As I thought about this blog, I began to think about what I wished someone had told me when I was an emerging leader.  Here’s my list so far:

•    Most people are doing the best they can do at any given moment. What they are doing may not be OK with you. It may not meet your standards. It may not be something that you want in your life or your arts organization, and you don’t have to agree with or support their actions — but it’s my observation that no one gets up in the morning asking themselves how they can screw up.

•    People who don’t have any appreciation for the arts in any form aren’t wrong. They aren’t bad. They aren’t stupid. They don’t need to be scolded, shot, or stamped out. They just don’t share your opinion. Allow room in the world for wonderful people who don’t appreciate the arts the way that you do.

This was a hard lesson for me. And the more passion I had about something, the more I pushed. Many years ago a board member took me aside after an advocacy meeting and shared his observation that when people disagreed with me, I raised the volume of my voice and repeated myself.  “It’s not that they didn’t hear you, Ramona. They heard you.  They just didn’t agree with you.”

•    Figure out what wastes your time and then work to avoid those situations and people. When you do something that doesn’t work, learn from it and move forward. I have learned that anger is a waste of my time. Time spent listening to people who always see only dark clouds and half-empty glasses is time wasted.  And it’s a waste of my time to take long, soaking baths in guilt and regret while I replay my mistakes over and over in my head.

•    “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is also a good story for adults. Diversity works. You already know your own opinion — seek out and listen to other voices and points of view.  We are naturally drawn to people with whom we communicate easily … those that reflect out opinions back to us.  I learned that I was a better leader when I had people around me who thought differently and had different experiences, backgrounds and styles.

That’s my list so far — please add to it.  And please disagree with me.

Ramona

10 Responses to “What I Do Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was an Emerging Leader”

  1. Elisa says:

    well said. great post.

  2. Marialaura says:

    Thanks, Ramona! These are great lessons. I have trouble accepting the second point. While I would not classify a non-arts lover as “stupid”, I do want to believe that anyone “wonderful” would have some level of appreciation for culture. Perhaps I should restate the lesson for me as being: Not everyone shares the same level of passion and commitment to the arts as I do. (But everyone should have the option! LOL I can’t myself!)

  3. Marialaura says:

    I meant “I can’t help myself!” ;)

  4. These are great things to know and I wish I had known them too–especially the second and third points. There’s also a positive corollary to them: there are people who share your enthusiasm, your passion, and your vision, and who’ll be supportive of you. Seek out these people and work with them if possible.

  5. Caroline Welder says:

    These insightful thoughts are why you are the Head of Arts Administration program at Goucher. These thoughts could help anybody in any field. Let us hope then when I come into these situations I will remember your words. Thank you always for your words of encouragement and support.!

  6. Angelica Daniele says:

    Ramona, you are brilliant. And I’m not just trying to suck up to you. What you have pointed out here are not just rules of thumb for the workplace, but life lessons that everyone should know (even those non-arts enthusiasts who, as you said, are still wonderful people).

    I especially liked your point about people always trying their best. This is something I need to really grasp. The expectations I have for myself are extremely high, but no two people are the same. Embracing diversity in this way is important; it is the basis for building community which is always important in the arts.

    I don’t know that I want to disagree with you, but since you asked so nicely I will try. I think it is definitely important to avoid things that waste time. However, sometimes good people who you can learn from will sometimes waste your time. I think perhaps another way to consider your point would be to say find the best ways to use your time, and pursue those rigorously.

    It’s always a pleasure hearing your wisdom Ramona! Like Caroline said, this is why you are top dog at Goucher!

  7. Abby Baer says:

    Very insightful, Ramona! I liked how you pointed out it isn’t what you say or how many times you say it. Your opposition is just as likely to be passionate about their point of view, so we need to be ready to listen and accept other opinions. We are talking about advocacy in Greg’s writing class so I’ll be sure to share your post.

  8. greg lucas says:

    I believe it is important to listen with the same passion that you have when you speak. What you hear may solidify your position or change your mind. Both are steps forward.

  9. Ann B. says:

    “it’s my observation that no one gets up in the morning asking themselves how they can screw up.”

    Fantastic comment! The sad thing is sometimes at the end of the day that is how we feel–we screwed up. It is learning to accept what is done and find balance. All of your points are helpful–avoiding the negative vacuum, finding diversity, etc.

  10. Lynnette says:

    “And it’s a waste of my time to take long, soaking baths in guilt and regret while I replay my mistakes over and over in my head.”

    I really needed to hear this comment this week – we need to learn to treat ourselves with the same kindness and patience we are working to achieve with others.

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.