At 9 pm on August 27, 1920, Sociedad Radio Argentina broadcast a live performance of Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal from the Coliseo Theater in downtown Buenos Aires using electromagnetic waves. Only about twenty homes in the city had receivers to tune in this radio program.
Today, every type of music, video, data and writing and, for the most part, every instance of all these can be received “wirelessly” on devices that have become ubiquitous.
We are sending more (quantity) than ever before. We are receiving less (quality) and less.
There was a lot to process this past week. The weekend marked the 1 year anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Much was said and much more will be said I am sure. Thursday and Friday, over 70 Kimray team members attended the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) simulcast at Crossings Christian Church. We heard men and women leaders from a variety of industries, backgrounds and races speak about the influence we all have and how we might use it appropriately. It was a fantastic two days, and I left feeling challenged to become a better leader.
One of my favorite quotes from GLS was, “How we use our power is the measure of our leadership.”
Another word for leadership is influence. Everyone has influence. Some have a little, some have a lot. Everyone has some. So, we could say, “Who benefits from our influence is the measure of who we are as leaders.”
Our influence, our power, should benefit those we lead. Those we serve. That seems fairly straight forward, but it is actually very difficult. I was talking with someone during GLS and we were acknowledging that leadership is a very dangerous place to live. The temptation to use our influence for ourselves, at the expense of others is tremendous. It doesn’t start with big failures and abuses. It starts with little things and progresses toward an underlying feeling of entitlement. Leaders don’t fail overnight. They work on those failures over a long period of time and the progress is slow and hard to see.
The culture we experience has significant impact on how we lead and use our influence. Organizational culture is an organic result of the organization’s belief system. That belief system is heavily influenced by leadership. So, if we want the culture to thrive and outlive the current leaders, we have to transmit the “why” and not just the “what.”
If you have a radio and you tune in a particular station, you are experiencing the “what.” You are receiving. You are consuming. You are not transmitting. You are not sending. You don’t need to know anything about how radio waves work, or how the station programs its content, or even how the receiver you are using works. If you are a receiver you do not need to know the why.
If you want to transmit you have to know the “why.” You have to understand why the signal propagates, and why it doesn’t. You have to have a plan for why you are transmitting. You have to understand how people receive so you can send a signal and programming that will be effective. If you want to be a transmitter you have to know the why.
To be a transmitter is to understand at a much deeper level. It takes effort and time. You are not just listening to learn, you are listening to repeat. Aristotle said, “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” We can’t just do, we have to understand.
If we want the culture at Kimray to thrive and outlive us, we must all become transmitters.
Before you get excited and raise your hand, I need to tell you what this means at Kimray. It means listening to people to hear where they are and what they are experiencing before you tell them what you know and think they should too. It means working to understand how experiences and culture have shaped and informed another person’s views and responses and finding a way to transmit to their receiver instead of demanding that they tune in “our” channel. It means respecting everyone, regardless of their beliefs, background, skin or identity and being willing to enter their reality before asking them to blindly accept ours. It means not just transmitting the signals that are needed to get the work done, but also transmitting the signals about how we value one another and will protect and defend each other. It means understanding the difference between core values and strategy and not confusing the two.
It requires a lot of love, because it has to be about others, not about ourselves.
I love the people at Kimray and the community we have become. We are doing so many things well and other people notice. We still have plenty of opportunity for growth.
We have the opportunity to create a new campus where the building itself transmits our values and organizational beliefs. We have the opportunity to find better ways to welcome people from different cultures into our family and help them feel truly welcome, not just accommodated. We have the opportunity to lead the way in how men and women can be better together, not because we are the same, but because we are all unique. We have the opportunity to prove that a community can be free from abuse, harassment, objectification and exploitation.
We have so much opportunity to send what is so needed in our communities today.
It will be difficult work. Not because we don’t want to, but because changing things is always hard. We will make mistakes, but the price of inaction is much greater than the cost of our mistakes. We will seize these opportunities and lead because that is the Kimray Way.