7 episodes

On The Balcony is a podcast for change agents, executives and people who care about developing others.

In this kick-off season Michael Koehler and his guests examine Ronald Heifetz’s landmark book: “Leadership Without Easy Answers,” the framework behind the most inspiring leadership class at Harvard University. The show offers powerful reflections and live coaching on today’s most pressing challenges.

Learn more about Michael and his work at www.konu.org

On The Balcony KONU

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    • 5.0 • 7 Ratings

On The Balcony is a podcast for change agents, executives and people who care about developing others.

In this kick-off season Michael Koehler and his guests examine Ronald Heifetz’s landmark book: “Leadership Without Easy Answers,” the framework behind the most inspiring leadership class at Harvard University. The show offers powerful reflections and live coaching on today’s most pressing challenges.

Learn more about Michael and his work at www.konu.org

    Leading ‘On a Razor’s Edge’ with LGBTQ+ Rights Advocate Ian Palmquist

    Leading ‘On a Razor’s Edge’ with LGBTQ+ Rights Advocate Ian Palmquist

    On this sixth episode of the On the Balcony podcast, Michael is joined by Ian Palmquist, Deputy Director at the Equality Federation and the Board President of the Adaptive Leadership Network. In his experience of advocating for LGBTQ+ rights with government officials, Palmquist has become familiar with authority and its resources and constraints for the practice of leadership. When advocating and legislating meet, Ian has discovered that it can be challenging to satiate one side’s appetite for change while assuaging the other’s fear of it.
    In Heifetz’s work, he famously refers to this dilemma as the razor’s edge. Managing disparate expectations and goals can feel like wearing a straitjacket or walking on the cliff’s side, and finding that balance can be an exacting pursuit. Elected officials often have to play the political power game and frequently at the expense of real progress. That’s why, in Palmquist’s career, it’s been all the more important for him to maintain that delicate balance. He does so by acquainting himself with the specific tools and constraints that accompany authority, and journeying together with legislators to work toward mutual success. Navigating that fine line isn’t easy, but Ian fully understands that the fight for equay demands and deserves it - and he’s more than willing to ‘cut his feet’ in the battle to achieve this noble goal.
    The Finer Details of this Episode:
    Authority as a straitjacket
    When authority meets advocacy
    Managing disparate expectations
    Crossing boundaries
    Political power game
    Challenges and successes of the LBGTQ+ movement

    “I'm also the Board President of Adaptive Leadership Network, which has been such a wonderful opportunity for me to bring some of the organization building skills that I have to work and support this global community of changemakers.”
    “Wow, there's like a language to talk about all of these things that I've been grappling with and haven't known how to even speak about them, much less solve some of those problems.”
    “This authority figure, you know, is trying to walk this very narrow, razor's edge–this balance beam to stay balanced.”
    “People were looking at me to stop this, and I just didn't know how; it didn't seem possible.”
    “I do think that the LGBTQ+ movement, when it's been kind of at its best, and at its most successful, is when we've been willing to meet people where they are, take them on a journey with us, and try to go in with as open hearts as possible.”
    “It's really hard to find a way to engage with the folks who are really pushing this. It's hard to find a way to cross that boundary, when you know it's not a genuine difference of opinion or lack of understanding. It's a really calculated attempt to gain power at the expense of others.”
    “So there's always this interplay between elected officials and the hearts and minds in the community that they have to navigate.”
    “To stay balanced on the edge, one needs a strategic understanding of the specific tools and constraints that come with one's authority. Yet, in either case, an authority figure cuts his feet.”

