Posted by: boy1ders | 12/28/2009

Leadership from a unique perspective

It’s been a little over a year since history was made, and Barack Obama became the first African American person to be elected the president of the United States. I’m sure that along his arduous journey to get to the place he’s in now, he heard far more than his share of naysayers and doubters insisting that he, or anyone else of color for that matter, had no chance of ever occupying the role in which he holds.

Actually, I see similarities between him and myself.  Like him, I’ve faced unfair criticism at times in large part because I was a different candidate from the norm, and in similar fashion about the color of his skin, the criticism stemmed from the misperceptions that people had about my disability, and the way people automatically assume that someone with a disability is incapable of being in charge or making decisions.

The notion that all disabled people have mental impairments transcends all cultures and ethnic groups on this planet.  Every country in the world has some form of institutionalization for people  with disabilities, whether it be a mental illness, mental disability or physical disability.

Being in a position of leadership is difficult enough as it is, but to work with people who has determined in their minds that I wouldn’t be able to handle my responsibilities is beyond frustrating.  It would be remiss of me not to admit that I had it on my mind to quit on several occasions, but it would have proven the people who had their unfounded suspicions about me right.

First of all, let me explain how I came into the position I presently hold. I basically inherited the position after the predecessor resigned from his duties due to health concerns. I had been elected an assistant to the Superintendant, and in retrospect, I guess it exposed me to the reality that no matter what you do, good or bad, people will always criticize you in a negative way.

I mean, even before a week had passed, I was hearing how much I was going to get used from a friend. I still remember the night when this friend was carrying on and laughing almost satanically about how much I was going to get treated like a puppet. It was scary because it seemed like this friend didn’t want me to succeed from the start.

First of all, any idiot would understand that being a subordinate means you have to take orders. It’s not being used, it’s doing your job. Anyway, the bad part about the criticisms is that the people who were talking didn’t even have the fortitude to come to me about it. I had to get it through a source who said “a little birdie told” them, which I think was so disrespectful to me.

I remember when I did my internship for a local newspaper. I started getting lax in my work, and right alway, the person who I was working for pulled  me aside in a private and respectable manner, and told me what I was doing wrong. She didn’t pick up the telephone and blab it out for the whole world to here.

If you don’t even have the courage to talk to the person face to face, then you obviously think very little of him as a co-worked and a leader. Over the years since I’ve held this position, I’ve been on newspaper staffs where I’ve been an editor in various capacities, and only once in the two and a half years did I experience a level of disrespect as that. No one ever tried to talk over my head or down to me as if I was a child. Furthermore, I was given the material I needed to do my job up front. I didn’t have to wait years, with my time almost up, to be fully equiped to do my job.

I guess it all depends on the environment you’re in. I mean, some people don’t know how to treat other people with respect. It’s a combination of having no class, being ignorant and careless of other people’s feelings, and having a false sense of entitlement that gives people the delusion that they’re better than everyone else. Many times, I found myself in a situation where I could say we start at such-and-such a time repeatedly, but no one was there on time, and I had to start late. It’s comical because people ended up giving me advice about starting on time. Personally, I don’t believe in “CP time” or “being fashionably late.” I’m a very punctual person, and being in a position of leadership means that the example begins with the leader, and what I noticed lately is that when someone else says to be on time, people listen to them. 

In addition, people who have been part of the organization for a handful of years have suddenly decided that the organization needed a policy change because the current policy is outdated. I mean, if people want to be technical about it, then the United States constitution should have been revised at least 20 times in the last 200 plus years it’s been in existance, and the changes to the constitution has come as additions, not changes, only because a group of people had been unfairly denied the rights that they were entitled.

The sitaution here is that people want to change policy procedures because they want to follow the rules on their own accord or they want things to be their way so it will benefit them. As long as a policy is not oppressing anyone or providing an unfair advantage to anyone else, then leave well enough alone. It’s like coming into someone’s house and rearranging the furniture because it looks better to you.

To tell the truth, my experience has taught me that having a position of leadership is not all it’s cracked up to be, especially when no one is willing to cooperate with you.  Some people think that leadership is all about having status and flexing their muscles. The kind of people who always want to be seen and noticed for the work that should come from their hearts are not leaders. Personally, I could care less having a title after my name given what I been through the last few years.

People have to understand that being a great leader isn’t determined by how much he or she can tell people what to do. To me, being a great leader is measured by how much you can unify people and work with everyone, not just your family and friends. It  means putting your personal needs and wants aside, and doing what’s best for the common good of the group that you’re in charge of. For six years, I’ve tried to do that as best as I could in the capacity that I made the vow to serve. 

I feel for Barack Obama whole-heartedly, and I understand the frustration he feels trying to work with some people who refuse to work with him because of their small-minded beliefs.  I understood the aggravation he felt when Representative Joe Wilson heckled Obama during his speech on healthcare (when has a sitting president ever been disrespected by members of congress like that whether they disagreed or not), because I feel the aggravation whenever someone walks out the side door near me whenever I try to do my job.

I encourage him to be a uniter instead of a president who can’t be told what to do. He should remember that it’s easier to throw his weight around than it is pulling his own. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to be a good leader, and on the other hand, I’ve learned that just because you have a position, it doesn’t mean that people will respect you. To this day, I still don’t know whether I earned anybody’s respect or not.

It’s sad that people’s hearts are so hardened that they can never be changed, and they always want to be right.

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