Monthly Archives: February 2016

Reflections from Emerging Leaders Academy Graduate: Angela Harshbarger

Comments Delivered By Angela Harshbarger, Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS
On January 29, 2016

ELA Graduate Angela Harshbarger

During the graduation ceremony, Angela Harshbarger shares what she gained by participating in the Emerging Leaders Academy.
©2016 University of Kansas (source: Marcom)

We have made it to graduation. For those completing the class today, we are probably reflecting on the things that we have learned and the fun that we have had along the way. For our guests, you are probably wondering what it is exactly that we have been doing these past few weeks. What if I told you we have been working on becoming one-buttock players? Let me explain.

On our first day of ELA we watched a presentation by Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, titled The Transformative Power of Classical Music. In his presentation, Mr. Zander talks about how part of his job as a conductor is to awaken in others the possibility to love classical music. He compares the process to a child learning to play the piano. At first, the child drives the music by playing each note forcefully and with purpose. With time and practice, the child’s playing progresses and they begin to focus more on the melody, so that now every few notes are played with emphasis. After a couple of years the child is playing almost fluidly with confidence and passion.

So what changed? Remember, in the beginning the child was the driving force behind the music. In time, the child has come to appreciate the experience of playing. He or she is so moved by the music that their body shifts in response until they are now sitting so that they lean to one side, becoming a one-buttock player.

So how does this translate to leadership? For us, the last few weeks have been like learning the piano. In the beginning we were so focused on taking in the information about what good or great leadership looks like, but by the end we were more focused on the actual experience of being a leader. We have become open to new possibilities that leadership brings with it.

Our task is now to awaken those possibilities in others. In order to accomplish this, we spent some time learning about our own strengths, those things that we do that energize us the most. Imagine what we can be inspired to accomplish if we spend more time doing the things we enjoy. And, what if we were to take that same opportunity and apply it to those around us? What would it look and feel like to work with staff that truly wants to be where they are, rather than feels like they have to be? This is just a little bit of what I will take with me from ELA.

Noel Rasor, we are grateful to you and all of those involved in ELA for giving us this opportunity. To our family, friends and guests, thank you for supporting us today and always. To my classmates, our work is not finished. Learning the theory and the principles of leadership was the easy part. It is time to put it into practice.

I would like to finish with a quote by Peter Bergman, from his article “Why So Many Leadership Program Ultimately Fail”: There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders. I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn’t know enough about leadership. In fact, I can’t remember ever meeting a leader who didn’t know enough about leadership. What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. It’s not just about knowing what to say or do. It’s about whether you’re willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying or doing it.”

Thank you.