was growing up I rode a bus to school. It was one of those
big yellow school buses that hold lots of children. A world
of experience happened on those buses, and it was on that
bus that I first developed a concept of leadership. All because
of Mr. Torgeson.
Mr. Torgeson was our bus driver. To most
of the adult world, he probably appeared to be an ordinary
man. I realize now that he must not have ranked high in
the social and economic hierarchy, but to those of us who
spent time with him every day, he was a consummate leader.
I never heard Mr. Torgeson raise his voice.
I never saw him lose his cool. Quiet and steady, calm and
peaceful, in his daily actions he served his community.
As a result, in some inexplicable way, his presence altered
our destinies. On our bus, kids didn't get into fights.
On our bus, children showed up on time. On our bus, everyone
knew what it felt like to be respected.
This was not so much the case on other buses,
or when other bus drivers drove our route. That's how I
knew that the difference was Mr. Torgeson.
Contrast this with our cultural images of
leadership, exemplified by real estate mogul Donald Trump
and his trainees in the reality-TV show "The Apprentice."
That kind of leadership is about winning. It's about doing
whatever it takes to come out on top. It's about rallying
the troops and charging ahead. Above all, it's about making
money. For me, it raises this question: Money-centered leadership
may create a lot of money, but does it create a better world?
That is the crux of the challenge that faces
those who would be leaders with their money in a culture
that places so much importance on wealth and its amenities.
When making money is what matters in a society-not how ethically
it is made, not how humanely employees are treated, not
how much good is done with the money once it is made, and
certainly not how those who are making the money live their
lives-how do you use your money and the influence it brings
you to counteract cultural stereotypes about leadership?
How do you lead with money in a way that creates a better
life for all?
As I was interviewing people for this issue,
I noticed something I had not specifically thought about
before: that leadership, by definition, occurs in community.
A "leader," as a created identity, exists only in relation
to others. As David Friedman notes (p. 14), a true leader
is here to serve his or her community. Like Mr. Torgeson
serving the community of bus-riding children, their parents,
and school officials, leaders lead by contributing to the
common good, whatever role they play in their community.
This kind of leadership was subtly captured
in a story by a Russian author that I once read. It was
about a woman who lived a simple life in a community filled
with everyday trials and tribulations. She welcomed those
who came to her door, provided space for conversation and
connection, and gave simply from what she had. Of this woman
the author wrote, "She was the one woman without whom the
city could not stand."
How many of us are that one woman or man
in our own communities? I wonder: What if each of us were
to become that one? Not as the stereotyped image of an aggressive
and in-command leader, but through the contribution we make
by the force of our character, the generosity of our gifts,
the integrity of our values, or the simple power contained
in the respect we hold for others? Isn't that, in the end,
the kind of leadership that creates a better world?
This journal issue is meant to help us examine
our assumptions about leadership and money. What are our
images of leadership? What does it mean to exercise leadership
with, or in relation to, money? How do we lead in ways that
help, not hinder, our cause?
Such questions raise others: Who gets invited
to lead-and who is kept away from the table? Are you a leader?
Do you want to be? What holds you back, and what sets you
free to lead?
There is much food for thought in this issue:
Bob Kenny's ruminations on the imperfect but far-reaching
leadership of America's founders; Robert Fuller's reflections
on the problem of "rankism;" Rod McCowan's insights about
the influence of money on leadership in the public, private,
and nonprofit sectors; Ruth Ann Harnisch's practical tips
for those who are asked to lead; personal stories chronicling
the leadership journey. As always, however, this one publication
can only scratch the surface of the topic. The rest of the
discussion, reflection, and exploration fall to you. Each
of us has our own deeply rooted experiences with leadership.
Each of us brings unique insight to this topic. Ultimately,
the question this journal issue raises is: What is your
leadership role and how will you live it out?
Pamela Gerloff, Ed.D., is editor of
Than Money Journal
. Her prior publications and consulting
work in schools, businesses, and nonprofit organizations
has focused on learning, growth, and change. She holds a
doctorate in human development from Harvard University.
The views expressed in
More Than Money Journal
are not necessarily those of More Than Money. We encourage
and support respectful dialogue among people of diverse
viewpoints. In each journal issue, we provide a range of
perspectives on a topic to stimulate reflection, conversation,
and inspired action.
© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved