Monthly Archives: July 2021

Hike Leadership Metaphors Forward – Pioneers

I love the frontiersmen of the late 1700s and early 1800s – Men like Daniel Boone (1734-1820), Simon Kenton (1755-1836), Davy Crockett (1786-1836), and Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman (1774 – 1845), but when I think of the word “Pioneer,” the wagon trains on the Oregon Trail in the 1830s and 1840s come to my mind. I remember playing an early computer game called The Oregon Trail and I also remember how many times my character died in route. Just imagine yourself as a pioneer headed for Oregon with the hopeful promises of open plains and lush farmlands but with 2,000 miles of hard travel and danger ahead of you.  

It wasn’t until 1836 that the first wagons were used on the trek from Missouri to Oregon. A missionary party headed by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman bravely set out to reach the Willamette Valley. The Whitmans were forced to abandon their wagons 200 miles short of Oregon, but they demonstrated that determined pioneers could go west by wheeled travel.

In the spring of 1843, a wagon train left Independence, Missouri, destined for Oregon. The train consisted of nearly 1,000 people and despite a mighty chorus of naysayers and doubters, the so-called “Great Migration” made it safely to Oregon. The train comprised more than 100 wagons with a herd of 5,000 oxen and cattle trailing behind. The vast majority of the pioneers on the trail survived and reached their destination, but some died from dangers like drowning in river crossings, the accidental falling off mules or horses, and contracting diseases like cholera, dysentery, measles, mumps, and typhoid fever.

The mindset and the bravery of the Pioneer reminds me of the characteristics of an effective leader. In this metaphor, let me fill six wagons with comparisons.

The first wagon is filled with the Spirit of Adventure. The pioneer leader needs to embrace the thrill of adventure and must be willing to enter into places of the unknown. Much of leadership is walking new paths and blazing new trails. Adversity awaits but the effective leader realizes that there is no adventure without adversity. When adversity comes the effective leader embraces that adversity and makes the most of the challenge. The leader, like the Pioneer, must move with caution and care, but must be willing to run into the unknown with purpose and vision. 

The second wagon is packed with Calculated Risks. The Pioneers put everything they owned, placed all their dreams for the future, and loaded their children into a covered wagon. Then they left the security of an established town for the promise of a new land and a new start. Organizational leaders are often faced with risk. Financial risks, new program risks, relationship risks, delegation risks, failure risks, etc. Leadership decisions not always based on the knowns – they are sometimes reached on the thin ice of the unknowns involving risks of personal income, a comfortable environment, a solid place of security, and an established professional reputation. Leaders take risks on the hiring and promoting personnel, advertising and outreach, new products or services, and the challenges of new ideas. Please note: the 1843 Pioneers were careful and strategic in their risk taking – they followed an established pathway and the wagon train involved 1,000 people (safety in numbers). They did not travel with total abandonment or with a haphazard mindset. Pioneer-minded leaders take risks, but they do so with as much preparation and understanding as possible.  

The third wagon is jammed with a Vision for a better future. Pioneer-minded leaders see tomorrow, next week, next year, and five years down the road differently than most folks. They have big dreams that fill the horizon. They experience a calling that pulls them with excitement and urgency. They can see the adventure of the future and they are driven by a deep desire to be part of it. These leaders are not just okay with the potential change of the future, they are energized by it, they are all in, they have their wagon packed and ready to hit the road.  

The fourth wagon is loaded with Determination. The Pioneers understood the challenges of the trail and yet they were dedicated to reach the destination. They knew that the journey was going to take months and yet they had the tenacity to persevere the daily adversities in order to see the promises ahead. The path held 2,000 miles of rugged terrain and dangerous territory but their determination kept their eyes on the prize and feet moving forward.   

The fifth wagon bulges with Confidence. One of my favorite reality series is The History Channel’s Alone. Ten individuals are dropped off by a helicopter in some isolated place (like Patagonia) with the goal of surviving in the wilderness. They have no food and no shelter. They are allowed to choose a limited number of items to bring with them (axe, saw, fire starter, tarp, etc), but the list is extremely small. What amazes me is the confidence that every participant expresses. They all begin the season with the resolve of spending an entire year in the wilderness. That is the pioneer spirit: the spirit not only to survive but to thrive. The leader with a pioneer mindset has the confidence and motivation to move forward. There is no turning back, the only choice is to accomplish the mission, the only option is to follow the vision.   

