By Tim Lautzenheiser

We continue to explore the various avenues of leader preparation in hopes of finding the right combination to ensure a healthy learning experience for all in their lifelong relationship with high level achievement.

  1. Leadership style positive or negative:

It is important not to confuse the word positive with happy. By definition, positive means “honest and with forward motion.”There are certainly occasions when we are positive things aren’t moving in a forward motion and it calls for some serious candor of an uncomfortable nature. Perhaps we can better understand the question by determining if we enjoy the process of leadership; we must see it as an opportunity to bring our colleagues to a higher level of creative understanding and expose them to the value of cooperation to support the success of the organization. Conversely, a negative style would emphasize reaching the given goal at all costs and justifying it by rationalizing, the extreme justifies the means. This often creates an environment filled with stress, tension, defensive-survival behavior, and (in most cases) it is counter-productive to what we are trying to achieve.

  1. Motivation by fear and/or desire:

“Is it the fear of failure or the desire for success that motivates us to excellence? Is it the carrot out front or the whip on his back that moves the plow horse forward?”

It is clear we all are subject to both avenues of extrinsic behavior modification. Fear is the quickest way to move or motivate (motor) a person forward. We are creatures of survival and, as pointed out, we will not elevate to a higher level of behavior until we know our survival is ensured; therefore, any kind of threat will stimulate an action in an attempt to preserve our very existence.The ever-popular and always effective, “If you don’t do this, I will…” approach to students generates a quick response and, from an outside perspective, appears to be the most efficient way to “lead” the individual or group to the established goal. However, the after-effects are usually not as desirable as we might hope they would be. If the person chooses to remain in the group following a situation where fear of failure is the dominant motivational theme (many of them simply quit and take the path of least resistance syndrome), then a behavior-habit has been established that will require an even greater fear to achieve the next level of performance. It can be a one-way street to program destruction at the cost of everyone.

Alternatively, the desire for success does not guarantee such instant reactions. It requires a much longer and more patient style of mentoring. The sense of high-level accomplishment is often set aside in favor of rest and relaxation. Entropy is not only a law of nature but also a predictable human pattern. Ultimately, we all are seeking success at some level.This will only happen when the individual desires to take on the responsibility with the understanding that it has a personal benefit to his or her life.

Respected leaders use a healthy dose of desire and a judicious amount of fear as they traverse the endless musical journey with their students. Depending on the relationship that has been developed with the members of the group, the application of these two extrinsic motivational tools is effectively administered at the appropriate time, resulting in more productive work ethic demonstrated by all; herein lies the key.

The only true intrinsic motivation is self-motivation; therefore, our emphasis must always be the stimulation of the individual; to inspire the person so he or she will excel without being threatened or bribed.

3. Quieting the ego:

Is our quest for excellence an avenue to support the leadership mission or is it a pay- off to feed our personal-professional growth pattern?

According to Webster,“The egocentric person is limited in outlook or concern to an individual activity or need.”

Are we capable of rising above our individual needs to pursue a much higher goal? Can we give unconditionally without expecting or demanding anything in return? Can we get beyond our own EGO?

These are uncomfortable inquiries and, even as we ask ourselves, our ego will doubt the validity of the question itself.The I/Me pre-occupation with self is seen in every aspect of our society. Students are jockeying for political favor to be the one “selected” as an officer, the captain of the team the lead in the musical, and on, and on. All too often receiving a first-place award becomes more important than the group’s welfare. If so, the process alters accordingly to fit the goal.This is not to say that there is not an worthy value in competitive forums, but the evaluation/judgment only has substance when it is used to help in the preparation of the next challenge.

Outstanding leaders have the wherewithal to detach themselves from the outcome. The spotlight is always on the growth and development of the group members; the pathway of maturity.

4. Agree to disagree; harmony is the key:

Perhaps the solution to quieting the ego (point #3) is developing the ability to agree to disagree. The results that come from moving forward in harmony are generally far more beneficial than struggling with the handicaps of disagreement. It is certainly important to stand up for what we believe, but when it is at the expense of the overall goodness of the organization, we have the option to simply agree to disagree. It does not mean giving up our values, our standards, or our ethics; it simply means we support the dignity of the other party or parties and realize the discussion/argument is holding back the progression of the program.

Independently we rely on energy, an individualistic source of natural power. Interdependently, we avail ourselves to synergy, a cooperative act so the total effect is greater than the sum of the independent parts. This extensive boost in potential only shows up when we are in a “cooperative mode.” Rather than waiting (and wasting precious time) to find a group of people who are of like minds, we have the wherewithal to access synergy immediately (with anyone) by agreeing to disagree, thus establishing a sense of cooperation: the key to creative synergy.

5. Our mind leads us in the direction of our most dominant thoughts:

Thoughts lead to feelings.  Feelings lead to Actions.  Actions determine success.

The equation is an over-simplification of the programming of the mind. We take actions on our feelings; these feelings are a by-product of our thoughts.

It seems we often wait to see what the circumstances are, and then we adjust our attitude accordingly. However, the sequence should be: believe then be. With each passing hour, we are discovering the power of thoughts/beliefs.The ability to manifest our desired conditions is known and practiced by every great teacher.

What do you believe is possible for your group, your school, your community? Are there real limits or are there only perceived limits? Are we held captive to our self- imposed restrictions?

Simply do the work necessary to complete the task at hand. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a quick fix, but it is a necessary beginning to achieve the aspired goal.

6. One person can make a difference:

You make a difference. Every person makes a difference. We might want to ask ourselves, “What kind of difference do I make?” Without question, each
of us makes a difference.

We often become frustrated because we feel as though we are alone in our quest, or the daily demands are too great for us to be effective:“I’m only one person and I can’t make a difference.” However, embracing such a notion violates the very goal for which we are striving.

Successful leaders, in any facet of life, are the ones who see obstacles as opportunities for growth.They are not enticed by short-cut solutions but are committed to reaching their goals and willing to invest whatever is necessary to achieve the given end. Styles vary, from those who are patiently methodical to those who are enthusiastically leading the charge with trumpets blaring.The one commonalty is persistence, the ability to go on resolutely regardless of any inconvenience or opposition, to continue in spite of resistance.

As we look through history, it is evident the only thing that has ever made a difference is one person. Somewhere in our lives, one person made a difference for us.“Our leader” was ready when we appeared. Now we have the chance to return the favor ; we can have a positive impact on those who eagerly choose to be our followers, for we know:

When the leader is ready the followers will appear.

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

—Winston Churchill