Chapter 9 and 10 of Kouzes & Posner’s The Leadership Challenge

The topic of chapter 9 is all about fostering collaboration. Basically, anything that you are trying to accomplish as a leader, needs to become a joint effort. Anything can be done better with multiple capable people, instead of just one. Or like the saying goes, “two heads are better than one” and beyond that, five heads are better than one, etc etc. Teamwork needs to be emphasized and relationships need to be built and cultivated. From what I understand of the reading, the main component to fostering collaboration is trust. To be a good leader one must create an environment of trust and in order to do that, you must be the first to go for it. You have to trust, then other people can follow and trust you. If you don’t trust others, others won’t trust you! This requires being vulnerable and open, something that can often be hard for leaders. I agree that trust is an important part of good leadership, and also to any relationship in general. Not only is trust the most significant predictor of people’s satisfaction with their organization, but it is also claimed that people that are more trusting are shown to be psychologically happier and better off in life. So it makes sense that that would be true in the corporate and business world as well. >Have many of you found this to be true? Do you think if you were more trusting in both your personal and professional lives that you would be happier and better off? Chapter 10’s topic is about strengthening others. One way to strengthen others comes from building up their self confidence; which can be done by giving them more responsibility and adequate training. I honestly can’t even count the times where I felt my training wasn’t sufficient. To be in that situation is extremely frustrating, but it makes me more careful to always do a better job when I am the one training someone else. This is one way I think every organization could be improved, by butting more emphasis and resources into training. This is something that the Author’s bring up too; they say that organizations that have the most money going into training are often the most successful. One quote that was particularly thought provoking for me was “you become more powerful when you give your own power away.” I hadn’t ever heard that or thought about it that way, but I think it is helpful for remembering how to be an effective leader. Do you agree or disagree with this statement and why? Another thing to think about; in one study, level of confidence was a stronger predictor of job performance than actual level of skill or training they had before being hired. So confidence is obviously a huge factor. What are some things that you can do to foster self confidence in the people around you?These two concepts, fostering collaboration and strengthening others really go hand in hand, because to give someone self confidence you must trust in them, and to collaborate you must build strong relationships. In other words, it’s hard to have one without the other. I think most people can think of examples of when people in leadership positions around then tried to hoard their power and information, but in the long run, it made them less effective as leaders. One example I have of that is when I worked at a restaurant under a not so great manager. After not being trained very well, my manager would make a point ask if I and other employees knew how to do things, and when we said no he would just get mad at us and then walk away. But he would never take the time to show or teach us. Therefore we continued to be unknowledgeable about things. So we would be forced to try and learn these things on our own, which usually didn’t go as smoothly, as if we had an experienced person showing us. Anyway, in the long run this made his staff less effective and not as well trained as we could have been, which reflected poorly on his management skills, and his supervisors took notice. It would have been pretty easy to try and make sure we were adequately trained from the beginning then make sure to help show us anything we didn’t know that came up a long the way. He should have also made an effort to help us build trust and relationships with him and each other, which would have been much better leadership. This is an example of when empowerment could have been used to his advantage, but it wasn’t. Does anyone else have examples of empowerment either being used in an effective way, or not being used when it should have been?

Comments

Great questions. I would like to share a recent experience that I feel relates to this discussion of trust and giving away our power to empower others. The interesting part is that I am not in the position of perceived power. In the interest of confidentiality, I will leave out names, locations and identifying information to protect the innocent.

Have you ever worked in an environment where you felt stifled? Have you worked in an environment where you felt stifled and you were required to be innovative? It seems that being stifled and being innovative do not work very well together and that is true. That was my recent situation and I felt that this came from the hierarchical positions of power. Our work demanded innovation but our efforts felt suffocated and very challenging given the relationship between management and staff. Then I had a curious realization, I could effectively reduce or remove the stifling effect by changing my own behavior. For example, when presenting ideas in the past they were most frequently met with comments like, "That won't work", "I am not sure you understand what that will mean" and others. This and other situations, over time have caused many difficult and challenging times. Now what I do is take my ideas and clearly document them, take them to the person in management and seek their input letting them know that I would appreciate their input and recognize their expertise.

