Being Born Unique—A Blessing Or??????

Yes, we are each born unique to a degree, but growing into what self we each are, is never easy—and perhaps the equivalent of climbing Mt Everest? Why I think this is so is what I will attempt to share in this paper.

Institutions including religious, political, educational, and organizations of every kind create the mechanisms necessary to make our becoming what they want us to become; and even family has its picture of what their members are or will become. It is rare to find environments and systems created by people that support maximizing a self’s uniqueness. In fact, it may be impossible to find systems that support the true growth of a self that at the same time seeds and nurtures respect, regard, and responsibility for others. And here I mean all others. Is this not what the Biblical words “love thy neighbor as thy self” mean?  Do these words qualify the neighbor? I do not think so.

When I began to write my book about six years ago, I decided that I needed to know “what kind of leader I was.” Much too late to do anything about what took place seventy years back, yet I still felt I needed to know. The answers I got back made me feel good, but perplexed. At that time, I was completely unaware of any deliberate effort on my part to teach respect and regard for the children they worked with and with each other. But I was this to them and this is what they were with each other and children.  Why? I never asked, but I was this to them and did not know.

Years later when I began working with professionals and entrepreneurs, I became a serious student of leadership, power, and relationships. I was also more aware of myself. I knew my responsibility as a self and therefore to assist leaders in the absolute necessity of being themselves, whatever that meant to them. As this evolved so did the leaders, doing all they could in helping others be more themselves. Growth was reciprocal; in that all of “us” benefitted from an environment that fed BEING. It was why all that participated took what they were experiencing at work home with them. After-all it was each of them being themselves.   Next: Of what we do which activity is most oneself?  Sy

Bureaucracy And System

I watched the interview of Prince Harry and Meghan and it stirred up some concerns of mine that I have had for many years.  Those are the issues of “bureaucracy” and the visible and invisible barriers created by “bureaucracies.”

I openly share that when I personally or my organizations bumped into “bureaucracy,” I backed off. In other words, my being ruled and restricted by administrators or systems never sat well with me.  When it happened (and I am sure it did) I walked away if I could. If not (school; jobs I had as a kid, military service, etc.), I did what had to be done to the best of my abilities but made little noise and stayed in the shadows. Being myself and following my own tune is apparently deep-seated in me.

Interestingly, I remember reading that Confucius (the father of bureaucracy in China) had constant trouble with bureaucracies wherever he tried to influence leaders. This is also true of Plato when he was invited to be with Pericles, the leader of Athens. How often has this occurred that bureaucracy created to manage systems also attempts to controls all that live within its invisible walls? 

I see this as a non-problem for most people since we are born into systems. We call this our family and remain in a variety of systems throughout our lives. Lenette and I created organizations, and as leaders, we think and hope we dealt with our employees as individuals and not as part of a “system.” Yes, all organizations have rules; some are stifling and others flexible. And yet, I wonder now whether we did or did not create systems and walls? It is long past that time, but those who were there would remember and know. Systems may be ubiquitous so avoiding them may be impossible.  

It is why I believe most people may not understand Prince Harry and Meghan.  Prince Harry was born and raised within the Royal Bureaucracy. This is what he has experienced, and this is what he knows. Without question, what his wife has gone through is so powerful an experience that they are both deeply scarred by what transpired and can never again be without scar tissue.   

The creation of “systems” may be inevitable, and I suggest that “bureaucracy “may be necessary to serve the system and the people within it, but bureaucracy ought not to rule. I reacted against powers that sought to control me. Being responsible for my own actions “was right for me.” I have experienced and know that degrees of responsibility are what most people can handle. I also know that there are those that avoid any responsibilities. So be it. We need to recognize and accept the differences amongst people and respect what a person chooses for themselves and how they live their own life. 

Living under the control of professional administrators is what some people are born into and learn to expect they will be cared for throughout their lives. They become accustomed to the structure and security provided by the system.  When care and controls are expected but denied there must be a terrible sense of helplessness if one lives within the system. It takes courage to live one’s own life and be fully responsible for oneself. Some of us would have it no other way.  Sy

 I am born helpless————-In time I become able————-Freedom to be me.  

