What it Means to Be A Leader

If you are a leader you possess influence over those you lead and this influence must be acknowledged and understood by you from the moment you choose to become a leader.  Here I must emphasize this as a “first principle” that if you lead you are responsible for those you lead and must accept what this means to those you lead and yourself.

My experience tells me that most people choose to become part of a group. That is, they accept that someone else lead them. Their reasons are many, but generally most do not want the responsibility being in charge means. This may be financial or the demands being responsible for others entail. So accepting and even giving power to others is a choice made for many reason. In general I would argue that most people accept a follower’s role because it’s the easier choice. 

 Life, on the other hand, plays games with us and pulls–pushes and accidentally places a few of us in responsible positions.  We become leaders not because we have chosen, but others choose us or our choices in life make it necessary. Also, not to forget, the few that MUST lead because they love and need power and influence over others. Power is truly their aphrodisiac. 

A huge variety of examples abound: What is a parent sitting at the “Kitchen table” with their children, a teacher in the classroom, a boss at work, the minister leading church services and our influential friends? They are all leaders. Some have chosen, others deny any desire on their part, but are placed in the position. 

Hierarchies play a big role in the selection process because all hierarchies need participants that are ready and willing to carry the message of the hierarchy. So it’s not a person that leads, but the organization’s philosophy. And not to forget the dangerous and destructive leaders that simply love power and seek needy and helpless people in order to use as willing pawns?  

In one way or another Leadership is a human absolute. Whether for good or bad is the leader’s choice.  Sy

The Real Point Behind My Workshops

So, at first I believed the main point behind my workshops was the information I shared with the participants. In time I began to realize that what I had to say was not as important as the way the audience felt towards me. Much of this had to do with what the leader that employed me said to their staff in preparation of my first visit. Beyond initial introduction and exposure, and this mostly from the leader, what made the important difference was the staff’s personal perception of me and this took time and was uniquely individual. Not understanding this at the beginning of my consultant work meant that I depended most on the material I presented. It did not take long for me to realize that people needed to feel safe and that they felt their comments were welcome.

I sought this, but also recognized that participation would take time. It was also apparent there was always a few that would risk being open and direct with their questions or observations. These few had no problem expressing their opinions and often how they felt about issues I may have brought up. Dealing with feelings is important and I invited the sharing of what they felt. The expression of “this is what I heard or read” is far less important than getting one to express what they felt because it is feelings that influence behavior. Also, agreement with what I said was not a condition of our dialogue. I made this apparent and obvious whenever possible.  

Being authentic and authoritative whenever I would refer to any of my resources was important, but so is listening to and my respect for what staff had to say whether through personal experience or what they heard or read. I did my best to not judge what people said whether in agreement or not. Participation is what I sought.   

As I write above it was usually only a few participants that openly shared their thoughts and feelings without my pushing and pulling words from them. It took time, but these few always seemed to have enough influence to bring others into the conversation. Also, I did not question why most people remain silent for as long as they do. As I have commented in past papers this reluctance to express ones self begins around the “kitchen table” and remain a possible problem even into adulthood. In any case, and certainly with the help of those that spoke out freely, the non-communicators would begin to drop their guard and join in. I learned that being open, sharing thoughts and feelings is difficult for many, but that speaking out is a “freeing experience.” Everyone has something to say, something to contribute and in the right environment, given the support, will overcome their past and scar tissue and will speak out.

As individuals moved towards openness, courage to be self and taking on greater responsibilities the major credit must go to the leader and the leader’s willingness to grow from traditional hierarchy and top down communication to one that empowers others. Leaders began to understand the weight of their power on the behavior of their staff and instead of using and abusing others they began to listen, understand, welcome candor and actually enjoy dialogue with their staff for (perhaps) the first time.

Bluntly, what was monologue between a boss and an employee became dialogue between equals. The experience became fulfilling to the point that being at work meant being with family. What was “my problem” became “our” problem and so much easier to deal with   Sy

As family I belong—-I am heard and mostly understood——I am me, you, you.  

A Desire to Grow

A desire to grow, to go beyond one’s self, needs to come from inside us. We make the decision to be open and vulnerable to the experiences life throws at us. We make choices to either be open and a willing participant, or to be closed off from what we hear and experience. Having arms twisted and minds forced open does not make for receptivity. Others close to us may sincerely want this of us, believing it is for our own good. Unless this comes from within us efforts by others is wasted. It is not what others want of us, but what we want of ourselves.

