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The Pain of Finishing a Good Book

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Do you ever slow down dramatically as you near the end of a good book? Perhaps reading a page or two a day as though your daughter is going off to college or a good friend is moving away? Letting go is always hard and letting go of a good book is often a lonely journey, as you may be the only one reading it at the moment. When you finish, a certain sadness sets in and you will remember the characters for years to come.

I recently finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. The book moved slowly, like a piece of ethereal classical music. I took nearly a week to finish it. This is so unlike finishing a trade paperback mystery when you just want to know what happens. Recently, I finished Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton and had a similar, but different, experience. When he was shot by Burr, I was quite upset. My husband said, “Was that a surprise??” Well, no. I knew the history, but this time I lived it.

If you are a member of a good book club, the conversation can be therapeutic. It also helps to write in a journal or reflect in meditation about what you learned. For the gift of a good book is that we learn and grow…cognitively, emotionally and perhaps even physically. In anthropology, it is called “liminality,” that time when we separate ourselves from current reality, shed traditional roles, imagination soars and return transformed. We are never quite the same again.

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Linda Lambert interviewed by Linda Henke, The Santa Fe Center for Transformational Leadership

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

A Discussion with Linda Lambert, Co-author of the New Book Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways to Educational Wisdom
By Linda Henke

Linda and I sat on our back deck drinking our favorite beverage, bubbly glasses of prosecco, enjoying the lovely New Mexican sunset, and chatting about her latest endeavor in a long line of powerful leadership books that she has written over the years. Liberating Leadership Capacity, co-written with Diane Zimmerman and Mary Gardner, was something of a surprise to me when Linda mentioned she was returning to leadership writing a year earlier. I thought she had retired from research and non-fiction writing and moved on to creating a rich collection of fiction. I am so glad, however, she chose to return to her familiar haunts, but with some new and even richer perspectives to help us inform our practice. Linda’s work over the years has been seminal to my own leadership thinking and practice, and the ability to dive into her thinking one more time has been exciting.

Henke: You just finished the gargantuan task of writing a fictional trilogy (The Justine Trilogy)…what prompted you to return to writing about educational leadership?

Lambert : When I finished my textbook (Leadership Capacity for Lasting School Improvement), I thought I had written what I had to say. So I turned to fiction. But ten years out, I continued to hear from people all over the world who were basing their work on The Constructivist Leader and the leadership capacity books. I decided to contact many of these people and ask how their learning had advanced over the years. Many had developed rich veins of theory and practice that furthered my thinking and genuinely excited me. I was drawn to further exploration.

I learned a lot by writing fiction—Justine, my protagonist, rides with me as I revisit my mistakes, my meanderings. As she went though her arc of development, I was going through this with her. In many ways the trilogy is a memoir. I was writing the fiction as I was hearing from people about their leadership explorations—it created dissonance. So Justine’s learning, my learning, all of these colleagues’ learning contributed to something of a caldron of new learning for me. When I revisited The Constructivist Leader, I saw it as pivotal to an emerging definition of leadership. The old ideas of leadership were simply out of date with the convergence of new thinking. Things were beginning to change. I traced what was happening in many places: Australia, England, health care in Oklahoma—I saw complexity theory played an essential role in what was happening.

Most of what I have learned in life had little to do with the field of education—it came from other sources—from science, anthropology, archaeology, psychology—all pathways to understanding systems. My journey to The Constructivist Leader then, led me to the Santa Fe Institute in the early 90s. I became enamored with the idea that when things interact something new is created. The notion of the melding of disciplines, the historical place carved out by the information age….these are creating a rich soup that leads to new thinking about leadership. Now, a quarter century later, I came to further understand that evolution. Those understandings culminate in Liberating Leadership Capacity.

Henke: Your books perhaps most especially The Constructivist Leader really shaped many of us as leaders…how has your thinking evolved as you developed Liberating Leadership?

Lambert: The books on leadership capacity sold really well but I didn’t think they created enough fusion between constructivist leadership and capacity building; this is a part what propelled the writing of the new book. The Constructivist Leader definitely opened new ways of thinking. The capacity books were more about intervening—were a more elemental way of seeing the system.
In the end, it’s not just participation—but skills, understanding, world views–these all influence the work–not just who is at the table but how they are at the table.

Henke: In Liberating Leadership Capacity you suggest that a new century of leadership has dawned. What are the critical components of this new paradigm?

Lambert: I believe we are shifting away from the traditional roles of leaders—moving to a much bigger focus on culture, process, and complexity theory. We are increasingly focused on space among and between people, driven by the energy in these spaces. Space and time sensibilities all take on different meanings as we make this shift. Our work in community needs to follow the energy of relationships. Three dynamics need to be in play to start this energy flow:
One has to affect the actual relationships;
One has to affect the content—what the organization is about; and
One has to be about the place.
All three of these must be considered if this energy is to become a force; all three build capacity of the organization.

Henke: So, do you have any advice for leaders out there facing the complex challenges of education today?