If I am cared for—————–For how long and in what ways? ———-Knowing essential.

Dogs That Hunt & Dogs That Don’t

I received a request to write my thoughts on the above title. I will below, but also want to remind that any suggestion for a paper is welcome as long as it has to do with power, leadership, dialogue and relationships. I think this request does.

I know dogs and I know people and the knowing of both is earned through life long experience with both.  As for dogs, we enjoyed a number of puppies and lived with them to their final days. They were all family to us. As for people, beyond family and friends, I worked professionally with hundreds of staff and with hundreds of adult clients over many years. Never studied dog behavior, just loved and enjoyed them. My study of human behavior has never ceased.  

So the subject at hand is about “Dogs That Hunt & Those That Don’t.” A leader asked the question and, of course, has people’s behavior in mind and not dogs. So I guess the real question is: why do some people take charge of problems and go off on their own to solve them and others do not? 

Those that take on the problem directly are the “hunters” and those that don’t or won’t are not “hunters.” Why, and what, if anything, can be done to change a person’s behavior so that they become “hunters?” Do leaders really benefit from that?

I believe that a group or organization with too many hunters and too few non-hunters is in trouble, or seeking trouble.  Again, as with this whole paper, in my opinion too many hunters create a competitive and possibly an aggressive environment. This harms and does not contribute to an organizations growth.   On the other hand, some hunters are assigned leaders; they are members of the leader’s Inner Circle and people accepted as leaders within the Inner Circle and of their own group. These unique and talented people know what they do and easily take charge when the situation calls for them to take over as leader.  They do contribute to the well being of their organization.  

It is very important that hunters and non-hunters be committed to the over-all organization and the head leader. The alternative and not uncommon results of too many hunters in any organization are the creation of a “sub-group” leader. The sub-group leader (always a hunter) has power as their primary motive and will work against the organization for their own benefit in the process poisoning the attitudes and behavior of their own group.

What I’ve learned working with both large and small groups is that a few well placed hunters are far more effective in reaching and going beyond an organization’s goals. Also, it is essential that hunters be recognized as the leaders they are and be included in an organization’s Inner Circle. 

Important to acknowledge that Hunters are role models and leaders and that they need the freedom to do what they do best and that is to take charge of the hunt. Balance between hunters and non-hunters is vital to an organization’s health.   Sy

I enjoy the hunt———Often the chase is enough———-How freeing this is.

I trust my leader———–To follow easy to do————–I am not alone.

Fact, Fiction, Opinion & Expectation

The differences between each of the title words are significant and complex. 

If I personally experience an event this is Fact to me; participation not hearsay or opinion. That is, “I was physically there, I saw and heard firsthand.” On the other hand, if I express what I think and what I feel, but have not personally experienced an event I express only my OpinionFiction is false, a made up story, but often designed as if true and Fact. Knowing the difference and responding appropriately to Fact, Opinion or Fiction is never easy. Seeking hard data to support what is said and heard is not a simple process. One must search for hard proof. Saying it is so does not make it so.

Examples abound around most “Kitchen Tables” where much talk takes place and where separating Fact, Fiction and Opinion is often next to impossible and why I include Expectation in the title. Expectation is usually below the surface, but plays a big role in communication. Often the Expectation is that “I win you over to what I say is true.” Here is where Opinion and Fiction becomes one and turning Fiction into Fact is what the speaker wants the listener to buy into.

The dialogue experience may be the only way we are able to communicate with each other if a speaker believes so strongly in what they say even if what they say comes only from hearsay or what they have read. In other words, what many people believe as true is not based on Fact, which must be actual, but sources that say “what I say is actual.” This most serious problem with communication is more common today than ever due to social media and the technology that so easily makes Fiction appear as Fact.  

It used to be that most people communicated their Opinion to each other and they would say so, but this is becoming rare between us. It is why I suggest asking questions: Is this your experience? Were you there? If told, how reliable is your source? Fact demands irrefutable proof, and we are each responsible for separating FACT from FICTION. This mountain is getting harder to climb.   Sy

    Our world is changing—-Must we also change with it?—-Maybe, maybe not.