A novel approach, I don't think so, many of you have probably done the same, but it has changed our relationship and by empowering the person in management and trusting in them more fully has proven to be very helpful.

Do you think if you were more trusting in both your personal and professional lives that you would be happier and better off?

What I know to be true is that when you don't feel trust, what you may be feeling instead is suspicion and doubt - and nothing very productive comes out of feeling that way. Too much time can be spent second guessing yourself and confidence can spiral downward. So yes, I do think that when you can be more trusting - personally and professionally - you are indeed happier. Creativity flows more freely; you can be more open to sharing your ideas as well as being more open to implementing the ideas of others. When the environment is one of trust, it is much more naturally a shared risk/ shared reward kind of culture. A success for one is a success for all; a lesson learned for one is learned for all.

I have worked in an environment where information was power and top leadership had many closed door meetings and seemed to manipulate employees' destinies from their vantage point. Promotions, increased responsibilities, rewards, were all decided in secret. Things were not equal and the "rules" were not always easily understood. When one person was chosen over another it was not ever clear on they succeeded or how you could go about getting ahead yourself. And if your direct manager didn't support you or wasn't supported by upper management themselves, your chances were slim to none. That environment was full of anxiety, doubt and mistrust.

The other question of “what are some things that you can do to foster self confidence in the people around you," made me reflect on past supervisory positions I have held.
In a supervisory role I like to empower others by learning their strength and weaknesses and providing opportunities for them to be successful with both. Not everyone has to be strong in all areas and pairing people with complimentary skills can move a project along very effectively. But giving people opportunities to get out of their comfort zones, safely and with success, can boost self confidence in great ways.

I have heard the concept before that, “you become more powerful when you give your own power away,” or at least some paraphrasing of this. I definitely concur. However, it is difficult to accomplish this unless one has the time to do so effectively. Time, again, is the great opponent to effective management these days.

For instance, when I didn’t have time to attend two Chamber of Commerce events last month, I thought of not attending at all. At that moment, typically the phone would ring and I’d be off to put out the next fire. On a good day, a manager has no more than six minutes to dedicate to a single issue (sorry, I can’t remember the source for this). Since I had a moment to think, I wondered if my staff would be available and would they benefit from attending a chamber event. I took the time to think about who would benefit the most and selected two staff who I knew would appreciate the opportunity, look for ways to interact at the events, and bring useful information back to me. It was a successful mission. I’m not sure whether this fits the mold of empowerment as it pertains to the Kouzes and Posner reading, but I think it had the same positive outcomes. The staff felt empowered by the experiences and each learned something new. They also gained a greater appreciation for what my job entails, which strengthens our understanding and trust for one another.

Delegating, or giving away power, is not easy for most of us, including me. Often, it just isn’t natural to want to delegate work to someone else. Maybe it’s the Midwestern mentality, but there is frequently a sense of guilt that comes with delegation. Some of us are apt to associate delegation with Tom Sawyer coaxing his friends into white-washing a fence. Garrison Keillor could probably address Midwestern guilt far better than I could, but I think we often perceive delegation as “dumping” work on subordinates instead of as an opportunity for growth and learning.

Having the time to delegate appropriately and strategically to staff is a valuable management skill. When it’s done wrong, it’s “dumping;” When it’s done right, it’s a gift.

Therees, I can really relate to the example you shared with us about your experience when you worked in a restaurant. I actually had the same, if not worse experience at one of the jobs that I had worked. In addition to not training me very well to do the job, when I once complained to the manager that I get more training from fellow workers by asking them how to do things than from him, and his reply was that he didn’t have the temperament to take the time to train me. Then he would get mad at me for saying that. And of course the result of his nonchalance was – like your situation, I continued to be unknowledgeable about things. Sometimes, I didn’t even bother to ask him how to do things because of his “snobbish” attitude and the rude way he would addressed my concerns. I later found out that he was the same way with some of the workers too. Looking back now at how this manager discharged his duties, I can see that this is his way of keeping control of everything. He wouldn’t like his workers to have control of their own work lives. Everything had to be done “his way’ or “no way”. He was definitely unsure of himself. Kouzes and Posner (2007) advise that “If leaders want higher levels of performance and greater initiative from their constituents, they must be proactive in designing work that allows people discretion and choice. … To feel like they’re control of their own work lives people need to be able to take nonroutine action, exercise independent judgment, and make decisions that affect how they do their work without having to check with someone else” (p. 256).

