Sunday, November 17, 2002

A Catalyst of Change

To paraphrase the eclectic songwriter Tom Waits "every leader I know is
either dead or in prison"
; it is thus that I have culled a philosophy
of leadership. A popular axiom of the day is to "begin with the end in
(Covey, 1991). This is a good
practice not only because it is a succinct sound bite but it also expresses
the Zen-like nuance of not necessarily knowing but understanding where our
destination lies. It then becomes the path towards this destination which
is the true mettle of our journey. To my end, as a leader, (and by definition)
I hope that I will have made a difference enough that others may want to
follow me. And this then is the most difficult concept for beginning a treatise
on a "philosophy of leadership".

"It's hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way"

Mac Davis

In the term itself leadership implies that there has to be someone following.
Yet, by cultural definition a leader needs to be humble, full of integrity
and humility - hence negating their existence as a leader - for to follow
someone we want (culturally) an enigmatic, charismatic, powerful individual
to blaze our path, (Gardner, et al, 1995).
This passage is jumbled and full of contradictions which is why I chose it
as an introduction into this discourse on leadership philosophies. For, it
is within these contradictions, this conflict
(Suzuki, 1956), this disheveled and seemingly
undisciplined voice which defines my concept of leadership. This chaos. In
essence 'am I worthy to lead?' and yet by merely asking this question I am
not. 'Am I humble enough to be a good leader?' But by staking claim to leadership
itself I no longer can be humble - 'am I knowledgeable and forthright enough
to be a leader?' for does not this thinking of leadership equate power which
is necessary for charismatic identity but then negates humility which is
essential for integrity … and so forth … and so on …

The Undeniable 15 Minutes

This duel with duality has been an incessant integral manipulation of my
personal leadership, whether mythological, spiritual, or philosophical. While
it would appear that the use of popular media is not in alignment with the
steadfastness of a formal dissertation, popular media is often the reflection
of who we are as a society (McLuhan, 1967).
Having arrived at adulthood in an age of informational glut amassed via the
storm of popular media it is not therefore out of order that philosophies
have been interred by the messages of popular media. This propagation of
philosophy is most apparent in the concept of leadership. What we, as a culture,
determine to be acceptable or unacceptable roles of leadership, often is
fueled by our popular media.

The leadership tenets which I have latched onto over the years are the ones
often portrayed in the popular culture of our time, (the irony of course
is that these characteristics of humanity are deemed 'American' and yet were
borrowed or stolen directly from Eastern teachings,
(Kurosawa, 1954;
Sturges, 1960)):

  • develop a personal code of ethics, a mission; · be principle driven;

  • leave the past behind learn from mistakes and move forward;

  • live life to the fullest, be self sacrificing and risk taking;

  • be child-like in your wonder, experiment and experience as much as you can;

  • encouraging others to excel in their determinations;

  • make a difference in the world you live in;

  • steadfast in their decision making and beliefs, yet tolerant and open to
    others input;

  • a prevalence for being 'outside' the norms of society;

  • a direct individualized sense of determination;

  • purposeful, and often misconstrued action;

  • an individualistic leader yet significantly understands their role in the

  • intelligent or knowledgeable about all things good and bad;

  • a sense of integrity, especially when at peril of one's life;

  • be a teacher;

  • and an overarching sense that 'you do the right thing because it is the right
    thing to do';

"I read all kinds of books about heroes and crooks"

Jimmy Buffet

Jara of Chile

One of my most influential heroes I discovered in the late nineteen seventies
in a song by Arlo Guthrie (1976). The song
"Victor Jara" was adapted by a poem by the English poet Adrian Mitchell.
When I first heard the song I was filled with admiration, and then skepticism.
I began a quest to discover if in fact Victor Jara had existed and if the
story within that song was indeed factual. What I was to discover was a subtle
foreshadowing of my future.

