Byron's Babbles

Just A KISS of Leadership!

Posted in Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 25, 2014

IMG_0524.JPG There was a lot of reflection that went into preparing for this blog post. I am writing this at 7:32pm and I have to admit I started thinking about this at around 6:00am this morning during my personal growth time. In fact I have to admit that the inspiration for this post was disappointment. Disappointment in myself! As I was reading Sally Hogshead’s book, How The World Sees You, I was disappointed on two fronts. Let me be clear, though, none of my disappointment was with Sally or the book – both are AWESOME! I was reading the part of the book that describes the different archetypes and after the description of each she gives famous examples. As a part of the How The World Sees You experience you take a personality test to reveal how you can immediately command attention by putting your personality’s top advantage to work for you. After reading about the “Rock Star” I was disappointed I did not have this designation instead of “The Change Agent.” Now, I know there are no right or wrong archetypes and the whole purpose of the book is to learn to be all the you you can be. But, when thinking about the anthem (something you create while reading the book) for a Rock Star, I really thought that described me! The anthem example created for this archetype was: “Unorthodox Bold and Brave!” Now, if that does not describe me, I do not know what does! I’ll come back to that thought in a minute.

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My other disappointment was that Sally did not use Gene Simmons, KISS frontman and CEO, as the celebrity example. Great job Sally, because if you had, I would not have done all this quality reflecting (I know you were thinking of me). If Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (also a KISS frontman and chief songwriter), are not the ideal of this archetype I do not know who is. With over 100 million albums sold worldwide, KISS is arguably one of the biggest and most successful bands on the planet. Led by the marketing genius that is Gene Simmons, they continue to reach new audiences while engaging lifelong fans. Gene Simmons may be best known as the fire-breathing, bass playing demon in one of the most influential rock bands in history, but he can also teach us a thing or two about leadership.

Really my disappointment was more from the fact that these guys were (and still are) my idols growing up. Even though I chose a different career (and lifestyle) path, I want to be the Gene Simmons and KISS of the education world. That means everything from being polarizing to delivering the education that I wanted as a kid and that every child in the world deserves. I remember watching Gene Simmons in interviews and he would say,”We wanted to be the band we never saw and wanted to go see.” Let me tell you, if you have never been to a KISS show you are missing a great thing. Their anthem says it all: “You wanted the best, you got the best: KISS!” If that is not inspiring I don’t know what is!

Gene Simmons truly is a “Rock Star” and great example of a leader. He is a key member of my personal Mount Rushmore, which also includes, Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, and Patrick Henry. To give an example of the KISS leadership example I go back to an interview in April, 2014 during a great town hall interview on XM RADIO 39 HairNation following their induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where Gene said that he and Paul were always needing to try new “trepidatious” ways to perform! That’s what great leaders do! I promptly tweeted this (I’ve included an image of the tweet in this post). If you look up trepidatious you find the words: anxiety, anxious fear, and apprehension. So, that means they were being unorthodox, bold, and brave. Do you see the connection? Honestly, if you have not been to a KISS concert it will be hard for you to understand. Just suffice it to say, they were cutting edge. Heck, they redefined the edge…heck, there was no edge!

In fact that reminds me of another interview that KISS had with Jay Leno. Leno asked Gene Simmons where KISS got their edge. Without hesitation, Gene answered, “Edge starts with self.” Wow, that was several years ago, but is a perfect anthem for the great work that Sally Hogshead is doing and the great personal growth provided by the How The World Sees You learning experience. Let’s say that again: “Edge starts with self!” That gives me goose bumps!

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I was in attendance at every KISS concert in Indiana. Yes I am a member of the KISS Army! I did not know it at the time growing up, but they were providing me with the greatest leadership lessons one could probably receive. The personal mission statement I have used for years has been: “I deliver wowful educational leadership!” I believe there is a little resemblance to “You wanted the best, you got the best!” don’t you? I have never had the honor of meeting Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley in person, but it is certainly on my bucket list! I would thank them for the leadership lessons I learned from them. Another inspiring quote from Gene Simmons is: “You have to understand that nothing appeals to everybody.” In other words you cannot be everything to everybody, but you must be the best you can be – another reason why Sally’s work is so important. KISS has always maintained a steady fan base by giving their fans what they wanted, and knew that they would never be able to please everyone. You are inevitably going to have critics; the important thing is to not let them derail your strategy. KISS has truly modeled for us how to be the greatest you, that you can be. There are none better at building a brand and trying bold and new ways to satisfy their customers. Think about if every child was as big a fan of their education as those of us in the KISS Army are of KISS. Watch out China and Finland!

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Now, back to my archetype – The Change Agent. I was a little hard on Sally Hogshead at the beginning of this post, but really it was in respect for the way she made me reflect on my own archetype. I was falling in the trap she talks about in her book. I was trying to fit in another archetype and not my own. Again, I need to be all the me I can be. The Change Agent really perfectly describes me. Anyone who knows me, knows the adjectives that describe how the world sees me of Untraditional, Inventive, and Self-Propelled really fit me to a tee! My personal report (you all can get your own personal report when you get the book and do the assessment too) says that I am a creative thinker who thrives on reinventing, I am independent, witty, and sharp, I have a strong drive to come up with a different approach, and I bring alternative opinions to dull meetings, and fresh ideas to stale companies. I would say these are all the advantages that have enabled me to be a successful school, particularly turnaround schools, leader.

Then I went back and thought about wanting to be a “Rock Star.” In reflection I need to follow Sally’s advice and be all the me I can be. In my world as a public servant I cannot be as unorthodox as I would maybe like to be because I do have to worry about what the public thinks and desires. Context has to matter to me. Different contexts may require different strategies and maybe even different skill sets. Without context there is no meaning and then everything becomes unorthodox. In education I deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity on a daily basis. As a “Change Agent” I have to use hindsight, insight, and foresight on a daily basis to find creative, untraditional, and inventive ways to improve education for the staff and students I serve.

I am so excited to be a “Change Agent.” The anthem I created during the exercises of the book is: “Energetic Change Agent!” Pretty appropriate for a guy who believes that leaders make the future, don’t you think?

In closing, I want to give you all a personal challenge: Read Sally Hogshead’s book, How The World Sees You; and go to a KISS concert (or at least watch a video of one). It’s time for you to be all the you you can be, too!

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