Chris Oestereich | Paging Tomorrow’s Heroes

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Chris lives with his wife Eileen and their two sons in St. Louis, MO, where he works as a project manager and sustainability leader.   He maintains an active presence in social media, sharing ideas via Twitter (@costrike) and his blog (, which revolves around social and environmental justice issues.  Chris enjoys playing soccer with his boys and spends much of his free time learning about global food systems.  He intends to somehow complete his first book, tentatively titled “Food Fight: Humanity at the 4th Agricultural Crossroads,” later this year…


Some might wonder why I read a blog that "encourages women to dream, and then to act on their dreams."  Okay, so I'm not the target audience, but that's not what matters.  What does matter is that Dare to Dream is a clarion call for women to step up, claim equality and do something amazing with their lives.  We should all have such a great purpose. 

Equality for its own sake is reason enough to pursue this cause, but for those who aren't swayed so easily, there's more.  There's a growing body of evidence which suggests that "companies with more than three women on their board have a higher return on investment."  There's no doubt in my mind that this is true and that we'd be better off if we made it a priority to develop women as leaders.

I'll offer my family as a case in point.  I consider myself a pretty decent parent, but my wife's selfless approach consistently blows me away.  Whether to sacrifice for our children is never a choice that's weighed, but an automatic trigger that's pulled for her.  I know she's a special person, but I also think there are basic differences in the general perspectives of men and women which are important to consider.

Source: istockphoto

Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory offers clarity.  Hofstede, the founder of comparative intercultural research, measured the general tendencies of national cultures on the following four dimensions: Power Distance (PDI), Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI), Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV), and Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS). (Definitions of Hofstede's cultural dimensions are listed at the end of this post.)  His research found that the US is a highly individualistic, masculine, short-term oriented culture.  Put simply, it’s every one for themself, winner take all, can’t see past the end of our noses around here.  From where I stand, it seems things could be better for all of us.  I believe that we could use a little balance on these dimensions, and that having more women in leadership positions would help us strike that balance.

As for me, I’m working to disrupt myself to become a better husband and father, leader, and co-creating change agent.  I went back to school to earn an MBA a few years ago and then decided I wanted to work on sustainability issues, so I’m now half way through a Master’s program in sustainable development.   I’m learning as fast as I can, while building relationships and increasing my ability to influence positive change.  My formal education may be drawing to its close (Who knows, maybe a PhD is in the offing…), but my thirst for knowledge is unquenchable.  I'm going to continue working to figure out what matters to me and then digging in on those topics.

In short, I think I’m living proof that we can disrupt ourselves.  It starts with that nagging feeling that life could be more, that we could be more.  For me it was the feeling that my work was unsatisfying and the idea that continuing down that path was truly inconceivable.  When you feel that tug, grab hold of it and don’t let go. (It might just be your ikigai.)  Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said that, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  That first step will likely be hard (If it wasn't, everyone would do it.), but it can also be incredibly exciting.  All it takes is the decision to break free from your patterns and try something new.  Turn off the TV, take a deep breath, and take that first step towards doing something great.  Don’t wait for purpose to find you.  Look for it in the things that rev your engine.  Pursue your passions and start working on your “dent in the universe.”

And when things start to happen don’t worry.  Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.” Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, 1990)

Source:  istockphoto

You might find it odd that a guy, who’s still working to advance his career, would openly advocate for the development of women leaders.  Well, I guess I look at things a bit differently than most.  We often hear talk of the rising tide which lifts all boats, but the last few years have exposed holes in that metaphor.  I believe our cultural traits shed light on the difficulties here.  We look out for me (instead of we) and use a dangerously short timeline in our decision-making processes.  Having more women in leadership positions would help us shore up those deficiencies, thereby creating more and better opportunities for all.

Back to the question of why do I read Whitney's blog? That's easy.  In my efforts to disrupt myself, I am constantly looking for sources of inspiration.  The posts may target women, but I find they inspire indiscriminately.

I especially love this line, "Don't wait for purpose to find you."  It reminded me of Amelia Hertzberg's post Ballerina, Superspy, Oh My.

Were you familiar with Geert Hoftstede's cultural dimensions theory?

Are you stepping up?

P.S.  Chris has been nominated for the First Movers Fellowship Program at the Aspen Institute, please do wish him well.


Definitions via

Power Distance (PDI)
This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. The fundamental issue here is how a society handles inequalities among people. People in societies exhibiting a large degree of power distance accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. In societies with low power distance, people strive to equalise the distribution of power and demand justification for inequalities of power.

Individualism versus collectivism (IDV)
The high side of this dimension, called Individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families only. Its opposite, Collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. A society's position on this dimension is reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we.”

Uncertainty avoidance (UAI)
The uncertainty avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles.

Masculinity versus femininity (MAS)
The masculinity side of this dimension represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material reward for success. Society at large is more competitive. Its opposite, femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. Society at large is more consensus-oriented.

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