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#16 | THE FUTURE TRAVELS THROUGH THE PAST

“No future without forgiveness.”

—Bishop Desmond Tutu

It’s not just those in positions of leadership or privilege who must become more self-aware.

In the last two essays I have discussed how it’s important for me as a white, Christian, male CEO to reconcile my inherent privilege in Western society. This is done not to engender feelings of shame or remorse. No one is responsible for the date, time, and place of their birth. Everyone must love all facets of themselves in order to show up full of love for others.

Heightened awareness is the only goal. Awareness, in and of itself, is a powerful act.

Ultimately it’s incumbent upon all humans to strive for expanded self-awareness. For example, individuals and communities that have been historically marginalized, oppressed, and exploited must also find and sustain the will to heighten their self-awareness. We all must revisit our stories in order to transcend them.

I have a dear friend from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by the name of Catherine Grey Day. She is a Dakota elder who has experienced firsthand the callousness that Native Americans and tribal communities have often faced. Catherine eloquently summed up the importance of self-reflecting upon her racial inequity experiences as we sat at the kitchen table one evening at the Singing Horse Trading Post:

“It’s just about being worn down, generation after generation. The cavalry, the missionaries, the government, the boarding schools—you wake up one day and it has all been internalized. When you have been oppressed over generations and generations, the oppression finally takes hold within you. And once it takes hold, it is perpetuated from within. We act out the oppression on ourselves. That is how deeply it has been ingrained.”

I had never contemplated “internalized oppression” until Catherine defined it for me so authentically that night. To truly understand the nature of her soliloquy requires some context. There was no malice in Catherine’s statement. There was no hate, no shame, no guilt—no quest for revenge. She was perfectly calm. All of her energy was centered and grounded within herself. Catherine was demonstrating awareness of her past experiences not to reinforce that she was bound by them, but rather to liberate herself and transcend them at a soul’s level, within her very spirit.

*          *          *

There is another potentially unexpected component of the Lakota story that requires heightened self-awareness, as it threatens the historic narrative that most Sioux tribal communities prefer to remember. As Americans historically and intuitively understand, the tribes of the northern plains were systematically extracted from their native grasslands and sequestered on unforgiving and barren reservations in the last decades of the nineteenth century. These proud indigenous communities were ultimately overrun by America’s “Manifest Destiny”—specifically, the quest for gold.

Yet the Sioux themselves had long been conquerors, crossing the Missouri River with guns and horses to explore and expand their own empire on the plains, generations before the reservation era began.

Consider the following excerpts from the book Lakota America by Pekka Hamalainen:

“In the course of the 1830s and 1840s Lakota fought and defeated scores of people and absorbed uncounted numbers of captives.”

“Lakotas fused trading, raiding, coercion, and diplomacy into a protean economy of violence that allowed them to simultaneously exploit and embrace others. Sustained expansion was turning them into an imperial power that commanded extensive hinterlands.  Numerous Indigenous groups found their fates intractably linked to the Lakotas, some of them becoming victims or vassals, others blending into the Lakota fabric as allies.”

You see, the Lakota, too, were warriors and conquerors. They too had been military and political strategists who expanded their empire, built trade alliances, and controlled the economic resources of a vast territory. They also defeated, exploited, and assimilated weaker tribes.

The ultimate unsettling irony is that the Sioux lost the Black Hills the same way they had acquired them.

None of this excuses America’s transgressions. Genocide occurred and America justified it through stories backed by force. It’s a horrible tale that has yet to be reconciled. Nonetheless, modern Lakota communities still need to strive for heightened self-awareness. The capacity for conquering does not just live externally in others. It lives within us all.

Human communities carefully select their narratives. Our shining moments and best features are aggrandized while other less-noble chapters of our full story are delicately placed to the side. We see this in the American story where indigenous genocide, black slavery, and racial injustice have been, until recently, historically downplayed. But you can also find this propensity to carefully cultivate one’s narratives in places like the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

All of this being said, my heart is with Pine Ridge and filled with love for the amazing people who live there.

The need to critically self-reflect and achieve heightened self-awareness resides within us all, along with the courage required to make it happen. The process of looking inward is universally essential, regardless of circumstance.

We all become the stories we tell.

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one: They promised to take our land, and they took it.”

—Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux

This is a picture of my dear friend Catherine Grey Day sitting on the porch at the Singing Horse Trading Post while looking at the manuscript that would become my second book (The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey in the Business of Shared Leadership). Below is an excerpt from a statement she shared with me that day:

“Misun [little brother], it was you who opened your ears and heard Wakan Tanka [The Great Spirit] speaking to you through other voices—sending you to a beautiful place and beautiful people [Pine Ridge]. Although we have suffered injustices, we find ways to live and survive. Wakan Tanka sends powerful spirit helpers. Keep listening to positive voices. We also learn from the negative. It is up to us to find the balance. God is good! I love you bunches, Misun! It was Wakan Tanka who placed you in my path.”

—Catherine Grey Day

* * *

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the sixteenth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!

 




#5 | ORIGINS

2021 IDEA-SHARING ADVENTURE SERIES BY KEVIN HANCOCK

Bureaucracy and social harmony are inversely proportionate to each other.”

Leon Trotsky

What are the origins of bureaucracy?

How did “power” historically become centralized in command-and-control hierarchies?

How did certain groups come to exert a defining influence over others?

The answer, at its most fundamental level, is through stories backed by force and force justified through stories.

Slavery was a story backed by force. The subjugation of indigenous peoples across the Americas was also a story backed by force. The September 11, 2001, attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center is another story backed by force. A traditionally male-dominated society was, and is, a story backed by force. In all cases a narrative defining the superiority of one group and the inferiority of another is required in order to “justify” the inhumane actions required to establish and maintain dominance.

