Leaders and Celebrities - There is a Difference

Leaders and Celebrities - There is a Difference

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I attend Congress Woman Jan Schakowsky’s Power Luncheon every year as a guest of a dear friend and former board member Lynne Baker. The number of engaged leaders from across the state at the luncheon is notable. The first time I attended was years ago when Barack Obama was running for State Senator. I believe that pink is the color of friendship, I also believe that it is difficult not to be nice when wearing it. So I in the spirit of friendship am wearing my bright pink jacket.

Unfortunately I was running late for the event and they had already started the welcome. The luncheon is being held in this great big hall in the hotel, with great big doors. Just as I run in, the doors close, people turn to look and there I am, standing there in my pink jacket.

Barack Obama, who is at the front of the stage as he prepares to speak, looks at me and pointed to his watch, I was so embarrassed. I smiled and sat down to listen to Jan share this hilarious story about George W. Bush, where he is staring down at her chest and she is thinking why is he staring at my chest? She looks down and she is wearing a Barack Obama pin and she says to him, “It’s Obama, not Osama!” George replied, “Well I don’t know who he is.” And Jan replied, “WELL you will.”

Fast forward a few years later I am at the luncheon again and so are the Obama’s. Barack and Michelle are talking with other attendees. Both Barack and Michelle are very tall and handsome people; and intensely charismatic. Just then Barack looks at me and I speak and he says, “I see you made it on time this year.” He remembered me.

When you think about it, for politicians the most important currency they possess is the ability to know people, to connect with people and it starts with their name. In politics it’s especially important for people to be heard, because they are representatives of all the people. If you don’t remember anybody or dismiss people you lose that vital currency, you are bankrupt.

In another scenario, I was with a couple of staff members down at the Essence Fest as a speaker. Iyanla Vanzant also happened to be at the fest that year. I was really hoping to get a selfie with her but she stopped us in our tracks, and said, “I’m not talking selfies today.” Jerry (one of the staff), tries to tell her that it wouldn’t be for him but his boss, and she replied; “Hi Boss.” Fast forward to a year later, Jerry walked by her in Chicago, and she said, “hey I know you, how’s the Boss?.” But by then his perception of her had been colored by the first moment they shared, a time where he went unheard.

So it’s not just enough to possess the skill of remembering someone’s face, but to connect it to a feeling where someone feels respected, heard and empowered. Years ago at that Jan Schakowsky luncheon I was seen and the memory humbles me just as it taught me an important lesson about being on time. That is the difference between a leader and a celebrity.

About Sandee

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I believe that the definition of leadership is making opportunities for others. I am a leadership geek and find that the richest opportunities for all of our futures lie in education. I am a believer in reciprocity in education and that as educators we are both teacher and student. I believe that the world can be a classroom if we open ourselves to the notion that application, concatenation and liberation start with listening. Schedule Sandee to Speak

About i.c.stars

i.c.stars is a non-profit organization in Chicago for adults with a high school diploma or GED. Using project-based learning and full immersion teaching, i.c.stars provides an opportunity for change-driven, future leaders to develop skills in business and technology. To learn more go to www.icstars.org

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