Summertime reading suggestions to inspire and inform

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 14, 2006

For your summertime reading consideration, I'm devoting this column and the next to books recently written by some of our coffee companions. Next week's column will focus on titles dealing especially with First Nations in western Canada.

This week, we'll look at two books rich with stories of people who, by getting honest with themselves, have made a difference in their world.

The first book, just released, is by Cochrane author David Irvine and co-author Jim Reger. David and Jim are internationally-recognized speakers and consultants on authenticity, accountability, leadership and balanced living.

The Authentic Leader: It's About PRESENCE, not Position is David's fourth book on authenticity and accountability.

Although aimed primarily at leaders in the workplace, this book will inspire readers from wherever leadership is required that is honestly and humbly present to the moment, including home and community life in general.

For the authors, authentic leadership is first of all "soulish." It echoes Shakespeare's dictum, "This, above all: Unto thine own self be true." This implies a determination not to be entrapped by the expectations of the world – pretense, power, wealth, achievements, etc.

"One's true identity is found by retrieving and developing the soul," the authors argue, and in like fashion, "authentic leadership includes inspiring, guiding, and supporting other people to do the same."

It's about launching oneself and others on a journey "to finding your voice, to discovering your highest aspirations and purpose, to living an honest life, and to bringing your passions and gifts to the world in the form of service of others."

This is not a "how-to" book, the authors stress. Rather, it's a sharing of lessons learned and stories heard – stories of noteworthy entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers, professionals, artists and educators who illustrate disciplined qualities of clarity, courage, integrity, service, trust, humility, compassion and vulnerability.

There are also stories of the rise of spontaneous authentic leadership among everyday folks during a crisis when formal lines of leadership failed.

David and Jim were in the final stages of preparing the manuscript for The Authentic Leader last year, when Hurricane Katrina changed the face of New Orleans forever. So moved were they by the inspiring actions of many Gulf Coast residents, that they revised the manuscript to include their stories. There were neighbours and strangers who took the initiative to reach out to others and provide some semblance of comfort and order, in spite of their own personal loss of homes and loved ones; their tragic circumstances revealed the authentic leadership inherent in their innermost being, and they acted upon it.

Which brings me to the second book I'd like to recommend. Beyond Borders: Initiatives of Change in Quebec is the English version of Quebec coffee companion Laurent Gagnon's 2005 book, Témoins sans frontières.

In Beyond Borders, Laurent has compiled stories of people from all walks of life who, as he puts it, dared to cross "frontiers of the heart and mind . . . so that the words 'humanity' and 'fraternity' mean something again despite the divisions within and between people."

These stories are drawn from the author's longtime association with Initiatives of Change (IofC, formerly known as MRA) and reflect the history of the worldwide movement, especially within Quebec.

IofC exists to call the world to authenticity, to a fundamental change in the values and practices that underlie society. But this change does not come about by pointing fingers at others, people within the movement are quick to note. "When I point my finger at my neighbour, there are three fingers pointing back at me."

Change must begin within the individual, and then radiate outward. Central to that change are love, honesty, purity and unselfishness. Laurent's book provides verbal vignettes of people for whom this change was a reality.

"There have always been, and there always will be, idealistic, border-crossing men and women, driven by a stubborn faith and an urge to go to their limits and meet the challenges of their time for the benefit of future generations," Laurent says. "They are motivated by a sense of global responsibility and solidarity" – and, as he illustrates over and over, by a humble willingness to make right the three fingers pointing at themselves as the starting point.

The Authentic Leader and Beyond Borders are available in Cochrane at Bentleys Books and Westlands Bookstore. For information on purchasing them elsewhere, contact me.

© 2006 Warren Harbeck

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