Victor Jara was a teacher from Chile. Not only was he a teacher but he was
one of those things I have always aspired to but was never able to master:
an accomplished musician and songwriter. Victor Jara was a poet, he was masterful
with his words and imagery, and Victor Jara was an activist. He believed
in not only upholding his values but he was also willing to die for his beliefs.
As social activist/poet/songwriter/teachers can, Victor Jara had a wonderful
life. He was acknowledged for his words and music, he taught at the university
and he was able to tour the world expounding his words onto a hungry world.

In the mid-nineteen seventies there was a military coup in Chile and the
"generals" took over the country. They told people like Victor Jara that
they could not "teach" their subversive views anymore and removed their licenses
to teach. Victor Jara continued to express his views in the clubs and within
the songs that he was singing. The "generals" then threatened Victor Jara
suggesting that he not sing his songs and they banned him from the clubs.
For awhile Victor Jara took his music to other countries and other arenas,
and with the ever growing tyranny of the generals Victor became more forthright
in his activism. Victor realized that his message was not getting through,
that the generals were able to thwart his ideology by his "escaping" from
his country. He knew that he would be arrested if he was to return to his
homeland but Victor thought that in his hiding his message would be lost.
Victor returned to Chile and subsequently was arrested, he was placed in
a football stadium with hundreds of other men but Victor Jara would not be
silenced. He played songs to his fellow prisoners and the generals broke
his hands, he spoke out about the injustices of the current regime and the
generals broke his jaw. They tortured Victor for several days before finally
executing him.

Victor Jara believed in a cause, understanding that his beliefs most probably
would see him killed. He stood up for what was right even when others would
flee from threat. Victor Jara epitomized integrity, stood outside of the
status quo, would not let fear rule his day and realized that a life lived
in hiding was not a life.

Following "the Boss"

As is wont to experience those greatest leaders are those seemingly unaware
of their greatness but not unaware of their potential. These leaders emerge
when needs or desperate measures arise and circumstances allow for exposure;
but too often, these emergent leaders go unnoticed - some not even leaving
a footnote in history. Sir Ernest Shackleton is one of these footnoted ironies.
His exploits happened nearly a century ago, his feats unfettered and unequaled
for his day and yet history has allowed him, nearly, to slide away into the
crevices of a vast historical wasteland. What perhaps is the most important
aspect of Shackleton's leadership endeavors is that it was through his failures
that he made his greatest accomplishments. Shackleton's leadership
characteristics can be read as a virtual template for all leaders:

  • Respectful and cooperative competition

  • Surround oneself with an experienced and knowledgeable crew

  • Lead by example: develop a spirit of camaraderie,

  • delegate & help each crew member reach their utmost potential

  • Demonstrate confidence and optimism; focus on the future or the goal; take
    responsibility for the whole job: the good and bad aspects and realize that
    risk taking, deviations from the plan, or utilizing others' input often realizes
    the goal

  • Leave a legacy of others who not only follow in these footsteps but blaze
    paths of their own

Respectful and cooperative competition

Sir Ernest Shackleton cultivated a sense of compassion and responsibility
for others. He realized that even the most minute details had an effect not
only on his crews but also those he worked for and against. Shackleton also
realized that while he may be in competition both financially and for accolades
with other explorers it would not benefit either of them if they did not
share their findings, knowledge, expertise or even time. Sir Ernest was often
doing "leg work" or "press junkets" for his competing peers in order for
them to cultivate their needed resources and supplies. By engaging in this
respectful competition what might have been considered an enemy became an
ally or a cooperative partner in the future. A century ago Shackleton realized
that the world was changing at an ever increasing speed. He surmised that
it was important to keep abreast with these changes, to accumulate knowledge
and resources to be utilized later, and that nuances like cultural and social
endeavors were just as important as the progress or success of one's established
career. Shackleton realized that setbacks and failures are lessons on a learning
curve that will provide valuable direction for future excursions. Most
importantly, Shackleton realized that reaching a goal is not necessarily
the "end-all" that safety and concern for all members of the crew need to
be considered at all times. Goals must be set and can be through bold and
careful planning but must not overshadow the crew nor their mission in life.

