Mother Se’May Sayer: The ARC of Time
Season 2: Episode 8: The Miseducation of Leadership
(The days are long when correction is grievous. How does that saying goes I wonder? Mother is always recalling or creating what she believes are guiding lights when darkness and failure seems to celebrate their wins over a person’s hopes and dreams. Ah this is it she says, ‘Hope closes in one or two steps to the goal but change flies like a spear covering more ground when it lands true’.
Oh what I wouldn’t give to spend less time teaching and coming off the sternness just for a moment to catch my breath. Modeling isn’t a strain as I don’t need a mirror to remind me of who I am every day. Just that I want to get more things done but I know I can’t rush the growth of my people. Mother contemplates these issues from time to time for brief moments, but she knows she can’t linger in the why of her people’s lagging learning curves.
Mother isn’t irritated with the speed or lack thereof in her plans getting done. She uses these questions about why things progress the way they do to reaffirm her oaths to her discipline. “Professionals have professional conversations another officer once told her”. Don’t lessen the voices of your people because they don’t improve along the timeline you set for them. It doesn’t mean you don’t push them to be better. Just keep being hands on but not micromanaging and your people will see you have expectations they are required to meet. If they fall short then it is still okay because now you’ll know their weakest point and work to help them strengthen it. Alas, leading is a full time profession.).
Mother Sayer: Sarah where’s the reports for the three projects started last quarter?
Sarah W. Certainty: I have them right here. Sorting through the material to answer questions I know you always have for me took a minute.
Mother Sayer: Go on.
Sarah W. Certainty: It looks like all three teams are progressing, but the going isn’t matching the talent you have on those projects.
Mother Sayer: How so?
Sarah W. Certainty: I would’ve figured by now there would be solid production costs in place for the media project. Actors hired all the way to where and when showing would start to at least 1 to 3 episodes in post-production. The Business Project pardon me repeatedly saying the leader is causing heated disagreements and thus the project can be determined at this time to be at a standstill. The Model Project is flowing to which I’m delighted to conclude. The scoreboard now reads you’re going into the second quarter losing. I believe a coach would now call a timeout to regroup and speechify the teams getting their heads more focused in the game right?
Mother Sayer: (Mother laments the constant necessity of leadership. My hands gotta be on the shoulder of my students at all times it seems. Alright!). Goodness the work of leadership is tiring. I’ve got to show them I believe in them and at the same time be gentle, stern and a driving force that I want this done and done right.
Sarah W. Certainty: Don’t get out of character Mother. What is needed now might just be a little encouragement.
Mother Sayer: I should get a sense of what’s going on before I start barking orders is that it?
Sarah W. Certainty: What do you want from your people? I mean their development. What sort of leaders are you trying to create? Do you have it secure in your mind right now? If not then let’s talk so I can help you steer clear of landmines.
Mother Sayer: I need people Like Blinner. She runs my Father’s gas station and trucking service location. I asked her to look into some land for other offices once and she brought me two fine pieces of property to consider.
Sarah W. Certainty: So someone with energy and initiative right?
Mother Sayer: In abundance but also a master of their soul. Success can be liberating and also debilitating.
Sarah W. Certainty: That is true. My Father chose lieutenants that could handle themselves among dangerous men, but he also didn’t need the headache of men acting out of order. My father made sure they understood that they were not to act without permission when it came to say managing the boss’s assets.
Mother Sayer: Can’t crack heads without permission right?
Sarah W. Certainty: Frankly that’s right. That’s how my Father ran things which I must say is not unlike what you need to do. Give your people authority to manage their projects but remind them that critical decisions need to be run by you. Money, locations, new hires, contracts that you have to fulfill must be brought up to your attention.
Mother Sayer: I see the same thing that I did with Blinner letting her scout new locations for expansion but keep me in the loop.
Sarah W. Certainty: Yeah that’s it. They need to be in the room though when you authorize expenditures.
Mother Sayer: Because I’m creating leaders and educating them right means exposing them to all the nuts and bolts that make the wheels turn on progress.
Sarah W. Certainty: We’re getting somewhere now aren’t we so stay with me as I teach you a few more things.
Mother Sayer: Oh, I see what you did there. I’m listening.
Sarah W. Certainty: (Sarah eyes Mother through her peripheral vision as she continues to make her points.). Alternate between intense questioning of why they think this approach would work and to what outcomes they expect from it.
Mother Sayer: Show them I’m paying attention to every word they say.
Sarah W. Certainty: Yes. The third and last point I want to make is don’t override their decisions if you don’t have to. Power wielded incorrectly is miseducation of what leadership is actually meant to provide. Before you ask I will tell you. Leadership is solemn but righteous in that punishment awaits those that through malice of thought undermine the potential awakening of leadership in a person.
Mother Sayer: Come again?