The sixth wagon in the train overflows with Flexibility. Just like the Pioneers that headed west, the leader must learn how to bend but not break. The wagon train was faced with mountains, rivers, drought, dust, and storms and they needed to dig deep into their creativity of problem solving. Giving up was not on the table – they needed to move forward. Today’s leader needs to learn how to become elastic and not get bent out of shape; how to adapt to every situation without losing the message; how to change the packaging without compromising the quality and integrity of the ministry. If things change, be flexible; if things break, be adaptable.

Today’s leader is very much like a Pioneer. Hook up your wagons and join the adventure.

Photo: Pioneers – Kids Discover

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Hike Fun Foward: Special Days – August 1-7

August 1 – Friendship Day

Friendship Day encourages people across the country and around the world to connect with friends. Reconnect with an old one, celebrate a current friendship, or make a new friend or two.

How often we take our friends for granted and fail to share how significant they are in our lives. This is a great day to express your appreciation, gratitude, and admiration for those positive influences in your life.

August 2 – Coloring Book Day

Coloring Book Day celebrates the joy that both children and adults alike derive from coloring in pages of designs. Coloring and coloring books have been popular with children for decades, and in recent the years, adults have gotten more and more involved with coloring. Many people of all ages find that it is not only fun but also a great way to reduce stress.

This is one of the easiest days to celebrate – grab some crayons, buy a book reflecting your skill level and your budget, and carve out some time to be creative. Coloring is a great activity to do with your children. Their works of art are great refrigerator posts and scrapbook memories.  

August 3 – Watermelon Day

What a great day to celebrate in the heat of August. Watermelon is 92% water and is such a great treat during the high temperatures of summer. A watermelon party is a great way to meet the neighbors or to gather together with friends/family. A seed-spitting contest is great fun if your get a watermelon with seeds.

With proper growing conditions, watermelons grow to enormous sizes. Around the world, competitions award prizes each year for the largest one. The Guinness Book of World Records states that the heaviest watermelon weighed 262 pounds. According to 32 Fun Facts About Watermelon – What About Watermelon?, the heaviest watermelon recorded weighed 350.5 lbs and was grown in 2013.

August 4 – Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Ruth Wakefield

It seems like every dessert every made has a day of the year, but (in my opinion) the Chocolate Chip Cookie deserves the celebrity status and recognition of a special day. I know they have been around since 1950 and my mom made a powerfully good chocolate chip cookie since I was born, but how long have they been part of the fiber of our country (I am not sure if a chocolate chip cookie has any fiber, but you know what I mean)?  

The inventor of the chocolate chip cookie is Ruth Wakefield. She was born on June 17, 1903 in Massachusetts and died on January 10, 1977. She graduated from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts in 1924, and gave birth to the chocolate cookie around 1938. Ruth and her husband Kenneth bought a tourist lodge named the Toll House Inn, where she prepared the meals that were served to guests.

The legend often presented recounts a day in 1938 when Wakefield was mixing a batch of cookies only to discover that she was out of baker’s chocolate. She substituted broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate, expecting it to melt and absorb into the dough to create chocolate cookies. That didn’t happen, but when she removed the pan from the oven, Ruth realized that she had accidentally invented “chocolate chip cookies.” Some cookie historians take issue with this fable but who cares – it makes a great story and adds to the mystic of American’s #1 favorite cookie.

August 5 – Water Balloon Day

Just in time for the hottest days of summer! It should be water balloon month, but even a day is so much fun. What kid or adult doesn’t enjoy a water balloon battle on a hot summer afternoon? There are games you can play (see blow for a few examples) but the most fun is just a snow-ball style fight where everyone enjoys getting wet and cooling down.

Try some of these ideas:

Water balloon toss  – This one is a classic. Everyone pairs up. Each team stands close together taking turns tossing their water balloon to each other. As soon as the water balloon breaks they’re eliminated. The team that gets the furthest apart wins!

