion (Paulo Coelho).

The first quote raises this question; Why does it take courage to grow up and become the real me? Whatever culture I operate in is biased towards self-perpetuation. The culture functions to bring about my mindless conformity. The real me is the best, most conscious me. It is the new me that emerges when I am pursuing my highest purpose. When I am realizing my highest purpose I become aware of how the culture constrains human potential and how it could better elevate human potential. If I bring an authentic voice to my increasing awareness it I become a call to growth. The first, knee jerk, collective reaction is to neutralize my voice. Negative peer pressure seeks to silence me. Since I intuitively know and anticipate this adversity, I tend to live fearfully. In fear I do not enact my best self or express the voice of authentic influence. When I live in fear I conspire in the diminishment of myself and of the culture that holds me. Everyone loses while denying that they are losing.

The second quote raises this question; What is radical self-care? Radical usually means fundamental or extreme. It can also mean return to the root, as in the case of the radical sign in mathematics. We usually return to the root of the self when driven there by adversity. In the face of our greatest challenges we make a pleasant discovery. We are not diabolical or doomed. We are inherently good and full of potential. When we courageously pursue the highest good, our own goodness is realized and spread. Every time we make this discovery we make a radical or quantum change. Self-care is often seen as egotism. When we return to the root of the self we discover that self is a relational phenomenon and that the highest form of self-care is contributing our greatest strengths to the relational whole. When we realize this, we become willing to sacrifice for the common good. When we engage in radical self-care, egotism dissolves into love and we “give a huge gift to the world,” it is the realization and expression of our best self.

The third quote raises this question; Why is example more influential than opinion? My opinion is a reflection of my mind and I may or may not believe what I say. What I do is a reflection of my commitment. What I do is a revelator of what I most feel. What we do signals what we feel. Humans not only radiate feelings they detect the feelings being radiated from others. As I act from fear or from courage others note it and tend to reflect my fear or my courage. Thus what I radiate flows back to me and reinforces my fear or my courage. People are most influenced by my example. When I enact my best self, I invite them to enact their best self. A new dance emerges. This dance of the positive deviants reverses the spin of social determinism. Instead of being constrained by the culture, a few people begin to challenge, shape and renew the culture. This is why transformational leaders are so aware of their own integrity. They know that trust is the currency of transformation and that living their highest values is the ultimate lever of leadership.

The conventional administrator will take a flawed path to organizational change. To turn a culture more positive someone must have the courage to embrace their best self and express their most authentic voice. Doing this changes the music and invites a few others to deviate and dance in more positive ways. As the dance spreads the culture begins to transform itself.

Reflection

When have I engaged in radical self-care?

When have I caused others to dance in a new way?

How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

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