This manager that I’m talking about obviously lacked both leadership and managerial skills to effectively work with people. Most workers that worked under this manager constantly complained among themselves about the manager’s inability to motivate his workers and providing a healthy working environment. This manager did not realize that he could become more powerful if he gave his own power away.

One quote that was particularly thought provoking for me was “you become more powerful when you give your own power away.” I hadn’t ever heard that or thought about it that way, but I think it is helpful for remembering how to be an effective leader. Do you agree or disagree with this statement and why?

I agree with this statement. I would like to comment on this statement outside of the workplace arena, however. I know opportunities arise for each of us everyday, when we are called upon to be leaders. I have come to the Humphrey Institute because I know alum of HHH who have demonstrated themselves as leaders in policy change. What impressed me about each of these individuals is that they know to affect change by sharing their power.

Being an effective community organizer (in its true sense and in a more broad sense), requires that we "give up our power". For a community organizer, the power is in the knowledge: technical knowledge, process knowledge, political knowledge, topic knowledge. For the "community", their power is in their passion, their relationships and their numbers.

Apart from each other, the chances of successful outcomes would be impossible. But, when these groups collaborate - share their power - the outcome is most certainly usually positive (either short-term or long-term outcomes, dependent upon persistence).

Power = Myself + You + You + You (to the infinity!)

I don’t agree or disagree with the comment that “you become more powerful when you give you own power away”. I think that if you share your authority/responsibility that you become more effective and by becoming more effective you, and your subordinate leaders, become better at what you do. Like Therese, I have often found myself in over my head given a task that I wasn’t prepared or trained to do. Often, I assumed that my supervisor was hoping that I would fail or didn’t care how I completed the task as long as it was completed. Hindsight and a little maturity have given me a different perspective. Much of what leaders do demands the ability to be flexible and to adapt to the circumstances that are present now. That is what my superiors were doing. They knew that I didn’t have the necessary training but they also wanted me to learn how to adapt and get things done even when I didn’t know the book answer. The more I completed these harder tasks the more effective I became. With that my superiors would give me harder and more complicated tasks that in the end gave me more authority and responsibility. From those experiences I learned how to delegate. By delegating and not micro-managing I have done the same with my subordinates, identified the strong, that my previous superiors had done for me.

By delegating tasks and giving subordinates more and more responsibility/authority one can foster confidence in the people around them. My previous bosses did it with me and I saw first-hand how effective it was when applied to subordinates. Most people strive to achieve at a higher standard throughout their lives and confidence can be tied to their success. I have found that by starting a subordinate with small tasks and increasing the level of difficulty as they prove their ability to deliver one can help grow a reluctant follower into an effective asset and potential leader. Using small steps and setting up challenges that can be achieved can reinforce confidence and decrease the apprehension many feel when presented with a new and unfamiliar task.

Does anyone else have examples of empowerment either being used in an effective way, or not being used when it should have been?

In almost every case throughout my career, the difference between a good and bad work experience came down to trust, which I believe goes hand-in-hand with empowerment. The two most striking examples I can think of are my current and most recently former managers.
When I went to work for my current manager, I was searching for a new job outside of my company. I had spent 18 months working for someone who left me feeling that I always needed watch my back. A few weeks after my current manager took over, I realized that I was going to be able to focus my energy on my work (which I love), and that time-wasting, CYA-activities would be taking up far less of my time. For the most part this came down to a mutual trust (with an assist from a shared vision).
When I think about the leadership style of these two people, I feel compelled to acknowledge that they both used the same language for the most part. If you read a transcript of a meeting conducted by each of them you might find it hard to believe that they created such different work environments.
When my former manager used a phrase like, “It’s your decision,” it sounded much more like dare than empowering encouragement; “I trust you” made my run blood cold. The perception that he was disingenuous came from his inability to set clear expectations, his failure to match his words and actions, his unwillingness to recognize exceptional performance, and his tendency to claim the credit when things went well. Because of this, he was never able to establish trust with me or the rest of the team, despite saying many of the “right” things. Our performance suffered accordingly, which did not go unnoticed by his superiors.
My current manager often uses these phrases during our meetings, but it is always clear that she means them. Her philosophy is to set clear expectations, provide actionable feedback, collaborate about solutions, and make sure good work is celebrated. The empowerment this creates has helped me be far more productive, in many of the ways described in Kouzes and Posner’s best-practice examples.

