You Are A Leader? Really?

WhoAreYouI’m relatively active on Facebook, and somewhat active on Twitter. I’ve made some great friends, deepened some existing relationships, gotten clients, and connected with a number of people in leadership communities who are active in social media. I’ve been impressed with quite a few people, and admire most of them.

I have even participated with 20 of them in writing a book about character-based leadership, and our wish to see changes in how people perceive their role in leadership.

Here is my dilemma; my struggle:

I know I am not perfect. I never have been. I slip up occasionally, and post things I think are funny – and I’ve inadvertently offended people. And, I have practiced what I coach, and I’ve learned from those situations, and I am much more mindful of the impression I can leave with others when I am not impeccable with my word.

Please bear with me when I ask this question:

How can anyone proclaim to be a leader, especially one who holds their character up as an example for others to follow, and post offensive statements on social media related to other people based on lies, assumptions and judgments about their religion, their race, their gender, and their character?

Leadership is about being non-judgmental, open-minded, diverse, compassionate, humble, caring, empathetic. Leadership is about communicating – listening, seeking to understand, being assertive rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive. Leadership is about seeking a win-win for everyone, and seeking the greater good. Leadership is about trust and accountability. And, yes, leadership is about setting an example.

I’m discouraged by some of my fellow leadership coaches and consultants.

Normally, I don’t say anything. But, you see, I’m also practicing being fearless and authentic – two more characteristics of leadership that I admire.

So, I have two additional questions I would like to ask:

What drives you to put statements out on Facebook and Twitter, or in the media, that are based on assumptions that are not factual and can generate hateful feelings in people who see them and trust you?

Based upon your definition of character, what stops you from being mindful of the consequences of your behavior?

Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, and Phoenix, AZ, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator.  She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner.  Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life.  You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.  



My Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage

I am constantly looking for ways to make things as simple as they can be, and I’ve been thinking about this very complicated issue for a long time. I know that many of you have strong emotions tied to the topic of same-sex marriage – on both sides of the issue, and I respect your feelings. All I am asking is for you to give consideration to my thoughts, and see if you can push the sides of your box out far enough to embrace a new idea.

Marriage licenses started in the early 1600’s in Massachusetts, and in the Middle Ages in Europe to permit a marriage which would have been considered illegal if the appropriate banns had not been posted. Banns are proclamations or public announcement that a marriage is about to take place. It was commonly used by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church (abolished in 1983).  The purpose was to give people enough notice to raise church or legal impediments to the marriage to prevent invalid marriages. These impediments would normally include a pre-existing marriage not annulled or dissolved, a vow of celibacy, forced marriage, or couples related too closely.

Over the years, marriage licenses have been used by states to prohibit marriages to those who were deemed inappropriate. Stephanie Coontz, in a NYTimes article entitled “Taking Marriage Private”, states that “by the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, ‘mulattos,’ Japanese, Chinese, Indians, ‘Mongolians’ ‘Malays’ or Filipinos”. Several states refused licenses to addicts, drunks, mentally deficient or those who had been previously married. Most of these laws were repealed by the mid-1900s.

Most licenses/documents now (2012) serve two purposes:

  1. Legal and contractual
  2. A record of the ceremony of marriage itself, if signed by the couple and witnessed.

Every state within the United States requires a marriage license (marriage certificate), in order to legalize their marriage. This provides proof of legal obligations that have been entered into, as well as who receives Social Security, insurance, medical and survivor benefits.

A partial list of rights/benefits and legal obligations under Federal Law[1] include:

  • Right to spousal benefits while married
  • Joint tax filing; Income tax deductions, credits, rates exemption and estimates
  • Disability benefits
  • Medicaid
  • Property tax exemptions for totally disabled veterans
  • Joint and family-related rights
  • Tax-free transfer of property between spouses
  • Special immigration consideration to spouses of citizens and resident aliens
  • Domestic violence protection orders
  • Funeral and bereavement leave
  • Joint adoption and foster care
  • Spousal medicat decisions
  • Permission to make funeral arrangements for a deceased spouse
  • Right to inheritance of property
  • Spousal privilege in court cases
  • For those who are divorced or widowed, the right of many of ex- or late spouse’s benefits
  • Spousal income and assets are counted in determining need in many forms of government assistance
  • Ineligible for National Affordable Housing program if spouse ever purchased a home
  • Ineligible to receive varius survivor benefits upon remarriage
  • Providing financial support for raising children born within a marriage

That’s the history, current usage, rights and benefits associated with “marriage”. Now, let’s make it simple.

