Hi ABCD friends!
This is a piece I just published in a local community news/blog group that I write for. I've included the first part and a link to the rest of the article below that.
Please click "Like" on the main page it takes you to if you do indeed like it, and PLEASE share your thoughts, stories and insights as well as any critical feedback on the article itself. I'm trying hard to create a style that everyone can be inspired by and relate to while presenting these totally different ways of seeing community and society (ie. ABCD) from the norm.
I can really use your help!!!
"LESSONS in LEADERSHIP from the END OF THE DIAL TONE"
Last Thursday, I was lucky to be one creative cog among many in the wonderfully un-defineable local phenomenon known as"The End of the Dial Tone Radical Experimental Collaborative Music Band Band"atThe Rusty Hook.
Besides being great fun at every upredictable moment, this project has taught me about the art of leadership that's creative, effective and enduring. I'd like to share those lessons as best I can, as well some tantalizing photos and live-art from the evening, and attempt to describe the experience itself.
What is "The End of the Dial Tone?"In its own words:
A collaborative performance deconstruction of the traditional musical jam, featuring musical egos in free fall. Comprised of top-tier musicians who wouldnt normally play together----totally unrehearsed---in a venue-agnostic nomadic musical caravanserai.
Total sensory meltdown.
Personally, I haven't seen any event that rivals this for originality, spontaneous energy and continuous evolution in this community. (Check out TWIS contributorJessi Smith's"Behind the Scenes" articlefor more background.)
Live-art by Van Jazmin and Eric de Barrios.
Beneath the surface, to me the Dial Tone is a mini-model of community at its best. I'm REALLY into community. And artists. These two passions motivated me to join with like-minded artists in 2010 and formUprise Art Collective. Building an organization with a small group of other people has been one of the greatest challenges and joys of my life. One of the things that has kept me going is to be able to know and watch other people who are making things happen based on their passion. John Lichtenstein of The End of the Dial Tone is one of those people.
Andrew Sink, Mitchell Englander, John Lichtenstein
What is "Leadership," anyway?
This is an important point I need to quickly explore. I don't want to fall into a common trap of thinking on leadership. That is, thinking that these people---"leaders," as we call them---are a unique breed of people with magical powers to bring people together and make things happen. In the bookEverybody Leads, Public Allies founderPaul Schmitzoffers a new way of thinking about of leadership: rather than a role for a special and select few, it's a set of actions that anybody can take. Schmitz lists three new ways of seeing leadership:
Leadership is an action many can take, not a position few can hold.
Figure model Erin Hood
- Leadership is about taking responsibility---personal and social---to work with others for common goals.
- Leadership is about the practice of values that engage community members and groups to work effectively toward common goals.
The reason I think this is so important is that our times call for leadership, and our old way of seeing and trying to engage leadership is not keeping up with the demand. Also, it's just not as fun to wait around for magical leader people to make things happen. Schmitz writes, "It is our goal to change both the face and the practice of leadership, thus unleashing the energy of thousands of leaders who have the skills not just to build programs and organizations, but also to build community capacity and sustainable solutions."
Chris Flannagan and Alix Sun
I know that you may not think a regular artistic improv project fits what many of us think is a "world-changing" effort. More on that later. Basically, leadership to me is about making things happen.The Dial Tone has been happening for over a year now, with a consistent and consistently enthusiastic cast of performers and fans. Its success points to something being done right that, in my view, applies across the board to other kinds of community efforts.
Here are the things I've noticed from John Lichtenstein and the Dial Tone about creative, effective leadership:
1. Be a little selfish
In other words, if you're going to undertake an idea together with others, you don't have to be Mother Theresa. Make it about something you actually want to do yourself. Just by creating a space for people to join you in some kind of activity---whether its playing music, knitting, walking your dog or figuring out ways to end homelessness---you will be improving the world.
"Dial Tone" organizer John Lichtenstein
When you realize it will be more fun, more interesting, more creative and effective with other people doing it with you, you have a good starting formula for a great project. John's a musician. While he's motivated by the desire to see more local musicians playing together, and could probably explain to you how that benefits the community, he also has a "selfish" desire to play with other musicians too.
And that's okay! In fact, I'd say its crucial. If he were doing all the legwork it takes to pull off not only the Dial Tone events but also the elaborate and equally outside-the-box promo video shoots out of a general humanitarian desire that never hit on the things he enjoys doing most, I'm pretty sure he would have burned out after the first couple of shows.
Furthermore, not only does making that choice help initiatorsnotburn out---it provides an ever-available source ofenergy from within that person that is also a magnet for others. In other words, by starting with your own passion, you are more likely to attract others who have that passion, because the energy is already there---in you and in them.While in one sense I do participate in the Dial Tone because it's something I believe in, it meets my own "selfish" needs and motives: I get to make art together with others, I get recognized for my contribution and I get to develop my skills. (Show off time: here are some of my drawings from evening!)
More live-art by ... me! (April Doner)
Live-art, April Doner
ArtistVan Jazminshared with me that he participates because, "Being a cartoon artist is so restrictive, having to always restrict myself to what the client wants ...I like being there and drawing what inspires me---and that is what people want to see! Being in there in the room and creating things that are desirable both to the project and to me."
This "selfish seed"/"magnet" approach also saves energy. You don't have to add the task of convincing others that your project is something they should join---they are already ready to jump in. In my opinion, we've forgotten that having and acting upon our own personal interest, skill, or passion is a good thing in itself, and the action of acting upon that interest, skill or passion in concert with others in a community setting should be celebrated as highly as "selfless" philanthropy and other more traditional models of social contribution.
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