LEADERSHIP – Rich Paschall

What makes a good Leader?
by Rich Paschall

With the election cycle starting up AGAIN, and the seemingly endless Presidential debates we will now endure, it is fair to ask what makes a good Leader.  What traits do we expect a Leader to have?  What do we admire in our leaders?  What qualities do we want to avoid in our leaders?  What generates our respect and our willingness to follow?

Your Vote Counts

It is not enough to say that our leaders should “lead.”  What does that mean exactly?  In a certain sense they all want to lead, but where are they trying to take us?  What message is their leadership style sending?  Are they willing to lead us in a good way?

It is also not enough to say that they should “inspire.”  What does that mean as well?  If they inspire you, I guess you would, of course, want to follow.  Not all inspiration is filled with positive messages or moves in the right direction.  Will we know a good leader when one comes along?

Perhaps at the top of my list would be “trustworthy.”  Can we trust someone to do a good job?  Will they always look out for the best interests of the nation, the community, the local parish or whatever group they are asked to lead?  This trait speaks to the virtue of honesty.  If we trust someone, then we must believe deep down that they are honest.  They will not steal or take advantage of their position.  They will not use their position of authority to enrich themselves at the expense of others.  Do you trust your leaders?

A good leader must also be a “problem solver.”  Every organization will have its challenges along the way and the solutions are not necessarily apparent. This is where a good problem solver is important.

problem solving dogsIt is not that the leader needs to solve the problem himself or herself, it is that they must know the best way to get to the answers that are being sought.  In this regard, leadership might be stepping aside to let someone else handle an issue.

To lead a person must also be self-confident.  In this manner some may come across as cocky or arrogant, which could indeed be the case.  However, one who lacks confidence in what he does can never be a good leader. Indecision will creep in as the dominant trait. Then the leader will find himself following others, falling prey to advice that may not be in the best interests of all.

Which way is your Leader going?

Which way is your Leader going?

Passion is important for those at the top of an organization. I have often seen it at the local level where leaders either do not feel passionate about what they do, or have lost that passion as the years wore on.

Just because you are a good leader in one decade, doesn’t mean that you will be a good leader in the next. Our diocese has a habit of moving successful pastors from one location to another, but success in one place doesn’t mean success at another.  Sometimes a problem arises when the so-called leader does not share the same passion for the next assignment as he did for the previous one.

Leaders must be resilient. They must have the ability to “roll with the punches,” as the saying goes. Some do not take real or perceived criticism well. Their downside begins to show when their side of things indeed seems to be down.

One thing for sure — a leader will face criticism. Not all will agree with everything that is said or done. It’s inevitable. A new leader may enjoy a “honeymoon” period of no criticism, but it won’t last. If you’re President of the United States, for example, you need to know how to deal with criticism.

politicususa.com

A leader needs vision. He or she must have a clear idea of what it is they should do and how they’ll get there. Again, this doesn’t mean the leader has to do it all.  A leader with vision will inspire others to work hard to help a vision become reality. If your vision doesn’t inspire others, you may need to rethink it.

A leader must effectively manage others, especially subordinates in the work place.  This means training, coaching, guiding and building up the resources of the organization, town, state, or country through hard work and careful planning.  “My way or the Highway” is not an effective leadership style, although I have seen some try to use it on the local level.  It is not what any organization needs, and in fact tends to drive away good people.

business2community.com

Problems should be seen as fixable, not something to avoid at all costs. Some so-called leaders would choose the path of least resistance. If they avoid something where there might be even the slight chance of failure or disappointment, they are not leading at all. This is like the “prevent defense” in football.  Sometimes that prevents you from winning.

A good leader also is a good listener. I’m sure you’ve heard “no one learns anything new when he’s talking.”  A leader knows when and how to listen.  A leader knows which questions to ask to get the information to understand the issues and seek the right course of action.

One time I sat down with a local pastor to discuss an event that he felt did not go well in every aspect.  At least I thought it was going to be a discussion. Instead it was an unpleasant hour listening to his negative point of view of certain aspects of the event. I’m not sure he listened to anything I said. He could just as well have had the conversation over coffee with himself.  I’m not sure why I bothered to talk at all.

Are your leaders listening?  Do they care what you think?  Will they serve your interests? When local and national elections come, what traits should your elected officials have?  As you join community organizations, what traits do you want to see in their leadership?

REFLECTIONS: THE COLORS OF FALL – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Reflection


Reflections in the Blackstone in the fall are beautiful. The colors are soft in the water, though if the water is quiet, sometimes it is as close as you can get to a mirror.

Rivers usually are not quite as silky as bigger bodies of water. Ponds and lakes sometimes are so smooth, you can turn the picture upside down and it looks almost the same, both ways.

Despite the lack of a brilliant fall, this October has produced a lot of pictures. Garry was outside today because we had sunshine. No reflections today … we don’t have any water here … but plenty of pictures.