Shackleton's Antarctic excursions were noted for their formidable supplies
that were left for the explorers. His cache of supplies from the failed Endurance
expedition were actually utilized by his competitors in subsequent excursions.
Shackleton is often credited with providing these excursions with stores
whereas without these supplies the competing explorers would have perished.
Shackleton was an enigmatic leader who enjoyed the limelight and the glory
that would be ascertained through his exploration of Antarctica. But he also
realized this glory would be misspent if it was at the cost of life of any
of his crew members. Even in situations where he was a hyperbolic "stone's
throw" from his goal - he would rethink his plans if the objective presented
too much of a risk of life.

Surround oneself with an experienced and knowledgeable crew

Shackleton was able to develop his crews from a resource of workers he had
worked with previously or were recommended by trusted colleagues. He also
picked a "no. 2" person who complemented his style of management; this is
someone who is not afraid to follow nor stand up to "the Boss" when visions
become blurred. It was also surmount to hire people who were experts in their
field and then utilize them for such. To be threatened by other people's
expertise was to develop a sense of conspiracy and fear, and trust is an
opportune trait. Sir Ernest believed it was extremely important to hire those
who shared his vision realizing that those who clashed or whose vision was
other than his would be a detriment to the expedition.

Shackleton also took his interviewing process onto a different plane, one
which went deeper than the basic job experiences but which rather revealed
motive, personality, desire and underlying potential. Spell out the duties
that will be needed to be performed, outline what will be expected and how
they will be compensated. Be optimistic even in the drudgery of work and
remove traditional hierarchies of working environments. All members need
to work as a team and thus share in the daily duties. In doing so, Shackleton
wanted to keep his crew as optimistic and high-spirited as possible and realized
that people will work hard when understanding the situation, understanding
what is expected of them and by being provided the necessary tools to achieve
their objectives. Without these characteristics his crews would experience
unnecessary burdens that would hinder the objective of the expedition.

Lead by example: develop a spirit of camaraderie, delegate & help
each crew member reach their utmost potential

Shackleton knew that the travails of an Antarctic expedition, the long months
at sea, and ice would be strenuous. He knew that the key to a successful
venture would be providing a comfortable work environment and a sense of
personal ownership from his crews. Sir Ernest realized that healthy minds
and bodies produced more productive individuals and always set up his excursions
with means to keep his crews physically and mentally fit. Also key, was the
work entailed. All of Shackleton's crews had challenging and important work.
He stressed that what may have appeared unimportant tasks (such as keeping
the brass polished or the decks swabbed) was in fact important to the integral
structure of the ship: and everyone then needed to partake in the maintenance
and the everyday chores. Sir Ernest made sure that even the "lowest ranking"
crew members realized that their participation was invaluable to the expedition's

Shackleton utilized constant feedback and an "open door" policy for voicing
grievances. This allowed him to create temporary teams of workers who would
take care of the chores and was able to mix up his crews into teams that
normally, (due to class structure, professional hierarchies, or official
designations) may not have ever thought of working together. In fact some
of the largest praise by his crews revolved around the friendships and partnering
of teams. Shackleton also understood the importance of public accolades.
He rewarded individuals for work well don as well as the groups and realized
that it is the little things: an anniversary, a birthday, a name of a favorite
animal or book that often bridged that gap between individuals. He memorized
the interests of his crew and utilized this information to have chats, working
parties with people of communal interests, and as a way to provide encouragement
when he thought his crew needed such.

Above all Shackleton realized that he needed to be tolerant. He utilized
his crew's strengths and accepted their weaknesses and with this in mind
set reasonable and attainable goals. He realized the importance of overindulging
his crew especially in high stress situations.