Batting practice – combine water balloons and whiffle ball bats for a wet experience at home plate.

Target Practice – draw a chalk target on the side of shed or on the driveway. Decide on a throwing mark and see who can come closest to the bullseye.

Clean-up Challenge  – Set a timer to 5 minutes. Everyone races to collect as many broken balloon pieces as possible. Present prizes to gold, silver and bronze winners.

For more great ideas check out 10 Great Ideas for Water Balloons – Happy Home Fairy. This creative website has loads of great family fun ideas.

August 6 – Lucille Ball Day

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s one of my favorite comedians was Lucille Ball. She was the star and the producer of I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, and Here’s Lucy. I remember laughing until my side hurt at the chocolate candy conveyor belt episode, the grape stomping scene, and the mirror skit with Harpo Marx. Her comic timing and her facial expressions were truly amazing.   – born August 6, 1911 -110 years ago and yet her comedy still makes me laugh.

Check out some YouTube videos of Lucy or tune in some old episodes of her sitcoms. Reminisce or watch her for the first time, but celebrate this grand lady of fun and laughter.

August 7 – Lighthouse Day

Due to expensive lighthouse maintenance and great advancements in modern electronic navigational systems, the number of lighthouses are in great decline. Here are a few interesting lighthouse facts:

Lighthouse Day honors the beacon of light that for hundreds of years symbolized safety and security for ships and boats at sea. At one time, lighthouses could be found along almost all of America’s shorelines. These towers were designed to emit light using a system of lamps and lenses to aid ship captains with the safe navigation of their vessels.  

  • The first known lighthouse was the Pharos of Alexandria , Egypt Ptolemy I and his son Ptolemy II constructed it between 300 and 280 B.C. It stood about 450 feet high.
  • The oldest existing lighthouse in the United States is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey. Built in 1764, this lighthouse is still in operation.
  • At the end of the 19th century, the United States had the most lighthouses of any nation.
  • The Sullivan Island Lighthouse in Charleston, South Carolina owns two distinctions. First, it is the only triangular-shaped lighthouse and second, it is the only lighthouse equipped with an elevator.

Resources: Ruth Wakefield: Chocolate Chip Cookie Inventor (women-inventors.com); Lighthouse Facts | US Lighthouse Society (uslhs.org); August National Days – National Day Calendar.

Photos: Friends – The Rough Collection; Coloring Book – Fancy Coloring Pages For Adults – Coloring Home; Watermelon – The Rough Collection; Ruth Wakefield – There’s a Dad in the Kitchen!: Award-Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies (dadinkitchen.blogspot.com); Water Balloons Target – (516) Pinterest; Lucille Ball – Why Lucille Ball Is One of My Most Important Mentors – Honey Good®; Lighthouse – Michigan Exposures: Marblehead Lighthouse – Ohio

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Hike Thru-Hikers Forward: Update July 29

I wish I had a better update on the three thru-hikers that we are following, but silence continues to be the norm on their online journals.

Bridge-walk to New Jersey

I have heard nothing from Nancy, trail name: Mileage, since July 1st.

Rock and Roots have only made one entry since the last update. They did post on July 11, so let me catch you up on this huge hiking day for them, realizing that it is 18 days old. Their hiking adventure on July 11 involved a marathon. They logged in 26.2 miles, ending their day in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. The Delaware Water Gap is a true water gap on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the Delaware River cuts through a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. The thru-hiker is only a bridge-walk away from leaving the rocks of Pennsylvania and discovering the rocks of New Jersey.

DWG from Council Rock

Rocks and Roots started their hike at 7:20 am. and arrived at Delaware Water Gap (DWG) around 6:00 pm. They have been slack packing, so at least they did not have to carry their heavy packs. They walked today with three other hikers: Tinder, Hook, and Ripper. It happened to be Rocks birthday, so the hikers celebrated upon arrival in DWG with some good food and a visit to the only sake distillery in Pennsylvania. The brewery is called Sango Kura. Sango is the name of the owner’s daughter and is Japanese for coral. Kura simply means brewery. They also ordered some chips and salsa.