Sarah W. Certainty: My Father led his criminal organization. The miseducation of leadership would have us believe that was a misguided offshoot of its’ righteous Father. Leaders can be evil. I’m saying be vigilant about what you teach to whom. The consequences are well documented in the horrible history of humankind.
Mother Sayer: So it is my responsibility to not educate someone not worthy of leading other human being?
Sarah W. Certainty: That’s right! I don’t believe in fantasies. I know there is a need for men like my Father in this world. Wishing for a world devoid of evil is the domain of priests. If leadership in my opinion must be taught to those capable of wielding it then it needs to be rationed or a value placed upon it so high it can’t be achieved by no one unworthy of it.
Mother Sayer: After years of being with me I never knew this about you. You feel strongly about this about how people can be led by good and evil as a matter of necessity.
Sarah W. Certainty: I have waited with these thoughts to speak with someone capable of understanding them as I draw them out. Apologies are in order. I deliberately tried to provoke you to anger. I should have known you were long past consuming ‘milk’ instead of ‘meat’. Meat is for those that are capable of discerning both good and evil.
Mother Sayer: No apologies are required. I am here for you always my child. I would never lash out in anger towards you. I will take this time though to reaffirm with you that you can speak to me about anything. I would never get mad at you. How I started with you is how I will remain with you. There’s no flipping the script with me.
Sarah W. Certainty: I know. Two Mothers are always better than one and I’m thankful for both of you.
Mother Sayer: Now you believe I should stay within a certain set of principles, but also be mindful that the leader in front of me I’m responsible for if he or she goes and uses my teachings for malicious purposes?
Sarah W. Certainty: Yes. I know you can handle it though. Although I must put a bug in your ear that you don’t have a lot of time to spend on the third floor.
Mother Sayer: Let’s pause a little longer Sarah. There have been thoughts lingering in my mind about the men and women chosen by God and his son Jesus in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. How were those people chosen? What trait or skill did they possess that made them stand out to God and Jesus?
I mean these people led tribes, flocks and entire nations. The text of the Holy Word did say some faltered. Some were killed. Some committed evil in spite of being chosen. Yes some did repent and were forgiven. Because you said I must be wary of bestowing authority and shoring up that authority as my choice could in the end be found unworthy.
Sarah W. Certainty: I know you love your people and don’t want to think of the possibility that the wrong person is in the room. A wolf has been let in the fold and is sniffing out the vulnerabilities of your people and your organization. Please Mother I’m just saying be careful. I would never tell you to hold back your energy. I can feel it. I know when you get here every day. Just, don’t hold back but also be careful of power. Only the good uses of it is projected and we both know that’s not the entire picture.
Mother Sayer: Exactly my dear and I agree and accept your cautious admonition. The Bible is a great and vastly complex yet simple story. One part of that story I found fascinating was that of Moses. Touching only the part after he at great cost rejected a life of luxury. Moses accepted the greatest responsibility there is in this life. Leader of an entire nation. Most people only read, recite or preach about Moses’ obedience to God. They don’t mention how God taught and counseled him every step of the way because that doesn’t fit a narrative Americans like to tell themselves.
Sarah W. Certainty: A narrative of the ‘self-made man’ right?
Mother Sayer: That’s right. So many people in this country done struck themselves down with that complex. Their mental health is flapping like laundry on a clothesline at the mercy of strong wind. They’ve given their natural learning abilities over to cliches and poorly crafted old wives’ tales.
Sarah W. Certainty: Certainly. I’ve listened to my friends as they speak about what problems they have on their jobs and how their friends advise them to not ruffle the feathers or stand out. It will get you fired they say. Yet they still work at these jobs that drain every ounce of energy from them while tossing them cookie-cutter certificates of appreciation.
Mother Sayer: I know and that’s why America is misled by captains of industry that couldn’t form an original thought in their minds if God put it there himself. Innovation comes from where is a question I want you to answer. Where does innovation and new ideas originate in a small or a large corporation?
Sarah W. Certainty: It comes from the people below the man sitting at the top.
Mother Sayer: More precisely a White man. Take a look for a moment at two sectors of the American economy. The industrial base and the entertainment industry. When decisions are made in a small business more than likely input comes from everybody that works there. When decisions are made in a large corporation they come from a few people. Mainly old White men are advising old White men what to do.
Take microprocessors for example. Who thought that it would be a good idea to give nearly the entire production capacity to factories in other countries? Who decided that was the right thing to do? Not one single old White guy looked beyond the money they were saving by not paying American workers what they deserve. In America 2022 does that decision look like a forward thinking one?
Sarah W. Certainty: No it’s not. So the predicament or predicaments America finds itself from time to time aren’t caused by some random invisible force. Like someone is turning a circular dial with preset clicks of hardships no matter where the needle lands?
