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Your Dreams, Questions and Bridges Influence Others

 “Damon’s presentation was a great kickoff for the day. The references he made to big dreams and building bridges were themes that carried throughout the Summit.”

-Kirk Seminoff, Managing Editor, Wichita Business Journal

By Damon Young, Chief Business Officer.

Recently I was asked to offer the opening keynote for the Wichita Business Journal’s ICT Summit.  This half-day event gathered community stakeholders for an update on workforce, economic and community development initiatives.

As I prepared my remarks, two things were on my mind. The first was an article from Harvard Business Review I read recently on the importance of mindset development to the success of leadership programs. This got me thinking about the framework of the Kansas Leadership Center: how much of it is ‘skills based’ vs. ‘mindset based’?

You see, I believe that for us to make progress on our challenges in private and civic life, it is vitally important to recognize that coalitions are made up of people. People who have individual and collective mindsets that contribute to the ultimate success or failure of initiatives we care about the most.

Amidst this care, concern, and aspiration, it is important to find a common and consistent language to make progress as coalitions and as individuals. This language can serve as a bridge, both between our mind and skill sets and perhaps even between each other.

Your People Are Not Enough

In the Wichita region (and I’m sure we are not alone), there are the ‘faithful few’ who come to these types of events. These are my people. I love them. Many of them have positions of leadership; many operate on thin capacity margins to keep doing this collective work.

I love the faithful few. But they are not enough to make the kind of progress we seek. We need more people thinking, dreaming and leading these efforts. To be sure, those in positions of authority play an important part in community, workforce and economic development. But it is critical that those who are not in positions of authority partner and participate in forming plans that will ultimately shape the future of our region.

With this in mind, I decided to speak from the heart to this group about the necessity of growing our numbers by using our influence versus our authority, in three practical ways.

Dream Big Dreams (and talk about them)

Theologian Howard Thurman once said, “As long as a person has a dream in their heart, he cannot lose the significance of living. We cannot continue long to live if the dream in the heart has perished. It is then that they stop hoping, stop looking, and the last embers of their anticipations fade away.”

When we share our dreams, we encourage others to share theirs as well. Together, we fan embers that will grow into a bigger fire of anticipation of what could be. A mentor once told me, “Damon, dream a dream so big, even your momma doesn’t think you can do it!” This has stayed with me. I want to dream dreams that require me to work with others because the dream would be impossible to achieve alone. Not only that, but when we dream really big dreams and talk about them, we disrupt the status quo and give notice that the hearts of humans bent toward the common good will innovate and improve beyond our own comfort and complacency.

Love Through Questions

Ken Coleman once said, “Good questions inform, great questions transform.” It is a true act of love to model “I don’t know.” This acknowledgement empowers the creativity of others. Additionally, I think it takes real work to prepare great questions and self-management not to deploy ourselves in a solution in our own image, but in a spirited curiosity that creates more possibilities. What might happen if more of us posed great questions to those around us without proposing our answer?

Radically Build Bridges

I’m becoming convinced that bridges in our personal, civic, and political lives are burning down for profit or sport at a dangerously alarming rate, and it is the responsibility of all positional leaders who care for the greater good in our communities to run (don’t walk) to radically re-build these bridges. How can we model empathy, compassion, and curiosity toward those that are on the ‘other side’?

I’m not suggesting we abandon our beliefs or values and compromise in the middle on every issue. What I’m suggesting is that we honor our heritage and values when we demonstrate these positive characteristics and give them to our ideological opponents as a gift. Biblical scripture exhorts us to “Love your enemies;” it does not say we must agree with them. We can give the gift of love and still respectfully disagree. What would be more possible if we enjoyed good will relationships with more of our ideologically different friends (and enemies)?

Without dreams, questions and bridges, we are more alone, with less hope. My aspiration is that these three ideas—dreaming big, loving through questions, and radically building bridges—spread, and that more people join our movements across the region to create a better future for all of us.

Damon Young is chief business officer at the Kansas Leadership Center.

Damon is calling us to acts of leadership. Learn to build your skills and shift your mindset with KLC. 

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