Lambert: In the epilogue we write about wisdom. We are self-organizing, self-propelling individuals; and at the same time we are this insignificant blue dot. We are both powerful and insignificant—we westerners have trouble with these two concepts.

So my advice is to stay in conversation. Establish reciprocal relationships. Be patient with chaos. Know that causation is not self-evident, and most answers are multi-faceted. Relinquish punishment for restoration. Venture out rather than pulling in.

And so one of my most important mentors moves my thinking forward again. Linda Lambert’s work reminds us all of Emily Dickenson’s sage advice, “Dwell in possibility.” When I am reading Linda’s work or discussing her rich concept of leadership on the back porch, I do find myself dwelling in possibility.

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Liberating Leadership Capacity in the age of Trumpism

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

This is the opening paragraph of my next text, written with Diane Zimmerman and Mary Gardner, and entitled, Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways toward Educational Wisdom. How timely in the days of Trumpism. We are confident that the lessons in this text democratize schools and societies. Is there still time??
“Ask a thousand random individuals about one of the most persistent problems in schools, organizations, and countries today and you are likely to hear: leadership. Yet there is little understanding about this elusive concept. Many hold a belief that in times of distress people often look for someone to be in control, a directive leader who can tell them what to do. School boards seek out dominant superintendents who can “take charge”; schools are assigned principals to guide or push teachers into current reforms and fads. We challenge the contention that directive leadership is justified. Schools and organizations are rich with talented, thoughtful individuals who, when given the opportunity to work in open, engaging, and democratic cultures, consistently emerge as leaders and innovators. Adults learn; children learn. Creating these learning, leading schools and organizations is the mission of this text, Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways toward Educational Wisdom.”
With the election of Trump, our country is turning away from democracy. Frightening times. A failure of history, culture and education. An awakening of painful ramifications. Yet, this time we know to protect our neighbors and also turn to strangers.
Next: Leadership Capacity is an essential antidote in cultures where peoples feel lost, alone, forsaken.

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Liberating Leadership Capacity-Released!

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

My colleagues and I will be signing our new text at the American Educational
Research Association in Washington, D. C., Sunday, April 10. The subtitle, Pathways
to Educational Wisdom captures those notions about leadership that transcend
usual practice to answer this question: What insights and epiphanies lead us
beyond the horizon of ordinary into the realm of wisdom?

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Two Weeks from Today: The Release of a New Leadership Book

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Hi and happy St. Patrick’s Day,
On April 1, Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways to Educational Wisdom will be released. Published by Teachers College Press at Columbia University, and co-authored with Diane Zimmerman and Mary Gardner, this book is my 8th book on leadership. This venture into leadership has been a thrilling journey as it has afforded an opportunity to combine and reposition my thoughts on Constructivist Leadership and Leadership Capacity. Andy Hargreaves has written the Foreword.
On April 10 at 12:30 at the AERA booth # 401, Convention Center, Washington D. C., the authors will sign the book that can be purchased at 20% off. Whether you are working in the field of leadership formally, or curious about the direction of the field, you will find this book full of stories, complexity science, international successes and conclusions on the emergence of wisdom.
Coming tomorrow: Creative Confluence.
Liberating Leadership Capacity

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The Cairo Codex wins 3 awards

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

The Cairo Codex, has now won three prestigious 2014 awards: the Silver Nautilus Award for fiction, the Bronze International Independent Publishers Award for historical fiction, and was a finalist in the USA Best Books Award competition.  The Cairo Codex, a riveting novel of suspense, politics, religion, and romance is set in Egypt during the years 2 and 2007. Anthropologist Justine Jenner discovers the diary of Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, in an ancient crypt during a major earthquake. She barely survives with the codex and her life, both threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood.

I became enthralled with Egypt as a young girl when my mother enchanted me with tales of her own alleged reincarnation from Egyptian royalty. In 1989, I became a State Department Envoy to Egypt and began two decades of exploration of its culture. I’ve  written several internationally-recognized books in the field of leadership, none as fun as fiction! Before fiction, I was an administrator, history instructor, international consultant, and am professor emeritus at California State University, East Bay.

 The second novel in The Justine Trilogy, The Italian Letters, will be released this fall (I know, I know, I said July!) and the third novel, A Rapture of Ravens, in early 2015.







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Bono and Elon Musk on Creativity

Friday, January 17th, 2014

The day after Christmas, I told the story of the two Kents, each with a different process for writing novels or stories. Last week, Fareed Zakaria interviewed two talented individuals carved on two sides of the coin of creativity.

Bono and Elon Musk experience creativity as differently as the two Kents experience writing. You are familiar with Bono, the musician and social activist. Musk is the creator of the Tesla electric car and Space X. The questions at hand: “How are you creative? What does it mean to you? How does your creativity work?”

For Bono, creativity is that magical, flaming flash of creation surfacing from the well of God. Lyrics may appear full blown in the early morning, in the night. Musk, on the other hand, sees creativity as hard work–pushing until the brain hurts. Two men, two sets of experiences. Both with bountiful creativity.

