Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Unconditional Love and Unconditional Leadership

Unconditional Love and Unconditional Leadership
Here are some thoughts from one of my last storytelling sessions:
I figured it out, and I want you guys to figure it out, too.
Happy people outperform unhappy people. So how do I get to that happy place?
Climate and culture have a profound impact on teacher and student performance
Leadership has a profound impact on climate & culture
I never woke up one day and said, “I can’t wait to get started, this day is going to be sooooooo mediocre.”  And either should you.
When I was in first grade our teacher, Sister Hellen, told our class that someday by the grace of God, you’ll know your vocation. We had no idea what she was talking about. I figured it out as my meandering path in life enabled me to become a street magician, a teacher, a middle school principal, and now a storyteller and author. I figured it out- your vocation is your calling. It’s where you’ll make the biggest impact on yourself and the people around you. It’s your passion, your WOW factor and magical “ta-da” moment.
Leadership isn’t position. Leadership isn’t popularity. Leadership isn’t a one-time event. Character isn’t a one-time event. Kindness isn’t a one-time event.
Leadership is a choice, and because it’s a choice, you need to make a conscious decision every day that you are going to be the kind of leader you want around you. When you do, your life will be on a higher level. You will have figured it out.
Everything you need to know about leadership you already know. I’m going to make those connections and I hope you make the connection too.
Unconditional love is a lot like unconditional leadership. Without love, there is no leadership. And when you treat love and leadership as verbs instead of just nouns and feelings, the “amazing” happens. You can raise the bar, set goals, never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do, lead by example, create a team, think outside the box (then throw it away, empower other people to be leaders, have integrity, always treat people better than you want to be treated, and have fun!
And the question isn’t if you’re a leader but the question is if you’re an effective leader. You can walk into any school and within a minute you can tell if it’s a leadership school. The world’s most amazing schools are leadership schools. They are a collection of hundreds of leaders.
There’s a Maya Angelou quote, “People may forget what said. People may forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” I can’t tell you one book I read in 8th grade but I can tell you the name of every classmate, I can tell you how every classmate made me feel every day, and I can tell you how they made every other kid feel.
I can tell you the name of every teacher I had from kindergarten through graduate school I can tell how they made me feel and I can tell you how they made every other student feel. You will be able to do the same.
Perception is reality. Sometimes challenges to our ideas force us to rethink our position. That may come from peer pressure or from someone that doesn’t fit our norm. Heck I’m a 60-year-old guy with braces and Vans and the that doesn’t fit some people’s norms but the reason I have braces is to straighten my teeth. I wear Vans because I thought my daughters’ shoes were cool. Some people my age think its weird because its away from their norm, and I should dress and look a certain way. Sometimes I do dress a certain way.
The worst thing I can do is try and adapt the world to me. I must adapt myself to the world around me without compromising the “whole person” with body, mind, heart and spirit. Most importantly I must proceed with unconditional love and unconditional leadership.
For me, perception changed when I met my seventh-grade teacher and first basketball coach, Mr. Tamagni. He was the first teacher that made me feel important. He told me I was intelligent and important so I acted accordingly. He invited me to be on the basketball team. I played every day for 12 years because it became one of my passions and kept me out of trouble. He showed us that there was enough leadership for everyone, not just the top few.
Make that conscious effort, make some noise.  
Your role models shouldn’t be Barbie, a truck that folds out into a robot or a cartoon character that lives under the sea. Maybe they’re funny and adventurous but you shouldn’t model yourself after them.
And by the way, Barbie is evil. At one time, we had 250 Barbies (because I have two daughters. She waits on the floor at night. When you walk by in the dark, she stabs her plastic hand through your feet. Your role models should be your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, teachers, neighbors, and principals. Or how about an inventor, Nobel Peace prize winner, or record breaker?
Those follower and management models went out the window decades ago because they are ineffective and uninspiring. The face of leadership is walking down your hallways and streets and sitting in your classrooms. It is essential that we bring the heretics, outliers, and disruptors to the leadership table because we simply can’t move forward without their ideas. Everyone now has the opportunity for leadership but they need to make the connections to effective leadership.
Our students are being trained for jobs that do not yet exist. Even the traditional jobs will not look the same. Don’t sell yourself short by saying the, “sky is the limit.”
I figured it out and I want you guys to figure it out, too. Happy people outperform unhappy people. Unconditional love is a lot like unconditional leadership and when we include both, we give the world what it needs right now HOPE. You are smart, strong, and kind. Accept your role as a leader and act accordingly.

   I salute the greatness in you!


  1. Dr. R-
    So meanigful and moving! So grateful that you were my principal and now, a teaching mentor. There's something to be said for the impact middle school educators have on the lives of students... This story and mine prove that!