The Church of the Mountain Hostel Lobby

Roots found some vegan ice cream (most likely at Zoe’s Ice Cream) and grabbed a matcha green tea latte from Dunkin’ while Rock, who was disappointed in the chips and salsa, ordered a pizza. Everyone stayed at “the hiker center in town.” There is one major hiker center that I remember in DWG and it is The Church of the Mountain Hostel. This is where I stayed as well, and it has a bunkroom and showers. I remember it being very homey and comfortable, but then again, I had just completed Pennsylvania and was still thrilled to be on the Appalachian Trail.

You can tell by the details shared by Rocks and Roots how important food is to the thru-hiker. It is a thought that dominates the day, especially when a town is on the agenda. After lodging is taken care of, food was the number one concern – lots of it and lots of calories and protein (in that order).  

Photos: Church of the Mountain Hostel: Church of the Mountain hostel living room – WhiteBlaze Gallery; The Bridge: The Rough Collection; View from Council Rock: The Rough Collection.

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Hike Leadership Forward – Prepared

A leader can adopt a servant leadership style, or a steward leadership style, or a transformational leadership style but if they are not a prepared leader, they may not be very effective. This blog underscores the need for the leader to bring his/her A-Game every day in every setting. A popular saying (possibly attributed to Ben Franklin and definitely incorporated into the leadership philosophy of John Wooden) aptly pertains to prepared leadership: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” 

So, let’s take a step back and consider what preparation means. To give a little structure to the definition of this concept in the context of leadership, I would present six boxes of preparation for the leader to check off.

Box 1– Be ready with what you know. Preparation involves research and networking. Collect as much data as possible so you can interact with knowledge and understanding. Preparation involves study and communication. The effective leader learns about the many perspectives that make up an issue. Networking with management, upper-level leaders, stakeholders, venders, competitors, and employees allows the leader to see the various sides of the diamond and the values that participants in the organization place on the jewel under consideration. Preparation means to know what you can know.

Box 2 – Be ready for what you do not know. Even more important than what you know is the unknown. This aspect of preparation involves reflection and developing probing questions to answer the unknown dimensions of the issue at hand. We have the money to build the cafeteria, but what are the monthly costs of maintaining the cafeteria? What is the life of the equipment/furniture and the replacement dollar needed?  Did anybody price plates, silverware, glassware? Do not assume anything – question everything – be prepared for the unknown.

Box 3 – Be ready with an adaptive plan. It is rarely (maybe never) a good idea to go into a meeting with a blank legal pad or an empty planning folder. The effective leader should have a potential plan for every agenda item. On the other hand, every plan should reflect an adaptive flexibility. A concrete plan, complete with re-bar, can miss a great idea or an exciting alternative. When the unknown is probed and the answers are provided, the plan might just morph into a super plan that goes beyond the expectations of everyone around the table.

 Box 4 – Be prepared with an open mind and carefully tuned ears. This preparation is personal. This preparation challenges the leader’s ego. The leader typically believes that he/she knows the best direction, the best decision, and the best road to take. The most effective leaders also recognize that blinders exists and that blind spots can cause huge accidents. Take the keys to your thinking and unlock your pride so that you can consider the ideas of others. Open up your ears and listen before you engage your tongue to pontificate. Be prepared to listen twice before you decide – measure twice, cut once.  Pride sometimes gets in the way of the leader and without this preparation of openness, the bull is set loose in the china shop.

Box 5 – Be prepared to change. Similar to Box 4, this box is a mental and emotional one that prepares the leader to think and consider ideas outside the box. The small sphere of knowledge (no matter how thorough Box 1 has been completed) can always be expanded. New ideas and creativity might be found from any member around the table. Invite novel thinkers and trusted confidants to interject challenges and resistance to the momentum of the meeting. Resistance can be a friend if it prevents a pothole decision or a journey into quicksand.  

Box 6 – Be prepared to act; be prepared to table; be prepared to do more research; be prepared to debate; be prepared to think, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate; and most important of all, be prepared to pray. Decisions must be made. Be ready to make a decision. Your organization looks to you for decisions. But be wise and be proactive. Be prepared so you may know if the organization should move forward, sideways, backward, or if it should stand and wait. Discernment is a key element to preparation and the effective leader must learn to discern.

