|F Sharp Minor
(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)
It is a familiar hum to most who ever stepped foot on
the property. I always thought of it and referred to it as the “F sharp.”
There is an episode of the I Love Lucy show where Lucy
and Ricky give their son, little Ricky, a drum and he keeps playing the same,
“thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.” At one point after several days, he pauses
and Lucy and Ricky lunge forward and to the side because the beating drum has
And there is the Bugs Bunny episode (1946, Rhapsody Rabbit) where he plays on stage Franz Liszt’ Hungarian Rhapsody in F Sharp Minor. It is however, the Arthur Fiedler and Boston Pops album that I had growing up that gave me the basis of my reference to the F Sharp. (Here is a YouTube link and all you have to do is keep the syncopated rhythm thrum, thrum, thrum as you listen to it)
As I returned to the property for the first time in
over 19 months away, it was the sound I anticipated and knew that as soon as I
heard it, would mean I was back. As soon as I turned off my car, I knew that
Tom was checking the power. The familiar sewing machine sound of the diesel was
nowhere to be heard. There was just the waterfall like sound of wind in the
trees. It was a spectacular none sound and if you had spent any time on the
property, you would know what you were not hearing. Everything lunged forward
and to the side like Lucy and Ricky.
Every day, the 50Kw Caterpillar diesel generator was
shut down and checked for levels and simple maintenance. I always felt a slow
down or lurch forward at those times. It was infrequent that it would stop all
together, but several times in the 11 years I was there, the generator stopped
in the middle of the night and I would wake up out of a sound sleep when it
The camp was powered by the generator and it kept the walk
in refrigerator and freezers working to hold food. It kept the water pumps pumping from the wells to the
storage tanks that operated on a gravity feed to flush toilets, allow for
showers and most f all drinking water for the inhabitants. Even the radio telephone
required power. That camp was completely self contained and was its own
microcosm of the world. There were simple lights in each of the cabins that
were powered by that “F Sharp” and so much more.
|Caterpillar 50Kw - just for reference, it's the one at camp
The power allowed for the capacity of influencing all
things to happen in camp. This was the influence for all behaviors that occurred
around the day to day operations. The “F Sharp” allowed the food, shelter,
water, communication and basic energy to sustain camp. Power and energy are two
different things. Though closely related, energy is the ability to cause change; power is the rate with which the energy is used.
John Maxwell says that “leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.”
I have always believed that that power yielded by a leader can be highly influential.
Good or bad.
at camp was a great leadership model that I drew on. It was always in the
background. It was needed but not noticed; unless it broke down or stopped. If
it was not fed and maintained, those stops became more frequent and sometimes unannounced.
When the energy it put out was in that “thump, thump, thump,” rhythmic and positive
form, it provided what was needed.
I know it
may be a stretch to juxtapose that generator with the power of leadership. I do
think of it often as a metaphor for how powerful leadership is and when
misused, it becomes problematic. I worked under several different leaders in my
time at that camp and the lessons I may have learned the most, where the
lessons of how not to behave as a leader.
An old Y guy gave ne some advice on year about my staff
training. Let’s call him Dan. He said, “Make sure you hire someone that you
know that you are going to fire during that training week. That way you make a
point with the rest of the staff and they will do what you want.” Dan, who I
greatly admired, was sharing what I thought was a secret bit of knowledge that
he thought would make me a better director. (Notice, I didn’t say leader). Like
that generator, when it wasn’t performing well; this just did not sound right
And so, I did it anyway because Dan had tremendous
power. And during that week, I knew that Gus was that person. He was having a
tough time with direction and he was likable. I knew he was going to go in a
matter of days. And when the time came, I made it very public and I thought
that I orchestrated this so well. We were in the middle of a session and he was
getting riled up and I kept prodding him along until he blew up. At that point
I told him,” Gus, you’re done. Thank you very much. I’d like you to go and pack
up. Your services here are no longer needed.” I won’t describe what happened
from there and it was not pretty, nor am I proud of any of it.
I felt like a real boss that day. I felt like my staff
would now listen to everything I would ask of them and for a short time (very
short) they did. I can also tell you that later, I threw up.
I can’t tell you that I changed that practice. I
thought this is what one does, and you must stomach through it all. Dan would
not have told me to do that if it wasn’t something that should happen. And folks,
for several years, I did just that.
And to Gus, and Debbie and Mike and Pete and Simon and
Shirley, let me apologize here and now. It took me some time to realize that
directing from a place of fear and intimidation was not at all where I wanted
to be as a leader. I can’t say that I have had to fire others. But I can say
that for the last 33 years, I have never hired someone to be limited in my
Richard Bach said, “Argue for your limitations and
learned that if you limit your team, they will live down to those exact
limitations.” John Maxwell talks about this in the Law of
the Lid in his 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. No team rises hirer than that
of the leaders lid and once I started to raise my lid, I saw the power of how
others would rise to the occasion.
There is a rhythm in everyone’s life and how they lead.
I believe that mine is in the key of F Sharp.