Catalyst: Week One

Leadership Graphic with Dr. Prabu David
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Why do you want to become a leader?

I don’t know if I ever aspired to become a leader. Heck, I still don’t. I think maybe in some aspects, it just happened. Many times it felt natural to come up with ideas or get a group together. I never called it leadership. I remember in high school I decided to run for class president. I won. Our biggest claim to fame is that the Freshman class won spirit week for the first time in decades. Looking back, I didn’t think it was leadership. I just wanted to win and do it with my friends. That hasn’t changed much over 30 years.

I know people have always told me I had ability to lead and ability to be creative. In college I helped start two youth groups as a part-time job. After college, I wound up becoming a leader in churches and ultimately for a worldwide non-profit. It wasn’t until I got to FMCUSA that I started thinking of myself as a leader. Before I just saw it as team-building. If I did aspire to be a leader, I think it would only be to build a team of people around a mission I care about deeply to win.

What sort of organization would you like to lead?

Today, I have two ideas:

  1. I’d like to help lead our college in ways to be more effective and profitable in teaching and learning online. Collaborate with other people who do it well and build out my program to be world-class. Then build a team of other like-minded and skilled people to scale up and help our college build other programs do deliver different content but with the same DNA.
  2. Help lead a non-profit organization that helps serve under-served populations. I think of some organizations in Kenya and Burundi that I’d be interested in helping lead by developing effective communication strategies, fundraising, and advocacy.

What leadership talents do you have?

Talents? Not much. Really. But, after taking Strengths Finders, the following traits were identified: Belief, Woo, Ideation, Activator and Futuristic. I lead and live through these lenses. It’s natural to me. Basically, the talents I have are to believe deeply in what I’m investing in. This attracts others who share that same belief. I’ve been told I have a high Emotional EQ. I wonder if part of my talent is to connect with people and communicate a vision that can be shared and owned by members of the team.

Are there aspects of leadership you need to improve?

Oh man, there are many… Here are a few:

  1. More timely follow through. Sometimes I get bogged down in details and it discourages me. I then get underwater and have to dig out.
  2. I don’t make time for reflection, dreaming, or doing. I know I need to write. I know I need to reflect. But I don’t make time to do this.
  3. Sometimes I talk too much and don’t listen enough. I work on this and try to practice speaking little while saying much. Still a work in progress.

Do you have a compelling life story that will inspire and shape your leadership?

I don’t know if my story is compelling. That’s for others to decide. I do think my story up until this point is of a reluctant leader who chose a bit more behind-the-scenes style of leadership.

I think failing, facing personal tragedy and professional adversity has provided coping strategies and really thick skin to thrive when times get tough. Do hard things and do them well. I call it hustle and grit. My story would definitely be about bouncing back from dark times, finding a true north and not being afraid to make mid-course corrections along the way.

If you are invited to give a TED talk, what topic would you choose?

I’ve given a few TED-like talks.

  • How to develop a communication strategy. I have several tips and stories to tell.
  • Developing people through the lens of grace. I just heard a new word I’m going to use in place of grace: allowance. Being able to give allowance for people no matter what.
  • Talk on leadership titled, “Why Leadership Matters”. Inspired by my favorite leaders and books, I unpack a few leadership principles to plug into any day-to-day setting.

How would you like to be remembered?

I think this is easy. I want to be known as a flawed person who loved recklessly and forgave quickly. Who was an adventurer, that pushed the envelope and took risks, who was unafraid of the unknown, who believed deeply that failure is an option, and who gave invested in causes greater than himself. I want people who knew me to say that they felt valued, that I helped them shine, and accomplish their goals and dreams. I want people to remember that I was generous. I would hope people would remember me as someone who was faithful. Faithful to causes I believed in, but more than that – faithful to them.

Mostly, I want to be known for two things:

  • My daughter would know she was unconditionally loved.
  • My wife would know deeply that I strived to help her feel both safe and supported to shine brightly in the World.

If I get those two things halfway right, I’ll be good when I’m 6-feet under pushing daisies. The rest is just window dressing.

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