Box clip art found at Check Box Empty Svg Png Icon Free Download (#5235) – OnlineWebFonts.COM

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Hike Books Forward

Two books this week, both coming from the world of science fiction. Neither book would get 5-stars from my pen of evaluation, but both are interesting reads. Written 10 years apart, the first written in 1995 and the second was published in 2005.

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman

I am not so sure what to do with this book. If I read it as a book of fantasy and an alternative world filled with talking bears, personal daemons, strange particles called dust, witches, and pages of unusual phenomena, then I find this book as an intriguing volume of make-believe and imagination. If I read the book as a commentary on reality or an allegory attempting to reflect a genuine worldview, then I discover a book founded on misunderstanding, a rejection of truth, and even a perversion of the character of God.

The author seems to purposively intertwine his fantasy world with the world of our own. The author’s atheism surfaces often as he pulls religious elements into his plot. I found myself connected to the story of the young protagonist, Lyra, as she desires to save her friends, her father, and to confront the evils of the kidnapping Gobblers. And then I found myself bristling as his worldview of fantasy invaded the truths of the universe and the character of God. The re-writing of the Genesis creation narrative to include daemons is an example of the inappropriate invasion of Pullman’s imaginary creation into truth. It does not change truth, but it ruins the sci-fi aspects of the book.

This book was first published in 1995. I have read the trilogy many years ago and enjoyed it, but this recently read (audiobook) left me uneasy and conflicted. This is not a children’s book (in my opinion) and it might raise some questions in young adult readers that would warrant discussion/clarification. I have listed this volume on my blog not as an endorsement, but as a review for consideration. The author touches on a few heavy topics like spirituality, religion, morals, and the existence of the soul. But the plot is filled with the adventure, excitement, and the mystery of fantasy.  Instead of branding it as heresy, I have chosen to read it as well-written sci-fi story of fantasy. Take a read and see what you think.   

Pretties (Uglies #2) by Scott Westerfeld 

I included the first book in this series, Uglies, on this blog several weeks ago. This book of science fiction takes place in a dystopian world where teens go through the process of becoming “pretty” on their 16th birthday. They are transformed from being an “Ugly” to a fun, free world of beauty and the bubbly experiences of perfection. But unknown to the young people, they also lose a layer of personal identification, part of their drive to accomplish the unique, and an aspect of their ability to establish deep personal relationships.

In book one the protagonist, Tally, escapes her society as her date for becoming “pretty” draws close. She experiences another society outside the city – the world of the Smoke, where she discovers Uglies that desire to live outside the transformation. At the end of book #1, Tally finds herself back in Prettytown with the desire to find the cure for the transformation. Pretties chronicles Tally’s inner struggles, her establishment of new relationships, and her choices moving forward. As book #2 opens, Tally has finally become pretty. She looks beautiful, her clothes are exquisite, and she is in the center of all that is popular. It’s everything she’s ever wanted. But then a message comes from the past, and she begin to remember and reflect. Thus, the plot begins.

This is not the best sci-fi novel on my virtual bookshelf, and it does lead into yet another installment, but I found it interesting and engaging. It is a fast, light read with good pacing, an enjoyable flow, and lots of actions. Book #1 (Uglies) is a must read to understand Book #2 (Pretties).

Book Covers found at Goodreads.com

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Hike 2021 Forward: Week 29

The goal: 2,021 miles during the year 2021. The weekly pace needed: 39 miles.

Week 29 of my personal walking challenge (July 16 – July 22) began with a zero-day due to professional responsibilities from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm, followed by a rainstorm that washed out the rest of the day. I was a little nervous for the week (zero is not a good way to start the week), but I was able to put a few strong days together and ended up with 56.7 miles for the week.  I had a 14.8-mile Monday and a 10.5-mile Tuesday (the other four days hovered between 7 and 8.4 miles). Overall, it was a good week.

My number of accumulated miles is up to 1,385.9 as I continue to chip away at the journey. At the end of week 29, I have 635.1 miles left to complete the challenge.  I hope to break through the 1,400 mile marker next week and maybe be under 600 miles from the finish line.