Demonstrate confidence and optimism; focus on the future or the goal,
take responsibility for the whole job: the good and bad aspects & realize
that risk taking, deviations from the plan, or utilizing others' input often
realizes the goal

Shackleton thrived in crisis situations, not necessarily out of choice but
out of circumstance. He participated in the mundane details of the maintenance
of the expedition and would often be a "worker" or participant in others'
experiments or projects. He disliked the idea of "middle management" and
streamlined the operations so that the mission would not be hindered. Shackleton
tried to think ahead of all possible scenarios and outcomes and continuously
had options at his avail. But always he kept the expedition's objectives
in sight. He continually asked his staff for advice and was not shy at accepting
their input nor at presenting them with the recognition of their insight.
Still, Shackleton would ultimately make the decisions based on his judgment
of the situation and the facts. This allowed him not only to give recognition
for those who presented differing ideas but also it allowed him to take
responsibility for these action regardless of their outcome.

Shackleton also realized that his crew needed to know the true reality of
what was taking place so that his crew would not lose focus. He let all the
people know that their participation was invaluable to the success of the
expedition and realized that a crew who believed their work constructive
and meaningful would be less malcontent. Often Shackleton would "leak" unpopular
information about a forthcoming decision so that when he did finally voice
it the crew had already had their misgivings and were now thinking about
ways to be successful with the decision.

The best way to handle the biggest task is often to divide into teams, creating
units which are self-sufficient while understanding that they will not all
be equal. Shackleton organized his men into teams, some which he handpicked
and some which developed as natural relationships. Within this structure
he had "cracker jack" teams that formed and he utilized according to their
demonstrated or chosen expertise. Shackleton would give those tedious assignments
to those members who were natural work horses and seldom complained: realizing
that it was equally important to give them positive feedback, letting them
know that they were given these tasks because of their temperament and often
inferring that their exceptional fortitude was the reason for the assignment.
Shackleton focused his leadership on empowerment and the expertise of his
crews, he recognized their authority while maintaining an eye on the overall

Perhaps the most effective aptitude of Shackleton was his self-sacrifice
and patience. He was willing to change his mind when he saw a plan not working
instead of trying to hold fast to his authoritive right. While Shackleton
was willing to demonstrate that he was infallible and that he had weaknesses
he never pointed out the weakness of his crew publicly. He would often put
the burden of the weakness upon himself and express to the crew this downfall,
he then asked the crew for a remedy realizing that even his strongest members
could benefit from this information.

While Shackleton hand-picked his crew, often in the light of a "go for broke"
risk taking atmosphere, he also realized that his crew was made up of different
individuals who sought wisdom and spiritual reverence in many ways. He sought
to share these examples with everyone introducing them to different aspects
of faith and tolerance for individual belief. By doing this he did not force
any individual to prescribe to unwanted or forded (and thence false)
spirituality. Shackleton sought inspiration in the daily activates and histories
of his crew, often re-reciting their exploits for the others. Shackleton
realized that even in the most stressful situations no matter the environment
that all members are a part of a greater whole, than the world about them
exists no matter the isolation. He stressed that participating in community
and family activities often provides one with useful skills for nearly any
type of job. Shackleton also reminded his crew to focus on the whole job,
while the heavy lifting or the dirty grime work may be done there always
those little details that need to be completed before the day is done.

Leave a legacy for others who not only follow in these footsteps but blaze
paths of their own

Sir Ernest Shackleton is not endeared because he survived against incredible
odds but because he was successful in those important things we often forget
that matters. His expedition was by all records a failure, but it was extremely
successful in the recognition that his entire crew not only survived but
survived with an uplifted sense of spirituality, camaraderie and faith.
Shackleton had an incredible team that shared companionship even though
Shackleton was noted as saying, "Leadership is a fine thing, but it has
penalties. And the greatest penalty is loneliness." Shackleton was able to
recognize the faults and the potential of his crew, and most importantly
Shackleton lead by example, "If you are a leader, a fellow that other fellows
look to, you've got to keep going."