Both the Roman emperors and the European monarchs of the early and Middle Ages reigned on the basis of a story known as the “divine right of kings.” This tale, which became accepted as doctrine and was reinforced by the Church, stated that kings ruled with the backing of heavenly powers.

“The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon Earth,
for the kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon Earth and sit upon God’s throne,
but even by God himself they are called Gods.”

—James I of England (1610)

Across the Western world this divine right was conveyed upon kings by another co-conspiring hierarchy, the Church.

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.
For there is no power but of God: the powers that are ordained of God.
Whoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God:
and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

—Romans 13

All of this presumes a God who takes sides and is vengeful against those who do not follow “his” word.

In the quest to be fully conscious it’s interesting to note that the dominant conclusion of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism is of a hierarchical God who reigns from above, sends commandments below, and judges all. While this may be the case, it’s not the only interpretation. It does, however, conveniently set a precedent for human organizations to follow.

Indoctrination is defined as “the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” The key word here is “uncritically.” These beliefs must become so deeply rooted over time that they exist largely unquestioned.

European Americans of the nineteenth century convinced themselves that native peoples were less-worthy humans and therefore exploitable. Southern plantation owners built their society upon the same narrative about people who were black. Slavery and reservations were actually considered “good” and “necessary” for the people subjected to them.

These are dramatic examples of hierarchies established by stories and force, but the model also manifests in more-subtle ways. The place of work, for example, has traditionally been organized around a similar pattern, a ladder of importance and control. The owner and the interests of the business are paramount. The employees, meanwhile, are subservient to the company and expected to follow the instructions that flow down from above.

It can be numbing to consciously confront the origins of our dominant leadership models. It gives me pause to even type these words. I am a white male CEO of a family business. My position in this world came in part through inheritance, as was true of my dad, his dad, and beyond, for six generations. Traveling centuries back in time, a piece of my opportunity emanated from the divine right of kings. Reconciling this and deciding what to do about it has become a priority for me.

In the end, I can’t change when and where I was born—I do have a company and I am leading it—but I can try to change how that company engages with others and expand the mission it exists to serve.

This is what brings me to champion the concepts of shared leadership, redistributed power, respect for all voices, and the creation of employee-centric companies that prioritize the people who work there.

Across human history, power has been centralized. But, like anything that travels in a circle, it can be given back. The fundamental building block of personal power is self-worth—the internal knowing that you are sacred. Today’s “kings” must honor this truth by re-dispersing their power.

The first step in creating a new and more-collaborative model for leadership is the uncomfortable task of acknowledging the old one.

“Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible.”

Javier Salcedo

* * *
Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the fifth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!



My New Year’s wish is that everybody on Earth would feel trusted, respected, valued, and heard!

Hello and Happy New Year!

Wishing you and your family a safe and fun holiday!  Looking forward to 2021!

Across 2020 I participated in nearly 100 “events” (podcasts, articles, talks, interviews) hoping to advance the concepts of

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT – SHARED LEADERSHIP – DISPERSED POWER – and RESPECT FOR ALL VOICES.

My goal is to help change the mission of work in America.  Work should be meaningful for the people who do it.

The archives of these events are available on my website.

Click here if you have a chance over the holiday weekend! 




The Inventions Show EP10: Kevin Hancock, CEO Hancock Lumber

I wanted to take a moment to share a recent podcast I participated in on The Inventions Show with host Tack Lee. Here is his excerpt from our chat: Live with your heart not just your head with Kevin Hancock, a sixth-generation family CEO of Hancock Lumber, one of the oldest companies in America which dates back to 1848. An extraordinary leader who is also an award-winning author and speaker. Simply Inspirational and transformational. Kevin shares his incredible journey of self discovery after being diagnosed with a rare neurological condition that made speaking difficult. How he had to think differently and reinvent leadership through dispersing of power. His mission to strengthen the voice of others and come into their own true voice.

Click here to watch the video podcast.




EXCITING NEWS: My next book releases on February 25, 2020!

Hello! I have some exciting news! My next book, The Seventh Power – One CEO’S Journey into the Business of Shared Leadership, releases on February 25, 2020. My publisher, Post Hill Press recently launched the ‘coming soon’ sale site on Amazon. Check out the link and help me share it with others! It takes a community of followers to help a book and its message go viral. 

The book will be distributed by Simon & Schuster and available in e-book form. The audio book is being published by Recorded Books

This book takes the reader on an adventure that stretches from the Navajo Nation in Arizona to Kiev, Ukraine. The journey uncovers seven lessons about the art of dispersed power and the benefits of shared leadership for organizations who wish to thrive in the 21st Century. I am looking forward to sharing the full story with you soon! In the meantime, here’s a quote from the front of my book that offers a clue or two about the adventure that’s in store: 

“It is extremely hard to discover the truth when you are ruling the world. You are just far too busy. Most political chiefs and business moguls are forever on the run. Yet if you want to go deeply into any subject, you need a lot of time, and in particular you need the privilege of wasting time. You need to experiment with unproductive paths, explore dead ends, make space for doubts and boredom, and allow little seeds of insight to slowly grow and blossom. If you cannot afford to waste time, you will never find the truth.”

“Great power thus acts like a black hole that warps the very space around it. The closer you get to it, the more twisted everything becomes.”

If you really want the truth, you need to escape the black hole of power and allow yourself to waste a lot of time wandering here and there on the periphery. Revolutionary knowledge rarely makes it to the center, because the center is built on existing knowledge.”

—Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Just click here and enter your email address to join the conversation about strengthening employee engagement through shared leadership in the workplace. Then share this link with others. It takes a village to create change.