Edward Benton-Banai's The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway, first published in 1988, provides some powerful lessons for any leader, or aspiring leader, as well as being a road map for organizational culture. The 7 Teachings are a set of teachings on human conduct towards others that would alter the way many organizations do business if they were to be incorporated into the mission, vision, values and culture of any organization.

 In the Anishinaabeg language, this word expresses not only "wisdom," but also means "prudence," or "intelligence." For a leader in today's ultra competitive landscape wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight. This involves an understanding of people, things, events, situations, and the willingness as well as the ability to apply perception, judgement, and action in keeping with the understanding of what is the optimal course of action. It often requires maintaining control of one's emotional reactions.

To live with love is to show kindness and respect to others. Great leaders know that they have to give love to get love. Aristotle's description of love included loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. These concepts go hand in hand with effective leadership.

This teaching tells us to respect all of creation and not to be judgmental. All of creation should be treated with respect. Great leaders learn that respect is earned and that you must first give respect if you wish to be respected. In the words of Aretha Franklin, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what that means to me".

This means to face the foe with integrity, to do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. It's a personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honour moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles.

Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Leadership requires that you be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. Far too many leaders and organizations come up short on this one. I've always liked the Shakespearean line "oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive".

In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean "compassion." You are equal to others, but you are not better. The term "humility" comes from the Latin word humilitas, a noun related to the adjective humilis, which may be translated as "humble", but also as "grounded". Humility is about having sensitivity towards others, respecting their way of doing things and listening to them.  It means having self-awareness of personal strengths and limitations and knowing you have the capacity for growth and change.

According to the 7 Teachings, truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others. In the words of Buddha, "three things can not be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth".


Jane Kilpatrick
06/18/2014 5:01pm

Bob - in a world that all too often appears morally bankrupt, your article reminding us of the 7 values of wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, wisdom and truth is timely and necessary in today's competitive market place.


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