Shackleton never planted a flag at the South Pole, he never met many of his
goals, he did not receive the monies nor the acclaim that he had desired.
Yet, he did what he wanted to do and he did it well enough to be remembered
throughout the histories of not only exploration but within the texts of
civility, leadership, and spirituality. His "workplace" was a creative workshop,
instilling the desire and new found expertise in himself and his crew. His
crews were productive, enduring and enjoyable. Shakleton's respect for human
life over the public accolades of a successful enterprise is perhaps his
greatest leadership tribute, "The loyalty of your men is a sacred trust you
carry. It is something which must never be betrayed, something you must live
up to."

Sir Ernest was a risk taker, he thrived on the attention of being "one of
the greatest" in his chosen field, but he would not spend or diminish the
lives and spirits of his crews in order to do so. He chose "failure" instead
of expending these souls - this choice, ironically, provided him with the
greatest accolades of success, "There are a lot of good things in the world,
but I'm not sure that comradeship is not the best of them all - to know that
you can do something big for another chap."

A Cry in the Loveless Waste

      Remember me            
      I am

            free       at large
not nearly

      as hard to find        as America

   Fr. Daniel Berrigan

Perhaps the most influential person on my leadership, and albeit my entire
Te of existence has to be Father Daniel Berrigan. This notion of a Catholic
Priest being one of my "heroes" as it were is irony within itself. For the
teachings of any prescribed organized religion, much less the epitome of
such - the Catholic church, is contrary to all of my spiritual endeavors.
Yet, Father Berrigan stands out as the pure iconoclastic emblem of the concept
of spirituality. As a necessary aside I find it important to stress that
I have been in admiration of such Christian sects as the "Jesuits" and
"Franciscans", not because of the spiritual and religious affiliations but
because of their spirituality. I admire the Jesuits, not because they came
to different lands and imposed their religion on others, but because of the
courage of these individuals who felt it necessary to encourage their faith
on foreign and often hostile lands, and who moved through their lives guided
only by their faith. I admire the Franciscan order, again regardless of
religiosity, but because of their idea of balance, that we all exist in harmony
with each other, our world about us, and the living things that make this
planet our home.

It is this doctrine of religion that brings me back to Father Berrigan. Daniel
Berrigan was a young Jesuit priest, he was knowledgeable, creative, had a
flair for words which has led to volumes of poetic works. He was a young,
American priest; enigmatic, charismatic, he was gracious, humble, passionate,
devoted, and energized by his faith, his spirituality, and his raison de
etre: the Church: the embodiment of all that was spiritual sacred to Father
Berrigan. Father Berrigan was a remarkable priest, as was his younger brother
Phillip. And through them the diocese saw a powerful, and political team,
(this was concurrent with the Kennedy regime in America, during the mid-
to late-nineteen fifties, where the Kennedy's as Catholics had taken power
in the senate, the Catholic Church also sought the empowerment of the Berrigans.
In a sense then, establishing the Church as a very powerful political force
in American society.) This previous information is important, as one of the
leadership tenets we see is self-sacrifice and Father Daniel Berrigan knew
he and his brother were being groomed for higher offices. Father Berrigan
loved God, his faith, the church, and all that it represented. He had written
several volumes of poetry and was creating a name for himself as well as
the Jesuit faith a poetic-theologian. He was much admired by the his peers,
who did not see him as an upstart but rather saw him a passionate priest
overcome with the spirit of God.

              I see a procession of the

              Death shuns them on; pillar
to post;

              Man and wife, hands

              A piteous nobility;

              That word comes now

              Through the mind's pain,
into truth.

              Mercy, forgiveness, You
are my heart's ground.

 (Berrigan, 1962)

But historically crises beget leaders, Father Berrigan and the Catholic church
were to become embroiled in a war - most notable it was America's entrance
into the "police action" of Vietnam. Father Berrigan believed that his faith
and the church needed to make a stand against the atrocities of war, and
that it was the church's right to protect lives and become involved in the
stopping of war, any war. In a very political and fearful time in America,
Father Berrigan stood for what he believed to be "right", for what he believed
his faith and religion deemed necessary and proper. This division of ideology
was but a mere seed in the tribulations, and trials, of Father Berrigan's

