The Point

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.


Rambling Thoughts

Not long ago, my ability and desire to write a brief essay did not exist. Today I have a font of thoughts and plenty of energy, and the will to act. I will let this paper be an outcome of just sitting at the computer. What will be will be.

Because of Danny Perlman’s recent visits, I have come to understand leadership in a way I have not done in the past. My history (almost 35 years) of study and workshops with virtually every type of leader led me to concentrate mainly on dialogue and authenticity. Interestingly, my extensive research in the history of power and leadership made little mention of the importance of an Inner Circle. While much is written about power, leadership, and control, very little attention is given to the significance of the few special people who encircle a Leader.

My own organization was blessed with a wonderful, high-functioning “Inner Circle” even back in the early 50s. I had no awareness of this, per se, but I made it happen in any case. Apparently, I felt this need and acted on it. In other words, my need for commitment and honest exchange between me and a few select others was essential. Furthermore, there were no issues about who held power. The people I trusted and worked closely with always expressed themselves as if in charge. They did not subordinate themselves any more than I did. It’s also important to point out that when the power to act fell into their hands, they used it appropriately.

Danny Perlman has built and continues to build an organization that is changing the lives of thousands. What he and his inner circle have accomplished in Nigeria is an example of this. Hopefully, other nations will replicate this model and make it even better. It will not be done by a leader alone, but by a leader and their empowered Inner Circle.

I’ve Been So Blessed

I’ve written about Danny Perlman, and deservedly so. Still, there are so many others I could be writing about that deserve recognition. In truth, I’ve been blessed to have worked with so many wonderful people over the years. So while I’ll pass on naming them all (the list would on for far too long), they have left me with memories I’ll never forget.

I’ve worked with professionals and corporate leaders for thirty-plus years, along with their “inner circles.” Assisting them by bringing dialogue, particularly “Genuine Dialogue,” into their work relationships and personal lives.

While easy to describe, the foundation of Genuine Dialogue is difficult to apply. As I’ve written many times, the rules are simple. Be PRESENT. LISTEN and UNDERSTAND. CONFIRM what you’ve heard. Then, RESPOND in a candid and forthright manner that hopefully is returned in kind.

It all sounds so simple, but it’s not. Being in the “present” is where our lives need to be lived. “The future is not ours to see” is not just a song but a fact. Listening and understanding the speaker, especially the people who are important in our lives, is vital. If that isn’t possible, one has to ask themselves why else share time and space with them? And when you do exactly that, isn’t” confirming “what you’ve heard and understood reasonable? And if you expect honesty and truth from the speaker, do they deserve less?

I keep circling back to Genuine Dialogue if only to emphasize that it is an essential component in how we interact with others. I can think of no better way to solve business or personal issues. Can you? If so, what would that be?
To participate in an open and honest dialogue is to know the beauty and joy of being as one with others. How good is that?

Talk is cheap, leads where? –dialogue is inclusive—which is the better?

Training Potential Leaders

Military Schools and universities with leadership programs have the right idea, but only if they clarify that no classroom instruction makes leaders. All they can really do is teach methods. And while that may have some value, methods themselves have very little to do with being a quality leader.

Leadership comes out of long and similar experiences. The best example is the child growing up in a family that assists the child in being responsible for themselves and others. The child does this not by being told but by experiencing this from those closest to them. The experience of being a full member of the familial group and being heard and understood is what makes a child hear and understand.

I am told I was a good listener when I was a child. And in my youth, my older brothers and sister often shared their issues with me. I listened even as I struggled to understand their troubles. I’m not sure from whence it came, but I knew as a young adult I had a philosophy I could express and apply.

This is the philosophy of dialogue. The idea is that everyone has something to say if they feel safe and in a receptive place. In small groups at my camps, the activities came from the kids in the group, not a camp director or counselor. I always understood it was my job as the leader to supply the ingredients for the activities instead of scheduling them. That was always left up to each group. If experience is the foundation of leadership, it must be personal and constant.


More on Defining Leadership

When I wrote of Danny in the last paper, I also connected him to another facet of leadership, one of which I am just becoming aware. Danny was a terrific kid, but he had no desire to lead anyone. He was kind, caring and sensitive, and a willing participant. I remember Danny as a child and young boy as only a follower and someone dependent on others. 

That was then, this is now. He has grown into an inspirational leader and is the energy source behind the education of thousands of girls in Nigeria. His ability to gather funds to support his programs as he continues this remarkable work is known worldwide.

Historically, as a child or young boy, I never saw myself as a leader. Yet, my long relationships have told me that, in fact, I was their leader and the most listened to among a gang of 22. Our group was formed in the depression and remained together until the end of World War II. All a matter of history.

I became a leader not to lead, but to run a Day Camp in Chicago and later while a full-time student at UCLA. Suddenly one day, I am a leader of over 100 staff and 400 children. It was easy for me to mentor and be responsible for what I created. Events dictated, and I met the call, as did Danny. Danny never saw himself as a leader but a “doer.” Yet today, he is is a leader on a scale most could never imagine.

Defining Leadership

This paper is about leadership. Along with a few others, one leader has led to me having a flood of thoughts, which may lead to more papers on the subject. Your comments will dictate to what extent I carry this theme forward.

It begins with a 71-year-old anthropologist who came to Camp Shasta as a very young boy. During the ensuing years, he has helped shape the world with his work and continues to be an extraordinary influence. 

His name is Daniel (Danny) Perlman, Ph.D. You can learn more about him and his works by reading his book: “The Practice of International Health.”

Danny lives in Berkely but visits us frequently when he is not in Africa. This Saturday, we were lucky to have him with us, during which our conversation drifted to the topic of leadership. Danny was adamant about not being a leader or having ever been one. I had to disagree. While in our memories, we saw no leadership behavior from him as a child and young adult, this is a role he has unquestionably assumed over the years. Beginning with his choice to further his education and earn his doctorate, he has since become a leader in every sense of the word. When I told him this, he insisted he had never thought of himself as a leader. I told him that someone who gave all he could to others and enabled them to grow as individuals surely had attained the highest form of leadership I could imagine. When I pointed this out to him, he became silent and realized I WAS talking about him. He has become a leader, not by design, but by authentically growing into that role over time. More to follow.   Sy

Pure Love

What I’m about to describe happened about four weeks ago, and its effect on me continues. Death is not my problem. I’m prepared for that eventuality and likely have been for many years. It must have played a factor in my life because I was known as a fighter on the streets of Chicago, and at that time, I developed a reputation that carried across ghetto lines.

But the story is not about me but Lenette. On this day, she was so concerned about me that she set aside all other things and issues. Her concern was so consuming that I realized at that moment that she needed me as much as I needed her. At that exact moment, when I decided I must stay alive for now and care for her, her confusion disappeared. 

Amazingly, from then on, I began to get better in every possible way, and so did she. In all aspects, she began to be my full and complete Lenette. 

The power of love is that important. Having witnessed her helplessness with the time and effort she gave to me was too much to bear. I realized that I needed to live for her so she could live for herself.

So, not only did I get better, but Lenette became more vital and more present. A miracle, for sure, but not surprising when love is such an essential part of a relationship. It is ours.

We are so much better because of each other. Lenette and I will do our best to keep this wellness going between us. How blessed I am.   Sy

We love and love back–We grow because of this love—How blessed we are.