Hidden Sources of Power



Maybe because all four of my  grandparents came to this country as young adults, I have always had a bias in favor of the gifts that newcomers bring to a culture. I am stoked at the experience I have begun in this regard. Might it have relevance for you?

I have 30-some students in my class on leadership at the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley.  I was speaking to them of the incredible privileges they have enjoyed – genetic and family and school – that brought them to this place. I acknowledged that they may have surmounted considerable obstacles, as well (adding that obstacles, in a strange way, might be considered gifts, too). Swept up wondering what obstacles they had indeed faced, I asked, “How many of you grew up in homes where your parents’ native language was something other than English?”

The hands went up and down too fast for an actual count, but I’d estimate 90% raised their hands.  Now, Berkeley is the crown jewel in the California system; think U of M, except California has five times Michigan’s population. Imagine the competition to get in.  My first and enduring thought:  What a great country we live in that you can come from another continent, speaking English as a second language (if at all), and your children can attend Berkeley.  How cool for me to be able to have such diverse roots to tap in my classroom!

Here’s what this experience makes me think about Everyday Leadership, at work then home. I think experience, familiarity, conventionality have their place. Age, rank, and seniority bring some genuine value.  But in general I’d rather involve people who have a fresh perspective and a hunger to participate in the culture. How good are you at seeing “outsiders” as full of potential and possibility?  Do staff members really need all that technical expertise, or is that experience also a burden?  Might a returning-to-work mom with unique experience and something to prove, or an associates-degreed former factory worker not bring some amazing intangibles?

A quick family “outsider” story:  I took Jack to a small discussion with authors Warren Farrell (The Myth of Male Power) and John Gray (Women are From …) last week. The others in attendance were adults.  I was excited to get into the car to tell Jack, “Dude, I was impressed with how you felt so comfortable with expressing your standpoint in there.  You really amazed me.” He said, “We think, Dad. Adults don’t realize that we think.” Gotta love that energy!

At home as well as work:  Who could you bring into the mix? Who has hidden wisdom? Who feels grateful to be a part?  Who might you be overlooking who has drive to belong and contribute?

Tap them as you lead with your best self,