As the Catholic church distanced itself from the war in Vietnam, and also
decried the war on American soil by those protesting the war effort; Father
Berrigan became more concerned and more forthright in his ideology that the
church needed to create a safe-haven for all. Father Daniel Berrigan, along
with his brother Father Philip Berrigan, began to house draft resistors,
they were instrumental in developing a nation-wide "underground railroad"
of homes, churches, and businesses that would assist draft resistors by housing
them or providing a means to escape into Canada. Father Daniel Berrigan also
took his war to the media, he made public displays of burning draft cards
and other draft credentials, of peacefully protesting the war, of peaceful
demonstrations, and very visible criticisms of the Church.

a criminal for peace

The more Father Berrigan fought for the preservation of life the more the
church distanced themselves from their once promising protégé;
with this distancing, Father Berrigan found himself more embroiled in the
movement to end the war in Vietnam. Of this demonstrative epoch the culmination
came when Father Berrigan and several others broke into a draft registration
office in Catonsville, Maryland and removed and subsequently destroyed all
of the draft files they could find. As the draft office was a "federal" office,
this resulted in Father Berrigan being arrested for many different crimes,
including treason. Father Berrigan was an idealist and an optimist. He believed
that when the public heard of the atrocities of the war, the imbalance of
those being drafted to fight it, (specifically poor, minority boys), that
they would rally to his defense. Unfortunately, the public viewpoint of the
war in Vietnam and the war at home involving the protestors, would not change
for several more years. Father Berrigan found himself guilty as charged and
facing a lifetime in prison. Father Berrigan did what many political extremists
do and went "underground" to avoid prison. This resulted in his having to
give everything up - especially his identity.

Too often, when people make the choice for self-preservation at the cost
of their identity they feel that they have lost everything; especially their
meaning or their mission. When faced with this decision Father Berrigan came
out of hiding and was subsequently re-arrested,
(Berrigan & Coles, 1971). While
in prison, Father Berrigan was able to continue his fight against the Vietnam
war, he continued his prolific sense of writing - albeit now his writings
were more radically charged and poignant, many times raising accusations
against the American government, people, and the Catholic Church in their
continued support of genocide, (Berrigan,
. With this the American public were more willing to hear what the
"radical" priest had to say, and after subsequent appeals a new trial was
awarded Father Berrigan and the "Catonsville 9" and in a turning point in
the war protest movement a jury of peers found them not guilty of all crimes,
including the articles of treason.

Father Berrigan received some of the accolades he deserved becoming immortalized
in many caricatures throughout novels, movies and song, he became known as
that "Radical Priest" and as one musician noted he even got his "picture
on the cover of Newsweek", (Simon, 1972).
This much would be a footnote in the historical archives for anyone. But
Father Berrigan did not do what he did for the accolades, he believed in
his mission of faith, of spirituality, and of teaching.

I did not discover Father Berrigan until early in nineteen eighty when I
became disillusioned with my own role in subversive American military service.
There was a movement where I was stationed that was trying to stop the delivery
of nuclear warheads via trains through naïve American communities. While
I was still involved in the military I began attending these "gatherings"
and successfully keeping my two identities separate. Somewhere along the
way I was handed a book by a beautiful woman (I state this because many times
are motives are not at all altruistic), it was a copy of Father Berrigan's
"America is Hard to Find". She went on to mention that this particular poem
reminded her of myself and my writings. As accidental meanderings usually
happen I went with her to a poetry reading in Seattle where I read some of
my anti-war/establishment poems. Ezra Pound once said "there is no such thing
as coincidence" and coincidentally the guest speaker at this demonstration
happened to be Father Berrigan himself.

Father Berrigan true to his ideology had taken on the military and the
development of nuclear weapons and other means of mass destruction as his
mantle. Throughout the ensuing decades Father Berrigan would once again try
to change the ways of death. He would spend many more years in prison for
various endeavors that supported the well-being of all mankind. Father Berrigan,
even to this day, leads "raids" on missile silos where they spill red paint
on the warheads, hit them with hammers to demonstrate the ridiculousness
of trying to "hide" weapons of mass destruction. And even though the church
has excommunicated Father Berrigan he still wholeheartedly believes in his
faith, and that it is the desire of all to prevent mass destruction and genocide.

