One reason for writing my single-page papers is that I think I have something to say when it comes to power, leadership, dialogue, and, most importantly, its effect on us as leaders and those who are important to us. Also, I sincerely believe that only one person initiates the way a relationship and environment develop. That in itself constitutes leadership even if one does not see or accept themselves as a leader.
If the power to control exists in any relationship, it must be used to build the relationship. Ideally, it should be wielded beneficially so that those without this power will feel safe. If the power holder uses it to diminish others, those others will know and suffer for that mistreatment. Abusing power, as I’ve described, makes building a relationship impossible. So, I return to these subjects with the intention of eliminating an illness that is not perpetrated by bacteria and viruses but through words and behaviors.
Power is not thought of as an aphrodisiac by accident. Like sex, it rewards the power holder’s brain with dopamine and other chemical jolts. Now, consider the way abusive power achieves its goals. It does so by exploiting fear—fear of consequences. Our life experiences can significantly contribute to the fear of power, whether it be real or perceived. Ultimately, all power needs to be exercised responsibly. The concepts of leadership and responsibility were central to Camp Shasta’s philosophy.
In the sixties, a parent, a professor of psychology at UCLA, visited camp and pointed out something I’ll never forget. She spent a week at camp participating in and studying our camp’s philosophy and its application. Before leaving, she told me that the camp experience deliberately built responsibility into each child. She questioned the effectiveness of this. Because, as she saw it, afterward they returned home, only to be treated once again as children cared for by their parents and teachers. Of course, we did not treat children as needing care at camp. Instead, we treated them as caregivers themselves and gave them the essential tools to realize their potential.
OUR PHILOSOPHY NEVER CHANGED. As young adults, most became what camp fed them. As aging witnesses, we’re thrilled.