Dance of the Lemons

Most of you are familiar with the “lemon law” — the law that allows you to sue and reclaim all or part of your money when you buy a car that keeps breaking down. I believe there should be a lemon law on leadership because I’ve come to realize that most leaders spend their lives in what I call the dance of the lemons.

This dance of deception is characterized by a lack of leadership, direction and purpose. We’ve all done this dance at one time or another when we were insecure about ourselves, unsure of how our performance would resonate, or just plain incompetent in our dealings with family or peers. When we’re out of step — when we’re insecure — we fail to take risks and fail to grow in our lives and our profession.

It’s time to “cowboy-up” and either learn the right moves or create your own two-step — one that bears your distinct style. Begin to create a legacy that allows you to accomplish great things in your life and the lives of others.

The following the seven-step plan can help guide you in the development of your own management style, allow you to avoid dancing with other lemons and plan the course of pursuing your own two-step.

Step 1: Dream again.
Somewhere along the line, many of us lost the capacity to dream. We see our world as itisand not how itcould be. Every generation has their dreamers, great men and women who defy the rules and regulations. Our world would be much different if Dr. Martin Luther King didn’t share his dream.

Step 2:“žInspire each other.
Our lives are often defined by what we do — not by what we say. A dancer doesn’t give speeches, they let their actions and movements speak for them and bring clarity to the moments of their life. We must inspire the people around us with our unique style, inspiring others to create their own dance steps.

Step 3: Be authentic.
Many people lack clarity because they also lack authenticity. They construct their messages for the masses. They don’t share their real feelings and aren’t true to themselves or those around them. They become so lost and confused by the messages and images they’ve constructed that they’ll forget the steps to”žany dance”ž not just their own.

Nathaniel Hawthorne recognized this when he wrote, “No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.”

Step 4: Persevere.
The world is filled with leaders who dance how they’re told to just to keep the peace and remain a part of the dance floor.”ž

Research has shown that we’re all strongly influenced and want to belong even if it means doing something that goes against what’s right. The danger in this is thatno riskleads tono gain.

No great discovery was ever made without ample criticism, no progress made without critics who cautioned against caring too much, no civilization thrived on just the status quo, and no traveler has reached their destination without steadily following their compass and persevering against many trials and tribulations. Staying on course in the face of your own ego and peer pressure defines ones heart and crystallizes destiny.

Step 5: Have a courageous heart.
Opportunities for courage come to us many times a day and most of us fail to seize the moment. We believe that real courage is putting our physical lives on the line for another. But this is only one part of courage.

I propose that there’s another form of courage”ž equally powerful”ž whereby a leader sacrifices theirreputationto defend another. Defending a friend, an idea or a dream. We can only lay down our life once in a lifetime, but we can sacrifice ourselves”ždaily in the service of others when we have the courage to stand for what’s right.

True courage is making a commitment to your values, doing what’s right and understanding that life is filled with moments that test your resolve. John Wayne was true to the “cowboy-up” theme when he said that real courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. Too many leaders never even take the ride because they don’t want to fall off the horse.

Step 6:“žFocus your vision.
I believe that we’re at a crossroad of our lives as a community, state and nation. We’re facing tremendous challenges. The world is changing, and the American dream will be redefined for all of us.

Unfortunately, the world is filled with leaders who lack vision. Sure, they envision profit potential, they look at material growth and envision a greater infrastructure. But these are short-sighted goals that lack true vision.

We must become visionaries and, through our collective vision, create opportunities and realize dreams. We’re better today for those men and women who took their leadership to a visionary stage and made great change. Some notables include: Mother Teresa, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King and Ghandi. Their visions prompted mankind to address social issues that rekindled the human spirit and created a future of great possibilities.

Step 7:”žLead with passion.
EMS providers are inherently compassionate as well as passionate. But so many of our leaders have let their passion die down to just a flicker. They see passion as a dangerous emotion that can get out of control.”ž

We need to rekindle a passionate flame and burn away old ways of thinking that keep people and ideas from growing and flourishing. When we accept the fact that great leadership is sacrifice, only then will our passion for life burn as brightly as it should. Our feet will become lighter when our soul is unburdened from the weight of our own egos. We will begin to dance to the beat when our hearts become courageous again and our authentic selves return.

Together, we can squeeze the lemon mentality out of our lives and inspire ourselves to be dreamers again, taking back the dance floor and bringing some vision and passion back into our dance. Where we find our passion, we will find our purpose.

Make a choice
So what course will we choose? Will we chose to dance with the lemons, or “cowboy-up” and become true leaders? We must choose to make a difference and leave a legacy that defines our short time on this earth.”ž

To help us achieve our legacy and make our dance strong and meaningful, Stephen Covey noted the following in his book,The 8th Habit:

  • For the body — assume you’re having a heart attack; now live accordingly.”ž
  • For the mind — assume the half-life of your profession is every two years; now prepare accordingly.”ž
  • For the heart — assume everything you say about another, they can overhear; now speak accordingly.”ž
  • For the spirit — assume you have a one-on-one visit with our Creator every quarter; now live accordingly.”ž

Become a great leader and move our profession, our communities and our country forward in a positive direction.”ž

Chris Nollette,”žEdD, NREMT-P, LP, is director of the EMS program at the at the Riverside (Calif.) Community College,”žBen Clark Training Center — Moreno Valley”žand president-elect for the National Association of EMS Educators. A”žparamedic for 28 years, Nollette directs five nationally-accredited college”žEMS programs and is a founding member of the new scientific subcommittee on education for AHA. Contact him at”ž

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