A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

There is a lot of expectant energy in our world right now. I feel distracted most of the time.  I have tried to write this post in my head and on my laptop many times. And I have managed to drain myself over it. Perhaps if I was a NY Times journalist, I could pull it off. Instead, I am finally dropping the need to be clever and opting for getting this off my plate and out of my head!

I was really struck by a chapter written by Ray Dalio: big cycles in a tiny nutshell. I had wanted to highlight how everything that rises, naturally falls. Ray studied empires over a 500-year period.  He shows how with a rise in wealth and power in an empire or country, the seeds of decline get planted, and that a fall is the natural consequence. He also shows that leadership IS a key driver of the rise.

While we may not be able to stop the fall — in the U.S., for example — I believe that leaders everywhere can raise the bottom so that the fall is not so great.

Now flash to Borgen, a Danish political drama (on Netflix), whose central character is Denmark’s first female prime minster. Watching the decisions and sacrifices that fictional PM Birgitte Nyborg must make on a daily basis shows how incredibly high the bar is for leaders. 

Real-life leaders face incredible complexity and ambiguity too. And the stakes are so high for us all.  As our leaders swim in what is perhaps the greatest uncertainty and volatility that many of us have ever experienced, they will need incredible support to create visions and ways forward that bring us from surviving to thriving.

Right now, real-life leaders need new perspectives.  Over the holidays my daughter and I started learning to play Catan with friends. The objective is to get 10 victory points by building settlements and cities and controlling resources.

I was struck by the brilliance of my friend Alana’s off-hand comment that if we’d just let her collect bricks, she’d share them and help everyone create some developments. This simple comment flashed me to a conscious leadership commitment I love: How considering that the opposite of my story could be equally as true. Instead of believing that I could only win by controlling resources/blocking others, what would happen if I created flow for everyone? Imagine if world economies were run this way.

Our world is emergent. Per Robert Quinn:

Leaders need to build the bridge as they are walking on it.

It can be so daunting to walk toward the other side of the “river” without being able to see where the bridge connects. But walk we must.

Happily, we don’t have to do it alone. I’ve been walking with local leaders all year. On Friday, one of our Forum cohorts completed their year in our Forum.  One of the graduating leaders said that I leave people in better shape than I found them. I believe he meant that they are better able to accept themselves as people and leaders and better able to navigate their lives and formidable leadership challenges. It was one of the biggest compliments I have received in my life. And it gave me hope that so long as we don’t walk alone, we’ll be ok.


  1. Kirstin Lund on January 19, 2021 at 7:32 am

    I’ve found myself super distracted lately too, everything takes so much longer to accomplish. Re your comment about sharing – in my experience over the years, the times I was competitive felt so much heavier than the times I embraced my competitors as colleagues/friends and found ways to collaborate and boost them up. I always saw a boost to my own business as well – maybe not as a direct result, but generally when I collaborate with ppl others might compete with, my business feels easier and is financially and otherwise in a great place.

  2. Cyrilla Saunders on January 19, 2021 at 8:38 am

    Lisa, you continue to inspire with your gentle and kind wisdom. Life is a journey, full of joys and sorrows, but mostly joy. Thanks for sharing of your time, energy and knowledge with such passion and conviction. Together, humanity can find the calmness and joy we seek to make both our lives and the lives of those around us more meaningful and pleasant. Continue to shine in your own light. . . as it does inspire others. 🙂

  3. Tim Edris on January 19, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    Great food for thought. The opposite of what I tell myself could also be true and another way to play to win. This thought will stick with me.

  4. C. Payne on January 19, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing this wisdom and perspective and what it means to be a leader today. I am very grateful to those in leadership positions who lead with integrity and compassion. It’s wonderful the support you are giving those in your circle!

  5. Carol O'Hanley on January 19, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    Rest assured, the work you are doing is incredibly important. I’m so grateful to have had your leadership training before and during COVID. It changed how I moved through it and how I helped others do the same. So happy to know you!

    • Monica Callon on January 20, 2021 at 9:09 am

      A poignant, more-relevant-than-ever song and timely metaphor, Lisa. Like a bridge over troubled water, your post eases my mind. (Apologies to S&G for taking very slight liberties with their lyrics.) 🙂

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