🖋 Born only a few years after the Staple Singers started, my home was a constant hub of activity from our Church. I have never asked why, but my parents managed the College Kids group at First United Methodist Church of Richardson, Texas. So many of my basic Beliefs came from this season, it is hard to even remember where things started. Certainly, I have always thought of Church as a fun place – we had big parties both at the house and at Church, and as my Dad would always add, without the need of alcohol to have fun 😉
Texas Instruments was just down the street, and managed to attract kids from all over the globe to be “interns” there, many seeking a Church away from home. So our home was full of all races and sexes constantly. I remember vividly my first Korean Egg when I was probably 3. It was second nature to see all colors and races not only participating… but leading and managing with their own unique talents. The backyard 4-square tournaments were brutal, and were often won by those that you would never guess had the killer instinct 😉
My wife played a podcast (at about 1 hour 15) recently by John Mark Comer about the 5 foundations of Christianity that resonated with me both personally and professionally. It talked about qualities of the early Church that were radical for the times. They fit with many of my own Beliefs, and challenged me to think again about them, particularly this Christmas week. As I have trouble remembering 3 things unless I write them down, I am going to use those 5 for the framework this week. If you are not a Believer, there will be parallels to what is needed to revive leadership in the world.
🎵 From the start, the voice that really dominated the Staple Singers came from the youngest member of the group. Mavis, which means “Songbird”, grew up surrounded by music and fun and I think you can hear that in every note she sings. And – that low tone was revolutionary. One person was recalling the first time they heard the group on the radio, and commented on “who is that man??”… only to be informed it was “… a 12-year-old girl”. Standing out from the amazing harmonies behind her, Mavis constantly brings the message out front, particularly on those early recordings with mostly Pops’ guitar providing the simplest structure.
Mavis is still with us, and I was honored to see her live recently here in Charlottesville on Tour. I will likely do a whole week of her music as a solo artist, particularly as it is a great story of redemption. With the Staples, Mavis helped power their pivot from just Gospel into what they soon would call “Story Songs” to power the Civil Rights movement – so integral to their popularity. Always upbeat and in major keys, yet with a focus on what Beliefs needed to change, it is hard to not smile … and have your Beliefs challenged when she is crafting her sonic tapestry for you. Today’s track is a later song, cresting at Number 3 as one of their most influential which is the theme for the day…
🖋 … the Church I grew up in during the early ’60s was radical like the early church. It took a stance for Multi-cultural inclusion, something that we now regard as a principle of the “left”. Even now it is hard to remember that in Jesus’ time, women were mostly looked down on – at best as property, and certainly not full partners in anything. And, His inner circle was full of women advisors, even some at the highest level of management. They were the first to answer his call (Elizabeth and Mary) and later would be the first to discover the truth of the Gospel, which was mostly ignored by the “men”…
…who were also multi-cultural. Jews, of course – the chosen people, but also Romans, Greeks, Aramaics, and as I learned recently, radicals who vehemently opposed each other. A Zealot who was calling for the destruction of the Roman Empire… and a Tax Collector who was furnishing the funding for that said Empire. Radical management from the start… in the same meetings, same travels, sleeping out in the wilderness together. It reminds me of the famous Woody Allen Line – “The lion and the lamb may lay down with each other, but the lamb doesn’t get much sleep”.
My Beliefs, formed this early, were that idea: more, and all of the different people made for better – everything. Parties, sure, but discussions. As a little boy I watched the discussions of war and Vietnam by people who had to face that radical conversation for themselves – not others. managed Respectfully, but radical in the challenges they presented to each other. And willing to call each other to account for what they Believed… and how that played out in what they actually saw, which after all, is what Beliefs are about.
Radical management – do you Believe in it? Today we are being called to account for our stance, and I am afraid that most of what I see is simple signaling and divisive – not well thought out or grounded in what makes a difference. Sure – different everything – but that includes thoughts and positions. Are you actively cultivating the voices around you personally and professionally that disagree with you? Probably rarely – and it is radically important. Leadership Science proves better decisions are managed when teams have and listen to those voices… and are often the first voted off the island by the team. Radical often means isolation after contributing.
So as you think about your management Beliefs, what will help you be radical, and approach Multi-Culturalism with more than a checkbox understanding? As I experienced from my earliest memories, diversity is real, and better if you can actually know people that are different than you – in every vector. So think about it as you hear Mavis call us to action, still needed after nearly 50 years. And don’t let that bouncy, upbeat tune fool you – these lyrics take no prisoners: Take A Hand, Make A Friend if you Can.
If you’re ready come go with me
Will be tolerated
Peace love all between the races
Love is the only transportation
To where there’s communications
If you’re ready come go with me
The boat is after
The ever here to there
No wars will ever be declared
No economical exploitation
No political domination
Take your evil
Come go with me
You better get ready now
I’m waiting on ya