Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I Settled On Three

The weather was icy and Gate 6 at the airport was overflowing with travelers. Have you noticed how people spread themselves out in an airport waiting room? They occupy every other seat when it is possible. In this case all the seats were filled and people were also standing. We were waiting on a flight that was on schedule to make its way into the teeth of the recent ice storm in Texas. I knew and understood the weather conditions, so as I waited I began to scan the crowd.

I was looking for something in particular. I was searching for the face or the body language, or the combination that signaled leadership. What are those attributes? Frankly I don’t really know for sure. Have you played this game? Attempting to make some sort of guess as to who might lead the group under difficult circumstance?

Having my mind occupied with a scenario parallel to ‘Lost” I went up and down the aisle wondering which one of us would really be capable of leading this waiting room full of people in a life and death crisis. For the record I settled on three individuals. They just gave me the right vibe.

Those are the wanderings of a mind temporarily fuzzed off focus in an airline terminal. It did cause me to search under other stones of thought that might be more productive to our realities. I thought about the quality of leadership. Because that subject is so broad it naturally reduced itself easily to a more specific thought of “What type leadership do I offer in a non-crisis?" I have been praised in the past for my leadership in difficult circumstances, including a Medal of Valor in police work. But in many ways such awards reward us for behaving correctly and swiftly in circumstances where it might be required for another’s survival.

It seems to me it is harder to illustrate leadership under a more consistent observation, the constancy of everyday life for example. Maybe we can all be a hero when heroism is required and our life or another’s is at risk. But can we be a hero without the threat? Can we show leadership on a daily basis? The obvious answer to this question is yes, or we would not be consistently offering awards and crowns for leadership, nor would we speak about this person or that person’s leadership abilities. Still, we reduce our notion of leadership to sports, business, government and other institutionalized bodies. On second thought I should say I do this, perhaps you do not.

So what is my point? I’m contemplating that it is far harder to show personal leadership to others on an hour by hour basis. In the context of my thought I hold leadership to mean something turned from the conventional. I mean leadership that illustrates our happiness, joy and love of life. Do you know the phrase “If Momma aint happy, aint nobody happy?” This would be the evil twin to my thought. We spend so much energy expecting others to absorb and listen to our pain. This is plentiful in the blogsphere let me assure you. If instead of pain we offered brightness, are we a better leader than the one that offers pain and sadness at every turn? This is why it is hard. It is hard because what sounds like preaching on my part is nothing more than common sense that is easily rejected as silly or unsophisticated. Maybe we find a truth that is so innocent yet powerful in its simplicity that we decide to kick it on down the road because we are just too damned pretend sophisticated for such tough work?

Is the crutch of another’s attention what causes us to lean so hard on others? Is it a cruel fate that a happier countenance and leadership in the form of hopeful optimism gathers no attention from those around us? Is this inattention an enemy to our own happiness? Do we fail to lead on an hour by hour basis in the face of normal affairs because we simply cannot gather enough personal attention?


Anonymous said...

I think there is a sort of brokenness that's required of a good leader- and a resilence that comes from having "prevailed" through the traumas of life.
A person who exibits strength and a little compassion from having "been there- done that"- goes a long long way with me.

I love a positive and encouraging attitude- about darn near everything...but that's me.

Being a mom with kids in their teens, or nearly so, and watching them interact with both friends and in a crisis- that's when I see (or hear) what kind of leader I've been- or failed to be in those tiny moments of every hour- each day.

What's the old saying, "Character is who you are when no-one is looking" (or something like that :)
I'm the oldest of 6 kids- leadership came with my birth certificate! :)
I hope when no one is looking at me- I continue to smile.
It's late...I couldn't sleep-
wandered over :)
"Adfectio nocturnus" :)

It will be sad when someone who really understands Latin see's how I've botched the language! LOL

~Deb said...

I may be missing the point here, but leadership and heroism takes ‘control’. And what does control need? Security in oneself. I think many people are too insecure to take charge. Take for instance, making a point to sit in the chair that has been separated by the people in that airport. Not many would sit in between strangers at such a close range. It’s the ‘fear’ of taking charge. Maybe the person will get agitated. Fear of rejection. Fear has spread across widely, through the world, through blogosphere and through many other ways that we communicate with people.

What about relationships? We sometimes don’t initiate leadership because we don’t want to upset the other person. “If mama ain’t happy…ain’t nobody happy” type of scenario—which is a great point. No one wants that job anymore.

Anonymous said...

My dad has a saying...'That's the best kind of witness...' He's said to me a few times in my life. What he means is that living a good, strong life will be noticed by people more than if one were to spout wisdom at them. It would take him longer to explain but that's the gist.

To me, a good leader is someone who commands attention - not by force ...a person people choose to follow. Someone who is strong and gives a thought to what's best for all involved. Someone who stands up in a room and charts a course.

I've been called a leader many a time...but, it turns out, I didn't know much about it til I had my girl. Every second of the day I'm with her...she's looking to me for guidance. Which is different than instruction.

She's watching how I interact with people. She's seeing how I treat them. She's noticing how they treat me and how I react.

Leadership is something, I believe, that cannot be taught. Sure - bits and pieces can be shared...but it's either there or it ain't.

So when I got my daughter's progress sheet from her music class and it started out "I'm so happy to have our little leader in class..." I was over the moon.

Oh...and Seven, had I been at the airport...I would have picked you.

Seven said...

I know you understand. I hear your wisdom loud and clear. And your Latin, but I'm too lazy to look it up....

I don't think you have missed anything. Fear is the underlying emotion that controls all that we DO NOT do. Often is saves us and other times it prevents us from a more solid happiness. What you say, rather than "missing something" hits the bullseye of what I am flirting with here. Too often we let the simplicity overwhelm us. This on the surface sounds like a nonsensical statement. I only want the reader to look deeper at how hard the simple truths can be to adhere to. Simple wisdoms like "Do unto others as" can be harder than trigonometry, literally. Fear is like this for all of us. It is the most difficult and destructive emotion to master, yet adherence to the simplest truths of life are predicated on conquering our fear. From the personal banishment of fear can come clear leadership of a type that does not dominate but illustrates. Do not be misled by my preaching that I am a fearless individual. I fear many things and it shows in some of my behaviors.
I think you missed nothing at all, but rather expanded the discussion in a very helpful manner.

Having read your posts, I understand your courage and your adherence to many of the simple truths I am talking about. I know you do this every day. I know this about you.

Anonymous said...

Adfectio = "good, well being"

nocturnus= "night"...

:) It was close to 2 am when I finally scooted away from your blog and shut down the machine! :)

Seven said...

My new nightly chant. I'm glad it was my post that made you sleepy at last!

Reach said...


Hello my friend and thank you for checking back.

Let’s not confuse Self-confidence with Integrity and Leadership. The act of taking a place next to any stranger falls under self-confidence. Integrity, “the act of doing the right thing, no matter who, if anybody, is watching does categorize a good leader; however, the quality of being a great leader only follows that of being a great follower. Under dire circumstances, who would know in advance the true identity of the leader? Only situational awareness will bring forward these qualities for others to follow.

Also, in speaking of Valor, I highly regard those recognized. For these individuals have proven their fortitude, when the general majority would fail under fire. These people are the true heroes of this country.


Seven said...

As always you bring unique and helpful insight.