River reflections – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Blackstone River in Rhode Island – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Reflecting river – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Mumford river reflections – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Reflection of the bridge on the canal – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Full reflection in the canal – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

CHARLIE AUSTIN – by Garry Armstrong

Today is Charlie Austin’s Memorial Service. 

I first met Charlie Austin at a pickup basketball game in Boston. It was September evening in Boston, 1970.

I was the new TV news reporter guy in town and I was meeting people, on and off the job. One of the people on my “must meet” list was Charlie Austin. He had the reputation – even back then – as one of Boston’s finest reporters.

I’d seen Charlie on television, doing a sports piece as “Chuck” Austin. I liked his laid back style and deep voice.

I was already jealous of that voice.

“Hi, Chuck”,  I said brightly as the pick up teams chose players. I was on the bench.  Charlie was one of the FIRST picked to play.  My envy grew.

Charlie just stared at me. The poker face, I would learn, was his trademark. I didn’t know and thought I’d committed a social blunder.  I was a little confused.  It was a very long moment before Charlie came over and smiled.

“You a 6th man? Instant offense off the bench,”  he asked with a mischievous grin.  I looked at the floor and told him I was the last man sitting. He patted me on the shoulder and headed off for some serious hoops.

Charles Austin

I sat for most of the first half until the coach/assistant news director signalled me to go in. Charlie Austin grinned slyly as I ran on the court.

I made my first three 20-footers to everyone’s surprise,  especially mine.  Hey, no one was guarding me.  Half-time and everyone gathered for coke and pizza. “Nice shot,”  Charlie said to me,  wolfing down 2 slices in seconds.

I smiled and said,  “Thanks, Chuck.”  His smile turned into a deep frown.

“Don’t call me Chuck,”  Charlie said tersely.  I was confused, which he picked up. “They call me Chuck when I do sports. I hate that name. Hate it!  Okay?”

I nodded and told him I heard Henry Aaron hated being called “Hank” but dealt with it because it was a media thing about which you don’t argue.  Charlie nodded with one of his signature crooked smiles. It was back to the bench for me for most of the 2nd half until we hit “Garbage” time and my on court presence didn’t matter.

I cornered Charlie for a post game snack. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The next time I saw Charlie Austin it was business.  A too familiar scene for us in the coming years.  A shooting in “The Bury” as Roxbury was known in the media. Roxbury, a predominantly Black Boston neighborhood, had been the focal point of simmering tension and violence for several years since the assassination of Martin Luther king sparked  protests in many minority communities across the country. I’d seen it before during my network tenure.

This was different for me.  New city, new community, new faces. I was very anxious as my crew and I arrived, the last news unit on the scene. I surveyed the crowd, taking in all the faces. Local residents,  police units, clergy, and lots of politicians. I didn’t know anyone.

Charlie Austin spotted me.  He walked over and the eyes of the crowd followed him. Charlie stopped in front of me, small smile and embraced me with a “How ya doing,  Garry?”  I was startled and grateful.

Charlie’s welcome gesture was my entrée to Roxbury and all gathered for the story. We shook hands and Charlie rejoined his TV crew. I knew, from previous experience, not to roll film on the initial speakers.  Politicians with “Kumbaya spins” to the violence, the victims, and the suspects. I glanced at Charlie.  His crew wasn’t filming either.

We exchanged knowing smiles. I essentially followed Charlie’s pursuit of interviews.  It was clear he knew all “the players”. It was a strategy I’d follow for a long time until I became familiar with the city.

I learned on many stories that I’d been successful because I knew Charlie Austin.  He opened doors that were shut to other reporters. When I tried to thank him,  Charlie shrugged it off with that crooked grin.

Charlie knew about my hearing problems. He often would take me aside to make sure I had the correct spelling and pronunciation of people and places.  He did this as we both faced similar deadlines.

Charlie and I saw a lot of each other during the volatile Forced Busing School Desegregation years in Boston. It was a period that tested the mettle of many reporters. Only a handful of journalists had full access to both white and minority communities as Boston found itself under an international spotlight. The 6th largest TV market in the country had very few minority reporters.  You could count us on the fingers of one hand.

A few months ago, former Mayor Ray Flynn noted, in an email exchange, how much he appreciated the efforts of some reporters during that volatile period.  Charlie Austin topped Mayor Flynn’s list. I remember how Charlie handled the most difficult, potentially explosive situations.

Poker faced, with a small smile and a gesture that said, “I’m listening to you.”

Charlie’s humanity defused anger and bitterness on both sides of the issue. He didn’t play “the race card” in his reports. He saw the frustration on the faces of families and understood there was a common quest — regardless of skin color — for quality education. Charlie Austin’s reports, delivered in firm manner minus attitude or political agenda,  set the tone for local reporters. It helped me and others do our jobs.