I’ve heard people say: “I’m not creative because it doesn’t come easy, in flashes. I have to work too hard.” Yet, clearly, there isn’t a “right” way to write, to think, or to create. How does creativity happen for you?

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The Personal Meaning of John F. Kennedy

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

In the fall of 1959, I was an officer in the Young Democrats and a student at Pittsburg State College in Kansas, when the radiant, youthful man sprinted down the stairs of a small plane at the local airport. The crowd split in half as John F. Kennedy moved confidently into our midst, his eyes scanning the crowd, resting momentarily on each student and local politician. As our eyes met, I felt the heat of recognition. He spoke for less than five minutes, answered a few questions, turned—then he was gone.

Those mesmerizing moments were a turning point in my life. Since I had marched in a campaign for a Democratic governor when I was in the third grade, I can’t say it was the moment I became politically conscious, but it was the instant in which I felt and deeply understood the role of government in a great nation and my responsibility to it. His confidence was contagious, his vision compelling. I, with others, watched as his vision manifested itself in the Peace Corps, the space program (with a moon landing in 1969), a nuclear test ban treaty, an end to segregation in interstate travel and federal housing (by executive order), creating the Medal of Freedom, and bringing the arts into the White House. In October 1962, the world watched breathlessly as he avoided a nuclear tragedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis. His actions captured the essence of his vision and set forth the path ahead. –then he was gone.

With Kennedy’s assassination, on this day 50 years ago, a great sadness appended itself to my being. I felt the fragility of life and history, the naïveté of “happily ever after.”


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Arriving Home…Cultural Re-entry

Monday, November 18th, 2013

I remember arriving home in the early nineties in California after living in Cairo for two years. It is very expensive and complicated in the U.S: utility deposits, insurance, relationships. The most difficult part was moving from the unfamiliar, the exotic, to the familiar, the mundane. In Cairo, the air bristled with sensuality, tension, unknown dangers. In a foreign culture, one’s identity is as one would wish it.

Coming home was culture shock in reverse. I was depressed—and stayed that way for the better part of a year. Until I returned to Cairo the next spring.

Returning home from Taos this fall has some of the same elements. I realize this time that an essential part of the intrigue of another culture is history. Ten thousand years of history in Egypt, 500 years of history in Taos.

No doubt, this is why I enjoy writing historical fiction so much…it anchors me in the ethereal, the unfamiliar, creating the necessity of building new theories from history. Placing my characters in context.

Yet, as I write this post, I am staring up into our redwood forest here in The Sea Ranch. Thousands of years of natural history. A blend all worlds. Snap out of it, Linda.

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The Justine Trilogy: Preparing for the Friends of D.H. Lawrence Book Fair

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

On September 19, The Friends of D.H. Lawrence is hosting a book fair at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house here in Taos. In preparation, I have summarized the relationship among the novels in The Justine Trilogy.                         

The Cairo Codex explores the bold themes of dominant human desires, fundamentalism, sexual awakening, feminism, and the pressures that lead to revolution. Egypt is a powder keg ripe for revolution, sparked by a discovery so shocking that religious and political forces converge to prevent its revelation.

Two days after arriving in Cairo, Justine feels compelled to revisit an ancient crypt, once thought to have been the home of the Holy Family.  While in the crypt, an earthquake nearly buries her and she unearths a centuries-old codex. In the wake of its stunning disclosures, political and religious violence rocks the region and the Muslim Brotherhood prepares to take over the country.

Etruscan Evenings is a provocative novel of romance, culture, and history: the resolution of the meaning and ultimate possession of the diary of the Virgin Mary; finding of letters from author D. H. Lawrence to Justine’s great grandmother, Isabella; and the discovery of a primeval Etruscan tomb revealing the origin, journeys, and identity of this astonishing civilization that pre-dated the Romans.  Lawrence’s Etruscan Places informs the search to understand these ancient peoples and the politics surrounding their identity. Tensions arise when the Vatican tries to subvert discoveries related to Mary of Nazareth. Justine heads for Taos, New Mexico.

A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos. Justine comes to Taos seeking the essence of D.H. Lawrence and her own spirituality. She stumbles into the conflict and hunt for the migration patterns of the peoples from the northwest. Here, she finds the Red Willow people, archeologists, Lawrence aficionados, and artists who draw her into the riveting blend of cultures that is Taos. She mentors a troubled young Indian girl, finding a sense of wholeness in that relationship. Lawrence discoveries include the spirituality he found on Lobos Mountain, his lost will, and letters that more fully explain his mysterious journey. After her Egyptian lover, Amir, joins her at Christmas, he returns to Cairo to lead the revolution of January 2011.  A tragedy on Bloody Wednesday in Egypt is so shocking that Justine is thrown into turmoil and peril.

For more information: Linda Lambert, Ed.D.,;; 707-328-4645.



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