Leaders Inspire Us to Do More, Do Better

I've been busy the past month doing various presentations on religion, music, and computer science. The main reason is that I've been surrounded by good leaders, people who motivate, prod, or entice others to perform over and above the call of duty. Articles in management magazines say successful ventures always have good leaders. But they never mention that the leader does not necessarily have to be officially in charge.

At the cooperative preschool my son attends, the six of us on the music committee were to perform four times during the year for each of seven classes. But Janet said at our first meeting, "We can do more." She'd already doubled the schedule to eight shows, saying we could call the director and revert to the original agreement if we wanted. But her enthusiasm infected us all. Brimming with excitement, we planned the general theme for each session and assigned a key person to each for in-depth planning and organization. We didn't want to just play Mary Had a Little Lamb, we wanted to teach, to explain and demonstrate basic concepts such as rhythm and styles of music.

The latest session was intense. At a one hour brainstorming session, we organized the basic outline for an explanation of groups of musical instruments. We appeared in class and demonstrated 27 musical instruments in the main categories of strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion using instruments such as the autoharp, ukulele, trumpet, conch horn, flute, saxophone, spoons, and bones. Then we stood in the back and had the children guess a few instruments by the sound, and ended that segment with a surprise musical saw. Then we played OldMacdonald Had a Band to show how various sounds mix together in a song, and finally we handed out maracas, tambourines, and triangles to the kids and played some more.

After the fifteen minute "lesson," we packed and moved to the next class.

While practicing on various instruments, I was also preparing a presentation on Perl programming for the Rocky Mountain Oracle Users Group. A coworker, Scott, had organized several of us a few years ago into an ad hoc team to try to provide our government agency with a web presence. We developed systems to take advantage of the ease of using the web amongst a dispersed work force. We downloaded free software, read tutorials, explored various approaches, worked off each other's trials and ideas, and eventually came up with an easy and free approach to accessing databases through the web. Inspired by the camaraderie of working with Scott and with anonymous developers providing free software and instruction across the web, I decided to share our successes and failures with more people. So I signed up to give a presentation which entailed writing a paper, creating slides, and giving a speech.

And while preparing and practicing for those two activities, Jessica convinced me to give a talk on Progressive Revelation. She'd already gotten me to learn and play Baha'i songs for some Fireside gatherings up in Wyoming, and she just ignored my claims of being too busy. I already had collected a lot of info because that's a special interest of mine, but I still had to do more research, collate and organize my notes, and give the talk.

My schedule is back to normal now, but I learned more from Janet, Scott, and Jessica than just how much stress I can tolerate. They were all leaders. They didn't find themselves in charge of a work group through attrition, brown-nosing, or inheritance. They took charge of providing a service, and their example caused me and others to follow. They have led me to explore how far I can push myself, and have also gotten me to examine how I can lead others to do the same through example, encouragement, and camaraderie.