Reflections about Leadership and Teamwork – Part One

Carol A. Hand

There are so many examples of public figures who promote selfishness and mean-spirited stupidity these days. They see themselves as “leaders,” and many aspire to become president of the United States. Often when we hear the word “leadership,” it connotes an image of hierarchy, with leaders at the apex of a pyramid, the opposite of teamwork.

These notions of leadership make me think about the opposites – the principles that underlie visionary transformation to create inclusive healthy communities around the world. From my perspective, leadership is a responsibility all of us are capable of shouldering in our respective positions. It’s a way of life that doesn’t necessarily mean standing on the top of a hierarchical organizational structure or on a stage.


Photo: With Former Students at Their Graduation Celebration

Acting from a sense of integrity and responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean being understood or being popular.

“Why are you so different? You think you’re better than we are.”

“I think it has to do with you being fiercely independent, with a little dose of willful stubbornness!”

“I’m sorry for all of the mean things I did to you before. You’re the kind of person I always wanted to be. I just wanted to hurt you because I was jealous.”

Why would anyone choose this? Leaders in traditional Ojibwe culture were born into this lonely life without any guarantees that people would listen to them. They had to earn people’s trust and affection through their generosity, diplomacy, even-handedness, integrity, and wisdom. It was a life of training to learn how to listen to and care for others, to scan the environment for opportunities and threats, and to carry responsibility for bringing people together to assure community survival.

These are the principles about leadership that I learned from my mother’s example:

  • Respect for self and others based on a belief that people are in essence basically good and capable of great kindness and contributions;
  • A sense of responsibility for developing our own potential and using it to make the world a kinder place for all;
  • Self-awareness – knowing and accepting our own strengths and limitations;
  • The capacity to value and acknowledge the strengths of others without feeling the need to compete or bring them down;
  • Empathy and compassion for others, both those who are suffering and those who cause suffering for others. (Those who cause suffering are often hurting, too, in ways that may not be visible.)

These are just my morning reflections today. Perhaps I’ll share examples from my years in community practice and teaching in future posts…

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

14 thoughts on “Reflections about Leadership and Teamwork – Part One

  1. Carol, I agree totally that true leadership demonstrates the qualities your wise mother showed to her wise daughter. Unfortunately, much of this is lost (if it was ever there) in politics where it is most needed, and many other spheres of society. (Pick a country, any country!). At the same time, there are in fact individuals across all spectra of cultures who do follow the ethics you describe. It is about education, isn’t it? – whether via schools, communities, media, blogs, etc., to get the good examples out there and lift people up. Keep shining that light of yours… 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for such kind and thoughtful comments, Hildegard – and for such important observations and insights about the state of “leadership” in the world! I agree with you, and I also agree that there are ethical, compassionate people everywhere, too. Sadly, the examples of “leaders” portrayed by the media, and many college classrooms are often the aggressive, oppressive kind. I guess we both have work to do…

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  2. Agree, Carol! Self awareness, teamwork, respect, compassion, sense of duty are critical. Maybe clarity of vision, being able to make difficult decisions when required (in view of the other traits combined), and communicating well are also important. True that getting the wrong leader can be disastrous!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for adding crucial dimensions, Cicorm. I agree that clear vision and making critical decisions are crucial, but I prefer to view those as part of teambuilding and teamwork. Whether in a classroom, developing policies, creating new programs, and even in program evaluations, I tried to maximize the participation of those who were most affected by both the mission and decisions. It’s the wisest, most respectful approach. Yet, it’s not always possible to take time to build consensus, and some decisions do need to be made quickly. The art of leadership is in discerning which is which…

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      1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Carol. Agree that, in some urgent and critical cases, leaders to get the collective best, need to make some decisions w/o consensus (vision and will). Healing (“communications”) to occur after the decision. Save classification, we probably are agreed on basic ingredients for the cake essentially. But not to detract: to re-emphasize your key point, leaders should be of those good traits, and “selfish and mean-spirited” leaders are a very bad thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Good Job-Carol:-) So tired of the news lately that I don’t even turn on my computer or tv much anymore! Have missed reading blogs so playing catch-up as our season changes.

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