Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Great leaders know when to follow

Russell Press compressedSince 1997, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has facilitated a leadership program which has graduated just over 300 alumni. While many of those who participate in the group may already be emerging as business and community leaders, Leadership Lake Norman further cultivates their business and professional skills as well as enhances their community awareness.

During an overnight retreat held at Bethelwoods (York County, SC) last fall, the group participated in team building exercises which required creative solutions to the challenges facing the group. For the last 16 years, I have been fortunate to serve as an observer as Class XVI took part in an exercise called the “Helium Stick.”

The task seemed deceptively simple as our group lined up in two rows facing each other and had to work together to lower a stick to the ground.  In this case a thin tent pole using only their fingers.  The catch was each person’s finger had to be in contact with the “helium stick” at all times.Leadership Team Building compressed

All this sounds very easy, but particularly in the early stages of the exercise, the stick has the strange habit of mysteriously rising up rather than the intended task of be lowered.

After the exercise is over, the participants are asked to share their experience and observations, specifically what happened? Why did it happen?  What changes did the group have to make to accomplish the task, and what was the take away from the activity?

I listened in as our leadership participants talked about the factors which led their eventual success: focus, patience, adjusting to each other’s strengths, heights, and most of all communicating with each other.  In this particular exercise, the group quickly learned that even the most concise and simple tasks can quickly go awry. In the workplace (and life!) great leaders must understand the proper place and time to step aside and let others lead.

I listened intently as members of last year’s program discussed what they were feeling and their own realization that, “the best leaders know when to follow and they never give up.  Perhaps most importantly, they encourage those in the group to develop their skills and lead. “Our facilitator pointed out that sometimes, the end results of our own personal and business relationships are the opposite of what we were intending.

Helium 2 cThe key is to find the balance in common goals.  The fact that everyone on your team has a clear vision of the objective is not enough, you must be able to react to a situation, using each other’s strengths, and in some cases step back and let others lead to achieve your goal.

Rev. Halford E. Luccock reminded us, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.”

Applications for the 20013-2014 session of Leadership Lake Norman will be available via the Chamber’s website and by calling the Lake Norman Chamber at 704-892-1922 June 15.

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June 5, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maintaining healthy relationships – at home and the workplace

Russell play (Ray Bans)Since the beginning of time, people have wrestled with their ability to create and maintain healthy relationships.  Some of us have great personal relationships but have difficulty building strong ties in our professional lives.  Others are champions in their professional field but struggle with balancing their affairs at home with family or close personal friends.  Regardless of who we are or what we do, the one constant is we all have to deal with other people and to be truly successful in any endeavor we must be masters at the ability to manage and maintain healthy relationships.

Not long ago, I heard a preacher telling the story of a castaway who was stranded on an island all by himself for two decades.  As the old man gathered up his belongings he had collected over his long stay, the captain of the rescuing vessel remarked at the three buildings on the island.  “If you were the only one on the island all these years, why are there three different structures?” inquired the ship captain.  “Well,” began the old man.  “The first hut was the house I built for myself.  Then I realized I must build a church to thank the Lord for my deliverance from the sea.”

The ship captain waited patiently for the explanation for the third building.  Seeing none forthcoming, he asked, “What’s the purpose of the third structure?”  The old man looked dejected, shrugged his shoulders a bit, and said, “To be completely honest, things were going great for a while.  But one day the congregation had a fight and I just left and built a new place.”

Everyone in the church howled with laughter at the preacher’s story but deep down many of us knew his point.  We see strife in relationships played out every day in athletics, politics, offices, and our home.  Someone usually comes out on top and someone else loses.  Usually the issue is not so much the loss, but how they feel they were treated in losing.

In business or any other field, the single most important element of success is learning how to get along with people.  Outstanding leaders learn to develop great relationships.  We are all treated well on the way up but how will we be treated on the way down?  That is the true measurement of how good we are in dealing with people.shore

James MacGreggor Burns once said, “In real life, the most practical advice for leaders is not to treat pawns like pawns, or princes like princes, but all persons like persons.”

Like the old castaway, we can move from relationship to relationship, turning our back and burning bridges, or we can recruit and nurture our associations with others.  At the end of the day, it is not the machinery, the facility, or the strategy that will allow for our success – it is the people who make it possible.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Address to the 73rd Annual United States Junior Chamber of Commerce Meeting Delegates

Address to the 73rd Annual Meeting Delegates
United States Junior Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday, June 16, 1993
Greensboro, NC

This speech was given during the annual business meeting of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce by National President Bill Russell asking the delegates to approve a $5 dues increase per member, an alumni membership, and a blue ribbon commission to create a plan for the future of the organization.  All three initiatives were approved later that day.

Delegates to the 73rd annual meeting, there is a word that keeps popping up time and again when we talk about the Junior Chamber and that word is leadership.  You have heard it this year.  I hope you come to understand it better.  Leadership is our chance to create a stronger organization.  An organization that will be there for your children and your children’s children.

delegatesYou can define leadership many different ways but in the Junior Chamber we know leadership is the key to everything else we do.  Without leadership, we become just another fundraising organization like so many other groups out there.  We lose our credibility, we lose our history, and we cut our roots.  While community service is the best work of life, we must not lose sight that our community development projects are just one slice of that work. The entire pie is created with leadership as the pan that holds it all together.  Leadership that understands where it is going and how to get there.

Jaycees, we have an obligation to prepare for the future.  Today we have that opportunity.  The opportunity to return our organization to financial stability, to tap resources previously turned away, and to create and implement a plan for the future.  I am asking for your support of the much needed dues increase, our alumni membership, and the proposed blue ribbon commission.blue-ribbon0001

Robert F. Kennedy, a young person who left us 25 years ago this month said, “Progress is a nice word but change is its motivator and change has its enemies.”  I believe in the American Dream because I believe in Jaycees.  You and I stand on the threshold of a new America…a new Junior Chamber…and America and a Junior Chamber filled with opportunity, challenges, and change.

