Blog 14 - A Standing Ovation:
For the leader and the members of my 13 year old’s 8th Grade Advance Chorus last night! Both have worked hard, together, for the last three years and produced an award winning combination. (For real, they won first place and a superior rating in their grade and grouping at the County Assessment last weekend!) But maybe even more exciting and surreal, last night they sang their final middle school concert. Four difficult pieces with multiple, four-part harmonies, two a Capella, two accompanied, one in Italian, another was jazz complete with two soloists’ scat performances, and ending with a jaw dropping, energized, and perfected Bohemian Rhapsody. The parents, siblings, grands, and friends came out of their seats with applause and cheers of delight, admiration, and pride in watching and hearing these kids perform at such a level.
I’m writing about this event because it relates to leadership, volunteerism, and commitment – the real topic of this Blog.
This 8th grade class is from a regular (not a magnet or special programs) public middle school. The kids did not get into the class via try-outs or applications; they selected the extended class as an elective – they volunteered. The teacher is a public school chorus teacher; one of those public servants that has a passion for music and singing and teaching it. From the beginning he has believed that they could perform well above expectations for their age and grade. He has challenged them, taught them, and they have risen to the challenge and used the tools he empowered them with.
I found out last night after the performance that a few months back he began working with them on one of the particularly difficult songs they performed last night. He believed they could perform it well. The students were not fond of it.
He had developed such a rapport with them and empowered them in their own capabilities that they came to him with a proposal. They would knock themselves out on the song if he would let them also take on Bohemian Rhapsody. His gut reaction – no way. Too difficult. Way above their experience level. Obviously he relented. If they believed they could do it and were willing to put in the work; why shouldn’t he believe and help them make it a success? They had already delivered on everything he had asked of them; it was time to take a chance.
They brought down the house.
I believe that leadership can come from any level in an organization, from every member regardless of the stage of their studies or career. People only need to be willing to take a chance with each other, be willing to empower others, hear others, and be willing to teach and be taught the skills and tools to do so. I’ve had numerous conversations with SETAC-NA members and taken informal polls at Regional Chapter Meetings around North America about the availability of leadership training in their workplaces. What I found was that, in general, unless you are employed by a large company or the federal government the opportunities were rare to non-existent.
SETAC-NA members told me of science, investigation, research and related training such as proposal and technical writing. But not much in the way of learning to lead people. Not by command and control or hierarchy but because they want to follow. Because you have set up an idea or direction that they believe in. You have facilitated the conversations, heard and acted on their input, built trust, and see how each potential team member can help make the project, vision, goal a success.
Before I became SNA President, I was for several years the Board of Directors’ liaison to the Career Development Committee. The CDC then and now shares my belief and commitment to leadership from all levels of SETAC-NA. They are working, along with the current BOD liaison, Matt Moore, to create a SETAC-NA Leadership “Academy”. The CDC has been benchmarking the programs of other scientific and professional societies, focusing the Buddy Program, Networking Reception, Women in SETAC Luncheon and other parts of its member programming on aspects of leadership. Not just because it will make SETAC better and fill our ranks with future committee and advisory group chairs, board members, vice presidents and presidents, but because it will also make our members more valuable employees and help grow their careers.
Soon, as in next month, you will be registering for this November’s SETAC-NA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City. I’ve seen the list and there will be superb Training and Education Courses, aka short courses, offered on Saturday and Sunday prior to the start of the meeting. There will be science training courses but there will also be leadership training courses. One that will be offered is Leadership 101: DISC® Training: Evaluate your behavior, strengths, and challenges and build leadership capacity. I’ve taken DISC® – twice, a brush up now and again is a good for you and those around you. There are many leaders inside and outside the ranks of SETAC that have taken DISC® training. I promise, you will be able to apply it immediately - right there, in SLC, that very week!
You’re coming all the way to Salt Lake City for great science; come a day early and take Leadership. It is a valuable first step in preparing yourself to lead others because they want to follow. To be a great leader of a great “chorus”.