Community, leadership and a jar of jellybeans

Kiem Ho, Class 26
Director of Business Development & Innovation, Laundry Care, Henkel Consumer Goods, Inc.

The Class 26 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community.

I asked my second grader to define community and he said it is a city where a lot of people live. He clarified that a lot is 2,000. To me, a couple thousand isn’t a lot, but when you think about it, for a 7-year old, 2,000 is huge. If you have ever seen the wild guesses that some children make when presented with an estimation jar full of jelly beans, you get this.

Here is an excerpt from a conversation with my son in front of such a jar in his class:

“Caleb, you sure you want to guess that?” I start. “Yes Dad”, Caleb confidently replies. “You know if you’re closest, you get the whole jar of jelly beans”, I say thinking the prize will motivate a higher number. “I knooooow Dad!” he says a little impatiently adding “65 is my answer”.

The jar has actually 1,222 jelly beans. Caleb and the rest of his class are disappointed because they all guessed way too few to win the jar. Maybe it is better this way. Can you imagine the shock of some unfortunate parent dealing with a child hyped up on sugar like some frenzied shark in chummed waters?
All is not lost; the silver lining in all of this is that the class divided up the jellybeans. More importantly, the class learned there is sometimes more than what they can see.

When it comes to communities, their success is more than the number of people that you see in them. Communities rarely come together spontaneously or without effort. This is where leadership plays a vital role in forging the connections that develop communities and make them strong. I’m not talking about the kind of leadership of one bigger than life character that can move the masses. Sometimes this happens. Rather, the leadership I am talking about comes from the small and simple actions in the daily lives of every man and woman who realize, “If it is to be it depends on me”.

For any community to develop and thrive, it is dependent on individuals taking personal responsibility and being accountable for making a difference. This leadership begins in families where the connections are obvious to broader communities that develop as individuals form connections in neighborhoods, schools and work. Whether the community is made up of 2, 65 or 2000, their success depends on the strength of each individual’s engagement.

Going back to my son, I also asked him what a leader is. He simply stated “Someone that is good.” To me, this means leadership is not a scarce commodity found only in a few. Instead, we can all be leaders if we take action to make a difference. Said a little differently by Edmund Burke, “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men (I would add women) to do nothing.”

Is it too idealistic to believe that every person can be a leader in the community?

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Class, Leadership

3 responses to “Community, leadership and a jar of jellybeans

  1. I love the idea that every person can be a leader in the community. All it really takes is desire and some sort of mission or goal that you want to accomplish with others.

  2. Carol Damaso

    Great article, Kiem. For all of us, having had the Scottsdale Leadership experience, we understand your words that a community’s success depends on the strength of each individual’s engagement. Thanks for the blog.

  3. It was such a pleasure to meet you at Education Day, Kiem! You have such a diverse and interesting class. I hope you don’t mind…I am reliving my Scottsdale Leadership Class XXII experience through your posts. It was such a great experience, I would gladly do it all over again! Thanks for this opportunity!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s