My workshops are classic examples. I know I prepared what I believed was valuable material, history, philosophy, psychology in preparing for a workshop. I also know that creating the safest possible environment was my responsibility. I needed to do everything I could to make this a reality. One way was to not push people to share what they were thinking and feeling. If one chooses to remain silent they were respected for this. They would pick their own time to share or not to share their thoughts.

 It is not what I said and did that made any difference. It is the receptivity that each individual brought to the moments. If closed or resistant to what I shared how did I know this? And what could I have done to create any dialogue between us? Acceptance of where each was at was my most successful approach. When a person was ready to speak their mind, they did and I confirmed them; not judge them.

The whole point was to create an environment of trust, respect and understanding. When feelings (always so personal and unique) began to be shared, and be listened to without being judged individuals spoke what they felt and thought. This opened up even the most reluctant. The key had to be safety and then the courage to express one’s self.

As a result of the safety and acceptance of one’s thoughts and feelings people opened up to each other. In fact, I often received letters and calls prior to a workshop asking that certain subject be discussed before I presented what I had prepared.  I never stood in the way of this. It was our goal in any case.    Sy

 I speak my own mind–And want to hear this from you–We say what we say.    

I want to thank everyone that called or sent me a birthday card!

I want to thank everyone that called or sent me a birthday card. I feel so fortunate. Thank you all for remembering my birthday: 12/5/26

A brief look at why I believe I am what I am: I was born to my mother that gave love without condition and a father who never set limitations on any of his family. They were and remain my role models. They and my five brothers and sister are gone. I remain and remember. 

Pete was my oldest brother followed by Annette (my one and most wonderful sister) followed by Hy, Joe, me and Bob. We grew up during the time of the “great depression.” We all lived very close in mostly 3rd floor apartments that had one bathroom. In fact, the first time I actually had my own bed was in the Army.

Pete was almost blind and as hard as he tried could not enlist in the Army. He made Torpedoes during the war. Hy enlisted right after Dec.7th; spent his war time on New Guinea and many months recovering in Military Hospitals. Joe was in the Invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. I spent the end of the war on Okinawa and Bob in the medics (Korea). I am an amalgam of them all.

Probably one of the beautiful stories I remember is after the last staff and children left Camp Shasta my father who spent the whole summer and his last summer at camp, came up to Lenette and I and placed his arms around the both of us. We were giving a final touch-up to cleaning camp before we left for LA.

“When you graduated UCLA I was disappointed that you did not become a psychologist, but witnessing what the two of you do for others at camp I realized that the work you both do is a wonderful gift you give to them all. I am so proud of you both.” Coming from my father whose total education was as a laborer and carpenter with no formal education. He taught so many the art of the hammer and saw. What a man.

Here I am celebrating my 94th birthday. When I do look backward how grateful I am for my family, my friends and the love of my life, Lenette.  I knew I loved her from the moment I interviewed her for a job at Purple Sage. Nothing has changed since those moments accept I’m 94.   Life is unknown————-We live each day and know this———-Enjoy the moment.     Sy

Being is not an act. Being is Being

Even up against the child’s home and early indoctrination and education via parents, early grade teachers are given an awesome amount of power to influence a child’s attitude and behavior. This may be positive or negative and why it is essential that teachers understand and accept that they are also leaders and role models to their students. Neither of which are surface roles, but who they are at their core. 

It’s one thing to teach a subject like reading and math, but a completely different thing to lead and to be the exemplar Leader and Role Model. A teacher leaves the books and blackboard, but no true leader and role Model leaves being this any more than they leave their skin. No scripted role, no costume, but this throughout their being. 

As I have written time and time again quality leaders lead by being Present, they hear what is being said, they do their best to understand what is being said and seek clarity when necessary. They confirm the speaker. The speaker knows they are heard and understood. The leader is candid in their response to the speaker and do not pretend agreement. Leaders want dialogue between equals and do not seek false agreement. Quality leaders want understanding and set aside their power and influence in order to empower others and why dialogue, not monologue happens. An openness and receptivity is felt by all. 

If growth and empowerment is what the leader wants of her people they are genuine is their efforts to provide this. On the other hand, Leaders that value power over others are unable to hide their true intentions and domination rules their behavior. 

No one is fooled. Playing to the will of those that love and abuse power is a game everyone loses including the leader who lulls themselves into believing they win.  No one wins in the game of “power.”  Sy

I want you to “be.”———Not me, but to be just you———We are now double.