    On the Balcony on Apple Podcasts:https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/on-the-balcony/id1627073051 ( https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast)
    Leadership Without Easy Answers on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Without-Answers-Ronald-Heifetz/dp/0674518586 ( )https://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Without-Answers (https://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Without-Answers)
    Equality Federation: https://www.equalityfederation.org/ (https://www.equalityfederation.org/)
    Adaptive Leadership Network: https://adaptive-leadership.net/ (https://adaptive-leadership.net/)
    Mentioned in this episode:
    KONU Workshop Ad
    https://on-the-balcony.captivate.fm/shorturl-at-lqtw9 (KONU Workshop Ad)

    • 37 min
    ‘Applying Power’: Leading From Within with Radha Ruparell

    ‘Applying Power’: Leading From Within with Radha Ruparell

    On the fifth episode of the On the Balcony podcast, Michael welcomes Radha Ruparell, author and Head of Global Leadership Accelerator at Teach For All, into the conversation to talk about the main ideas in Chapter 5 of Ron Heifetz legendary book, Leadership Without Easy Answers (1998), namely informal and formal authority, holding environments, and nurturing our inner capacity. When talking about what it means to practice leadership, we often think about what we can do for others, how we can increase learning and stimulate growth, but more often than not we forget about what we need to do for ourselves
    As the Head of Global Leadership Accelerator at Teach for All, an organization that develops collective leadership to change the future of education, Ruparell has found herself in scenarios, both with informal and formal authority, where she’s needed to take a breath for the sake of herself and her team. Too often does leadership’s glitz and glam overshadow the pressure, stress, and discipline that come with the role. That’s why it’s all the more important to grow your inner capacity, ground yourself, and find solace in the hearts of those around you. Being in charge and practicing leadership is tough work that requires a lot of self discipline and poise. So if you listen to today’s episode, our two seasoned experts can help you learn how to achieve just that.

    The Finer Details of This Episode:
    Informal and formal authority
    The holding environment
    Teach for All
    Growing Our Inner Capacities
    Self-discipline and poise
    The innate power in young people

    “When you have authority, whether it's formal or informal, you have this opportunity to shape the container– to shape the space.”
    “We only move at the speed of trust.”
    “How do we bring people across the globe to develop these leadership capacities together?”
    “So our belief is creating a world where students can shape a better world for themselves and for all of us. And more and more, we're seeing the power of activating the leadership of students.”
    “We talk a lot about these holding environments. We talk about the ability of those who are exercising leadership to hold under a lot of conflict, to hold a lot of tension, to hold different views. And yet, I don't think we talk enough about the inner work that we need to do ourselves, that inner discipline, that poise, that groundedness that's required, in order to be able to hold that.”
    “Part of the know-how Parsons required was a discipline, poise. She had to have the emotional capacity to tolerate uncertainty, frustration, and pain. She had to be able to raise questions about preparing for the possibility of death without getting too anxious herself.”
    “So I encourage those who are in formal authority positions find a support network. There's no shame in getting support. In fact, it's the opposite. Again, if we want to be able to hold space for others We have to be held ourselves.”

    https://konu.org/blog-en/2022/6/7/on-the-balcony-a-place-for-perspective-and-konus-new-podcast (On The Balcony Podcast)
    https://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Without-Answers-Ronald-Heifetz/dp/0674518586 (Leadership Without Easy Answers)
    https://bravenowbook.com/ (Brave Now )
    https://www.instagram.com/radharuparell/?hl=en (Radha Ruparell on Instagram)
    https://twitter.com/radharuparell (Radha Ruparell on Twitter)
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/radharuparell/ (Radha Ruparell on LinkedIn)
    https://teachforall.org/ (Teach for All)
    Mentioned in this episode:
    KONU Workshop Ad
    https://on-the-balcony.captivate.fm/shorturl-at-lqtw9 (KONU Workshop Ad)

    • 43 min
    Adaptive Leadership in the Aerospace Industry with Lauren Lyons

    Adaptive Leadership in the Aerospace Industry with Lauren Lyons

    On this episode of the On the Balcony podcast, Michael Koehler welcomes Lauren Lyons to chat about chapter four of Ron Heifetz’s legendary book. As an engineer and manager at SpaceX, NASA, and Blue Origin, she knows a lot about managing the expectations of her team and working towards change. Michael and Lauren open up the episode by talking about authority relationships as an exchange. As Heifetz puts it, “Authorities serve as repositories for our worries and aspirations, holding them if they can, in exchange for the powers we give them.” Lyons relates this to her professional experience working with two different generations of aerospace engineers.
    She’s learned how to navigate her own biases, what it means to unlearn and relearn, and the importance of being vulnerable. For the remainder of the episode, Koehler talks to his coach Judit Teichert about his experience learning about his country’s past and sharing it with others. The pair close the episode on a positive note about courage. Michael recalls feeling fearful before chatting with others about his family and Germany’s history of injustice. He came to realize , that courage is fear’s antidote.
    The Finer Details of This Episode:
    Authority as a relationship : trust and power in exchange for services
    The bucket metaphor: Carrying other people’s waters
    Managing expectations
    New and heritage space
    Unlearning and relearning
    Lyons’ adaptive work in the aerospace industry
    German post-WWII leadership
    Why courage is fear’s antidote

