Being Rather Than Doing

I am an extremely relationship-oriented person. While I know that accomplishing tasks is important, I believe the quality of work people produce is directly related to how they feel about themselves and their leader.

I had the privilege of working with fifth graders in an after-school program last year. There was a range of issues we dealt with including academic, behavioral, and emotional problems, as well as kids who did not have safe homes (i.e., no running water or electricity, physical and emotional abuse, and drug addictions within the home). The “goal” of our program was to help these kids become “proficient” students in the classroom.

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The task-oriented leaders in administration emphasized improving students’ grades through repetition of school work, flash cards, and quizzes. It was important for our students to improve their grades because it was the only way statistically to gauge if our program was successful. Given some of the personal trials these young people were dealing with, the last thing in my “relationship-oriented” mind was working on their academics. These young people had so much potential and wisdom that was stifled when they were asked to blindly follow academic assignments. In addition, they did not know how to self-motivate, self-encourage, or get the work done with so many of life’s obstacles in their way.

Instead of doing school work, which the majority of my students struggled with and hated, I focused on building relationships with and between the students. We used discussion, role play, dance parties, and leadership projects to build their self-confidence and emotional intelligence. The students put together service projects to improve their school and community including initiating a trash pickup and recycling initiative at the school and making cards for a nearby nursing home. By the end of the year almost every one of my students had improved his or her grades significantly. More important, at our daily “cheer-for-each-other” meetings, the students would beam with pride for their own and others’ successes.

I guess my point in telling this story is that relationship-oriented leadership is more important to me than task. I much prefer “being” than “doing.” I am not an organized, goal-oriented person. I rarely make it out of my house without going back two or three times to grab something I forgot, and my attention span is shorter than that of a fruit fly. However, I feel that my passion for relationships and human connection is what motivates me.

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