More on Power

A leader is what he or she is unless they, at a deeply personal level, want to change and grow themselves. If they have the courage to go there they require either a counselor or a mentor and ideally the people they live and work with.

Why the people they live and work with? The simplest answer is that these are the people that know them best. People with power (leaders) too often believe they fool people with their words and behavior and are winners in the game of relationships. The truth is that these are the leaders that get the appearance of winning and their way, but never at the level people are able to give if treated with respect, regard and trust. The actuality is that everyone loses if those conditions do not exist.

It’s this sense of something wrong in the office and the belief that staff is the problem that brought me to the workshop circuit. My knowledge and success with staff resulted in requests to help professional offices solve staff problems. Demand for my services, country wide, exploded, but so did my awareness that the problem had little to do with staff.  It became blatantly clear that the leader is the problem. And I had been a leader for25 years? My need to understand leadership led me to study power and this became my life’s work.

The more I learned about power the more I realized leaders do harm to what they need most if they want to succeed in their professional business. This is the best trained, supportive relationships with and among staff and leader as is possible. And when we replaced monologue with dialogue and the leader began to empower staff the changes in relationships and productivity improved dramatically. Going back became impossible. Change does not happen in a vacuum and requires more than spoken words. It’s perception which is visual, felt and heard. Here I mean the whole of the environment including safety, trust and mutuality. This is the experience of listening and understanding each other, but not necessarily agreeing. Learning this lesson about dialogue is absolute. The goal is to have employees experience equality and respect from their leader. The elimination of a fixed hierarchy became a new and continuing reality.   Sy  

A Look Back

When we decided to leave formal education behind it had nothing to do with success or failure in the system. We love teaching and we love being on our own.  We know both very well, but independence, even if unpredictable and no assurance of income is more appealing. Without fear, but faith in our abilities, we choose our own path and never look back.

I tell some of the story in my book, Leadership, Power & Consequences. What follows, in as many papers as necessary, is what I have come to realize in our waning years. What helped this take place are the remembrances of others including children, now in their 60s and 70s, staff now in their late 70s and early 80s and the many adult clients (professional and entrepreneurs) I’ve worked with over the past 30+ years. Clearly, our experiences help me put together the pragmatic philosophy I will be offering to formal education. In particular, Pre-School through 3rdgrade. 

Probably the most important experiences and lessons I had and learned from was the epiphany that “power is the problem to the answers most leaders seek.” When I witnessed this as a visiting mentor teaching better staff and leader relationships I was shocked at my own ignorance. As stated, I know how to train staff to optimize the contributions to their work, but never had inklings that I, as leader, also was a major contributor to the personal relationship problems within my organization.  Two things followed this awakening. I became a serious student of leadership and power and the best teacher on the subject I could be. I kept voluminous notes of my research as if I was still a Leader and in power. Also, if I was to teach others on how to have a more harmonious work place I had to confront leaders as “the problem to the answer they paid me to help resolve.” Most did and prospered. Another issue for me was that many leaders around the country hired me to give them toolsto fix their relationship problems. The problem here is that tools don’t do the job. Only being authenticdoes the job. What I mean here is that when a leader is true and real: open, vulnerable, authentic as perceived by their staff (not what the leader says or does)individuals believe and become more themselves to the betterment of all. Sy


My study of power will cease when I cease. It’s an amazing subject and yet means absolutely nothing until we barely know of it except through the violence of nature or its abuse by humankind. Important to emphasize that when nature does its regular daily routine of sun up and sun down, gentle rain, gentle breeze, etc we may acknowledge its gift to us or simply not think about it. This is also true of power when in the hands of humans. As long we are not affected by people in power we hardly take notice. We do our thing. But add abuse or empowerment to the mixture and differences are equivalent to day and night. 

This paper, and perhaps a few to follow, is about power in the hands of people and my being witness to its blind abuse and damage to significant relationships, or when used to empower. This happened to me when I was totally unprepared. I certainly prepared for the job I was employed to do and that is to assist leaders of businesses (professional and otherwise) to develop the best possible, productive relationship between leader and followers.

It was during workshops that I experienced the blatant or subtle use of power most leaders exercised over their employees. I also witnessed the few leaders that empowered the people that worked for them. More importantly for me I could not miss the vast difference in behavior that resulted from misuse of power and those being empowered by their leader. (“What kind of leader was I?) This thought kept popping up in my mind to the point that I had to investigate.

I spoke to a good number of my (years ago co-workers) staff and Inner Circle members and asked them to tell me “what kind of leader was I?” What I heard is that I empowered people to be all they were capable of being. I nurtured this in them. (Music to my ears)

This gave me the impetus to learn as much about power and empowerment as possible. How does this take place? Is it words alone; is it behavior; is it a mix of words and behavior? What conditions help people grow? Did I contribute to others realizing their potential? Is having power that powerful?  Sy

Return from Mexico

We return from Mexico mostly healed having experienced wonderful people, culture and country.  