Therese, I liked your restaurant example, because I have also encountered the same problem as a server. (I bet most people have!) I have been lucky enough to hold on to a job in a restaurant that will let me work... pretty much whenever I want. They allow me to take off for a few months, come back and work one day a week for a month or two, and work nearly full-time if need be. It sporadically pays well, and I have worked long enough to know when I will make a lot of money, and when I should take a few weeks off. As a result of this convenient scheduling, I have been there longer than any of the other servers.

The trade-off is that the owner is a complete jerk. His signature move is to sit down to eat with his family, leave no tip, and call the server into his office afterward to tell them every little thing they did wrong. And this is not gentle, constructive criticism. He literally screams at whomever his poor victim is. Instead of creating constructive training so that the restaurant runs to his liking, he catches new employees' errors in the act, and belittles them to prove his point. Many, many servers, bartenders, cooks and hosts have simply walked off the job mid-shift after receiving this "review." As a result of his hierarchical, tyrannical leadership, business is down, company moral is down, and new employees rarely stay longer than a few months.

Luckily, there is an excellent restaurant manager, and staff encounters with the owner are rare (but scarring.) The manager has been put in an odd position, because he needs to enforce the owner's "regime" (with little training of his own), yet please a staff of 40+ servers and bartenders. The restaurant is lacking an atmosphere of trust and responsibility, and the power is unfairly balanced at the top. If the owner could treat his employees fairly and with dignity, more employees would stick around, they would be better trained, and his screaming reviews would obsolete. This restaurant is located in a popular nightlife area of the Twin Cities, and also depends heavily on tourism. With happier employees, the restaurant could gain the fun, relaxed atmosphere of other restaurants in the area, and greatly increase profits.

As a side note: If you are wondering why I stay on, and continue to work there- as with any job, it's not all bad. I have fun with many of my coworkers, I like the manager and cooks, and I can make a lot of money in the summer. Also, I stay out of the owner's cross-hairs, and he seems to like me because of this.

Thanks for your great questions Therese!

Do you think if you were more trusting in both your personal and professional lives that you would be happier and better off?

In answering this question, I can think of a personal experience as an athlete that helps me to frame the issue of trust. As an athlete, I can say that there is certainly an interesting dynamic between player & coach. Especially in running, we rely on our coach to write workouts, give us feedback on races, and put us in the best competition-settings to be successful. So much of how well we do depends on how well our coach trains us physically and his or her ‘training philosophy.’ I have learned over the years that developing that trust between coach and athlete is even more integral to success that the training itself. If a runner believes in the training her or she is doing, he or she will be more confident when the time comes to race. Much of the belief in training comes from the belief in one’s coach to prepare the athlete, so trust is essential. From this perspective, I can honestly say that trust, in terms of an athlete/coach relationship, would definitely make me ‘happier and better off’ as a runner. This example helps me to understand when constructive criticism and feedback is OK, but that is important to maintain a high level of trust in order to be successful.

But even though this example (and others) shows me the importance of trust, I still think that the development of trust is always easier said than done. I think that building trust and facilitating relationships is truly hard to do in some situations and the suggestions given in ch. 9 helped me to figure out how I can do better in the future and how to work to give and get trust.

“You become more powerful when you give your own power away” – Agree/Disagree & Why?

