This week my work hours are filled with training. I spent the first two days learning how to conduct facility assessments for ADA standards — in isolation, this not typically something that an IT guy would be expected to learn — but there are good organizational reasons for me to be involved at this level of detail. Two days down, two more to go for next week. Today and tomorrow I’m taking Crucial Conversations — learning techniques to apply reason and tact in important situations where our lizard hindbrains make it difficult to be reasonable or tactful.
I have been to quite a few leadership academies, soft skills, and sundry other trainings since I was in high school — there’s always something new to learn — and that’s the main point I have here. There’s always something new to learn.
We’re social primates, so enforcing status through silence or violence is the evolutionary rule. Culture, different cultures, and cultural behaviors in this context are tools just as much as a knapping stone is a tool — things we use to solve problems. Keeping that in mind enforces a kind of humility. Status is pride-bound. A chain of bosses pulled from a barrel of monkeys. Leadership is humble, it aims at the goal, not the status. The type of organization (a group of social primates with different roles and different statuses united around common goals) that leads is one that makes a commitment to be a certain way, recognizes its weaknesses with humility, and determines the work to meet those common goals.
Following ADA standards (and section 508 standards to tie it in to my own work) requires the ability to step out of one’s own status in order to understand how we can be mindful of the needs of others. It’s an ongoing humbling, because leadership is about admitting your ignorance and accepting that there is always something new to learn.