Free Speech and Speaking Your Mind

A dear friend (former camper) sent me a book that he believes makes the case that “free speech” is fighting for its life in our country. It’s written by a conservative professor and is about the professor’s frustration relative to his desire to express his opinion on a variety of issues. And, of course, he makes the case that freedom of speech is being taken from him and others like him. The professor also argues that he is denied the right to express “truths” by the institution he teaches at. He goes further writing that universities throughout the country are responsible for shutting down “free speech” in the class room.

I have no fault with his passion for free speech and how he argues for it. Frankly, I am in agreement with him when it comes to being able to express one’s opinion. After-all, what is “genuine dialogue?” It is the highest level of conversation that people can have. It is where mutual respect lives, people are seriously present, listen to what is said, work to understand what is said, and are totally honest in their response. Agreement either happens or it does not and this is acceptable. Also, are facts necessary in most conversations, or is it opinions that rule? 

What this professor misses in his argument is that when powerful people speak their words are too often taken as fact. Unless facts are backed up by absolute provable data, not the power and influence of the speaker, how do we know what is said is true? A problem for many is this: that certain people possess the power or credentials and followers, for some reason, believe every word they utter. How can anyone accept words as fact unless the words are backed up by hard proof? “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Opinion is what most people have and this is commonly based on what one hears– reads and personal experience. If facts are called for we need to ask the question: “what are the facts that support what you say?” I know it’s raining outside because I can see it, feel it and possibly even smell it. That’s fact! But if someone tells me “I heard it’s raining outside?” Maybe yes and maybe no? Knowing the difference between what is fact and what is opinion is essential to almost everything we say to each other. The question: Is one’s Free Speech based on facts or is it opinion? Fact is irrefutable, opinion is always arguable.   Sy 

A Story time About Power, Failure and Knowing Oneself

Demand pushed me to seek additional help working with organizations throughout the country. I needed someone with a deep understanding of a pragmatic philosophy concerning leadership, relationship and dialogue.  My own Inner Circle was the only place I could go since they each were fully immersed and understood our philosophy’s intricacies. Dialogue between us was and is totally open and genuine.  

I had three members in my Inner Circle to choose from. Any one of them would be up to the task. I approached (I’ll call him Joe) and offered him the opportunity (as I saw it) to travel to organizations around the country and hold workshops teaching leaders and their (dysfunctional for the most part) Inner Circle’s the art of Genuine Dialogue between the leader and their staff.

In moments Joe looked at me and said “I can’t do this. It’s impossible for me to teach our philosophy to those with power” I was shocked. What I offered him paid very well; much beyond what he was making. Joe understood the philosophy and its application as well as I and also never walked away from problems and challenges regardless of how difficult they may have been.

I asked him “why?” His answer he gave is of such value that I’m compelled to share it. “As you know, I served in the service in Washington D.C. as an officer and left the service because of the power structure I faced on a daily basis. I had many types of leaders and almost all had no sense of their power and influence over those of us that worked for and with them. Their blindness or love of power eventually got to me and affected the work I had to do. I realized that I needed to be where respect and regard are the driving force of the environment. Having never suffered this with you before the service I decided to return. I was right in doing so.”

‘I totally understand and love our philosophy, but if I lectured to leaders that were owned by their love for power and blind to the damage they do to their staff I would be so negatively affected that I could not help them. Failure has never been an acceptable option for me, and I would fail helping them.”  

Knowing Joe and his background as I do, I understood him and his drive and passion to not fail. His history and the relationships around “the kitchen table” are very much a part of his life and will always play into it.  It’s impossible to fight and ameliorate the ghosts of the past. 

As luck would have it facing difficult challenges and worse has never stopped me from walking into the unknown. In fact, Joe brought this up to me when we discussed his doing this work and why he could not. He said that I faced power people with my own power and never as he witnessed it was less than who I am. 