Father Berrigan has wrought forth his love and enchantment for his faith
having written the story for the movie "The Mission" a story of the Jesuit
order fighting for truth despite the teachings of the church. Currently Father
Berrigan is working in an AIDS hospice out of New York, continually ministering
to the terminally ill and speaking out all over the world on the atrocities
of AIDS, the denial of drugs and research for AIDS, and once again accusing
the church of genocide in their refusal to "educate" against sexually transmitted
diseases in America and other countries.

              "Indifference of consequences
is no excuse before the law"

            We are - Americans.We swim in the
common waters together …

           Behold our Jesuit, then, among his
Jesuit kind, seeking now answers,

           now something humbler - the right

           He knew that he occupied a privileged
skin, could claim the perks of education,

           tradition, family. Could he grow
thoughtful about such matters as his own humanity?

            Or would he accept unquestioningly
the place in which, or on which, he had been set

           from birth -dwelling as he did,
aloft, on a kind of sanctified pylon? And if he

           stood there dumb, was he not reduced
to the status of an immobilized

           icon of the culture? How then could
he presume to be even a gentle shaker

            of the political and social (and
religious) scene?

           He could not. The supposition was
ridiculous … it was morally offensive.

           I came to know a few things, and
the knowledge has not since departed,

           but stands me in good stead. I learned
a modest translation of the word sacrifice

           and its image, the cross. I know
that in grandeur, the cross (which is to say,

           the crucified One) invites the living
to the heart of reality, in an embrace as

           guileless and self-giving as it
is indifferent of consequence.

     Fr. Berrigan,

"If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me"

Kris Kristofferson

A Lifetime of Lessons Learned

This was a most difficult treatise: a definition of what leadership is about
and how one is to accomplish this. We cannot be leaders without followers,
and it is through those that follow that our leaders can be defined,
(Chaleff, 1995). We have too many areas
of our lives that we can attribute to others' inspiring values. I realize
that many of my values stem from my parents: both good and bad. The world
I grew up in: the hostile revolutionary fever that was a rainbow bumper-shoot
of the 1960s; the hedonistic 1970s with grace derailed; the 1980s and the
gluttony of the self with others as something to tread upon; the iconoclastic
1990s that defined the hypocrisy of what is meant by 'truth justice and the
American way!'. Coupled with all of these inputs comes the realization that
life, value and spirituality have to be balanced in a perverse triad juggled
and fragile.

Well, it's Saturday night and the Jester's broke

But the lessons I have learned need to be summed up in a concise, scholarly
pedantry summary that can be quantified in a simple "High Pass, Pass, or
No Pass". And what I have learned is that I cannot do this. I see the chaos
of the world about me and in some surreal manner I can pick out threads of
existence, of thought, demeanor, and method. I can pull on these threads
not to unravel but to entwine them into perhaps another timeline - a different
string, a differing perspective of thought and action. Too often our society
becomes glued to a past a preference of some collective memory that most
likely has not even existed. This social consciousness can be a devastating
threat to the courageous mind. We often speak of reform
(Gardner, et al,1995), of change, but
systematically we tear down the wall of reason and blockade ourselves from
this change for the common good, the peace we desire
(Berrigan, 1987), and the working mindset
of the everyday (Himanen, 2001).

"There's something going on here and you don't know what it is. Do you
Mr. Jones?"

