Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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Curiosity question: Since Sawyer is 17, I know that she is too old to be a camper at Heart O' the Hills this summer, but is she planning to be a Heart-Lite?


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Where have the years gone?! It seems like only yesterday that we had to convince them to let her attend when she was "almost six" and now she's old enough to be an assistant counselor.


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True, but that does not answer my question.


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She submitted the application and a phone interview has been scheduled. But what prompted your question?


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I received an email from them describing their new leadership team, including some of this summer's counselors, and I thought about the great resume value for those individuals.


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That's not why Sawyer's doing it. She just loves camp – the activities and the friends she's made, especially the "little ones" that she got to be "big sister" to. From the very beginning, she's always talked about hoping to be a counselor one day.


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I have always been impressed by her ability – and passion – to teach and to mentor, whether at camp, at volleyball, or with the Special Olympics team. And, even though I only attend a few volleyball games each year, her leadership skills are very obvious. No wonder she has been named team captain the last two years.


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Funny you say that, as other parents have commented to me about that, too. I know that as her mom I'm biased, but I'm so proud of her this year. Not only is she "playing up" and on the team for 18-year-olds and developing her technical skills, but she's really excelling at strategic thinking and team-building.


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From what you have told me, she is extremely dependable and her teammates trust and rely on her. That is critical. As are the ability to communicate and resolve conflict.


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She seems to have all those traits, although I can't take any credit for them. She must have been born that way. Not to mention, she didn't inherit her athletic skills from me, either.


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I do not have the time for a nature versus nurture conversation, but hard work and focused efforts can go a long way.


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Maybe in terms of athletics, but I think being a leader is something you're naturally born to be or not.


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I disagree. I think it is easier to learn to be a good leader than to be a good athlete.


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Then explain why I was more of a natural at golf than you, but you ended up a better golfer.


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Because I needed it to advance my career. So, I took lessons and worked at it. Plus, I am much more competitive than you.


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Now there's an understatement. But you're definitely a natural leader.


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I have to disagree again. After business school, I did well in positions where I worked independently. I could analyze any situation, spit out a bunch of ideas and suggestions, and get them implemented. But, then I wanted to move to the next assignment. Unfortunately, rather than using me as in-house consultant, I was promoted into management.


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Wasn't that a good thing?


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Except that I was totally unprepared.


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So, what did you do?


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I looked around the company and found senior management that I admired and respected. Then, I emulated their style and approach.


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Are you saying that you pretended to be someone you weren't?


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Have you never heard the adage, "Fake it until you make it?" There is actually science supporting the concept, but the interesting part is that, along the way, I learned the difference between management and leadership.


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There's a difference?


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Managing is telling people what to do, how to do it, and then expecting them to do it. Leading is showing by example. Would you rather follow someone or "obey" them? I witnessed that the true leaders were open to ideas, they were patient and empathetic, and they provided timely communication, effective feedback, and positive reinforcement. All powerful traits that can be learned.


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Well, I have to tell you, based on your description, most of the volleyball coaches I've seen over the years have been managers, not leaders.


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I would be interested to know if that is a function of the level of the team. Is there a difference in coaching style when you get to the best nationally ranked club teams? What about at the collegiate level?


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Good questions. I'd guess having better players helps, too.


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Yes, but even with "better" employees, just demanding them to "do better" will not get the same result as inspiring them to do so. Funny thing is that I was just trying to do my job better, but by helping them do their jobs better, we all benefited.


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Well, it sounds like Sawyer's leadership skills will one day be invaluable in the workplace. But I'd love to know where she learned them.


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Probably from you.


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Seriously? I find it very hard to believe that you think of me as a leader.


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Do you demand things of the girls? Or, do you ask and then take the time to explain why? Do you follow through on the expectations and rules you have set? Do you take responsibility for your actions and expect them to do the same? Do you provide them with positive feedback or only just find fault? Even when you think you are right, are you willing to listen not only to their perspective, but also their ideas and suggestions? Are you willing to admit when you are wrong? Shall I continue?


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No! You made your point. I guess I just see these as good mom skills, not leadership traits.


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But, it is not an either-or situation. Those same traits can be used to be successful at home, at work, even as a volunteer. Think about the parents who are part of the PTA or who are little league coaches. Leadership skills are transferable. And, definitely can be learned, and taught.


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Wow, I never realized there are so many similarities between leadership and parenting. But I can see where they're each both challenging, yet highly rewarding.


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Agree, but I would venture to guess that parenting is much more difficult.


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Now, that I was never expecting.


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Whatever.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Image by osbkin on iStock


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I love history and understand that “Lincoln freed the slaves,” but the Civil War was about more than slavery. It was about preserving the Union, and about states’ rights (some things never change) and westward expansion. However, once President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the war between the states would be forever remembered as a war to end slavery. Although I’ll admit that I’d never of Juneteenth until I moved to Texas. And I was surprised to learn it took two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation for slaves in Texas to be set free, but that explains why Juneteenth’s celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States. And why it was declared a federal holiday in 2021.


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Change is never as simple as issuing proclamations. Especially since slavery represented systemic racism, inequality, and inhumanity. Real change requires words and actions, and a change in mindset. Celebrating the end of slavery is noble, but it should also serve as a reminder of where we are and how far we still have to go. Ending racism is not as simple as saying it is wrong but recognizing that it still exists is an important start.
Image by Kenishirotie on iStock


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Every Father’s Day , when I think of Daddy, I think about alligators and turtles. I know that might sound crazy, especially as there are so many wonderful memories, but those stand out. As does the fact that every day, he taught me about unconditional love and was always there for me. And even though he passed away over 20 years ago, the memories are as strong, both emotionally and “visually”, as if it was just yesterday. And for that, I’m so grateful.


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I know you are probably expecting me to talk about how Father’s Day is, in many ways, a form of “equal rights" since Mother’s Day was already in existence , or maybe the business aspects of it being a “ retail holiday ”. Instead, at the risk of sounding warm and fuzzy, I will just say that dads always have a very special place in the hearts of their “little girls” … no matter how old those “girls” become.

Wishing all dads a very Happy Father’s Day!

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It seems most appropriate that Flag Day falls during Effective Communication Month, or at least it does to Black, who years ago had suggested Red use race flags as a fun (and “safe”) way to communicate with her teenage daughter. From that point on, Red never looked at the “Stars & Stripes” the same way again … because she learned flags might be one of the most straightforward and effective ways to communicate – whether feelings of pride and support, messages to racecar drivers, or even to indicate your moods.


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This past weekend, I noticed a bunch of flags on my street and wondered why since July 4 th is still almost a month away. But this morning, I learned that today's Flag Day.


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Well, for someone who likes to decorate for the holidays, I would have thought you would have known all about it.


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I've heard of it, but I never really thought much about it, let alone when it is. I knew it had to do with the American flag, but it surprised me that it has nothing to do with Betsy Ross, which legend has made the first flag, although it seems there's no evidence to support that.


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If you want an interesting "story", read about why the American flag is called Old Glory . Regardless, the American flag, like all flags, communicates a message.


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I know you like to connect odd dots, but only you would see a connection between flags and communications.
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