I have given much thought to the work I do with powerful people and find that I have enjoyed the process of being me and welcome those with power to be the source of empowerment to others. I understand the damage power blindly or knowingly do to those dependent on the one in power. I also understand the good that those in power can do. To convey both sides and to assist getting to the positive side was and is my goal.   Sy 

My Own Revelation

As most of you know, in the mid-seventies I began to work with organizations for the sole purpose of improving relationships between coworkers. Those that employed me saw this as a serious enough problem to warrant finding someone to resolve this problem that (as they saw it) was between and amongst their staff. What gave me my reputation were my own employees and our camp’s remarkable success over a period of 27 years that I believed was due to good fortune and awesome child workers. I saw myself as lucky to have found and hired such capable people.  As leader, I saw me as incidental and simply a good problem solver. I believed that my work was to facilitate the work my staff did and that my leadership was incidental to their excellent work. It took observing other leaders and years of intensive research to realize how wrong I was.

 Initially, my workshops had all to do with helping an organization build a more cooperative and productive environment between coworkers.  What I soon discovered was that troubled staff relationships are not the primary cause, but the result of bad leadership. This troubled me deeply since I, as leader, may have been a major contributor to the personnel issues I faced during my leadership days. For my many years as leader I was absolutely ignorant of my part in staff issues. Simply put, some of them were the problem, never me. So, don’t change me, change or get rid of them.

This shook me at my core since I never remember checking me out as “what kind of leader was I?” When I trained my staff I trained them to be the most creative and able with children as possible. But I was not conscious of the impact my relationship with any of them had on our relationship and the work they did. 27 years later as mentor to other leaders and the solving of their staff relations I discovered how important boss/staff relationships are. Nothing is more important!  

Two changes had to take place. The first had to be the leader’s awakening to their power and influence and the other had to be the planting and nurturing of genuine dialogue, not monologue between the leader and the people they worked with. Also, due to this awakening I began to study Leadership, Power & Influence from any and every source. It continues to this day. 

The success of the workshop program literally exploded and I desperately needed others to join with me in helping leaders grow into their natural, nurturing and empowering selves. Not an easy task.    Sy

Are you a leader? Do you want to be one?

So, are you a leader? Do you want to be one? If you are a leader or aspire to be one, I suggest you look at yourself in the mirror and ask: “Am I myself, or am I an act?” 

The best leaders excel at being themselves. For you to be an outstanding leader, you must set outstanding examples to those you lead in as many ways as possible. Whenever you interact with those around you, your behavior and words must be authentic. Always be aware you are a role model to those closest to you. Just as importantly, you must serve your followers if they are to serve you.

Also understand the followers who serve you do so for a variety of reasons. Therefore, being authentic, caring, and respectful in your actions and interactions will increase the likelihood they will serve you as well as you serve them. Good leaders nurture their followers so they not only grow, but meet and ultimately exceed their potential.

Of course, we have all experienced leaders with no sense or desire to serve anyone other than themselves. These are those who love the power and influence they can exert over others. Those who follow this leader do so for many reasons; some are attracted by their own love of power — whether directly or by association. Rarely can they accomplish what they are truly capable of, since they remain solely for their own benefit.

So, for good or bad, it does not matter whether one seeks, takes, makes, or is given the role to lead. The demands on all leaders are identical when it comes to influencing the behavior of their followers. The raw necessities the good leader must possess are attitude, behavior, and the ability to communicate with those they lead. Conversely, the bad leader who lacks these qualities, and who either underestimates or does not understand their importance, is left to ponder why problems and difficulties with their followers persist.

An exemplary leader also recognizes that leadership exists within any group with a common goal or undertaking. Among these are those who lead or seek to lead, but there are also others who are reluctant to step into a leadership role. They are potentially capable of leadership, but prefer to only do their job and fulfill their responsibility as good team players. Usually these people are outstanding at what they do, including having excellent relationships with those whom they work and live with. Although they might not accept taking on any leadership roles, they serve and support those close to them. By their actions and words, they already possess the authentic attributes of leadership. A good leader would do well to recognize and reward that individual, as it benefits the organization by fostering initiative and inspiring like behavior in others. 

