Peter Block, in a book simply titled Community, challenges the conventional understanding of leadership by emphasizing it as a capacity that can be learned by anyone.

What keeps us stuck, Block asserts, is the lingering assumption that leadership must be clustered in the hands of a few, and our prevalent behavior of “looking for” leaders beyond ourselves to figure things out and do something.

The real task of a leader, Block puts forth, is to convene a context of engagement where citizens embrace accountability and commitment toward defining destinations and getting there themselves.

In Block’s way of thinking, then, leadership—the latent quality inherent in each of us that must be developed—is held to three key tasks: Create a context that nurtures an alternative, possible future, one based on gifts, generosity, accountability, and commitment. Initiate and convene conversations that shift people’s experience, which occurs through the way people are brought together and the nature of the questions used to engage them. Listen and pay attention.

Here’s an example.

On numerous occasions I’ve watched a captivating leadership video called The Art of Possibility that focuses on Ben Zander, the former conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. One of Zander’s penetrating assertions is that the conductor of an orchestra “depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful.” They are a “conduit,” and the only one in the orchestra who does not make a sound; a conduit, Zander continues, of “possibility.”

Zander describes how he helped empower his musicians by leaving a blank sheet of paper on each of their music stands. Upon the paper they could scribble any requests, suggestions, or complaints.

One young student wrote that Zander was “holding back” in the crescendo of a particular piece of music. Zander read her note, and during that evening’s performance brought forth the most massive crescendo he could imagine.

The student approached him afterwards, wide-eyed and stunned, and declared, “You did my crescendo!”

How do you know when you’ve been given permission to play your own crescendo of possibilities?

One leader who had a tremendous impact on my possibilities mindset was Mary Martinolich, my boss when I worked as an organizational development practitioner for Health First Inc. in Melbourne, Florida. During two years with Mary I honed my leadership coaching, consulting, and facilitation skills with business leaders.

Mary was the first manager who was very focused on helping me get the most out of my strengths. She didn’t ignore my weaknesses, but helped me leverage what I already did well. In short, Mary let me play my crescendo.

The more I’ve been around leaders such as Mary, the more I recognize authentic human leadership in action.

Let’s connect

I’m an ICF-certified and experienced professional, coaching authentic human leaders in the age of AI, with a focus on organizations whose Director+ population is facing complex, nuanced problems. Use this link to schedule a call with me to discuss potential coaching services. You can also email me or message me on LinkedIn.