The Responses To Power

When power is used, whether obvious, subtle, or hidden behind a smile and glazed eyes, it influences a response from the recipient. Power speaks loud and clear, even if silent.  People with power and influence may believe they have achieved their purpose, which may be compliance or whatever they seek, but I do not think so. If manipulative or abusive, what those in power get in return is less.  Or worse, they sow the seeds of sabotage. While it might rarely be obvious, it is sabotage, nevertheless. Frankly, how can it be otherwise? 

While power is remarkable when used for good, when it is used for evil, the results are devastating, even to the point of self-destruction. The historical proof of this is self-evident.

As a student and teacher, I became aware of my power to influence people, but not before I witnessed the blindness of others in power. Like the influential people I worked with, I always thought my problems were with others and that my job was to fix them or boot them. I and those who employed me learned simultaneously that the problem was rooted in our need to fully understand how we were wielding it. 

My students were bright, creative professionals and entrepreneurs who hired me to solve their staff problems. I credit their good senses and courage because it takes courage to “know thyself.” They accepted my assertions that we, the leaders, were “the problem to the answer.” As a result, we all grew, as did our employees. 

It is amazing what being open and vulnerable can do to anyone who has been closed and invulnerable. CHANGE IS OUR VERY HUMAN GIFT. Sy

In General

Writing is essential to me. It forces me to think, and that is a good thing. It brings up my past with a clarity that surprises me. I believe that it, and more importantly, Lenette are the primary reasons for my continuing existence. She is why I am still functioning as I am. Writing is the fruit of this tree.

In the process of seeking subjects to write an essay on, I must feel assured that I know what I am writing about. Writing as IF I know what I am writing about is not my style. I am too pragmatic (as I have always been) to propose or suggest thoughts I know little about or have no actual experience with. Even research and enjoyable reading has never been enough for me. Experience is vital to me as a mentor. 

My stories, even where “serendipity” (what else?) enters the picture, are true as remembered. Lessons are often bold and sometimes hardly a suggestion, but lessons, nonetheless. So, my writing about power, leadership, dialogue, and relationships with children and adults is based on experience. I’m not one to quote as gospel, anything. 

When I write about our animals, about us (as with our weird Mexico experience or the drunk and finding Camp Shasta), the impact the 3 Japanese Prisoners had on me, my family, and the depression, the people we have lived and worked with all are what I mean when I write “experience.”  Add to this our Earth, where life, nations, and the environment plays their cards to our personal benefit or loss. Whoever first said, “we have no choice but to either play the cards dealt to us or give in,” certainly must have known the travails of life.  

In the deepest part of me, I know we played our cards as dealt and did the best we could do with them.

Life is to be lived—Not run from or hide our heads—It is what it is.


More On Fear

As humans, we are a mass of emotions; for the most part, feelings rule our lives. Humans have the blessing of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and more, but feelings are a “within” phenomenon. We may think we can hide what we feel and are able to present an impassive front. This may be true with some, but not with those that are perceptive and close to us. As the saying goes, “we can run, but we cannot hide.”

“Fear” is my title, so I’ll stick with this emotion and share my experiences with you as usual. As a child, maybe 9 or 10, I know that when in a threatening situation, I went at it instead of running from it. As best I remember, I never ran from anything or anyone. I recall my newspaper corner, where I made a couple of bucks selling the paper. Now and then, someone wanted my corner, so fights were not infrequent. I never lost my corner.

We had a bully on the elementary school playground. He frightened and bullied everyone but me. One day he picked on a girl in my class, and I challenged him to bully me, and he came right at me, knocking me to the ground. I got up and walloped him so hard that he began to bleed. Then, I hit him again, and he fell to the ground and stayed there.  I was sent to the principal’s office, where he told me not to fight, yet he congratulated me for beating the bully. He asked, “what did you hit him with?” and demanded I never tell anyone of our talk. I have and just did again.  Oh well!

The story of the Typhoon has been told. If I was going to drown, I needed to see it happen. I learned a lot about myself. I know I felt fear but also awe and challenge. Challenge turns me on, not off. I know fear, but I overcome it when I feel it and use it to be my best. Who knows?


A Bit of Poetry

 I sit at the computer and wait for what?

A topic to write about and not any subject, but?

What I know as a matter of study and more. 