I also wanted to address this question because I’m in a current situation that requires delegation, but I’m afraid I’m not doing a great job of dividing tasks. For the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, I have the job of managing subcommittees that are working on our end-of-the-year awards banquet. It is a big job and there is pressure to make sure the event is done well, because it is really the one time in the year where coaches, athletes, administrators, and support staff get together to celebrate (mainly) athletic achievements and successes. Since most of the student-athletes that are part of SAAC are busy, this year I have tried to do much of our communication via email with fewer face-to-face meetings. Needless to say, the ball hasn’t been rolling smoothly and we are in a situation where group meetings are absolutely necessary to hold everyone accountable for their tasks. Kouzes & Posner illuminated the problem of trust when face to face contact is infrequent. Right now I’m hoping to put into practice some of the suggestions for getting the most out of ‘giving away power,’ but I definitely had a hard time doing this recently and maybe gave too much trust to others when general group-trust hadn’t been developed yet.

Great questions! I really wish I would have taken this class ten years ago, it may have helped me with my delegation skills or lack there of. I have trust issues and it is extremely difficult for me to hand off the baton to someone else. As a funeral director families place a lot of trust in your skills and they rely on your expertise. I feel honored and obligated to follow through with the family wishes. I never wanted anyone else to finish my work for me. When I began a procedure I wanted and expected to finish that procedure myself. There were times I had dinner plans with my husband and I had to call him to tell him I am going to be late because I had to finish my work before I left for the day or for the weekend. He would always tell me to see if someone else could finish the project for me, but I would tell him that I had to do it myself. It caused a little friction to say the least, but I did not trust anyone else to continue where I left off. I took great pride in my work and I felt accountable to do a good job. Delegating has become a little easier over the years, and I don't know if that is due to age or if I've become more relaxed in general just because. Either way it does make life more enjoyable when you can let go of responsibilities and confidently hand them off to someone else.

Speaking of confidence. I am struggling right now with a student who gets really down on herself when she is unable to complete a procedure perfectly. I continue telling her that these procedures take a lot of practice, and with practice comes confidence. I will continue my cheer leading role, and I will also use the example on page 267 about tackling the issues of competence and confidence with my class. I think that approach will really hit home with many of my students especially the one who is having difficulty. It can't hurt.

I really enjoyed the visit to the Mixed Blood Theater. As many have stated, it was a great play that retold a story from a difficult time in American history. Sandy Boren-Barrett stated that she felt it was an important story to tell because she fears that it is not out of the realm of possibility for the situation in the play to quickly and easily happen again. With the large scale fear promoted after 9-11 toward Islam/the Muslim community and the more recent “fear” promoted toward illegal aliens and to a degree Mexican immigrants, I think this play tells a great story from a sad time in history that should not be forgotten.

The play did offer many examples of leadership in a changing, innovated society. All of the people who were taken from their homes and placed in the internment camps had to adapt to change. They entered a new situation that did not have a traditional role for leadership. This was shown toward the beginning of the play where the boys were complaining about not having anything to do and the father stating that they needed to keep busy with something or they would go crazy. There did not seem to be any formal jobs, so there was no need for formal leadership. I feel that the people in the camp had to be innovated in their thinking to create a reason for leadership in a circumstance that they were not accustomed to.

I found it interesting that Tad’s father did not step up and take the leadership role at first, Tad had to take the initiative and push his father into the leadership role. This was done when he stood on the chair to get the camps attention and explained his father’s idea of building a baseball field, at which point Tad’s father began to step into the leadership role. I think this scenario related to our discussion a few weeks ago when we were questioning whether or not challenges find you or do you seek them out. Tad’s father saw the challenge of building the baseball field but it took Tad to get his father to take on this challenge.

Sorry I pasted the wrong post, here is the post relating to the Kouzes and Posner reading.

I feel that Kouzes and Posner have given me new insight into how to be an effective leader, which has made me examine my current job and both the positive and negative leadership skills of my manager. As many others have also stated, I too have been in the position of working under poor management. I entered my current job with no previous experience and was trained by the owner/manager. Although he taught me a lot, he did not have a “formal” job training outline so there were many little things that were missed/forgotten. Whenever one of these little things came up my boss would get frustrated and angry with me for doing it wrong or not knowing how to do it. It was very frustrating to be in this position and it made my boss become unapproachable to me. It got to the point where I never wanted to ask for help because it always came with a negative attitude.