The way our marriage license laws are being used today, they restrict marriage for same-sex individuals because it is considered inappropriate by a variety of religions, but not all. And, by mixing religion and law, not only are we moving back to the Middle Ages, we are depriving people of the legal rights, benefits and responsibilities given to those who commit to long-term relationships based on love, respect and dignity. We had moved away from this perspective when we repealed the discriminatory laws in the mid-1900’s, and it hasn’t taken long for us to find another group of people to legally discriminate against.

Our country was founded upon the separation of church and state, as laid out in the 1st amendment to the constitution.[2] And, to keep things simple for all of us, we should go back to what was intended by paying attention to our Constitution. Belief systems, and religious practices are too unique, and too widely disparate, for us to bring them into the laws governing our nation.

For me, because marriage licenses are used primarily to determine legal rights, benefits and responsibilities, and can only be dissolved through legal dissolution, it has become a contract – pure and simple. In my mind, this is ALL that either the federal government or state governments have a right to enforce. And, last I heard, any citizen can enter into a contract unless they are a minor, or have been declared incompetent to do so due to mental incapacity (which also requires legal action).

Any divine blessing can be conferred by a religious body according to it’s beliefs, and should be kept separate from legal determination. This allows those entering into a “Blessed Union” to choose the religious body reflecting their own beliefs and values to confer the blessing, and removes religious discrimination from our laws.

Because I hold each person’s rights to their religion to be sacred, I cannot and will not argue with them over verses or belief systems. I simply believe that everyone deserves the same legal rights as every other citizen of the United States, and the state of Nebraska.

[1] Per Wikipedia, prior to the enactment of DOMA, the General Accounting Office (as the GAO was then called) identified 1,049[2] federal statutory provisions in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status or in which marital status is a factor. An update was published in 2004 by the GAO covering the period between September 21, 1996 (when DOMA was signed into law) and December 31, 2003. The update identified 120 new statutory provisions involving marital status, and 31 statutory provisions involving marital status repealed or amended in such a way as to eliminate marital status as a factor.

[2] The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another. It enforces the “separation of church and state.” Furthermore, the Supreme Court has interpreted the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments.

Celebrate Pride, 2011!

As a PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) Mom, this is one of the few times I have not attended a Pride Event in the last 17 years, wherever I have been at the time.  I’ve marched in parades all over the Midwest, sat on the sidelines in Chicago and San Francisco to watch, (wo)manned booths, and so much more.

Lincoln, NE held it’s Star City Pride Festival July 15 – 17, and from all accounts it was a huge success, even with the heat index riding at the 110 degree mark.  This year, my weekend was packed, and I find I don’t do very well in that much heat.  So, let me celebrate here in my blog, because, you see, I am so very proud of this community – the LGBTQA* community – located in a hyper-conservative state named Nebraska.

I’ve talked to several people who have been stalwart attendees at these events, and they said it was the best ever.  And, they were excited and pleased to see so many families attending.  The attention to kids has always made this event special in my mind.  Lincoln’s celebration started out as a picnic in the park for families and friends many years ago.  And, it has never lost this culture as it has grown to accommodate dances, stage performances, and booths selling Pride jewelry, home decorations and more.  Lincoln’s LGBTQA community recognizes that there are families – same-sex couples  and opposite-sex couples raising their children to celebrate diversity and embrace those who are different, but the same, from them.  The community makes a strong effort to include all generations, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the celebration.

As the festival progressed through the weekend without a hitch, Lincoln was embroiled in a contest sponsored by the Lincoln Journal Star to give away a wedding to one lucky couple.  Embroiled is a good word for this, I think.  It means to involve somebody or yourself in conflict, or to make something confused or overly complicated.   The LBGTQA community banded together to vote for a same-sex couple to win.  Many who voted for them do not know Mitch and Ryan, but voted for them in order to take a conscious and intentional stand for equality.

However, what began as an a innocuous contest sponsored by the local newspaper took on a contentious stance.    One radio station, in true Nebraska form, began a campaign to vote for the second place couple.  (One has to love democracy, even when you don’t agree with the other party.)  Once again, I am so very proud of my family (yes, they are my family) and friends.  They were adamant in letting people know the following: “Please do not say anything disparaging about any of the other contestants, no matter how mean or nasty their supporters get…Jeremiah and Nicole (2nd place couple) definitely deserve a great wedding.  ENCOURAGE people to vote out of love for the contestants, not out of hate.”