    “These were problems that did not just have technical components that could be fixed and solved with expertise. They were adaptive in nature, and required learning, unlearning, or relearning.”
    “We learn about the role that good authority can play when people are confronted with adaptive challenges, but also how limiting it can be.”
    “I am an engineer. I have a predisposition to look at things very technically. I work in a very technical industry, and that's how we do things. But I'm also a student of this Heifetz methodology. And once you learn it, you can't unlearn it.”
    “Authorities serve as repositories for our worries and aspirations, holding them, if they can, in exchange for the powers we give them”
    “You took it all on yourself. And it can be so seductive to do that, because people are looking to you as the authority figure, especially in these types of organizations where change is needed.”
    “You'll have engineers that are used to the heritage space way of doing things, you know. They’re used to having very clear directions, they're used to a schedule that's very clear, and this is my budget…But what the new space world has taught us is maybe those aren't the right requirements; maybe we question those requirements. Maybe the schedule can be even faster than what we've been doing. Maybe we can skip that part altogether. And being a lead or a leader of a team, that's wrestling with that challenge.”
    “That is what coaching is often about: creating new awareness, trying other things, and capturing the learning.“
    “Germans have made it acceptable to talk about the past to integrate the past into our current DNA, sort of to increase our own understanding of what it means to be German, and what it means to have a democracy and civil society that is built on our difficult past.”
    “I'm happy to tell that, despite the fact that took me a lot of courage to even put my foot in the water, it went surprisingly well.”
    https://www.on-the-balcony.com/ (On The Balcony)
    https://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Without-Answers-Ronald-Heifetz/dp/0674518586 (Leadership Without Easy Answers)
    https://www.lauren-lyons.com/ (Lauren Lyons Homepage)
    https://twitter.com/laur_ly?lang=en (Lauren Lyons on Twitter)
    https://adaptive-leadership.net/ (Adaptive Leadership Network’s monthly gatherings)
    Mentioned in this episode:
    KONU Workshop Ad

    • 59 min
    Professor Kimberlyn Leary on Working with Authority: Overcoming the Binary Between Admiration and Allergy

    Professor Kimberlyn Leary on Working with Authority: Overcoming the Binary Between Admiration and Allergy

    On this episode of the On the Balcony podcast, Michael Koehler welcomes Professor Leary to chat about yet another chapter of Ronald Heifetz’s Leadership Without Easy Answers. As a chief Harvard psychologist, a Senior VP at the Urban Institute, and an advisor to the White House, Professor Leary is deeply familiar with Heifetz’s work and the man himself. Today, with Michael, she opens up the episode to talk about authority and the importance of understanding that an authority figure doesn’t always exercise leadership. Often, we conflate the two, and look to people in authority roles to lead us away from suffering and pain.
    Working with Harvard students around the concepts highlighted in this chapter, she and Heifetz noticed how people often fall into a binary way of relating to authority: those who accept or even admire authority figures and those who reject and rebel against them. In their class, Professors Leary and Heifetz invited their students to explore further options to work with authority on a gradient. The first part of today’s episode is closed out by Leary’s personal experience in positions of authority. She looks back on these times with a sense of accomplishment around her team’s coordinated efforts around President Biden’s executive orders to address issues of equity.
    Be sure to stay tuned to the second part of today’s episode where Michael once again engages in a coaching session of his own. This week, he welcomes fellow coach Judit Teichnert to help him explore his patterns around authority, particularly around cisgender men—a deeply personal, emotional, and, ultimately, revelatory conversation.
    The Finer Details of This Episode:
    Authority as a role
    Leadership as a practice
    Authority work: protection, direction, coordination, management
    Pains and promises
    The binary way to relate to authority
    The authority gradient
    Teaching at Harvard
    Questioning authority
    Learning from each other
    Professor Leary’s experience in positions of authority
    Michael’s coaching session with Judit Teichert
    Examining his patterns around authority