Does anyone else have examples of empowerment either being used in an effective way, or not being used when it should have been?

I would like to respond to this part of the post because it reminded me of something I wanted to post here a few weeks ago.

Over the past few months I've had the pleasure of getting to know the Twin Cities Rise Empowerment Institute. The Empowerment Institute is under the umbrella of the parent organization Twin Cities Rise, whose mission is "to provide employers with skilled workers--primarily men from communities of color in the Twin Cities area--by training under- and unemployed adults for skilled jobs that pay a living wage of at least $20,000 annually." (In other words, they believe change begins within the community, and work to change the community from the inside-out.) They help train workers and achieve their mission with "Empowerment Training" - which goes beyond the basic skills needed for job placement and retention, and actually gets into self-identity, habits, and... well, empowerment. Since implementing empowerment training their success rate has increased dramatically. (They've got lots of notes about success, which I think can definitely be considered effective empowerment. Key Results

Also, a note about delegation: Something that I've struggled with as I learn to delegate more in various areas is not feeling guilty and making sure that communication is open, especially at the gallery where we are all volunteers. I don't want to delegate without consideration, and wouldn't want somebody to delegate something to me if I'm clearly overwhelmed. Making sure that whoever I'm delegating to isn't stressed and understands what we are doing has helped me curb any guilt I may feel about "giving out work." We're all a part of the same team, and various responsibilities are shared in different ways.

(Also, apologies for the late response this week, I'm a few hours off today.)

The times in my life when I felt most powerful were indeed times when I gave my power away to my staff, and they exceeded my expectations. To see my staff thrive in their own initiative, planning, and execution in their positions was the most rewarding time as an employer. And, it left me with the time and energy to concentrate on our future. Training was critical to building their confidence through successes. It took time to develop a comprehensive training program, and to be flexible enough to revise the program as we learned as we trained. What I have learned is that it is always easier to train and give responsibility to those who are interested in learning and taking on responsibilities. In this way, hiring the right people makes a big difference. On the other hand, nurturing someone with possibilities they haven’t yet recognized in themselves is even more rewarding.

Have many of you found this to be true? Do you think if you were more trusting in both your personal and professional lives that you would be happier and better off?

Trust plays a great factor in both my personal and professional life. I think that if you are able to trust someone to take on a role or are committed to you in some way that it takes a burden off your shoulders and therefore you are happier.
For example, in the workplace, if you trust your colleagues or those that you supervise that tasks will get done in order to operate on a daily basis, you will be less stressed, less worried, and confident that you can project your work into other areas that need to be taken care of. Building that trust requires knowing that person, working closely with that person in the beginning to find out how they work, and develop training so that you feel they are confident enough to take on the task without having you to oversee or answer their questions all the time.
Building trust often results in everyone doing what they are supposed to do on the job but also having the opportunity to come together in a team setting or a project. Existing trust that is built within a team will help everyone with team collaboration and results.

You become more powerful when you give your own power away. Do you agree or disagree with this statement and why?

I do agree with this statement and am in the midst of learning and sharing power at this point in my career. I think as an individual contributor within an organization you learn what your role is, how you can be successful at it, and how you can grow in that role. As you continue to grow within the organization and outside of that role, you often need to think outside your “own role” and realize tasks and projects that you have done in the past that are now done by someone else can be beneficial. You may not have the ownership of that task any longer but giving someone else the strength and power to do the task is often beneficial. The person doing the task may have a faster, more efficient way of doing it and can have a direct positive impact on other tasks that you do. I think especially in a leadership role this is important because not only does the person who has the power now feel good and confident about taking on or accomplishing a task, you also give them confidence in the completion of their work, which can result in a positive influence in many things that everyone does within an organization.

What are some things that you can do to foster self confidence in the people around you?

