On Odd Jobs and Leadership

The trusted odd-jobber has a new, one day only gig lined up for later this week. I get to be a poll worker for the County of Los Angeles again. This time as an Inspector. I believe that basically means I’m in charge of my little precinct. Let’s hope it’s way less busy than the last precinct I was at. Chances are good, that since it isn’t a presidential election, it isn’t even on most people’s radars. So for me to be in charge on a slow, slow day sounds excellent! Everyone easily gets their breaks, all the paperwork can get done on time, when scheduled, it doesn’t sound stressful at all.

Yesterday I got to go pick up the voting equipment at an undisclosed location, hard to describe, and harder to find when you can’t see any addresses on buildings. But eventually, I found the entrance, there was even the address, and it was a fascinating place. Looked like a harmless parking garage, but different areas belonged to different city sections of the government, and as I drove back down to the exit and the very helpful security guard, I realized the shrouded cars to my right were actually wrecked police cars in various states of stripping. I’m sure they all had tales to tell. One had its trunk permanently popped open, while another was stripped of all things normally encasing the engine compartment. I was in a police car graveyard.

So now I have precious voter stuff in my car, and I feel nervous about it. Monday, I get to go to a training class despite my having attended one for the last election. The person placing me found a precinct with experienced staff, so my inexperience managing them will be augmented by their helping, but still I was advised to “pay attention” during the training since I was now an inspector. I get paid for the training, I get paid for being responsible for the supplies and I get paid just a little more for being the inspector. All told, I’ll make $70 whole dollars more than I got paid last time as a regular poll worker. More responsibility, more money. Isn’t it the way it always works? And this was all without my even asking for a position of management. They just asked would I be willing and my saying yes.

Not unlike another area of my life.

One of the board members of my building recently sent an email to me, asking was I still interested in being on the building’s board? He no longer had a reason to come to LA, living 90 miles away, and was finding the commute harder and harder. But he wanted to resign only if I was willing to fill his spot, having been voted candidate No. 6 for a five member board. I told him yes, I would love to, I had ideas of things that would be fun to put into place like green roofs! Like use of rainwater collection for that green roof. Perhaps even solar collection. Because everything we could do to make the building less of a heat island and more energy self-sufficient would make the expenses of the building less costly for all, particularly those on fixed incomes like the retired, unemployed, students and underemployed, which there seem to be a lot of us in those categories residing here. Everyone in the building is already aware that the electricity and plumbing need to be upgraded throughout the building, but the less load we can possibly put on those systems now, the longer we can possibly put it off and actually be accruing money towards those known expenses (potentially).

Anyway, I see a theme here. The independent leader. The reluctant leader. I find it all very amusing, considering at least one of my former bosses could not see me in a management position. I think he merely meant he could not see me managing under him, as I would question why he was doing certain things, and brought up concerns of employees that were frequently only gossiped about rather than openly aired. I had a different long term perspective than he. And considering the number of times I have been consistently placed in positions of leadership and responsibility, perhaps for the reason that I am not seeking power as an ego stroke, I actually think that very desireable for a person in a position of leadership, to be leading because they are willing, might actually have good ideas, and want to see them executed. Heck, they might even be good at leading. I like to think that I am really and truly open to other suggestions because I want to lead through collaboration. Then again, I might be full of poppycock.

Because what is collaboration?

I recently had the chance to hang out with a musician I respect, who happened to be here on the West Coast  attending a conference on the craft of songwriting. We met for dinner, where he introduced me to a friend of his, another singer/songrwriter going to the conference. We went back to their hotel for them to practice on their guitars. A private performance, the private sessions. His travelling companion was happy to hear that while unemployed, I still made it my business to go listen to live music. In fact, it was looking like that was my plan yet again this year.

So after re-stringing and tuning, playing their individual songs as warm up, they began working on some songs they had previously agreed to collaborate on. They couldn’t agree on anything, perhaps why their specific collaborations had not yet resulted in any finished songs, but in watching, I realized how immediate, malleable and responsive music is as a collaborative art form. Like dance. He hummed what he was thinking, while she played, picking it out on her guitar, and when she got the sound he was thinking, he said so, and then she immediately started creating variations, which he of course had something to say about. She sang a song that she had worked on his lyrics, and they began arguing as to why each of their lyric sets worked.

They were tired, I figured, both having come from earlier time zones, and even I was getting tired, so I kept trying to leave so they could sleep. They might not ever resolve their artistic vs. commercial differences, but I realized how wonderful it is to even try to collaborate, and I was jealous. I want to be collaborating with others!

The key, in watching those two, I suspect, is in starting with a completely blank slate, that neither party is emotionally invested in. In fact, the stupider the idea for both, probably the easier to just riff and really go all out. Because what did it matter? They Might Be Giants would be a case in point, famous for having put a different song on their answering machine a day. That is no emotional investment, to be erased and replaced 24 hours later.

Lead, make mistakes, listen to others, learn, collaborate. And in the end, laugh. A former board member just dropped by to check in with me, and gave me the advice of not taking it too seriously. Don’t take myself too seriously, I thought. Listen to the music, dance to and with it, and play in the world of the carefree and be surprised by the results of collaborating. That’s how I hold leadership to be.

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One Response to “On Odd Jobs and Leadership”

  1. Pages tagged "they might be giants" Says:

    […] bookmarks tagged they might be giants On Odd Jobs and Leadership « Red Room Salon saved by 3 others     kittymau bookmarked on 03/03/09 | […]

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