Leaders are defined by their actions and words, both good and bad. Those close to them can clearly see and know them for who they really are — regardless of what the leader believes themselves to be. Interacting with powerful individuals on a daily basis makes it impossible not to know them, sometimes better than they know themselves. They are not kings who can hide behind their elegant clothes. Instead, whether or not they choose to be transparent, they will reveal their true selves, and in the end will reap what they sow.

I believe leaders emerge in every group endeavor, and that leadership is a natural phenomenon. Without talented leaders, humanity might not have been able to survive — it was leadership that made it possible for people to live in groups.

Good leaders, bad leaders, and those who follow are dynamic roles which constantly change as people emerge from among us to fill them. Each of us possesses these qualities, whether from natural propensity or learned behavior, as they are a foundational part of the human experience. 

Lead me to be me———-And I will lead others to be———–How important is self?


Every act we perform has consequences. Some are meaningless and pass us by like most cars on a highway. They come and go. Other times consequences are so significant that they bring life changing events. If present in this moment we are aware of what is taking place. We see, hear and possibly understand its implications. In this case we may actually alter the consequences of what is taking or about to take place. Which reminds me of the ancient story: “G-d is speaking loud and clear that a tsunami is coming and to take higher ground. One person is not present and does not hear the message; another person is present and hears the message, understands and takes higher ground; same event, but with different consequences.”  For how many thousands of years have humans been told to be present? How else do we hear the message, understand its implications and to alter consequences?

 Consider (once again) the “Kitchen Table.” What are the consequences of talk at the table? Our children witness, hear and learn from their parents, but do they understand?  Not likely, so consequences happen based on ignorance not understanding and do those consequences happening at the “Kitchen Table” repeat throughout our life? Maybe?    

I’ve spent years teaching leadership to leaders and have witnessed the consequences bad leaders are responsible for giving birth to. It’s apparent simply through observation that when leaders treat their followers as “things” those “things” respond as “things.” Anyone related to in this manner knows what they experience and even if insignificant in the hierarchy they pay back in kind with negative consequence. How does a bad leader know they are the root cause of what is sickness in their relationships? They do not, but fault others.Want the best possible consequences with those you live and work with? Be authentic, treat people with respect, as equals and when the opportunity presents itself, empower and nurture them. When problems do arise, and they will, see problems as “logs on a fire” that people gather around for warmth, stimulating dialogue, creativity and the likelihood of rewarding consequences. 

The Damage A Bad Leader Does

It’s vitally important to acknowledge the power leaders have in their words and behavior.  Any leader that does not understand this does damage to their self, those they lead, and the innocent. Instead of understanding themselves and learning from experience they tend to justify their positions and beliefs and blame followers, events and others for their problems. This leader constantly defends their words and behavior.

This is foundational with most bad leaders and why they resist change. In fact, they want things to be what they have in mind and use their power to satisfy their expectations. The idea that they serve is foreign to them. They do not serve, but demand being served. This leader expects certain attitudes and behavior from their followers and compliance is victory to them. Is this a negative example of the power of the “Kitchen Table” and the lessons early learned?  People are not born this way.

The leader’s combination of words and behavior presents those close to the leader the true picture of the leader.  Experience the leader often enough and they become the “king without clothes.” Close followers know the difference between what is acting and what is real. Bad leaders “act” often and this might be their chosen way, but when they lose their cool they are real.

I believe that the differences between bad and good leaders are worlds apart. The good leader IS and NURTURES growth, individual responsibility, and the qualities I so often write about. They thoroughly believe in genuine dialogue and relationships. Their words are not manipulative; they are who and what we meet.

The bad leader does not care for the well being of others, but for their own needs. They require pawns to meet their needs and the willing pawns know this. Those that are pawns do so because they draw power from the one they serve. It is false, but to the pawns it is a power of sorts.

This is all about “learned behavior” whether a person seeks power for the sake of power and self, or to use power to empower others.    Sy