Mother Sayer: I’m sure the old white men that made those decisions would never accept blame for what’s happening to our lagging production capacity. This is what’s astonishing. Again without anyone present in the room schooled or learned in the philosophical disciplines there’s no one really running those decisions to ground.
Sarah W. Certainty: Apologies. I should’ve known you were a student of these things. You had to be if you wanted to start a business and know where you wanted to take it.
Mother Sayer: Just think about it for a minute. The applications for microprocessors has expanded quicker than anybody anticipated. Now they’re in practically every machine and device manufactured. Glad to have White guys believing they’ve got all the answers huh? How’s that working out for America?
Sarah W. Certainty: Like I said my father knew he needed competent lieutenants, and he placed them in charge in key areas of his criminal enterprise. Whether they were White guys or men from the old countries like Italy, Sicily or the United Kingdom. Different outlooks can be corralled by a well-traveled and well-rounded leader.
Mother Sayer: Yes! I’ve got to have diversity in the ranks. Will I make an erroneous choice? Yes. More than one time I dam sure will, but it is unavoidable. This is why your friends are told not to ruffle feathers or rock boats. Let me tell you something I guess I didn’t have to be taught by my father. Speak up if you feel violated. If something is about to go wrong say something and be firm about it. Let it be known even if everyone else in that meeting agrees with the boss.
Sarah W. Certainty: I guess I possessed that skill just by having the good fortune of being born to a mobster.
Mother Sayer: We can’t chose our parents, but we can certainly chose to pay attention and learn something in every moment of our lives. By the way, I would second that motion that you are not a pushover which is why I thank my lucky stars for your professionalism and maturity. My I could talk to you all day Sarah about things I’ve learned and the success I’ve enjoyed just being able to take criticism and correction.
Sarah W. Certainty: My mother could make me do a lot of things. One thing she couldn’t make me do is keep my mouth closed. I had to learn the hard way one day popping off to my father about something I wanted to do after he said no. My face was red and stung for two days, but I knew not to disrespect my father again.
Mother Sayer: It takes an adjustment to know when to speak and when not to speak. Maybe that small rebuke was all you needed to adjust mentally.
Sarah W. Certainty: I know you got to go but finish what you were saying about two sectors of the American economy.
Mother Sayer: The entertainment industry is much the same way in the stale nature of what in their minds are ‘acceptable’ programming for network television and the movies. Now they’re falling behind because the streaming media companies paste their butts with shows that more reflect the lives people live.
Sarah W. Certainty: I do have a few shows I watch on Netflix and Hulu that are way more interesting that 90% of the shows on Network television.
Mother Sayer: Right. Diversity in my opinion adds controls like a risk assessment I often used in the Army. The dangers are listed and then controls are placed next to them line by line to lower the risks inherent in the many harmful well really lethal activities associated with armed forces.
Sarah W. Certainty: If only certain groups of people are in the room there could be something they could be missing because they aren’t factoring in every possible outcome. Their views and understandings are limited by not seeing the entire picture. Different people like different things which vexes me about America. How can a White man tell Black people or Hispanic people or any race of people he isn’t a member what is important for them?
Mother Sayer: Exactly! Realistically it is better to have different ways of viewing and interpreting events in the world. People that look like each other are inherently bound to draw the same conclusions.
Sarah W. Certainty: Tomatoes and peppers do provide distinctly different flavors to the dish ordered from a restaurant menu.
Mother Sayer: What oh, you’re providing a cooking analogy. The differences in aroma, texture and variety of every ingredient makes a more enjoyable eating experience. There is a renowned legacy known across the culinary world about Italian food. It is justified.
Sarah W. Certainty: My mother says if you put a plate of food in front of a man and he eats it with gusto, then a wife should take pleasure in the sight of her man devouring her cooking. Food should be pleasurable just as much as love making.
Mother Sayer: Love making?
Sarah W. Certainty: Italian women are most passionate. I can provide testimony to that. Just from what I’ve seen how my parents are all over each other. Little touches or kisses here and there. Looks that linger to include grooming like brushing back hair from the face or straitening clothes or giving approval to what each other is wearing.
Mother Sayer: I think this talk today has opened my preconceptions up for examination which in truth I’ve quickly assessed as they’ve cascaded across my mind. Don’t worry I won’t teach or attempt to teach somebody something I know doesn’t have the capability of receiving it for what it is intended.
Sarah W. Certainty: We both know there are too many women and men in positions of power with the fate of their companies and to a large degree their countries economies in unskilled hands.
Mother Sayer: I’ve got to push the boundaries. Helping my people succeed helps my company succeed. Exclusion from a Black woman’s perspective has been devastating to our economy. I will always make a decision when I need to because the Army has indoctrinated and conditioned me to act under pressure. What I also have a responsibility to do is train up people that have the capability of leadership. Will I train a person unworthy? Of course, win or lose I still must do that.