One thing that I actually have been learning more about that I think fosters self confidence is coaching. Coaching really allows an individual to feel that their opinion matters, gives them the opportunity to talk about it, and can challenge them to think above and beyond what they thought they were capable of. Coaching seems to put the challenge and situations in the hands of the individual who may have a problem or needs a solution. Being there for them as a leader, to provide feedback, and open the window for them to look beyond what they thought they were limited to really can enhance their self-confidence. This is something that I have learned more of recently and do think it is a good tool that I would like to refer to more so as I develop my leadership capabilities.

I think trust is an interesting subject. I do believe that people who trust are often happier than those who do not, however there can many reasons why this is difficult for people to do. As it relates to the workplace, one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a leader is where people have been encouraged not to say what they really think so often that they are too gunshy to genuinely trust anymore. I have been challenged many times to break the cycle of mistrust and create an honest and open environment where people can really trade ideas. I have found that leading by example may be the best way. Admitting my own mistakes is a piece of that. But one of the things that has really made an impact is to admit I don't know how to do something. By admitting I don't know how to do something but am willing to learn, I become vulnerable and show others that it is safe to be vulnerable. It also is okay not to know how to do everything from the beginning. That's why we work together as a team to truly get where we need to go. If we always "knew" how to proceed we would stifle innovation and possibly a potential new path that would have otherwise never been exposed.

Baseball Saved Us!

It was a good story, but I could not shake the feeling that it lacked much depth, and was far too short. Of course, from our pre-play meeting, Stages Theater struck me as more involved with elementary education. And Stages artistic director’s, Sandy Boren-Barret, answer to my question about why she initiated the telling of this play was most revealing. She shares that she has asian children and felt the responsibility to put such stories out there. I thought “aha!” there’s a leadership for the common good element for which I was searching—without realizing it. And truth be told the subject matter is a severely untold American story that needs telling. So I am, nonetheless, grateful for the experience.

What I gleaned from this play were two connections and parallels with:

1.) Real leadership involves inspiration and authenticity

2.) Chance, necessity and choice as evolutionary vehicles in birthing leaders and change.

Going with my first parallel, I think back to class discussions in Week one, where Dr. Crosby posed the questions: “Can everyone be a leader?” “Can leadership be improved and taught?” I remember in class to a certain degree there was consensus that everyone can be a leader—not all at once, but yes, and one can certainly improve and master leadership skills. Baseball not only saved Tad and his family but it gave them a crucible in which to become passionate community leaders. And in the case of Tad’s father, he became a stronger leader. Tad’s father can easily be viewed as a natural leader, the man owned his own business, was seen as a community stalwart, and was the heroic green lantern in his son’s imagination! That was sweet. His family looked to him for guidance, and he didn’t let them down even as he struggled internally to make sense of the internment. Tad’s older brother, the one character who, evidently, appeared to have hardest time with the situation seemed like an unlikely leader, even though one could infer that Tad looked-up to him. However, the internment seemed to have broken his(temporarily) will, a clear contrast with his father, and in the case of Tad, the situation prompted his ability to inspire. These themes of presupposition of who a leader should be were also visited in the movie Whale Rider. A transformational event appears to bring communities together and birth leaders.

Another inextricable link to this story is the element of chance, necessity and choice in combination. No one planned this, even the American government that thought it was a good idea, for the safety of the Japanese Americans, was the claim, but it happened. A chance event that changed the course of a country and a community. And out of this came the necessity to change, and the choice of bending or breaking. Fortunately, Tad’s family chose the former, but it was not without pain and loss.

The play on some level explored “the awakening…[that] would result in either destruction or the flowering of a great civilization.” I think the family weathered the storm and came out great.

One last thing, I would add to my musings would be a slight disagreement with Hillman’s notion of “I don’t develop; I am” (p. 7) there seemed to be a lot of development going on as the family and community came together to face the horror of the internment. They didn’t let the experience rob them of their spirit. And that was how Baseball saved them!

Trusting more personally and professionally?

