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emotional intelligence

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The Neighbor, Grandpa's Gun, Reputation . . . and Authenticity?

Photo by  Lucas Minklein  on  Unsplash

The Neighbor, Grandpa's Gun, Reputation . . . and Authenticity?

A Boy Finds his Neighbor . . . and his Dad's gun.

My Dad was only 12 years old, when, on his way home he passed by the family's wood pile, and there, laying facedown on the ground, was his neighbor. It may be surprising to you, that "finding one's neighbor facedown on the ground" didn't exactly surprise him, but it didn't. In 1934, it wasn't entirely unexpected to find a neighbor drunk and passed out. After all, everyone knew about the "moonshiners" that lived down the hill in his small Arkansas town . . . and the fact that some neighbors, including this one, liked to "hit the sauce."

It also wasn't that odd to find this neighbor in that state. He was an occasional hunting-companion of my Grandfather's, and truth be told, was known for consistently, if not regularly, "tying one on." To my Dad, at that moment, the only odd thing about finding this neighbor, in this situation, was . . . that there was a gun lying next to him, and . . . that It was his Father's gun.

Authenticity. 

Authenticity is often cited as a characteristic for professional success. I confess, at times I feel quite confused about what writers in the fields of business, professional studies, or consulting mean as they tout this authenticity as a trait necessary for success. What does it mean? Is it "being a man, or woman, of your word?" Being honest or humble (in a Patrick Lencioni sense) in not thinking first of your own safety above the needs of the organization?  Does it mean just being a "good person?"  Is it as simple as what we used to call "guarding your reputation?"

I think of my father's story when, occasionally, I ask myself, "Does reputation really count for anything anymore?" To me, growing up in a small town in the midwest, reputation meant everything. As a kid, I knew, just by observing, who the adults considered  "good people" and who, well, were not--people in whom they placed their trust.

But, I no longer operate in a small village and the clear linkage from reputation to success is less apparent. So, is this need for authenticity even true in our new cosmopolitan world?

A couple of years ago, my wife brought me a book touting some new "revolutionary" ideas she had picked up at a used book sale. She said "this is kind of interesting, maybe you'd like to read it." I instantly recognized the name. It was a T.V. pitch-man that I had seen extolling many different products over the years. I told her I didn't think he was credible, then found--on the internet of course--articles that talked about his history as a con-man, his prison sentence for fraud, and on-going "business" propositions. We tossed the book. But, just as easily, I could have not heard about this promoter and the marketing certainly made it look legitimate.

Does it still matter?

So today, does your reputation really matter?  Stories abound, across industries, that seem to imply that many who abuse this "truism," that you authenticity is important, go on hiding their true nature, fooling people who come under their sway. With the advent of on-line business, new questioning old moral absolutes, and with an expanding population, it doesn't seem that there has ever been a time when it is easier to operate in anonymity--and without accountability. 

Yet, I still see business gurus talking about the importance of authenticity. So, does it matter or are they parroting values of another age?  I don't know.  What I do know is this; I don't want to operate with anything less than the belief . . . that it does matter. I've benefitted, and watched others benefit from, great acts of personal integrity and leadership. Even if one could "get away" with being less than authentic they would still have to look at themselves in the mirror. Oh I know, the con-man is not "troubled" by feeling bad about the harm he does to others. But, I still think, down deep he knows exactly who he is, and more importantly, who he is not.

I was entering a store today in "the city" as a woman exited. She was being followed by a couple of store employees--one, of whom, was filming her with his phone. A black truck waited her at the door. As she rushed to get in the truck, she was frustrated in her attempt by the locked door. Through the open window, she barked, "Let me the *&%# in!" Her companion complied, as the employee continued to film and, moving behind the truck, transferred the focus from the woman to the truck--a truck that I now noticed had no license plate. What had she done to warrant such surveillance? I don't know. But I suspect a visit with the police is eminent. 

Coming from the small-village that I do, it is hard sometimes to justify that "world" with what happens today. Store clerks tell me that it is company policy to not interfere with shoplifters and let them walk out the door with merchandise. Educated people advocate to not prosecute various people/groups that clearly have violated laws. Too often I have heard the phrase, "What's right for you?" in collegiate discussions about cultural problems as solutions, as if, all things are subjective to the individual whims and preferences of each individual person.

The psychiatric hospital was bought by a big corporation, staffing problems became an issue, accusations were made and the state came in to investigate. Colleague stated, "You know Bryan would be the first to report it if this was really happening."

The Court and the Outcome

What happened with the neighbor? My grandfather, probably sensing what had happened, told my father to go inside and wait. Presumably, he checked out the situation, then contacted the authorities. Later, there was an inquest to follow up on this "unexplained death."  My father, as the person who found the body, was called before the judge as a witness. He told me that afterwards he had no idea what his 12 year-old self had said on the stand because he was so afraid they were going to "lock up" his Dad.

They didn't.

The ruling from the court was that it was a suicide. The neighbor, knowing where Grandfather kept his guns had evidently gone into the house, took one of the rifles, and used the woodpile to help him discharge the gun. My grandfather's reputation, behavior, and actions on that day --and before that day--as well as the neighbor's reputation for inebriation, all protected Grandpa from the fears my father entertained.