Let us not be enemies of change.  The progress we seek in the Jaycees is not for personal gain, influence, or power.  It is change for our organization.  It is changing our way of thinking…thinking of leadership training and preparing our members to go out in their communities and lead.  It is change that is required if we are as a viable organization are to once again obtain our position of national prominence.  And its change we must have if we are to continue to call ourselves the organization of choice for today’s young people.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King stood at a podium in the deep south and reflected on where the civil rights movement was going when he said, “The measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at the times of challenges and controversy.”  I ask you today….where do you stand?  I stand on the side of change.

Change not for the sake of doing something different, but progressive, enlightened change. Change that will make our organization strong…and remain strong…year after year, in chapter after chapter.  It is taking a leadership stand.  Let us all stand against mediocrity. Let us take a stand against the status quo and business as usual.  Let us go somewhere we have not been.

Let us today…in this moment in time…go somewhere…we have not been.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Reminder from Arlington

arlington00011      Last September, our Chamber delegation met with Senators Dole and Burr and Congresswoman Myrick and Congressman Watt in D.C.  We spoke about a variety of issues from road improvements, and energy to what we perceived then was just a sluggish economy.  Within days of our trip, news of bank failings, lost jobs, and the credit crisis filled the evening news.  We arrived back home feeling a sense of accomplishment.  Little did we know the news which would overshadow that trip – a market collapse requiring a “rescue” by the federal government.

     While in D.C. we did have an opportunity for a little sight seeing.  The most awe inspiring was a trip to Arlington National Cemetery.  Perhaps there is nothing more stirring than to look at the row after row of white markers designating our national heroes, many who served our country well.  Most, giving their very lives to protect the freedoms, liberty, and rights we hold so dear.

     Some may not know that Arlington, our nation’s most precious shrine, is the home of Robert E. Lee.  I must confess that I am an unabashed Son of the South.  I was probably sixteen before someone finally convinced me that Lee was not really a member of the Holy Trinity.  However, we are kin!  My great grandmother’s father is Lee’s fifth cousin.

     I know…people from the north wonder how we southerners can go on and on about our cousins three times removed.  So how is it that America’s most cherished shrine honors a man who led the army that fought for southern independence from the Union?

     With the passage of time, Americans came to appreciate Lee’s role in reuniting the nation after the Civil War.  The Confederate general’s example inspired men and women of his day to lay down grievances and get on with the job of rebuilding a new and better America.  Lee used his influence to move away from the bitterness of the war to reunion and peace.  “Madam,” Lee admonished a Southern visitor in his last years, “Don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States Government.  Recollect that we form one country now.  Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons American.”

     The situation we find ourselves in today with the challenges to our free market, health and welfare, our very jobs are a result of greed and partisanship.

     Government spends – it does not solve.  Only people can solve the problems that were created by people in the first place.  It will require putting aside labels, and bickering, and politics, and partisanship and putting service above self and people above party.

     We are reminded of the souls that stand silent sentry on the hills of Arlington. Those who paid the ultimate price for God and country – for you and me – and the generations who will inherit this great exercise in democracy.

     Each generation is tested.  No great opportunity comes without risk, no great reward without hard work and determination.  And working together, we will rebuild this economy better than it was before.  Because we are all Americans and like the generation before us we will accept nothing less than our very best.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , | Leave a comment

New Relationships

     Since the beginning of time, mankind has wrestled with its ability to create and maintain healthy relationships.  Some of us have great personal relationships but have difficulty building strong ties in our professional lives.  Others are champions in their professional field but struggle with balancing their affairs at home with family or close personal friends.  Regardless of who we are or what we do, the one constant is we all have to deal with other people and to be truly successful in any endeavor we must be masters at the ability to manage and maintain healthy relationships.

     Not long ago, I heard a preacher telling the story of a castaway who was stranded on an island all by himself for two decades.  As the old man gathered up his belongings he had collected over his long stay, the captain of the rescuing vessel remarked at the three buildings on the island.  “If you were the only one on the island all these years, why are there three different structures?,” inquired the ship captain.  “Well,” began the old man.  “The first hut was the house I built for myself.  Then I realized I must build a church to thank the Lord for my deliverance from the sea.”

    The ship captain waited patiently for the explanation for the third building.  Seeing none forthcoming, he asked, “What’s the purpose of the third structure?”  The old man looked dejected, shrugged his shoulders a bit, and said, “To be completely honest, things were going great for a while.  But one day the congregation had a fight and I just left and built a new place.”

      Everyone in the church howled with laughter at the preacher’s story but deep down many of us knew his point.  We see strife in relationships played out every day in athletics, politics, offices, and our home.  Someone usually comes out on top and someone else loses.  Usually the issue is not so much the loss, but how they feel they were treated in losing.

     In business or any other field, the single most important element of success is learning how to get along with people.  Outstanding leaders learn to develop great relationships.  We are all treated well on the way up but how will we be treated on the way down?  That is the true measurement of how good we are in dealing with people.

     James MacGreggor Burns once said, “In real life, the most practical advice for leaders is not to treat pawns like pawns, or princes like princes, but all persons like persons.”

     Like the old castaway, we can move from relationship to relationship, turning our back and burning bridges, or we can recruit and nurture our associations with others.  At the end of the day, it is not the machinery, the facility, or the strategy that will allow for our success – it is the people who make it possible.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , | Leave a comment