Hmnn…, I hate to be a cynic, but in my case I have learnt that I need a healthy dose of skepticism too. This is because the reality is that often one finds that people are not always out for collective interests but individual ones. I will attribute my easy trust and openness to being the eldest of three, I have care about others. ;o) But as I mature in the professional—and often in the personal—arena I see that people clearly didn’t take my needs into account before decisions were made. The challenge I find with Chapter 9 is the notion that trusting, initiating, and attempts at facilitating will create an environment of collaboration. I don’t think so—at least not always. I am currently in a situation where I’ve been trying to foster these elements for a while with little success. A decision I have made is to take myself out of the equation, so as to—hopefully—create opportunity for growth. There is a possibility that my “leadership style” is at odds with the group, thus, an elimination of this variable might allow for a chance to ponder of the fundamentals for growth and success.

I guess the argument for this tact can made with Chapter 10, in my attempt to strengthen others in the group, I am creating a choice in which my influence will not color the collective development. There’s also an element of self-determination in this too. I’m giving away my power and influence in the group so that others can mature.

Trusting more personally and professionally?

Hmnn…, I hate to be a cynic, but in my case I have learnt that I need a healthy dose of skepticism too. This is because the reality is that often one finds that people are not always out for collective interests but individual ones. I will attribute my easy trust and openness to being the eldest of three, I have care about others. ;o) But as I mature in the professional—and often in the personal—arena I see that people clearly didn’t take my needs into account before decisions were made. The challenge I find with Chapter 9 is the notion that trusting, initiating, and attempts at facilitating will create an environment of collaboration. I don’t think so—at least not always. I am currently in a situation where I’ve been trying to foster these elements for a while with little success. A decision I have made is to take myself out of the equation, so as to—hopefully—create opportunity for growth. There is a possibility that my “leadership style” is at odds with the group, thus, an elimination of this variable might allow for a chance to ponder of the fundamentals for growth and success.

I guess the argument for this tact can made with Chapter 10, in my attempt to strengthen others in the group, I am creating a choice in which my influence will not color the collective development. There’s also an element of self-determination in this too. I’m giving away my power and influence in the group so that others can mature.

Trusting more personally and professionally?

Hmnn…, I hate to be a cynic, but in my case I have learnt that I need a healthy dose of skepticism too. This is because the reality is that often one finds that people are not always out for collective interests but individual ones. I will attribute my easy trust and openness to being the eldest of three, I have care about others. ;o) But as I mature in the professional—and often in the personal—arena I see that people clearly didn’t take my needs into account before decisions were made. The challenge I find with Chapter 9 is the notion that trusting, initiating, and attempts at facilitating will create an environment of collaboration. I don’t think so—at least not always. I am currently in a situation where I’ve been trying to foster these elements for a while with little success. A decision I have made is to take myself out of the equation, so as to—hopefully—create opportunity for growth. There is a possibility that my “leadership style” is at odds with the group, thus, an elimination of this variable might allow for a chance to ponder of the fundamentals for growth and success.

I guess the argument for this tact can made with Chapter 10, in my attempt to strengthen others in the group, I am creating a choice in which my influence will not color the collective development. There’s also an element of self-determination in this too. I’m giving away my power and influence in the group so that others can mature.

Trusting more personally and professionally?

Hmnn…, I hate to be a cynic, but in my case I have learnt that I need a healthy dose of skepticism too. This is because the reality is that often one finds that people are not always out for collective interests but individual ones. I will attribute my easy trust and openness to being the eldest of three, I have care about others. ;o) But as I mature in the professional—and often in the personal—arena I see that people clearly didn’t take my needs into account before decisions were made. The challenge I find with Chapter 9 is the notion that trusting, initiating, and attempts at facilitating will create an environment of collaboration. I don’t think so—at least not always. I am currently in a situation where I’ve been trying to foster these elements for a while with little success. A decision I have made is to take myself out of the equation, so as to—hopefully—create opportunity for growth. There is a possibility that my “leadership style” is at odds with the group thus, an elimination of this variable might allow for a chance to ponder of the fundamentals for growth and success.

I guess the argument for this tact can made with Chapter 10, in my attempt to strengthen others in the group, I am creating a choice in which my influence will not color the collective development. There’s also an element of self-determination in this too. I’m giving away my power and influence in the group so that others can mature.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs