Thanks Sager…or do you prefer SagerXX?
Either one is fine…I’m easy. And FWIW, I lived in Lancaster, PA long enough to do a year of kindergarten at Nitrower Elementary…if it’s still there…[smile]
Viva — Sager
Yes, it hasn’t fallen down…Nitrower Power!
Hey all —
Just back from DJ-ing a 2-hour set for an all-volunteer group that some friend of mine run. They’re no-drug/alcohol events, basically a bunch of expat NYers gone country that still want to get together and shake their collective tail to groovy music (and I’m not talking yer average club/mainstream tunes — COOL music ).
Anyhow, tonight the founding father/mother of the event (it’s been going on for over 10 years now) were out of town (doing their DJ thing in Boston) and so the org was carrying on without their presence. And I experienced something interesting (if annoying).
In the absence of the Big Daddy/Big Mommy, everybody loses their frickin’ minds. Wait, let me re-phrase w/more specificity: in the absence of the usual authority figures, other people feel a need (in my experience, usually mistaken) to assert that Somebody’s In Charge.
Tonight that took the shape of people coming by endlessly to make sure my volume levels were within acceptable parameters (we have to be aware of our neighbors), asking me if the bass level was off ("it’s a little muddy?!") and so forth.
I have 7 things to be doing at all times while I spin. One inquiry as to my dB level is fine. Six in a half-hour is preposterous (and yes, my levels were FINE).
So — this is all an entree to my real point: leadership is a yuge responsibility, and also (very often) a large pain in the derriere. When you lead, you open yourself to endless "pointers", "friendly advice", criticism (fair or not) — and the unsatisfied needs of the people you’re providing leadership to can become your problem whether or not it has anything to do w/your supposed bailiwick (i.e., you may only be in charge of your neighborhood watch but various peoples’ unresolved daddy issues can come out in passive/aggressive ways and they’ll look to you to handle them).
SO: we all talk about community-building as the Thing we need to do (beyond personal prep). But we happy few who have gotten or are getting The Big Clue vis-a-vis where things are heading are going to be the ones who have to step up and lead — or at the very least, shine a light so others can get the Big Clue.
Does anybody out there have experience with these negative aspects of being a leader. How do you cope? Has anybody out there decided to sidestep being a leader for this reason? I’m currently scheduling time at the local community center to show the CC to whoever shows up. I need advice from other peoples’ experience to help me prepare for what comes with it.
(And FWIW, my set tonight kicked tushie — except for a 1/2 hour about halfway through when the "advice" mongers wouldn’t leave me alone and it was all I could do to keep the tunes going, much less read the room, figger what people were digging, and then pick the perfect song to nail that wiggly spot at the base of their collective spine. I kid you not — when I get it perfect, the whole room [80-100 people] all simultaneously give a shudder, give a whoop! and take their ‘UNH!’ up a notch. It’s why I love being a [non-paid] DJ…)
Viva — Sager
Sager thats all interesting stuff. Draws quite a few parallels with my own experience. For 20 years have been the organiser of our own gathering, this last easter 150 people camping near a woolshed in a very remote place. Because it was our 20th we relived our more exubherent past and had a shared meal followed by dancing to a collection of music I put together. Yes I too love the feeling of joy got from correctly judging the mood and massaging it. Not that I get it right anywhere near all the time. We now have those that once came as children bringing their children. Three generations. 80 to 0. Great to be a part of. Love to see children dancing alongside their parents and occasionally grandparents.
The leadership thing is difficult. There are heaps of tricks involved and work differently for each person. lead from the back is a good one. Good skill is to be a bit unaproachable so that only real issues come your way. Another is to put the issue back to the raiser for their solution. Being a bit dictatorial can be a decided advantage but only for very minor (and maybe very major) matters.
We have a fire that we all sit round most evenings and the wood has to be carted from the beach; I borrowed a trailer hooked to 4wd and called for volunteers to help load. No shortage of help. Needed to dig a new bog (longdrop). Again just mentioned it and found myself sitting watching people working hard with shovels. Sheep needed roasting and the spit turning, again people just turned up. Sometimes its the same people but thats Ok. Each was a very social occasion of far more value than the effort involved for the workers. Never call meetings. Start to do and others will too. Discuss issues with more experienced in small groups and let a course of action form over time. We put up a whiteboard listing the do’s and don’ts for everyone to see. Mostly things like where to get water, leaving gates as found, how to get access to adjacent land but also no dogs and guns.
I have found most of my time spent warding off those who want to take over and control too much. Often best course has been to let them do what they want and see it fall flat on its face, if you have the space for that. Let them turn down the volume and face the flack. Having fun yourself seems to have a huge value to the group. Dance yourself. Plenty of preplanning works. Sometimes I worry over factions who want to do things differently before Easter but turn up there to find no end of support for my view and to see the issue dwindle. Some things I am no good at so just let those that are alone to do what needs to be done. I don’t see it as leadership because the only right I have is in starting it and massaging it. I hate being obliged. Can’t stand those occasions when I have to speak for the group. Thank and praise workers. Stand back on most occasions except the rare conflict or other situation where you just have to front up. You learn who are the people that want to control others and how to manage them. Not talking is very powerful. Wait till everyone else has had their say.
Being regarded as an anarchist definately helps.
Sager thats all interesting stuff. Draws quite a few parallels with my own experience.
Thanks heaps Don — all your commentary is gold. I’m just getting started and so having perspective from somebody who’s been there for awhile is yuge. I feel like my life has/had three big potential thrusts: 1) being back in NZ [where I was an exchange student and gawd I coulda lived there forever], 2) staying in Hawai`i [where I lived for a li’l over a year back in ’95-’96], but 3) the Hudson Valley is where I ended up and more and more it seems like for good and bad this is where it’s gonna be for me. I just yearn for more peeps who see the world as I do.
Which brings me back to the whole showin’-the-world-the-CC-thang. Guess I’m creating my own perfect (as it can be) world right here.
Thanks again man.
Viva — Sager
Glad you have some experience of NZ and can picture the isolation of our wild places. Hope the Hudson has some of those too. Don’t think people need leaders just experience but they are hugely conditioned and that will take a while to break if its going to.
Good luck warming your own waters
This might be interesting for you. Yes, I’ve had the same thing in leadership roles. In my situation, the group sort of turned on each other and then, well, exploded. I read something about this being a normal stage of groups (verbal attacks, divides) but our group didn’t surivive it. It gives me pause, no doubt. Worries me that groups based on consensus (uh, and there were only 5 of us in position to give our imput!) may not work well, but groups based on orders feels… too strong for my tastes. To be honest it scares me for what will happen to communities when TSHITF. Hopefully they’ve moved beyond that fighting point by then, but apparently when dynamics change (people added or leave the group) it’s normal to go through such growing pains again. I wish I could find the paper that described it. My experience was a bit more long term than yours, though, happened over the course of 6 months, I guess?
ETA…OOPS! The thing I was talking about was called "storming" and was part of that site… http://wilderdom.com/group/StagesGroupDevelopment.html
Sager, bro I feel your pain! Playing well with others is definitely not one of my strongest skills, but I sometimes get thrust into leadership roles for various reasons. Active leadership is difficult for me because I just don’t have the patience for cat-herding or political struggles/manipulation. One thing I learned is that groups are like a piece of string… pushing just wads it up, but pulling is so much more effective. I tend to just go about my own business and if people want to join me then that’s cool. I’ll take advise and suggestions… up to a point. I’m not a consensus builder and I don’t try to make everyone feel good about what they’re doing or make sure everyone gets their say. But I also don’t try to force everyone to do it my way or try to organize/fix every little thing that comes along. If the herd wants to bicker or do something in a way that I know will fail or be dangerous, I warn them but just keep doing my own thing just in case.
I never declare myself the leader and I don’t get into power struggles with people who want to be leader. If they’re clueless, I stand my ground and make it perfectly clear to them that I won’t follow them, but won’t interfere either… everyone else can make their own decisions about what they want to do. But if I’ve been elected leader, either consciously or unconciously, I make sure that people know the extent that I’m willing to be involved and the level of personal accountability and responsibility I expect from them. I’m a big believer in "Save Your Drama For Your Mama"… I’m not their mommy and I’m not going to hold their hands, wipe their noses or kiss their boo-boos. I make sure that people know I’ll listen to their suggestions if they have equal or greater experience in the situation at hand, but that I won’t tolerate nonsense if you don’t know what you’re talking about. I also let them know that just because we’re in a group and there is a leader doesn’t mean that they all get to lose their minds and forget how to think and act on their own. I don’t tolerate passive-aggressive BS or political in-fighting… all those require some level of subterfuge to work, so I just call it all out into the open whenever I see it.
I think that’s the hardest part of leadership… setting expectations and conveying your "style". If you try to be a different type of leader than your own personality things will just not work. You’ll go crazy, people will take advantage, and ultimately no one will trust you because you’re "lying" about how you really feel/think. If you’re not confident in your abilities and decisions, no one else will be either. Sure, you might come off brusque at times, and people might have a problem with that sometimes, but if you’re consistent and true to yourself it usually works out fine. I think our confidence and consistency is the reason we find ourselves as the big dog in the yard anyway… all the little ankle-biters are just testing the limits of your strength. Once they figure out that you walk softly but carry a big stick, things usually settle down.
Thanks to Don, Juvy and Plickety for your thoughts. Everybody’s got useful thoughts and I appreciate it muchly!
VIVA — Sager
Hey Sager, I’ll chuck my hat in the ring, and give you my experience.
I’m one of the unlucky people, whether by appointment, or by others belief in me I always end up being the leader. Which wouldn’t be so bad, if I wanted to be there. I’m a strong introvert, but hey surprise apparently I have the "stuff" that people look for.
Before I was appointed a team lead at work my previous lead used to suggest the team direction through me, if I agreed then we always went in that direction, if I didn’t then he’d either come back with a different direction, or we’d work out where we thought we should go, he was a great manager, but not as strong a leader. There is something a good friend of mine once said when it comes to "leadership" there is the appointed head of the group, and the leader of the group, and they’re frequently different people, it’s better for them to be the same person, but a good appointed head knows who the leader is and works with them. Guess my previous lead believed in that.
How I lead depends on the situation (as do peoples reaction to that) work for instance, surprisingly is generally more chaotic than casual perhaps because it counts, if you screw up a social event everyone is disappointed, if you screw up a project everyone is potentially unemployed.
To me its always about presenting an idea then discussing it, during that time morph it into something everyone can get behind (as long as it’s not potentially destructive) take what you can use, and throw out the rest. Often times I’m required to be a psychologist, marriage counselor, arbitrator, communicator, and career adviser as well as everything else I’m plain and honest. Does it irritate me totally, but in my professional position I could be like other "leads" who are just project focused and have a mediocre team, or I could be like I am people and project focused and have an exceptional team. Yes at times people throw stuff back at me, but since everyone was behind the decision I’m ultimately only partly responsible. I’ll get to other issues later.
After the big one hits the irritations etc. don’t go away how you deal with them counts much more. How is the crash going to effect other people. I think some are going to have an attitude of "whatever" some are going turn feral, some are going to mill about looking for a direction (who ultimately lack the survival skills to keep going unless someone steps in), some will be devastated, others exhilarated. I don’t think that anyone here can assume that prep for this gives you an edge in this situation and you’ll need to lead, you could buy it, with your supplies, but once those run out, then everyone will fall away. If you have skills then that helps, especially when your community is actively working in an area that your skills extend.
Assuming leadership can have a very negative effect on a group and lead to you being ostracised. Watch and wait, if people come to you for advice that’s a sign that they both trust your judgment, and you, two critical skills as a leader. Others will question your judgment its healthy to a point, if someone stands out as constantly criticizing or questioning you when the community has accepted your leadership, these can be dangerous, since they’re doing a powerplay, if they get enough people then they can lead it, if they’re strong and they’re going in the right direction it’s not a problem (they may even be better than you are), but if they’re not that can lead to doom. These can assume leadership if they warrant it or need to be managed up, or managed out, if you manage them up to your deputy because they have the skills needed, then that’s benefitial, if they’re completely unsuitable, then they need to be managed out (I leave to everyone’s imagination how this can happen after the crash) but ensure that everyone knows that you gave him many chances and options before this happens.
Now on top to everything else, there’s one other category you need to be conscious of, the bullies, what these people do (and no matter the size of the group you’ll have one) is try to profit at others expense, have a big enough community, and in a large enough group you’re going to have a leader, you need to break these people, cut off the head and the body will die. the rest will likely fall into line and be productive, once the protection of that leader is quashed, but he might have some issues, once again manage up or manage out.