This week, I had a few miles in the woods and along the river, a few miles visiting a new hiking buddy (he carries a snack with him wherever he walks), and a few miles catching the signs of summer around my neighborhood.

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Hike Books Forward

This is mystery week – not by design but by good reads. My two best audiobook selections for this week are both mysteries. The first (messenger of Truth) was written in 2006 and the second (Tales for a Winter’s Night) is a series of short stories written around 1898.  

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

 Messenger of Truth is book #4 in the Masie Dobbs series. The setting is London, 1931. Masie is a private investigator with incredible skills of deduction and observation. This novel takes the reader into the world of art and the deadly world of foul play. On the eve of a much-anticipated exhibition artist, Nicholas Bassington-Hope falls from scaffolding while attempting to mount his secretive masterpiece. The police visit the famed Mayfair gallery and declare the fall accidental, but the dead’s man’s twin sister (Georgina) has other opinions. With the case being closed by the police, Georgina seeks out a fellow graduate from Girton College: Maisie Dobbs and the investigation begins.
The facts of the case take Maisie to the beaches of Dungeness in Kent and the dark memories of World War 1.

Being book #4, the first three provide a great deal of background about Masie and her past relationships. It is a good series and I would recommend taking the time to read the first three novels. There are 16 novels in the series and #17 to be released in 2022. The British-born author has done extensive research into the story’s setting, and the protagonist continues to grow with each novel. A good read and an entertaining audiobook. The audiobook also contains a very interesting and insightful interview with the author.

Tales for a Winter’s Night by Arthur Conan Doyle
These eight classic Conan Doyle mysteries were originally published in The Strand in 1899 and then republished in 1908 as one volume entitled Round the Fire Mysteries. I thought these were going to be short adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but the master detective was not present in any of these mysteries. As an audiobook each tale lasts about 45 minutes so there are several nice stopping places. The table of contents reveals the short stories: The Man with the Watches, The Black Doctor, The Jewish Breastplate, The Lost Special, The Club-footed Grocer, The Sealed Room, The Brazilian Cat, and B.24. As in most collections, some of the stories were better than others. I personally liked The Man with the Watches, the Jewish Breastplate, and the Brazilian Cat. The formal, older, British syntax and vocabulary made comprehension a little more difficult and active listening a bit more difficult, but all in all it was an enjoyable audiobook

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Hike 2021 Forward – Week 28

I have made it through the middle of July and 28 weeks of my personal hiking challenge of walking 2,021 miles in 2021. This week (July 9 – July 15) I was able to pound out 47.6 miles. This week was filled with some technical reading as I am serving on two dissertation committees, and both candidates will defend their research on July 16.

July 9th started out the week with a strong 8.5 miles. The weather was nice with the highs only touching 77 degrees. I has some important social events on Saturday, July 10 including both a celebration party for Tommy, a precious son of a close family friend, who has be proclaimed cancer-free after a long bout with leukemia, and a family get-together of best wishes as four of my grandchildren are off to Utah for several weeks. So, July 10’s walking window only yielded 4.7 miles.

Sunday afternoon (July 11) produced some rain, but I managed to dodge the drops for an average hike (6.4 miles). Monday (July 12) was my best day of the week. Two hikes (one in the morning and the other in the evening) bookended the afternoon showers. I took a solo hike around the neighborhood in the morning and then took a nice walk with my wife and daughter at a local park about 7:00 pm for a total of 12.1 miles.

Several conference calls and Zoom meetings dominated my day on Tuesday (July 13). The needed demands of the yard invaded my walk time and then when I began to make my neighborhood loop, the rains let loose catching me a mile away from home. By the time I reached my front door, I was drenched and only had 2.9 miles to show for the entire day.

Balancing out another Zoom meeting, an evening Bible Study, and a morning conference at my bank, 5.8 miles was my total hiking yield for Wednesday. July 14.  Thursday the 15th completed the week with 7.2 miles as I combined two shorter hikes. I walked to my church and back (2 miles one way) and then a quick stroll around the neighbor hood in the afternoon.