We gritted our teeth when network reporters swept in, leaned on street optics, did often biased and inaccurate reports and swept out-of-town.  Charlie and the rest of us had to repeatedly clean up the messes.  Charlie led the way with his non theatrical, honest reports. He set the bar for the rest of us.

It was a very high bar.

Charlie’s friendship extended beyond work. He knew I needed something more than the job. He was instrumental in getting me involved with the legendary Elma Lewis and her “Black Nativity”  production which now is part of the fabric of Boston’s Arts and Culture community.  I played one of the three Wise Men for several years.  A short time on stage but it was a wonderful experience for me.  It made me feel like I was part of the community,  thanks to Charlie Austin.

In costume for Black Nativity

Charlie rarely talked about his many health issues.  Others thought of him as heroic but Charlie would not have any of such talk. He did proudly show off pictures of his wife, Linda and daughter, Danielle.  Danielle was the bright light in Charlie’s eyes.  His face always swelled with pride and love.

I wish I’d seen Charlie more often in recent years.  He played such a large part in my life and I never got to thank him properly.

He’s probably listening right now with that crooked grin lighting his face.

“Thanks, CHUCK!”

CHECKING IN WITH MYSELF – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I haven’t written an introspective blog in a long time. I’ve written about things that have happened in my own life and stories about other members of my family. I’ve written a lot about the political situation in America and the social schisms it has created. I’ve written about my dogs and the weather and what I’ve watched on TV.

But I haven’t checked in with myself recently – and there have been some internal resets. Over the past six months, I’ve had some uncomfortable and inconvenient but not serious medical issues. I forgot how closely one’s mental state shadows one’s physical well-being.

Constant physical issues for months at a time can really take a toll, both mentally and physically. I was chronically exhausted. No energy for anything. That translated to demoralization and withdrawal. Doing anything outside of the house became a big deal.

I started believing that my life was seriously lacking in many ways. I fixated on those deficiencies and my glass suddenly became half empty instead of half full.

When I started feeling better physically, I could step back and see where my body had dragged my mind. I realized I had to turn myself off and then back on again. I had to totally reboot my attitude.

I realized that I am, in fact, fine as I am. My life is fine as it is. Is it what I wanted, ideally at this stage of my life? No. Is it where I imagined I’d be at my age? No. Is that bad rather than just different? No.

Me and my dogs

I wanted to be a grandmother by my age, with a life revolving to a great extent around my nearby adult child and my grandchildren. Many of my friends are ecstatic and devoted grandparents. But I’m not a grandmother. And the most likely child to give me grandchildren in the future lives in LA, 3000 miles away.

As a retired person, I expected to be part of an active and gratifying social life with my large group of local friends. But people moved away. My remaining best friends still work 60 hour weeks and have limited time to socialize. As a result, Tom and I spend a lot of time alone with each other.

But this doesn’t make my life bad or inferior or deficient. Just different than planned or expected. I can’t compare my life to other people’s lives. I can’t measure my life against my past expectations.

Am I actually happy spending most days at home with my husband and my dogs? Yes! Am I fulfilled reading, writing blogs and working on our Audio Theater Group? Yes! Do I love my wonderful friends spread all around the country plus England and Germany? Yes!

So I wake up happy every morning, looking forward to another quiet but satisfying day. I focus on what I have and who I share it all with. I’m good. I’m lucky. And I’m grateful. I just have to try to keep this positive outlook when my body throws me the next curve.

TENDING TO EVERYTHING SORT OF

What doesn’t need tending? 

Dogs and people. Plants and cleaning. Bills. Order, Re-orders. Writing. Reading. Writing about reading. Reading about writing. Reading everybody else’s stuff, but trying to find the typos in mine.

Reading a book during the day for a competition, but reading another one at night, because it’s beautiful and it deserves my attention. Not tending to the one I was reading before the next one I just started reading, but stopping the reading I’m doing because I want to listen to a little of that other, sillier book.

I am tending to everything and trying to figure out if Duke is injured or just playing with me, so I made a date with the vet tomorrow afternoon. I should be calling the guy fixing our car to find out when it will be ready. I’m sure I should be doing something else too, but I don’t remember what.

I’m tending to me, tending to him, tending to them and I think I need to go to the bathroom. I will tend to that very soon.

REFLECTING — THE YEAR THAT WAS

REFLECTIONS

A lot of us have a lot of things upon which we can reflect. Many of them are at the very least, unpleasant and many verge on Perfectly Awful and Deeply Depressing. I thought it was time to skip morbid and just run with beautiful, so this is a collection by Garry and I of our favorite reflections for this year.

Here’s hoping for a better year to come. May we all have a peaceful holiday or at least, a peaceful slide from darkest, longest nights of winter to the lengthening days of Spring to come.