(Mother makes her three stops at all three projects and receives her updates. All of the assessments put together gives her encouragement which is what she was hoping. She did approve more funding and production sites for all projects. She left the leaders in place for now. Mother knows changes at the top could roil the entire project, so she left well enough alone. She did leave everybody with the impression that progress is expected at her next briefing.).
Mother Sayer: (Mother returns to her office to let Sarah know what took place so everybody knows where the projects stood on that day.). Sarah the meetings weren’t too bad. I see I’m not immune to assuming the worst is going to happen. Something else I need to work on about me.
Sarah W. Certainty: Don’t we all. So what happened?
Mother Sayer: The production project was actually in the hiring of actor’s stage. I got the sense that their writers were finishing up on the first three stories and the entire purpose and plot of the show. The BAD project leader Mr. O’Woh is actually doing good. He isn’t as bad as I thought or the friction toward him seems to be at a minimum. He really seems to be taking our last encounter to heart.
Sarah W. Certainty: That’s like saying there’s cement still in the truck when you know you dumped it all over him.
Mother Sayer: Oh I see, a reference to cement shoes gangster style.
Sarah W. Certainty: A little humor. I’m working on it.
Mother Sayer: Try smaller sentences and catchy phrases. They’re easier to remember because they land better on the mind.
Sarah W. Certainty: Right. Mr. O’Woh must’ve had soap ready to clean all that cement off.
Mother Sayer: Better. The Model Project is having recruiting problems. It seems Ms. Oakli is having trouble relating to the target audience for her project.
Sarah W. Certainty: Are you going to throw her a life vest I mean from what you said she is in over her head.
Mother Sayer: Why? For what? She has only experienced a side of life where money opens doors for you. I’m going to let her learn that on the less fortunate side of life relationships are all that matters. She’s going to learn how to relate, or she’s done at the ARC.
Sarah W. Certainty: You’re not going to how did you say it ‘Sesame Street that shit for her’.
Mother Sayer: (Mother chuckles and remembers she did share that line from one of her medical Sergeants). Right. No Sarah. Ms. Oakli needs to learn, and I would do her a disservice by shielding her from acquiring skills critical to survive when you are out of your comfort zone.
Sarah W. Certainty: The miseducation of leadership.
Mother Sayer: When I got shot on that ‘clip’ in Iraq I didn’t have somebody there I could fall back on to take over or tell me what to do to get out of it. I either called on what I learned or me and my soldiers would’ve died that day. We also have a saying in the Army. “If you don’t know your tactics it’s too late in a firefight. What you’re going to have then is an oh shit moment and then that’s too late.”
Sarah W. Certainty: Better know what you’re doing before you step up right?
Mother Sayer: Well that’s why the Army spends ungodly sums of time in training. If you don’t know what to do when you’re in a real conflict then it’s your fault.
Sarah W. Certainty: You’re going to let the project fail?
Mother Sayer: Yes if that’s what it takes. I brought her into the ARC. She must be tested. She took the job Sarah. Hey there’s another saying.
Sarah W. Certainty: I got it. ‘Can’t stand the heat stay outta the kitchen.’
Mother Sayer: Yeah. Sarah I don’t need to know this stuff. I already know this. She’s acting all high and mighty then she’s calling for what she must face. You wanna prevent her from falling on her face by all means help her. Remember, you’re the one worried about spreading the gospel of leadership to everybody.
Sarah W. Certainty: Ah you got me back.
Mother Sayer: You’re a chip off the ole gangsta too I see.
Sarah W. Certainty: Yeah we both have thick skins.
Mother Sayer: My child I want more women like us. We can only fight so far. There has to be women bringing up the rear when we are called off the battlefield for good.
(Mother and Sarah share a few more laughs and smiles as they close the office for the day. Mother thinks a few wins a week for a business is wonderful. A few minds evolving every day on good ground brings that exponential change like that spear soaring through the air. It will land farther and farther each time it is hurled aloft by well-rounded and well-adjusted leaders. Everything can’t just be about the numbers Mother puts it.
What about the growth of your people? What about their mental health? Human beings require many things in life and one of the most important of them is knowing they are valued and needed. Structure adds a sense of purpose as efforts are wasted if good order is missing. There has to be discipline where goals are concerned. Mother knows many things are needed by people, and as a mother of two children singleness of thought is misguided as she knows each child is different.
All her people need different things at the ARC. She is adept at sensing them because she was never prey to single track thinking. As a nurse you have to be able to multitask. Don’t let up off your people she tells herself. Too many people in their lives have already done that. Know your people well and always steer them to what the ARC is in business to accomplish. To make a profit not just in monetary terms, but in terms of her people and their growth. The people bring to her the more powerful satisfaction and that’s the energy she wants to keep pumping up.)…..