Outcome:  The wedding contest was won by Mitch and Ryan by a considerable margin.   I have every confidence that the wedding will be spectacular!

Many of you may be wondering why I am sharing all of this with you.  I have a few reasons.  One, because I am remiss in letting the whole LGBTQA community know how much I love them as often as I should.  Second, because the concept of inclusiveness and equality has been on my mind a great deal over the last few weeks.  And, finally, because we appear to be a nation of raging polar opposites in our beliefs, our culture, our politics, our economics, and our willingness to recognize our role in humanity vs. passing judgment.  Unless, of course, those who rest in the middle begin to speak up and take action.  We may then become, once again, the nation we were intended to be, a nation founded on equality, freedom, and a willingness to work together to become truly great.

There isn’t room in this blog to pursue some of these thoughts – so let me close with a quote, a restatement of love for LBGTQA family and friends, and an invitation to stay tuned for more musings.

“Have you ever lived my life, have you ever spent one minute in my shoes? If you haven’t, then tell me why you judge me like you do.” ~ Unknown

* LGBTQA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Allies

Loving In All Ways – Breaking The Silence

Today, I was out on Facebook, responding to people and wishing my followers “Happy Birthday”, and came across a posted link from a friend of mine.  It read:

WELCOME TO OUR HOMOSEXUAL DAY OF SILENCE| Culture Wars Right Side News (www.rightsidenews.comDay of Silence by homosexuals in our public schools promotes un-natural life styles and targets Christians as bigots.

Because I am the mother of a gay man, and friend to hundreds of LGBTQSA, and a huge proponent of unconditional love, I connected to the link even though I recognized I would be saddened by it.  Once I had read it and knew exactly what it said so I could be factual in my response AND I went out to the Day of Silence website to make sure I was accurate in my understanding from the LGBTQSA side of the conversation, I felt I could respond with truth.   On the home page of  – here is the statement: 

On the National Day of Silence hundreds of thousands of students nationwide take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.

The following “conversation” took place between my friend and me. 

Me:  Unfortunately, J., this is a cruel and bigoted article. The Day of Silence is not about “sex on demand” or “the right to engage in whatever sexual practice feels right at the moment”. It is about being able to choose who you love without fear.  It is about being able to live your life just like everyone else – in a home with your spouse, your children if you are fortunate to be allowed to have them, have BBQs in your backyard, take your children to soccer, work in a job without fear of losing it because of who you love, and rent an apartment without fear of being kicked out because of your spouse’s gender.  It is about being able to walk down the street without fear that you will be beaten, or even worse, killed.  It is about freedom from bullying and harassment.  It is about mothers who love their gay children not having to live in fear because they are shot at through their kitchen window or have a fire bomb thrown at their house in the middle of the night because their son is gay.  It is about love for humanity.  This article is about hate and bigotry, and if people identify with it because they are Christians, I would challenge that fact.  Jesus did not teach us to hate.  He showed us how to love.

J:  Sexual behavior should not be promoted in school

J: I am for love of all people, however my God deems certain behaviors sinful

Me: Perhaps, but I would encourage you to support being factual rather than hateful.  Sexual behavior is promoted in school along the continuum of sexual orientation by all kids, not just by gay kids.  In fact, it is most blatantly promoted by those who are straight.  Get to know what the Day of Silence means before you take the opportunity to demean it.  Some of the gay people I know are the kindest, most loving people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  And, many are Christians.

J:  Why not a day of Prayer then otherwise people who disagree are hateful!

Me:  Disagreement does not automatically translate into hateful, J. I am disagreeing with you, but I’m hopefully not being hateful. I like you – you are a good man. I’m just sharing my feelings that the world would be a much nicer place, if you would take the stance of being a loving man. How about a day devoted to unconditional love – that way no religions or spiritual paths are being stepped on, and no judgments are being made about worthiness?

Here is what I know.  I was judgmental about the article, Christians who buy into this kind of rhetoric, straight kids who are in to public displays of affection, and J for not being more loving.  That was not loving behavior on my part.  This I know because I was finally able to detach from the outcome of the conversation, and check my own behavior.  I expressed my feelings and my values, and I am done.   I forgive myself for my judgmentalism – I am still working on my ability to love unconditionally – I am human.  What J does with my thoughts is up to him. 

