by Taco Olmstead.
I’ve been hearing something a lot lately and frankly, while it is a great compliment to receive, it is equally frightening. Lately, I have been called a “leader” in our community. It’s a great compliment but it is nothing that I have ever aspired to be. The last thing I’m trying to do is tell the people around me what to do or even how to do it. It’s one thing to ask a photographer for more crowd shots or a sound guy to lower the volume, but a leader sets a precedent and tone telling others how to live, and I’m not too sure I signed up for that. However, the truth is, that regardless of whether I chose to be a leader, I have chosen to serve the interests of those around me by creating a magazine centering on community, art and music.
Leadership is a great responsibility, if you’d like to be a good one anyway. I have found myself employed over the years assuming various leadership roles. I’ve been a foreman, a shift leader, project manager, general manager, supervisor and business owner. All of these roles required a massive amount of sacrifice to effectively execute the duties therein. As a leader on a project you are now not only responsible for your own performance, but for the performance of others as well. No longer can you simply say “I’m pulling my weight”. As a leader, you now have to be sure each person on the project is pulling their weight as well. Not only do you have to be aware of each members performance, but you also have to find ways to increase their performance and make sure their needs are being met despite your own needs. Not only are you responsible for the final product, but you are also responsible for the process itself. As a leader, what you want must be carefully divided by the needs of your team and then multiplied by the demands of the goal, then somewhere in all of that, you hope that your own needs are somehow met as a collateral bonus to the process. Your needs come last.
A good leader does not wait for his team to ask what is for lunch, a good leader makes sure that lunch is had. Why? A good leader is similar to a good parent. What is it that makes a good parent? A good parent wants to give their child opportunities, tools like education, principles and values so that their child might go on to achieve more than the parent. A good leader wants exactly the same thing. A good leader wants to provide their people all of these same things so that their people can achieve more than they ever thought they could. A good leader inspires their people to achieve. The sacrifices that parents make for their children are both vast and all encompassing. Often we see images of parents shielding their children from life threatening harm, often endangering their own lives in order to protect their child. This is what a good leader does, a good leader sacrifices their own interests for the sake of those around them. This very notion is akin to the people in our lives who have chosen to work with us versus those who simply make demands of those around them while nowhere to be found when sacrifice is needed. Leadership is not about protecting yourself, but rather being willing to put yourself in harms way to protect another. It is for this reason that a good leader eats last. When a leader eats last it is because he is allowing others to have life before them, which is what food and drink essentially are and why this simple act resonates with those around them.
There are people who believe that while leadership has its benefits, those same benefits are extended to that individual person. This is simply not the case at all. Recently I had someone tell me that I was “Mr. Big Shot” because I was given special treatment at an event. At the event in question I was in fact given special treatment. I did not wait in line but rather ushered to the front, given credentials and ushered off in a golf cart. I was then informed that despite bringing my tent and air mattress I would be sleeping in an RV. I was then told I would not need my cooler either as the event would be providing me with catering as well as meal tickets for food vendors in the event that I found myself hungry beyond the catering times. To add to the awkwardness of being treated so well, I was given beverages for the RV. The thing is, none of this was for me. While yes, these things were in fact given to me, they were actually being given to the title of my responsibility. What my friend did not understand is that these things were given to someone who had spent years sacrificing their time and resources to further the event they were attending. I wasn’t given these things because I was ‘Taco”, I was given these things because along the way I had done all that I could for that organization. I was given those things because of what I had done for others, not for myself. We listen to authority out of fear, we follow leaders because of how they make us feel. We follow leaders because they inspire us, they teach us, they protect us, they put our interests before their own.
The magazine we print, the website we operate, the festival we produce, all is created at a price. The reason all of this was created was for you, the reader, the listener, the attendee. We created all of this with the goal of not becoming rich, but because we wanted our community to be recognized and have a voice. We created all of this to celebrate the talent, the genius, determination and persistence of those in our community. We created this to celebrate the inspiration that LOVE creates in our community. This was all done, not for the benefit of self but rather for the service to our community. We chose to uplift rather than pull, grow rather than reap, plant rather than harvest. Leadership has a lot more to do with “why” rather than “how”. So find your own “why”. Realize that anyone is capable of being a good leader rather than wanting to be one, you need only seek to inspire those around you, then protect them and love them.
Do more, take less…