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.