Lead, Follow, or Get Out of My Way

Where Are the Leaders?

What are leaders supposed to do?

Leaders are supposed to lead.

Duh.

Seems like a no-brainer, huh? Yet we see very little leading today in the news.

We certainly see people in power spouting rhetoric and hyperbole – these are socially acceptable, polite ways of expressing the same old crap without any solution and telling out-and-out lies to make oneself, ones party, or ones ideology look good. The latter is particularly effective for convincing the easily-led-astray, uneducated, or people in agreement with hatred, bigotry, and xenophobia.

This writing is not to encourage you to sign petitions; show up at demonstrations; tweet and post; vote, or register to vote; or, run for public office. Those suggestions are excellent ways to affect change in our world and local communities, of course. But I’m thinking about something a bit more basic.

To lead effectively a sterling quality is required, seldom seen in many politicians and other leaders:

INTEGRITY

This also requires an action step that is more difficult than finger-pointing and blaming:

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN ACTIONS

One former president who spoke to this was John Quincy Adams. He’s quoted as saying:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.

You’ll note the lack of need to bully, to lie, to mislead, or to get people to do things for one’s own benefit anywhere in this admonition. What it does speak to is our need to take personal responsibility with integrity to serve others. How can we best do that?

The best way to demonstrate that we are committed to any cause is to act in a way that is consistent with the values of that undertaking. To be effective, we must be consistently mindful of our vision and mission in life. In other words, if the basis of who we are as an individual is in opposition to what we are attempting to promote, we will fall flat on our face.

We’ve seen this all-too-often in politics. The legislator who derides gay men is found having sex with a street hustler. We discover that the religious leader who speaks out against abortion took her daughter to a clinic to have one. This list goes on and speaks to another issue that we must recognize.

NOTHING we do is private any more. We’re going to talk more about that next week. In the meantime, consider how you might better lead by example, or take on a leadership role. And, in that process, recognize that – titled or not – you are a leader. We all are on some level. The only questions that remain are whether or not we’re going to embrace this responsibility, and how best to exercise the power we all have.

Lead us.

P.S. John Quincy Adams is not remembered as one of our greatest presidents. But his back story gives us even MORE insight into how we can lead. For more on this, scroll down!

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

Copyright © 2018 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.
This message may be re-printed, copied and/or forwarded without permission, as long as the content is not altered in any way and credit is given to the author.

John Quincy Adams

I was drawn to the Adams quote used in the blog above. But I really don’t know that much about the man or his presidency.

To assist with my education, I turned to my historian husband, Kevin. In some ways, the actions of Adams before and after his presidency are far more impressive than his time in office. I see a parallel here in the work we see today by President Jimmy Carter. Here’s what Kevin said when I told him about the Adams quote I was planning on using!

Hmmm … interesting one to select. It is a good quote from John Quincy Adams, but when it comes to leadership and his presidency, Adams is usually ranked about in the middle. He was hopelessly weakened in terms of leadership after the result of the 1824 election – often referred to as “the corrupt bargain” – since he lost the popular vote to Andrew Jackson but won the election (sound familiar?). He really was a poor politician in his day. He said he would serve as a man above “the baneful weed of party strife,” but that never materialized during his presidency.

His idea that the federal government should set the national agenda was far ahead of his time and very much rejected by politicians and state officials in the 1820s and 1830s. His career before and after his presidency is much more leadership oriented. He was an excellent diplomat, as he set the essential marks of American foreign policy for the next 100 years – freedom of seas, halt to European colonization in Western Hemisphere, isolation from European affairs, etc. Basically he is the reason we had two generations of peace with Europe until 1898. He also was a principled politician after serving as president, focused on the antislavery movement. It is his battle against slavery in the halls of Congress after his presidency that greatly redeemed his presence in the eyes of history.

Kevin A. Wagner
Program Chair, Social Studies 7-12
Carlisle Area School District
Carlisle, PA, USA

 

You’ll Never Guess What’s Killing Men

Husbands and Buddies and Friends, OH MY!

If you’re reading this, there’s an 80 percent chance you’re female. My subscribers are predominately women and 35+. (If you’re a guy – thank you for subscribing and reading my work!)

Truth is, I’ve always attracted more women than men in my work, which given that I’ve been an out gay man for over four decades has always been a bit puzzling to me. Even when I had my church in Pittsburgh, I had a majority of lesbian members, and the lesbian minister at the MCC had all the gay guys. Go figure!

So, ladies, bear with me while I focus this week’s blog on a guy issue. Hopefully, you can forward this to some man you know! (Stick around though - there's some great stuff here for you to consider, too!)

Guys, regardless of sexual orientation, seem to have a more difficult time in our society making true, intimate, male friends. Women may have tons of girlfriends, but we guys may only have a handful of other men in our life – if any – upon we can call on when we are down and out.

Sure, we may have the “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, dude!” or “Get a grip, man!” friend who will tell us to stop whining and acting weak. “Be a man about it, for crissakes!” he’ll scream, as he tosses you a fifty-pound medicine ball.

Right.

Much of it has to do with our societal homophobia, and this goes for gay, bisexual, and straight men. We are taught to be terrified of intimate male friendships, because our western culture associates intimacy with sex. This misconception screws up our chances of male bonding, as well as making it more difficult for men to have deeper relationships with women.

The truth is all humans – male and female – will have times when we are feeling weak, when we have allowed ourselves to be victimized, or when we can’t see the forest for the trees. But men are more likely to tough it out and isolate instead of seeking help.