So, why am I writing this blog?  Because I have more to say about unconditional love – without it being wrapped around my passion and love for LGBTQSA everywhere. (BTW – just so you know, LGBTQSA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning, Straight, Allies).

For those of you who know me well, you know that another of my passions is looking at the differing religions and spiritual paths for commonality and for understanding.  In addition, I am an avid reader.  Recently, a friend of mine gave me a book called “Love for No Reason” by Marci Shimof. There is a section in that book that pulled me in, and made my heart sing.  It begins by saying that love is our true nature, that it is always there; it is our essence. This meshes with the core value of Love agreed upon by our church recently, and this is perhaps why I felt as strongly as I did when I read it.  The book goes on to say that all the world’s spiritual traditions speak of this larger, more expanded kind of love.  It is this I would like to share with you.

In Christianity, the term that’s used for this highest and purest forms of love is agape, a word borrowed from the Greeks.  In the New Testament, agape is the love that God has for man, and that He commands us to have for each other.  It is selfless, generous, and healing – the foundation for a good life.

In Hebrew, the word for love is ahavah, and for Love for No Reason, ahavat chinam, literally “groundless love.”  Rabbi David Thomas, describes ahavat chinam as “the love we show to a fellow human being without regard to our own interest, simply because we are human and we see the humanity of another.”

The Buddhists call this love metta or lovingkindness, love that makes one want to help and to give of oneself for the welfare and well-being of humanity.  They consider this love the ultimate source of strength and power.

Hinduism uses the Sanskrit phrase parama prema (supreme love) to describe a state of love that is full, with no conditions, and that brings a person to the truth of life.  And, in the sect of Islam called Sufism, the word ishq expresses this quality of unconditional and Divine Love.

What is present in all traditions is the certainty that God is love and that each one of us has access to that love inside.  It’s only clouds of stress, negative habits, ego, and fear that block this pure state of love and prevent us from experiencing it.

As humans, all we can do is be willing to act on our belief in our ability to love unconditionally.  Ever since we were children we may have been shown negative behavior, ego and fear by our families and friends that get in the way of knowing who we really are.  We may have been taught these same things by people we know we should respect and have reverence for – our teachers, ministers, and leaders.  A measure of our growth is in recognizing that these people, and circumstances, are not always right.  They, too, are human, and what they are teaching has been written and interpreted by humans.  And, because of that, by our repetition of the words, thoughts and ideas they may be sharing with us, we may not be right either.  All we can do is examine our values, and consciously and meaningfully take action on our willingness to be loving in all ways. 

Today’s affirmation: 

Just for today, when I interact with others, I will focus on them with love.

 Just for today, I will speak well of myself and others, always. 

Just for today, I will engage with others to create a culture that deepens relationships.


Who are you willing to be, today?

Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator.  She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner.  Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life.  You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.   Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.


Dear Woman… Response

I caught this YouTube post today on Facebook.  I would like to hear your response.  Mine is below.

Dear Men:  Thank you for recognizing that men and women can stand side by side in this life; in all aspects of our relationship, and in integrity with our core values and beliefs.  Men and women alike would do well to live by the values and statements you have made.  This is not a one sided journey, and I applaud the men in this video who have taken the first step in reaching out to women, and offering their thoughts on how we might move forward.  By moving intentionally in this direction as humanity, “together we can make miracles”.


The Change Begins With You

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give… And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; they give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. Through the hands of these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

                                    ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

This beautiful video by speaks of kindness.  The kindness that touches people’s souls.   They know that they are valued, despite their circumstances, when you reach out and touch them with your eyes and your heart. 

It costs little to give, and is priceless to the person who receives it.  The benefit to the giver is also tremendous.  I have spoken with friends who are so moved by the feelings that a simple act of kindness they have performed has created in them that their eyes well with tears as they speak.  It creates a connection between the giver and the recipient that can never be broken. 

Ghandi asks that we “be the change”.  In a world so often lacking in compassion, one simple act of kindness creates a ripple of blessing.  It follows in my mind that a practice of kindness could create a tidal wave.

What one act of kindness are you willing to perform today? Please do share it with us.  My wish for the world is that we create a tidal wave of kindness before we reach the end of the year.  We have 31 days in which to accomplish it. 

Ready?  Let’s be the change we would like to see.  Let me know how it goes!

Blessings to you and yours this day.