    “In this chapter, authority, described in very particular ways, of course, has value to it. It’s about survival. It's about protection, it's about the human need to be empathically seen and recognized.”
    “Leadership as a practice and authority as a role.”
    “I also have been a chief psychologist running a division of Psychology at one of the Harvard hospitals. I'm currently a Senior Vice President at a DC based think tank, the Urban Institute. I'm a professor at 2 Harvard Schools and a lecturer at a third I did two turns of public service, one in the Obama administration as an advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls, and most recently, as a senior advisor, Senior Policy Advisor to Domestic Policy Council, also in the White House.”
    “There is a sentence that I think captures a critical part of both the opportunity and the dangers of authority. ‘The misuse of authority,’ Ron Heifetz writes, ‘We attribute charisma to people who voice our pains and provide us with promise.’
    “They are looking to you hoping that you might be able to bring them relief. And it's quite a thing to help them realize that relief will come from the two of you, but not from you alone.”
    “If you decide you're going to negotiate with authority, on one day, on one issue, it does not commit you for eternity to do that.”
    “That was a very powerful experience of seeing how coordinated expertise could deliver outcomes, and use both the tools of authority and the tools of leadership, towards trying to make the world a better place.”
    “I think the important part of the framework is that it's not as though you could take the work off their shoulders, you know.”
    “I realized that some of that pattern that felt, like, huge and big in my own family that relates to me feeling afraid around a parent, that some of those parents are also showing up in othe

    • 1 hr 4 min
    The Power of Adaptive Leadership with Mitzi Johnson

    The Power of Adaptive Leadership with Mitzi Johnson

    On today’s episode, Mitzi Johnson, the former Speaker of the House in Vermont, joins Michael to talk about Chapter 2 of Ron Heifetz’s Leadership Without Easy Answers. This chapter focuses on Adaptive Leadership, and it’s unfortunately timely that Johnson is here to discuss this chapter, given her extensive work with gun reform in Vermont. Both she and Kohler agree that leadership is a team effort. They explore what leadership looks like from roles of power and authority that rely on the feedback of the governed. Johnson recalls how restorative responses elicited pushback from the gun community, how she tried to empathetically listen to her opposition, and how that made all the difference in the world.
    Michael and Mitzi go on to chat about Mitzi’s very own restorative response to change. As her tenure as Speaker of House in Vermont has come to a close and she moves forward, she aims to maintain a semblance of productivity and charity in her daily life. Later, as Michael welcomes his coach, Andy Cahill, back to the podcast, he undergoes a similar introspection. Michael is set to return to Germany soon, and he touches on his apprehension toward digging up past and ancestral trauma. In response and as a conclusion to this episode, Andy urges him to focus on acknowledging his thoughts and bodily reactions to change whilst practicing self compassion.
    The Finer Details of This Episode:
    Why leadership is a team effort
    Adaptive Leadership
    Changing gun laws
    How stress and conflict elicit pushback in the form of restorative responses
    Fear of loss in the gun community
    Johnson’s restorative response to her tenure’s end
    Michael’s reorientation
    Acknowledgement and self-compassion