And this, dear reader, is the real message of this blog:

Male social isolation is killing us.

In the December 1, 2017, issue of Bottomline Personal magazine, then editor Karen Larson notes that “social isolation increases the risk for heart disease, certain cancers, and dementia while decreasing immune system functions” in males.

Further, Dr. Richard Schwartz, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School believes male social isolation “has as important an effect on our health as smoking, high blood pressure, or obesity.”

Retired men often have few social connections other than their spouse. While women have been acculturated to make new friends, the same is often not the case for men. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible and we CAN learn to do so. Here are a couple of ways:

  • Seek out the companionship of other guys you admire or connect with
  • Join a community or group where you will be surrounded by other supportive men
  • Refuse to buy into the men have to be powerful all the time and never vulnerable
  • Create standing times with the men closest to you
  • Learn that intimacy doesn’t have to mean sex

Still have questions? Get in contact with me and let’s talk!

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

Copyright © 2018 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.
This message may be re-printed, copied and/or forwarded without permission, as long as the content is not altered in any way and credit is given to the author.

What Did I Just See You Do?

Accountability and Success

How are those New Year’s resolutions of yours coming along? Or, did you (like me) not make any? It usually takes about two weeks (or three weeks max) for New Year’s resolutions to fall by the wayside.

I’m not being Negative Nellie here, but statistically we aren’t stellar at following through on most of the New Year’s resolutions we make. Why is that? Why aren’t we accountable to ourselves for the plans or resolutions we claim to want?

Our success is doomed as soon as we agree to something if we didn’t really want to do it in the first place. This situation often occurs when we agree to something because we feel we have to do it (READ:  Guilt).

To guarantee our success we must be accountable to our decisions to affect change in our life. The critical factor here, however, is that we are discussing our decisions – not our partner’s/spouse’s decision, not our friend’s decision, nor anyone else’s.

What’s right for you to change in your life today to have a life more worth living? What are you willing to commit to today to affect that change? It might very be a New Year’s resolution, or it could be some long-time desire that only you know about.

Do you need additional motivation to follow through? Here’s one great idea:  Do it for you! Do it just because you want to, because you want to see the change more than anything. It doesn’t even matter if you never share it with anyone. The inner satisfaction of following through and being accountable to ourselves can be the most wonderful gifts we can receive.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

Copyright © 2018 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.
This message may be re-printed, copied and/or forwarded without permission, as long as the content is not altered in any way and credit is given to the author.

This May Tick You Off

Women of Power

Have you noticed a resurgence of women acting powerfully? It’s not like there hasn’t been a growing stream of upwardly mobile females in the workforce in the past 50 years. But the #metoo movement acknowledging what men have denied for decades if not centuries, growing numbers of allegations of sexual harassment, and apologies by contrite abusers has brought about a whole new level of conversation.

There’s only one problem:  Too many women still think they have to act like men to be powerful. Conversely, too many men think they have to be bullies or assholes “to be real men.”

It’s not unusual. History is full of how the oppressed have overcorrected when they were no longer subjugated. Freed slaves have turned on their former masters, or worse, enslaved others. The poor have revolted against the aristocrats, and then started acting like the class they despised. Gays and lesbians have flaunted their private sex lives to heterosexual society, largely for effect. And, too many women continue to act like men to get ahead.

Studies down over the past five decades have proven the futility of this approach. Yes, today women become CEOs and make lots of money, but that alone doesn’t make them a success. We have evidenced-based, clinical studies documenting an increase in male-patterned baldness, hypertension, and heart disease, to name just a few issues, among women working in executive careers. But, here’s the real kicker:  This way of life doesn’t work for men either!

Are we still playing stereotypes from 1957 that might not have worked for women or men back then anymore than they do today? I feel for women who are objectified in the board room. It’s a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t situation. If a woman shows up in the corporate world dressed to the nines and wearing six-inch heels she’s accused of buying into what men expect (even if that’s what she wants to wear!).

But whether she arrives looking like she just stepped off the runway at a Paris fashion show or in a three-piece Brooks Brothers suit the result is still the same as soon as she asserts her power. She’ll be derided by men for being a ball-busting bitch (that’s a bad thing), yet if a straight man takes control he’s clapped on the back for being a bastard (and that’s supposed to be a good thing!).

Then there’s the woman who decides to be a homemaker, care for children, and support her wife or husband who remains in the workforce outside the home. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum, but comes under just as much criticism.

We can’t talk about women in power without acknowledging ALL the places women make tremendous contributions to our society. And, we can’t discuss women in power without talking about men in power, and why and how that’s different. It’s complicated, but worth the discussion, which ultimately leads to people in power and how we are each individually and uniquely able to express leadership, guidance, and hopefully, compassion.

We are challenged in the 21st century with new and confrontational ideas about gender, gender orientation, and what it means today to be a man or woman. Frankly, I find these discussions to be as exciting as they are challenging.

But let’s not miss the point:

Rather than figuring out why others are or aren’t expressing themselves, let’s be more mindful of who we are. How do you express power in your life? Or, where do you feel disempowered?

If you’d like to join in this discussion, jump over to my blog page by clicking here and make a comment!

P.S. Remember this: A woman of power is dynamic, unique, and a force with which to be reckoned - no matter where she is. Ladies ... please ... show us whatcha got in a way only you can!

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,
Terry

 

Copyright © 2018 Terry Drew Karanen. All rights reserved.
This message may be re-printed, copied and/or forwarded without permission, as long as the content is not altered in any way and credit is given to the author.