Authenticity was not an option but an expectation in my home. Watching, my father, along side my mother, as they served a small midwestern college, in a small community, over the course of 51 years, it was a lesson he'd learned long ago. It served them well.

 

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Leadership Lessons . . . The Guys I Admire . . . and Getting Trained Up!

 
Our Save the Date Announcement

Our Save the Date Announcement

Hello there . . . again!  If you have been a long-time subscriber to my blog, then you know that I often talk about leadership issues. I've shared the story of my "Old Ball-Coach" who was selected as the National Coach of the Year (my most read post this year) and how the effect of losing this leader turned a very talented group of basketball players into a bad team. I've told you about the Greatest Leadership Lesson I Ever Learned. And, those who followed my old blog got to hear how my Dad got the team bus moving--rescuing this very same Coach when the Bus Driver Wouldn't Move the Bus. We're told you about "Broken Leaders" and finding the courage to continue to serve others. We've also shared our leadership resources and blog posts on ideas to help leaders communicate, and dealing with power struggles.

The fact is, I could tell you stories all day long about leadership simply because I have been "in the thick of it" my entire life--first as the oldest son of the man- who-is-running-the-college, then as college student leader (Resident Assistant, Club President), career manager (up to, and including. as Executive Director and President), current business owner . . . and the most critical leadership role . . . father of six children.

Now, we at HSC are partnering with a local church to put on our first Christian Leadership Conference! (Catchy name huh? I thought about calling it something cool--do we still say "cool?"--like "Prospect" reminiscent of the athlete that has great potential and is being recruited to play for the local school. But then I thought, "Who would have know what that conference was about?" Maybe I should have studied branding more. Maybe not.) 

More about the conference in a minute. But I'd like to tell you about how this conference came "to be" and why I am excited to promote it.

How it came about

A friend, and former college classmate, read one of my posts about leadership. This friend, the president of a Colorado bank branch in a family-owned firm, had recently been part of a consulting process that required him to go through training on crucial conversations and emotional intelligence. He said it was rigorous, excruciating at times, and very beneficial. Upon reading one of my blog posts, he concluded that Christian Leaders needed some of the same training . . . and he decided that I should be the one to do it.

So we are doing it September 30th, in Lincoln, Nebraska and those attending will get to hear my friend "Murph" talk about his own personal experience in becoming a person-centered leader. You;ll also get to hear from Jim Tuttle, the Minister of Heartlands Church, who, along with HSC is sponsoring this conference. Jim is a leader with a heart. He is focused on helping Heartlands reach out into the community to help people where they are. He has his own personal experience being served by a church at a conference he himself attended when he became ill and he will be sharing this, and Heartlands commitment, to helping leaders at the conference.

Why I am excited about the conference

But that's not the only reason, why I'm excited about the conference. The main reason I am excited about it is because of the "core" of what we are going to offer . . . .

First, I've asked a friend, David Ensign, whom I admire a great deal to talk about the biblical principles of leadership. Why David? Because I have seen his leadership and scholarship "up close and personal." When I thought about who I would want to listen to talk about leadership, David was the first person that came to mind. David's life has demonstrated great courage through loss (the death of his wonderful wife, Linda, and his own cancer). He continues to be a leader despite those losses.

A. Keith Miller is a man I know very well. He's my brother and my consulting partner. Keith has extensive leadership experience. A twenty-one year career in the Air Force leading teams of more than 100 (including working across branches) he has a person-centered style that was recognized and rewarded for its efficacy. These Lessons Learned Around the World (a training manual he developed for leaders) is strengthened by his masters degree in organizational behavior and the consulting experience working with organizations and leaders.

Then there's me. I'm going to present simply because, well, I'm an expert. Oh, did I just say that out loud? Did I just lose my "humble-midwesterner club card? Well, as uncomfortable as it makes me to say it, I am. Senior leadership positions for more than 20 years. Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies, Associate Professor, a professional counselor for more than two decades. Business owner. Consultant. You might say, I've done nothing to avoid the "expert label"--particularly when it comes to people issues--and you'd be right. So, I'm going to bring these experiences to the conference to talk about emotional intelligence and to engage participants in activities that will help them apply and learn about how to engage this critical element in their leadership actions.

why register?

Because we want this conference to be a powerful and practical learning experience. We are limiting attendance to the first 48 people who sign up. We will have some learning opportunities about leadership and emotional intelligence but one core element will be on getting some practical skills in communication and emotionally intelligent leadership.

Participants also have an optional opportunity to sit down one-on-one with an experienced advisor at the end of the conference to talk about their specific leadership challenges.(To take advantage of this, participants must register and then contact us to reserve a spot.)

Oh yeah, I'm also excited because we are going to have participants  "defuse bombs!"  No, of course not--not real ones. But we are going to utilize bomb defusal processes to teach some important lessons on communication and team work. We've done this with work groups and look forward to doing it again at the conference. Here is our Bomb Defusal Unit badge:

Bomb Defusal Logo.png

 

So, here's the deal. If you are somewhere in "driving distance," you are available on September 30th, and you are one of the first 48 people to register, then you will be included in the conference and I promise you will have a bit of fun and your leadership will benefit from attendingt. 

 

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