    “People disagree or even disengage, not because they resist change per se. It's because they resist the loss embedded in addressing the problem.”
    “I have to work to get myself into the headspace with people who are really frustrated that progress doesn't happen quickly. I, on the inside, understand why things don't happen faster so I really identify with people who feel those constraints of authority.”
    “Leadership is a team sport, and adaptive leadership really accentuates that.”
    “So, in the natural world, when nature gets a curveball, it finds some way of fixing and settling into a new normal. And one of the examples that's used in the book is about those moths that used to be light colored, but then during the Industrial Revolution, there's so much pollution that the light colored moths kept getting picked off by the birds, because they stood out.”
    “Knocked out of equilibrium, living systems summon a set of restorative responses.”
    “Leaders not only influence followers, but are under their influence as well. And there is very much a symbiotic relationship there.”
    “I think, in a way, practicing leadership always means you are in touch with various stakeholders and factions. Maybe they are the different departments in your firm, the different beneficiaries, the funders in your nonprofit, or in your community people with different values, but there's always different stories, and different groups will be knocked out of equilibrium in different ways.”
    “I committed to talking to two of my American friends about ancestors. I've been wanting to engage more deeply in conversations around social justice, and I feel that my experience as a German might be helpful in an American context, especially for looking back and talking more about history, particularly when it's hard.”
    “There's also something about the absence of a vision or its opposite that produces disequilibrium, discomfort, or discord. There's something about your leadership right now that you sense is missing or lacking.”
    “As you imagine yourself exercising leadership, I want you to notice how it feels in your body to make that move or to take that risk.”...

    • 59 min
    Welcome to On the Balcony - Values and Leadership

    Welcome to On the Balcony - Values and Leadership

    Welcome to the introductory episode of On the Balcony, a truly insightful podcast where leadership coach and facilitator Michael Kohler takes a deep dive into Ronald Heifetz’s revolutionary book, Leadership Without Easy Answers, to uncover the theoretical and practical lessons it offers. Not only are you invited to read along in the book as each episode covers a chapter in order, but you are also welcome to join Michael as he, himself, receives coaching that brings to life the message of that chosen chapter. This podcast represents a personal and professional journey toward leadership development and increased self-awareness that will prove both educational and actionable.
    Fellow coaches Rosi Greenberg and Andy Cahill join Michael for this premier episode which opens up with a discussion about the concept of leadership as a verb - all about mobilization, action, and understanding. They go on to reveal that one can use their identity, wisdom, and acknowledgement of biases in service of their work. Even more importantly, however, leadership requires a familiarity with silence. In a field that’s typically associated with the spoken word, sometimes the pauses in between are far more important. The practice of leadership requires one to be in tune with the information in between the lines. Michael goes on to chat with Andy about how to genuinely follow through on commitments, find those commitments in the first place, and lead with values and intention. The pair close out the episode by talking about intuition and the importance of taking baby steps, especially when it comes to embarking on a journey outside of your comfort zone. A formidable introduction to a powerful new podcast, today’s episode marks the first step in a crucial leadership journey. Joining this journey will prove a powerful investment in your own development .
    The Finer Details of This Episode:
    How to mobilize people (verb, mobilization, understanding)
    Managing loss
    Themes of silence
    Introduction and Chapter 1 ‘Values and Leadership’
    Identity, wisdom, and bias
    Why leadership isn’t value-neutral
    Following through on commitments
    Resisting change
    Listening to intuition
    Taking baby steps

    “​​Definitions of what leadership actually is remain abstract and not really aligned. The old joke goes that leadership professors would rather share the same toothbrush than the same definition of leadership.”
    “Unlike what you may have heard before, it is not that people are resisting change. People love change if it's in their favor. Nobody gives back the winning lottery ticket or the room upgrades. What people resist is loss, real loss or perceived loss.”
    “Rosie is a leadership coach, an artist, and most of the time, she combines these two practices in one as she did when she co-created the cover of our podcast. On her website, she writes that she spent 34 years trying to be less messy, but realized it's actually way funner to just embrace it.”
    “Leadership is not personality. Leadership is not a set of tools. Leadership is not a role… It's a practice; it's an activity. It's a verb.”
    “Music also teaches us to distinguish the varieties of silence: restless, energized, bored, tranquil, and sublime. Silence creates moments so that something new can be heard.”
    “There's something that we were told when we were four or five, we’ve got to stop making messes... And so we’ve got to just dive into them and figure them out rather than avoid them.”
    “My aspiration is that we can go deeper than we often get the chance to in the frenetic pace of our day-to-day lives. So that's what I try and bring into all of my coaching with my clients, and hope to bring that today here.”
    “There's something here that's activating your nervous system right now. And that's a pretty good clue that you're entering territory that's uncomfortable and a bit risky.”
    “Take a moment to connect your hand to your heart. And

    • 59 min

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