Is life and the power of leaders and lore.

The work that we did was special for sure. 

The camps, the kids, and a freshwater spring, so pure.

And Vegas and research and adventures galore.

We did What we did; it needed to be done and not to make more.

Spent much time in the outdoors and plenty of sun.

Did our share of playing and traveling having much fun. 

In time it all came to pass but work continued in a different way.

Now adults and their power are often on full display.

I learned of these things by reading and leaders letting it out.

That the leader, the one holding power, has too much clout.

We learned together this issue of power and how it must be used.

We learned how to communicate and to empower, not abuse.  

I loved studying and preparing my notes.

None for popularity or winning their votes.

Teaching to be present, understanding but not necessarily agreeing. 

Just listening and acknowledging and honestly being.

It worked for so many and carried into many years.

With memories of laughter and even a few tears.    Sy

Another Story

In case you do not know or guess, all my stories about animals, large and small, people, and “serendipitous events” all happened as I can best recall, and my recall is pretty darn good. This story is about how I met Lenette.

At a job fair in 1951 at UCLA, where I was hiring staff for my Day Camp, Purple Sage, Lenette approached my table and bluntly asked about the philosophy of the camp. Not the job or pay, but the philosophy? Very unusual. I instantly fell in love with her and loved the opportunity to wax freely about “my” philosophy. She asked many questions and said that she had a job at the local YMCA as a swimming instructor.

She loved the description of my pragmatic philosophy and said she’d like a job as a counselor rather than her job at the Y. I hired her immediately, and she left to meet her friends. She told them about the camp and, as an afterthought, mentioned that she was going to marry me. In the meantime, I told the guys sitting at the table next to mine, “I just met the girl I’m going to marry.” Serendipitous? I think so.

During camp, I would visit each group as often as possible, not to interfere but to help if needed. With Lenette, it was a little different. It was wanting to be next to her, and she, a wonderful counselor, never needed or wanted my assistance. She applied the philosophy as perfectly as possible. Lenette was not a horse person, but her kids learned to ride. She liked Sunny, a gentle palomino owned by George Tobias, an actor who lived on the estate we leased for camp. One Sunday, she agreed to go on a ride. Lenette rode Sunny, and I rode 71. We rode for an hour or two, and on the way back, I dismounted to open a gate, and Sunny reared, and Lenette fell into my arms. We kissed a deep passionate kiss and, hand in hand, walked, with the setting sun dropping into the Pacific, back to camp.


A Dog Story for The Holidays

Lizzy the Otterhound was the most different animal we ever had. Otterhounds were bred in England to clear the rivers of Otters who were eating up the fish that Royalty fished for and ate. They are pack animals that hunted, swam, and lived their life as a pack. 

After we lost Brutus, Lenette researched many kinds of dogs, and based on pictures, sizes, and other information, she decided on this unusual breed. Otterhounds have lots of hair to protect them from cold water, are a bit smaller than German shepherds, and are “wired to be active.” The only Kennel I could find was near Dallas, Texas, and I arranged to visit and pick up a puppy on my next work trip. 

When I got to the Kennel, about 20 puppies were available to pick from. They all ran from me, but one female came to me and licked my hand.  That’s all it took. I scooped this 6-week-old pup up, paid the owner, and flew home with our new family member. 

Within hours of being home and with our other animals (two dogs and three cats), this puppy took charge and began to herd them all together. From that very moment, she was going to be the leader, and she was.  We all took to her like “iron to a magnet.”

We did lots of hiking that summer and winter, and we always took our dogs. When on snow and cross-country skis, the dogs went crazy until they were totally exhausted and eventually fell in behind us. Not Lizzy. She never got tired, or so it seemed, and explored everything and everywhere. She never lost sight of us, although we lost sight of her and worried. Once, while in the backcountry, it was growing dark, and we called for her, but there was no response. We skied to my pick-up, with our other dogs right behind, but still no Lizzy. Was she lost or hurt? We called and called, but still—no Lizzy. Finally, I turned on the motor, and there she was, tail wagging and waiting to be lifted into the truck. 


Leadership and its Complexities

We were enjoying dinner with one of our dear residents when she mentioned that her son, a psychologist, was working for corporations as a consultant. His job is to write manuals for staff improvement in attitude and performance. That night, I woke up repeatedly, mulling the concept of “a manual,” and decided to write this.

