101 Days | Failure to Lead.
Updated: Aug 29
I watched a video this morning (linked below) and was just...honestly, LIVID.
Heart broken. And LIVID.
My blood boiled as the two minutes and thirty six seconds went on.
It DID NOT have to be this way...we should NOT have lost so many lives to this.
And, then...I thought about leadership.
I reflected on how I've almost always been a leader - and how I'm not just someone who leads, but someone who is SUCCESSFUL in leading.
How, as a woman of 37, with a solid track record and the metrics and stories to 'back up' my confidence - I'm not going to bullshit you. I'm REALLY good at what I do, and I KNOW I'm someone people look to when they need a leader.
I've led throughout my career. I never did anything "small" - almost every position I've held was at the largest location with the best and most productive teams. Often, I was on teams that did things differently - that had each other's backs - and that did things "first." I created a team of passionate pediatric cancer warriors - and although it's always been a small team, it's consistently been a top team. I know the limits, but...I also know how & when to strategically shatter them, too.
I was trusted. I was dependable. I was responsible. I was valued. I listened. I was responsive to feedback when I didn't get it right, and I'd come back the next day dedicated to being better. Looking back, I left companies that were great companies and great roles - but that had poor leadership and didn't see my strengths.
I fired bad leaders from my life.
Life lessons in leadership began at an early age for me. Team sports - from little league to, yes, even being on my high school's newspaper staff - ingrained the, "There's no I in Team" mantra. If we succeed, we succeed together. And if we fail...we do that together too.
I vividly remember scenes from my childhood in New Jersey where another child's voice got into my head - "Hey! When we win, let's not say 'good job' to the other team." And how my parents corrected that with lightning precision.
That shit was NOT going to fly from the Shimanskys. That is NOT who we were.
We were expected to be respectful losers and gracious winners. You DO NOT kick others when they are down. You REACH OUT, give them a hand, and make them feel good about losing. You give them the confidence to try again.
This, above all things, was non-negotiable.
Another time, I had tried out to be a part of the orchestra. This was a big deal. As a fourth grader in New Jersey, this was your first opportunity to try out. There was a listening test, and based on how you did, you filled out the available seats. For those who were accepted, they would be given a school violin to play that year.
ALL of my friends - every single one of them tried out, myself included. I was really jazzed about the opportunity to play an instrument - the violin at that! - and I took that test seriously. I REALLY wanted one of those violins.
Every single one of my friends filled a seat.
I did not.
It was one of the scenes in childhood where you felt like the one kid who failed. It wasn't unusual for me back then - all of my friends were in the higher math and English groups - I was in the lowest of both.
We learned, however, that I would have the opportunity to play with the orchestra if my parents rented a violin for me. So, my parents did just that and I was ecstatic.
Of course, one by one, most of my friends dropped out of the orchestra. And when I thought that was an option for me because "everyone else was doing it" - my parents confirmed otherwise.
We don't just do things because everyone else is doing them. They rented this violin for the year, and so - I would complete the year I had committed to. If I did not want to continue playing next year, that was a conversation we could have then. But...there was no backing out of something I gave my word to.
This was the same mentality for any sport or team we committed to. You didn't get to just bounce because you were bored with it, because everyone else had bounced, because it was failing or losing or even if it wasn't the right fit. You had to see through your commitment to the team for the duration you gave your word to being there -- and only at the end of a season could you decide to try again or try something new.
Giving up just wasn't an option.
It's these scenes and those lessons, most of all, that made me the leader I am today.
I've been leading since August 1, 1985. The day Kellie came into the world, and I became a big sister for the very first time.
The title "Big Sister" has, by far, been the role I've been most proud to have in my 37 years on this planet.
It's not something I was born knowing I would become or not something I quite knew how to do. But, I learned along the way...and luckily, I was a fast learner. 😂
Where I went, my younger sisters followed. They were shadowed branches of the same tree, with unique personalities and goals and dreams and definitions of what would or wouldn't get them into trouble -- but still, I knew they (and my parents) had their eyes on me.
When they did something stupid (actually, that should read when KELLIE did something stupid 😂) -- often all three of us got in trouble. It's likely the bane of all older siblings childhood existence.
"I didn't even DO THAT THING, Dad! That's not fair!"
"Yeah, but you're her older sister, you were supposed to be watching her...."
It didn't make any sense back then, but....I get it now.
If you're the captain, you're responsible and you go down with the ship.
And if I was the one who screwed up? Forget it. I KNEW I would be the EXAMPLE of what not to do. So, I was pretty much your typical 'oldest' kid with very few missteps growing up. I followed rules, Kellie and Stef thought I was bossy, and my catch phrase could've been, "Kellie, mom and dad are gonna yell at you for that...." or "Mom and dad said...."
It's not to say that I didn't make mistakes...but I can think of perhaps a handful of serious fuck ups along the way (shout out to that one time I thought prank calling was cool, got busted big time, and had never been more grounded in my entire life. Another fine example of "just because everyone else is doing it in the 5th grade doesn't mean you get to do it.")
Kellie and Stef knew the severity of the issue based on if I had gotten in trouble or not. So, either they never dabbled in prank calling...or perhaps just learned how to do it better so as not to get busted. 🤣
End of day, I had a job to do. And it has always been to protect and lead my baby sisters. To be that voice of reason. To help guide them. To listen to them. To NEVER laugh at them or ridicule them. To be there for them no matter the time or place or reason.
I was my parents 'back up' in making sure the two youngest Shimanskys followed our lead - the not-so-secret embedded childhood spy who would report back to mom and dad and rat those two out faster than their own actions would. (Again, mostly on Kellie. 😂)
As a leader, you are bound to make mistakes and missteps. You're probably not going to reach your goals 100% of the time. There is failure in good leadership -- but, more importantly, there's the ACKNOWLEDGEMENT of WHY you failed, and HOW you can make it better.
Bad leadership boils my blood because it is something I value so deeply. It is something that I feel strongly about - if you are a shit leader, please get out of the way so someone who knows how to successfully lead or has a different approach can do just that.
You can only blame one bad season after another on injuries, unfortunate events, wrong dynamics or players for so long....until at some point you have to take a good, long, hard look at the strategy - and the leader.
*** The Political Part ***
So, yeah. This video had me fuming. The sheer loss of life - all because of a bad leader who refuses to take responsibility.
Let's be absolutely clear here - Trump is not responsible for COVID.
He, however, IS responsible for his "response" - his poor leadership - and his inability to show concern or empathy for the American people. He doesn't just get to ignore that or not lay claim to that - that's not how leadership works. That's not how the presidency of the United States of America works.
If a ship sinks, and the captain bails out even before the women and children - we have a visceral, collective reaction, "That's not right!"
Spoiler alert, this ship is sinking.
He captained our ship right over land, "We have it very well under control." Tore away the hull, "I think that's going to work out fine." He went out on the first lifeboat, "One day, it's like a miracle - it will disappear." He never looked back, "I don't take responsibility at all."
He is the captain. If we fail, he should fail. He should be held accountable. He is responsible.
We need GOOD LEADERSHIP.
And if I may be so bold to say -- as a GOOD LEADER: Trump has failed.
101 days to go. #Vote