Sometimes, you meet people who just light you up. Following mother’s day, I thought I’d share about a woman whom I met and listened to last week. She reminded me so much of my mom.
Speaking of Mrs. Mom, I called and read Thank You Mrs. Mom as a gift for Mother’s Day since she is so far away. Well – she sobbed. Scary stuff. But, it made her happy. Oh…and the defense? I think I did alright. Presentation was good. But, I could have done better on one or two questions.
Back to our Motown Sister.
I shared a leadership framework which I use to analyze different leadership styles called Sharp Leadership which you can use to carry a vision, your people, and their conversation. Speaking of the Sharp Leadership rubric, it includes five core principles which are:
(i)- Tell the truth, (ii) Be accountable, (iii) take care of your people, (iv) give/receive feedback, and (v) be fair
Based on that rubric I want now to talk about a Soul Sister.
Say hello to an achievement model and a conflict resolution legend. This role model embraces her roots and culture and colorfully champions BET’s “Black is Gold” and “Black Girls Rock” theme in her person like a hashtag representing ethnic pride on different social media frequencies. Quite simply, she is – A Rockstar – whose passion keeps her forever young.
Ms. Avis Ridley-Thomas is that Rockstar. In my observations from dealing with people, I find that the type of music one listens to says a lot about them and about what moves them. Like a Celt, I was curiously searching for the reason for Ms. Avis glow throughout her lecture in order to musically explain her inclined leadership style.
Though she listens to all kinds of music which explains her love for diversity, I may have been sidetracked in my attempt by her preferred love for Motown which compelled me to express a hint of pleasure during her lecture class. I wonder if my reaction was childish. But, I can explain my engagement as delightfully professional.
So, why does she listen to all types of music?
In the words of the Rockstar herself, she said, “It is because I can hear all the talents that people have.” This was music to my ears. Though her statement may sound like “Old Skool” slang, as a fellow Motown lover, also nicknamed Motown for the love the genre, I am certified to translate her wisdom as –
she can understand what drives people, their talents, their strengths, their weakness, and use it to understand the wavelengths of people’s emotions and “Raison de Vivre.”
For instance, Motown beats and rhythms resonate with the soul and the feet, emoting a certain degree of pleasure for life and work. Ms. Avis embodied these. Her disposition was unusually calm, engaging, charismatic, pleasurable, colorful, conversational, and often centered on health, wholeness, and focused on beauty.
Add her second preferred music genre, classical, and one can accurately assume this to be the backbone of another trait she effortlessly displayed which was – a sense of royalty and class. To appreciate the power of her charisma and presence, one only needed to hear the reason for her inspiration.
While working for the police, she worked with victims of crime and noticed after reading police reports that the pattern in assault in minority communities was the result of people in difficult neighborhoods escalating conflicts in order to be heard. She tamed this inspiration into a mission and crafted an organizational vehicle to establish a few successful non-for profits to drive this mission. These organizations include:
· The future of Policing
· Days of Dialogue, and
· Institute of Non-Violence for Los Angeles
Becoming obsessed with serving the needs of people is the distinct mark of one who harbors a spirit of enterprise. This makes our visiting Rockstar a Social Entrepreneur. She is a true servant leader with a mission to fulfill and a legacy to leave behind. One could tell because she kept speaking, thinking, and focusing conversations around ideas and generations, which is the mark of a legend.
To effectively qualify her leadership style, I use Sharperson’s leadership principles to explain her style as follows.
Be accountable: Ms. Avis shared the following foundational principle – “Mediator, know thyself.” She spoke of The Mood Meter App which tracks and analyzes a person’s emotions. Using this App, she checks herself to assess and help her understand how she is doing emotionally.
Knowing how she feels helps her keep her wits about herself and her emotions under surveillance. It helps her remain aware and conscious of how to mediate as well as communicate with her team. What’s even more interesting is how she uses this App and the knowledge she acquires from it to lead her people.
Tell the truth/Give and receive feedback: Because she is often aware of what is going on in her and around her, she is able to tell the truth and use that to anticipate possible actions and reactions. Once, when she was dealing with a dying family member, her emotions were heavily swayed.
Knowing that it would negatively impact her team if not addressed, she told them the truth, discussing in detail what she felt they would see and what to expect in her delivery of feedback, and invited them to proactively request help and feedback while she was still in better shape. Otherwise, she often has a pleasant disposition and is open to receiving feedback from anyone.
Take care of your people: Because she told the truth and explained what was happening and what could happen because of her pained emotions, her team thanked her for being honest. In many ways, they felt invested in her process and proactively prepared and protected from any unusual displays of emotions. She noted that she works with a diverse team of wellness experts.
And she ensures that she verbally appreciates their work, connects with them, shares the full experience of their work on her, and follows up on any pending requests that might inspire and empower them. She told us of a therapist she returned to days after an appointment to meet up and answer two questions on a survey she had forgotten to complete. That put a smile on the therapist’s expression.
Be fair: In her presentation, she talked about the Kolbe Index which categorizes people’s approach to conflict in Modes and Zones. Based on that I deduced that what each person considered fair could be different, posing a problem. But, she confidently explained that giving everyone in mediation an equal access to a process ensured that they perceived the outcomes of any negotiation or mediation as fair. ITUNA is the acronym she shared for her process which was short for
(ii) talking about the issues
(iii) understanding the issues,
(iv) negotiating the issues, and
(v) agreement. She did admit that when it comes to family, throw process out the door because family is a completely different animal.
When asked to describe her leadership style, she concluded by saying –
What a Soul Sister.
I wish you all a week full of good health and prosperity.