Bob Dylan

We try to lead a life pure and chaste and yet our desires overwhelm us: we
may, and often do call this temptation. We have different words for it in
all languages, all cultures, some evil, some derogatory and some a purging
sense of sanity. I am reminded of an event that has now become on of my lessons
learned, my teachings to the crew, where I get to play the "Jester" in a
fable for others. I had become disillusioned at where I worked, a misbalance
of ethics and values had become glaring as it seemed that this was a situation
where plans had to be changed in order for the expedition to be successful.
I no longer enjoyed what it was I was doing. I am a teacher, and one of my
licenses is in teaching English and literature. I happened upon an interview
with a suburban high school English department. In all my missives and dialogues
in applying for this position I lay out quite clearly my teaching methods,
my pedagogical ideology, my educational philosophies for I do not want to
waste time either for the interviewers nor myself. The question arose about
my being "a catalyst of change," and the moment the words slipped out of
the interviewer my "sarcasm" radar antennae perked up but I did not heed
the warnings. After all, why would they have asked me in for an interview
if our ideologies were not similar? Were our visions not clear?

It was an extremely hot August summer's day and the building where the interviews
were conducted was not air conditioned, I sat before a sweating committee
sweating and by the department head,
a balding,
squat, effeminate man
asked how me I would go about teaching "The Great
Gatsby" to my students, and engaging them in the experience. After all, wasn't
I 'a catalyst of change.' Unfortunately, I believed I was in a desperate
situation. Did I really want this position? Was I selling out only because
I was scared of not finding work? Were these people ridiculing me? Was my
ideology somehow their jest? Even before I could speak I understood I was
here to entertain, I was their "Jester", I was not going to be considered
for this position - and yet I still tried, desperate, hopeful. I explained
how I would go about teaching a book that I honestly I found no value in
teaching, I was selling my integrity to the first bidder -- for the chance
of a job -- the fear of not being able to find work. I felt ill in how my
clothes, my "good" woolen suit, my non-threatening-yet-expressing-power tie
chafing my neck, my "interview" shoes polished and gleaming. All I could
think of was the Bob Dylan song "Ballad of a Thin Man" and I glanced over
at the smirking Mr. Jones and the words I wanted to say were held back by
a mouthful of fear. I left the interview feeling, degraded for my beliefs,
violated for my principles, dirty … I made a promise to myself that
I would not place monetary concerns over my integrity again. My life is a
life led though principles (Covey, 1991).

A Catalyst of Change

How do I accomplish this? I surround myself with people of similar vision
although not necessarily of similar values nor ethics. I encourage a progression
of knowledge, of history, of legacy. I delve into areas unfamiliar with a
"face to the wind" audacity - or risk. Often, I am put en garde due to my
disassociation with established methods or the status quo. I encourage others
with humor and entertainment and often bring brevity to situations by being
the "Jester" or by bringing the insult upon me. I am not afraid to make mistakes
and often acknowledge my mistakes for others to learn from. I am a teacher
regardless of my certification or licensure. I am determined, enigmatic,
thoughtful, and charismatic. I am also aware of situations even though I
appear as if I do not. I heed the warnings of Sun Tzu, and 'keep my enemies
near'. I have troubled myself with my identity and who I am. Two discrete
and separate ideologies. I have done misdeeds in order for self-preservation
and have regretted these decisions. But then again, I learn fast from my
mistakes. Life is for living. It is that once chance we have to experience
our existence and we need to utilize this time well. I build my leadership
style on this premise; the sound-bite reference attached the bumper of a
car 'Life is a trip - enjoy the ride'. Experiment and find out what it is
that makes you happy - and make this your life. Satchel Paige said it best,
"Work like you don't need the money," if you do what you enjoy the rest,
finances, routines, relationships, will all take care of themselves. Make
a difference, it does not matter for whom as long as you do not feel compromised.
Be childlike in your wonder: taste, touch, experience everything. Do not
dwell on the past or past mistakes, how history or others will perceive you
utilize the lessons taught and revel in the here and now. Develop a personal
code of ethics a mission and share it with everyone so that they are aware
of your vision. And then walk this path determined by your ethics, your morality,
your knowledge and what may appear as obstinate and arrogance are the
steadfastness of your vision.

I have mantras I run through my head at various times depending upon the
situation, but, to be as clear and concise, pithy if you will, there are
words expressed by Mahatma Gandhi that have become my own mantra: "be the
change you seek in others." And with this I have become the catalyst …


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