I have hiked a tad over 1,329 miles leaving less than 700 miles to complete the journey (more accurately – 692 miles). I am hoping that Week 29 will be another good one. The weather looks promising with several sunny days.  

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Hike Photos Forward

To Bee Or Not To Bee
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Hike Leadership Metaphors Forward: The Overture

Over the years as a high school administrator, I had the privilege of participating in several pit orchestras for high school musicals and was able to the play one of the woodwind scores for numerous Broadway shows (Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Annie, The King and I, Hello Dolly, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown). I loved these musicals – they were challenging musically, but the energy of the show made the music come alive with meaning and purpose. Having spent many hours in practice and performances, the music began to bounce around in my mind, and I found myself whistling and humming the music throughout the day. The more I have reflected on those good days in the orchestra pit playing music with my colleagues, the more I have appreciated the contagious nature of the Broadway tunes. This leads me to my next metaphor of leadership as I compare the role of the leader to the role of the Overture in the show. Let me share with you four key similarities – Bb, C, Dm, and G just to keep the metaphor going..

Bb, the Overture is the first piece of music that the audience hears. One conductor that I worked with, encouraged us to warm up and be ready for the first downbeat, but he requested that we not play of the music of the show in our warm-ups. We could play scales or pop tunes or Christian tunes, but nothing from the performance. Why? Because he wanted to audience to be introduced to the music of the show through the Overture itself. The Overture has a little taste of all the melodies in the show. It was a grand introduction of what was to follow. In some ways the Overture is the musical face of the story to come. And so, the leader is the face of the organization. The leader must know every aspect of the company and be able to sing a little bit about all the programs, products and services of the institution.  

C, because the Overture is a medley of songs, the style of music changes several times in quick succession and the dynamics move from a soft, sweet love song to the allegro of a chase scene or a march of victory and then quickly to a quiet lullaby. So an effective leader must change tempos and dynamics often during the day. From encourager to listener; from a personal conversation to a group report, from decision maker to a confrontational phone call, from a tender moment of appreciation to the complaints of the disgruntled. The leader not only know every tune, but he/she knows when to change his pace, and his place, and his face.

Dm, the composer/arranger of the Overture casts the melody line from instrument to instrument as the different songs are highlighted. The brass may start the Overture with an attention-getting flair, then the strings or even a violin solo may take over with a sweet song of love, flowed by the woodwinds dancing with a humorous melody of mischief. As each instrument adds its voice and takes the lead, there is a capturing of the entire show in the first 10 minutes of the performance. The effective leader realizes that leadership is not all about the leader. Each member of the team (as the orchestral instruments) must play his/her part for the organization to be successful and grow. The actual role of leader can change from team member to team member depending on the situation. Leader”ship” is a dynamic interactive process of creating, communicating and transforming vision into reality. One leader cannot accomplish that process alone, but with a band of instrumental people, the organization can embrace the entire show. He wise leader allows and encourages every team member to take the lead as his/her strength is needed. The organizational melody should move from member to member as the entire mission is accomplished.

G, the Overture is filled with transitions. Some of the transitions are smooth and stay in the same key, others are abrupt, changing keys, tempo, and time signatures (from 3/4 to 6/8 to 4/4). Before the audience gets too comfortable listening to one tune, the Overture switches gears and introduces another melody. Variety is at the core of the Overture. Effective leaders are aware that transitions can (and will) come at a moment’s notice. There are times when the leader transitions from one responsibility to another without losing a beat as the day just flows between one setting to another. But the unexpected never gives much notice and the leader is often required to quickly change perspectives and step into a different rhythm of decision making. The day, the week, the life of a leader is filled with transitions. The key for the leader (and the orchestra) is to embrace the transitions and make incredible music in the midst of the changes.

The next time you listen to a Broadway show’s Overture… wait, you never have listened to an overture? you don’t like Broadway musicals?….give it a try; “Annie” is a good one to enjoy. So, anyway, the next time you listen to a Broadway show’s Overture, notice the transitions, the instrumentation, and the amazing way that all the tunes are woven together to give the audience an exciting picture of what awaits.

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