Now what to do was our immediate concern. We did not want to return to Las Vegas and easily turned our existing programs over to those running them. It was clear to us that we could not go backwards, but forward into the unknown. Historically events ruled the direction we would take so we waited for something to move us on. In the meantime we needed to do something so Lenette went to work for Incline Village and I took a job with a casino/resort in Reno.

It was not long after that I received a call asking if I could fill in for a speaker who fell ill. The subject was “Training Staff.” The caller knew that I had done this for 27+ years.   He felt I might have something to contribute to the professional group that was meeting at Lake Tahoe. This particular event turned into, I think it’s called “Life Changing.” And, it did in spades.

I was asked to speak for an hour. When questions began to pop from the group of about fifty we used up another two hours. It was challenging, exciting and the electricity that ran through the group and I was complimentary. When I left the podium I was immediately surround by many of them asking if I’d visit and work with their staff.  Holding staff training workshops was as natural as breathing. I felt I could do this in my sleep. I flew to cities throughout the country and held all day workshops for up to about 15 key people. During each workshop something very significant was made obvious to me. The problems supposedly of staff were almost never staff, but the leader was proving to be the problem to the answerthey were seeking.  I was floored by this growing awareness. I had been a leader of people for 27 years and never did I, as the leader, have a sense that I might be the cause of staff problems and solutions.  I never asked anyone “what kind of leader am I? Or, “tell me about me as your leader?”  This forced me to become the best student I have ever been. I needed to understand Leadership and Power.  I began to read and created boxes of notes relative to Leadership & Power. No discipline escaped my research.  Abuse of Poweris found everywhere.   Sy

Las Vegas

Our firm, Youth Systems Unlimited, continued to grow in line with the many responsibilities we had in the late 1960’s and 70s. This included Camp Shasta located near Mt Shasta, Cal.. The Youth Hotel located in the International Hotel, Las Vegas, NV. The Children’s Campus, Las Vegas, a free standing community complex that met all family needs for their children ages pre-school through teens. The Children’s Village, Las Vegas and Denver were pre-schools located within large Apartment developments and research projects. 

An aside worth mentioning the two preschools (designed by Lenette and under our management) located in Las Vegas and Denver were part of large apartment developments. From the developer’s view point the pre-schools were an experiment they hoped would help rent apartments to families. In fact, they were identified as a major reason for families to rent. The apartments filled more rapidly than competing apartments due to the excellence of the pre-school programs and youth and teen program that convened each evening. This particular program virtually eliminated crime and vandalism within the community. Our operations proved so successful that they were considered necessary to large future Apartment Developments at a national level.

As life and fortune would have it when U.S. interest rates climbed to almost 18% all innovative programs, and developments, in particular for families, came to a grinding halt. Also, in the early 70s Hilton Corporation purchased the International Hotel in Las Vegas. They replaced the knowledgeable leadership of the International Hotel with their own Hilton indoctrinated people. It did not take long before this proved to be a disaster; quickly for the Youth Hotel and ultimately for the Hilton Corporation’s Las Vegas adventure.

An incident soon occurred that dramatically changed the future of the Youth Hotel. The Hilton executive in charge of the International Hotel told me that anything I did would now require his approval. I quit and the Youth Hotel disappeared in about a year. During this time they offered Lenette a designer’s position. Not a chance!  There is more to the story.  Sy

The Camp Shasta Decade

During the Camp Shasta decade (1959 to 1970) we went to Las Vegas to bring to life a dream Lenette had about a “Youth Hotel.” Long story, but we made it happen. At the same time we created a company called Youth Systems Unlimited. Name the type youth program and we were committed to its creation, innovation and excellence.

 We did government studies, designed, staffed and operated children programs for large apartment developments and national corporations that did the construction building huge apartment complexes. Researched for a variety of corporations children programs and where feasible, designed and operated them. Studied and designed children programs in the country of Fiji, and numerous states in the US including Hawaii.

We were invited to present our ideas about a children’s program in a major hotel to be constructed in Las Vegas. Our competition was two major universities, one on the west coast and the other in New York. After listening to what their goals were I submitted a three page proposal that was titled “Instant Involvement.”

In essence it stated that the children and their parents coming to the hotel from all parts of the world were accustomed to the best care and mentoring and likely had their own swimming pools, tennis courts, horses. In other words entertaining them with games and stuff was wasted on them; that they would tire quickly and be quick to bother their parents or care givers.

We suggested that human connection was the way to attract and keep them interested and occupied. That staff trained to relate on a most personal level was key and activities would flow from establishing close relationships with the child.

Lenette designed the Youth Hotel; we staffed it with up to fifty young college students and teachers and trained and trained and trained. I write this with sincere pride: This program was recognized as the finest example of child care in the world by UNESCO, but it was what we always did. Sy