December 21, 2018

Lucia to light up the dark


Lucia service at Southwark Cathedral, performance by the choir from the Swedish Church in London

Exactly a year ago I wrote about Saint Lucia and how the Swedes celebrate this saint’s day with traditional songs and candles to light up the dark.  We can’t change the dark, but we can change our attitude towards it.  In fact one particularly beautiful song reminds us not to fear the dark, because this is where light resides.  We can’t have one without the other. For the Swedes who want to know it’s: Var inte rädd för mörkret ty ljuset hvilar där.

It’s easy to make the connection from collective singing to project teams that come together to complete a specific task and then disband.  Different constellations gather for performances on different days.  What is needed from each individual is the strength that comes from knowing your craft (the vocal part and lyrics for each song) as well as the willingness to contribute and sometimes to accept support.  It helps when you are uncertain to trust in the ability of your teammates and lean on them.  Each vocal part in a choir sticks to its own tune while contributing to a harmonious whole.  You have to let go of your “own voice” to create something bigger, more beautiful, that resonates at a deeper level.

What moved the thousands of Swedes in London to attend the Lucia services? My guess is that it is about revisiting childhood memories and having the sense of “returning home”.  This is something that truly touches hearts and souls. I wonder where “home” is today, particularly for those who are displaced and are far from their roots? For me this is a burning question as I shuttle between Stockholm, London and elsewhere.  I think it’s a place where we can feel accepted for who we are, with a sense of belonging, where we can bring our gifts and awake refreshed from peaceful sleep, knowing that every day we have the opportunity to contribute, to the best of our ability.

Giv mig ett bo, med samvetsro, med glad förtröstan, hopp och tro!

These are the words of the carol with the English title “I seek no gold or majesty” (Giv mig ej glans in Swedish).  The phrase refers to the desire for a place to live in faith and hope. The word “samvetsro” stands out for me.  It’s hard to find a direct translation into English but it means having a peaceful conscience.  Hearing news from around the world of the difficult and complex challenges we face, how many of us have hope for the future?  How many trust their business leaders and elected politicians to stand up with hope and faith to challenge the untruths that are so easily spread, causing division and unrest? At GBL our hope is to contribute to a better world through our leadership development work and spread the word to a wider audience with our upcoming book The Discovery Prism: a fresh lens on 21st century organisations, which we eagerly await in early 2019.

The Christmas message is one of peace and love.  If we are to sleep with a good conscience, we all need to commit to doing whatever small acts we can do on a daily basis to bring forth light from the darkness.

How do we do this, it can’t just be another item to add to our already overstretched to-do list?
In a professional development workshop this week we were reminded of the concept of “wide-angled empathy”.  This is a real stretch of perspective, a call to put aside our fast judgments of people and situations, to be open or curious about difference and even beyond that, to practice empathy for whomever we encounter.  Try it for yourself when watching the news on TV – how many minutes do you last before a negative comment jumps to mind?  I find it very hard.  Yet if we are to embrace all the messiness of the world around us, and contribute more than just our own bit of mess, it might be an attitude worthy of consideration.

Anne and Helen at GBL wish you a Christmas season of “homliness” wherever you spend the holidays and  renewed hope for the New Year.

Anne Stenbom



May 31, 2018

Connection and connectivity on multiple levels


We are currently undergoing a house renovation and it’s driving me nuts. It’s an old house with all the associated problems. We’ve chosen to right as many of these problems as our budget will allow. One of the benefits my husband is especially looking forward to is the multiple-level connectivity the house will be wired for. Even in the attic! And it will appear miraculous as wires are tucked behind walls like veins under the skin. I think I have never been as admiring of my husband as I have been during these past months. He has engaged in conversations which scatter my brain cells with mentions of letters and numbers and cables. Sometimes he relays these conversations to me, and my little secret is that I do not listen. I cannot listen.

And yet I am co-writing a book with my colleague, Anne about the power of connection! The kind of connection we’re writing about is like the blood in your veins. It’s what, I believe, as human beings, we’re wired for. Without it we wither and fade.

What we are not connected to, we tend to treat as a commodity. We do this with things, nature and people. If you turn this round, the more connected we are, the more mindful we are of things, nature and people: from what we consume, how we treat our environment to how we treat others. The degree to which we feel connected will determine the quality of that relationship.


December 13, 2017

Lucia brings light to the darkness

Connection / Self-Leadership

Today in Sweden we celebrate Lucia Day.  This is a celebration about light: it’s the darkest time of the year and the start of Swedish Christmas festivities.  Santa Lucia is borrowed from Syracuse in Sicily from where this saint of light, patron of the blind, originates.  The Swedish words are not a translation from the Italian lyrics but rather an ode to Santa Lucia who walks with candles and lights up the dark.  Since the daylight hours last only 6 hours and 10 minutes today in Stockholm, candles are a very good idea.  But do they do the job in all our darkest hours?   Perhaps there is something here about acceptance of the darkness too? In fact we may need to lean into the darkness in order to appreciate the light even more. (more…)

April 25, 2017

Dot-to-dot puzzles, a new world record

Just off a transatlantic flight, with jet lag and tired eyes, I spent a few hours in a student flat on a Sunday morning contributing to a new world record – in dot-to-dot puzzles!  What was the fascination for participants – friends and family of the world record challenger?  Support, of course; you don’t turn down a friend or family member without a good excuse.  There was however something bigger and more compelling.  The chance at being part of setting up a new world record appeals to our competitive nature and sense of “winning” on completion.  Not only that, once started, there was a noticeable determination to keep going to the next dot and the next .. until at least some part milestone had been achieved, like finishing to the next hundred or thousand, or a recognisable image.  With some relief you were able to give your tired eyes a rest in the satisfaction that you had played your part towards the completion of something greater and that the next person would take up where you had left off and do their bit too.  Tangible in the room was a mood of calm concentration and friendly camraderie with young people I had never met before.