My upbringing, the influence of family, friends, Chicago, Army, UCLA, Lenette all contributed to my philosophy towards people. Even the relationship I had with the three Japanese prisoners on Okinawa played a significant part in whom and what I was to become. Add to this my becoming an entrepreneur at the same time being a full time student, building a business, training and working with staff, parents and their children. Like good soup, it came together and benefitted so many.
Working with children began in Chicago after the service. It was a small Day Camp we ran in the parks and the beaches. It all contributed to learning about boys and girls and their needs and the importance of dialogue between us. In other words, I recognized that the more the kids were involved in selecting activities the more they enjoyed and learned.
I did not realize that a philosophy of leadership and participation was being discovered and nurtured. But whether aware or not I followed and fulfilled the demands of the kids. The camp grew and so did I.
Left for California and UCLA to study psychology and although the GI Bill helped, pocket money was necessary. Running a Day Camp was a natural for me so found a site to rent and built a Day Camp for a few children. The few children turned into hundreds, a staff of 100, much training, activities from horses to anything and everything campers wanted and we believed they needed. Oh yes, we owned 35 small buses.
Coming: A description of our pragmatic philosophy of leadership, teaching and attraction to most people. Sy
The other day I was approached by a member of the health club I go to who had just finished reading my book. He felt the book dealt with leadership in ways he strongly believed in and has not read in other books. He was enthused enough to ask if I’d speak to a professional group he belongs to. Of course, it pleased me to hear him express his pleasure with the book. But what he said intrigued me. He told me that I was communicating with two different groups at the same time.
“On the one hand, you speak candidly to leaders about their power to influence those important to them. That through a leaders words and actions their followers are aided in their desire to grow or are restricted in their efforts ‘to be’ and contribute.” He agreed fully that most problems in an organization are the result of poor leadership. “On the other hand,” he continued, “you also speak forthe silent and disenfranchised majority, all of this often on the same page and most pages. Also, you don’t tell the subordinates what to do and how to communicate with troubled leadership. This is not a “self-help book” for followers. What you do is confront the leader with their responsibilities and the importance of authenticity with their key people. You also make it apparent that whether the leader is aware or not they are teacher, sometimes student and definitely a role model to those most important to them.”
In a recent paper (and probably a few others) I explain that I wrote the book about a relationship philosophy that took years of work and study (which never ceases) and both fortunate and unfortunate personal experiences. Like good soup it took time and ingredients to form into a philosophy that is teachable and of proven value to people in personal and work situations. Many of you have contributed much to its creation and know it is not theoretical, esoteric meanderings or wishful thinking. It is practical, a hammer and saw, if you will, and is clearly hands on, in your face communication. In fact, is there a better path to genuine dialogue and mutuality? Being a mentor to other organizations made it possible for me to realize what it is that I know about communication and how to teach others this gift. Even now the lesson learned yesterday continues to pay dividends today.
In addition to the above there is much I’ve learned about what I’ve written, about myself and how important others have been to me. Not a few leaders have said to me that had they been aware of their power when running their own business applying this philosophy of leadership would, not could, have made a huge difference in the success of their business. I often think of my own ignorance and the many incidents that pushed me this or that way. Yes, not being aware of one’s role as a leader/role model and the influence that comes with these positions means dysfunction to individuals and relationships. In its broadest sense this is what creates the ‘disenfranchised majority’ I refer to above. They are silent, passive and pawns to most leaders, but are they?
Ignorance of one’s power over others is no excuse, try as most leaders do to fault others for the omissions and errors in daily work and personal lives. Acceptance and awareness of the gift that power is, and using this power to empower those we have influence over is what every leader needs to do. Whether received openly or rejected this then becomes the responsibility of those we are initially responsible for. So, really, no one changes anyone. Only the individual self can do that.