The subject of LEADERSHIP is mine; I own it. I have been blessed as a good student and observer and have had significant life experiences with my staff that, over 27 years, numbered about 1000 people. This was followed by 35 years of working with leaders and their power. 

Every leader is their own unique case. There is no cooky cutter manufacturing of leaders. Each is different, and they feel and act out their leadership powers in subtle and unique ways. I was quick to learn this, and by getting to know the leader as the unique person they were, each became its case and body of notes. Bear in mind that I was also learning about myself. What a wonderful gift they each were to me. 

In my opinion, a manual on leadership might only be a good start. Leadership is all about relationships, not rules or guidelines. Authentic and mutual relationships include respect and regard on a continuing basis. Hence, a few hours spent in a workshop or a meeting with a mentor teaching “how to be a better and more productive employee” is a waste of time and money. It is why I constantly emphasize what I learned in my 35 years of hands-on work with groups in my essays. Only the leader holds the solutions to the problems with those they are responsible for. In my view, this is a fact, not a theory.

Only the leader can create a level playing field, nurturing and empowering those individuals they are responsible for to grow to their potential as the unique beings they are.

Every human organization depends on communication. Yet those built on rigid top-down hierarchies typically suffer from the lack of face-to-face dialogue. If so, honest relationships are impossible. In no way can this make for an efficient and creative operation. From my experience, I can assure you it does not. And yet, this is true of most organizations.

In top-down structures like these, whether corporate or familial, how can children, subordinates, and followers communicate effectively with the powers above? Not well, if at all. 

Communication—Necessary with humans—But never easy


Fear of Leadership

I was sent a Biblical story about fear. I know that Moses feared the role God picked for him to do, which was to be the “leader.”  Moses felt inadequate being a leader, but God prevailed, and we all know the rest of the story.

The Biblical story tells us that others picked by God also feared what was being asked of them. Fear keeps most people from being responsible for others and often for themselves. It’s an emotion so powerful that it often shapes what we do and speak.

The power invested in parenthood may bring the feeling of fear to a baby if, as I have written and said frequently, the parents are blind to their power, and it’s being used to control as opposed to teaching. The difference is slight but significant.  Of course, the same is true throughout our lives: when power is used to control, manipulate, intimidate, or even teach us, it may bring fear into play. I believe FEAR is an obstruction between us that has broad ramifications.

My recommendation is that leaders need to avoid mixing fear into significant relationships. If a pyramid of “power down” exists, bringing fear into any relationship can only do more harm than good.

And finally, why is fear of leadership so often the case? It has been my experience, first as the leader of my own firm and later when I became a mentor to business leaders and professionals, that power is not a prize most people want. They want the freedom to be themselves and do their job and wish for a leader who makes this possible. So as a leader, do not fear your role; instead, do everything in your power to help your good people do theirs.  

I fear leadership—Not doing my job or you—I am free to be


Living At Revel

Aging is no cakewalk. Yet, living here at the Revel Senior Complex does its best to make it so.  The staff and leadership are exceptional at making all 150 residents feel at home. As I have mentioned previously, there are daily activities from exercise classes to art and crafts, bus trips to shows, live theatre, restaurants, shopping at favorite markets, a heated saltwater indoor pool, meeting rooms, card games, lectures, movies, and special event parties almost weekly. Also, our Wednesday “Wine down,” where any drink is on the house. This and more contribute to why I write that Revel is truly a village and, for many living here, being part of a family or becoming so.

At a certain point living in one’s own home, whether it be an apartment, condo, or house, and even with family, is a challenge for the caregivers of those being cared for. They are family, but one can’t call such singular arrangements a village. I refer to Revel as a village with a goodly number of people in the same boat. Old is what we are; although Revel is not a “care facility,” it cares for each of us because it is what they do.

I recently met with the dining service crew and told them that their most important job is not delivering food but that they are “caregivers” and that all else is secondary. They have the power to make a difference in the residents’ daily lives simply by how they approach each of us.

They are mostly college students employed to serve us our meals. Still, I am telling them that they are not just servers but much more. They are caregivers with the power to affect residents with their care… and even love! 

My job is to serve—I discover it is more—Caregiver/server