The Wrangler Community

July 29, 2010

No, not doggies, cowboys or rodeos. But, Jeeps. Yes, Jeeps!

I had wanted a Jeep Wrangler for many years and got my first one this past week. What I didn’t know until I began to drive one was that I had joined a club. Wrangler drivers apparently are a unique community unto themselves which is unknown to others.

As I drive my used Wrangler, I have begun to notice being noticed . . . by other Wrangler drivers. I first saw the oncoming headlights flicker. Then I began watching and hands waved at me. Even an occasionally subtle finger is raised over the steering wheel (no, not that finger). When Wrangler drivers end up at adjacent gas station pumps they automatically talk about . . . Wranglers. “Do you have running boards?” “Been four wheeling?” “Ever take the top off?”

No one told me about the club membership that came with Jeep Wrangler ownership. But, I like it.

And what is interesting is that in all probability, the only thing many Wrangler owners have in common is . . . the Wrangler. They don’t stop first to ask how much money they make, what professional licenses they hold, where they worship, are they married or committed to marriage. They don’t poll views on abortion, homosexuality or immigration first. They may get around to those topics, but those issues don’t seem to impact inclusion in (or require exclusion from) the Wrangler community.

Community is like that. When we find something we have in common which is important to us, other things become much less important.

Richard Cisik knows about that too. Rev. Cisik had been the chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals until he observed in a radio broadcast that without endorsing homosexual conduct he could not oppose gay civil unions if the law permitted them. In addition, after he remarked about climate change and the scientific evidence supporting the concept, his tenure at NAE was abruptly terminated.  Issues overwhelmed relationship.  Cisik hasn’t changed his fundamental views on most things religious, political or social.  On the conservative/liberal spectrum no one would consider him “progressive”.  His community expelled him because his views were not totally symmetrical with those that defined its leaders’ views on “acceptable views”.  98% congruence was inadequate.

I think I prefer the Wrangler community.  A cheap Jeep is all it takes to belong.  With Wranglers, the dialog on disagreeable matters doesn’t destroy community.


Dialog Takes Time: Military Leaders Stop for Tea

July 18, 2010

Greg Mortenson is an unlikely military adviser. However, the author of Three Cups of Tea has been consulted by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his successor Gen. David Petreaus on dealing with the insurgency in Afghanistan.

In Three Cups of Tea Mortenson tells his story of bridge building in Pakistan and Afghanistan following his rescue after a failed attempt at scaling the second highest mountain in the world, K2 in Pakistan. In gratitude to the Pakistani villagers who nursed him back to health, Mortenson returned to build a school for Pakistani girls. But first he had to build a bridge to get construction materials into the back country.

His book tells the story of how dialog and relationship building is changing the culture of these warring nations.

Interestingly, the wives of U.S. Military leaders were the ones who put their husbands onto Mortenson’s work. For no compensation and without contract, Mortenson regularly consults with U.S. Military leaders at their request about nation building, one conversation at a time.

Critical of “laptop warriors” who proved incapable of turning the tide of war in Afghanistan, Mortenson has promoted authentic relationship building as a tool which augments military strategy to conquer resistance to culture change.

This takes time which Al Qaeda and the Taliban are willing to invest in order to win the minds of their adherents.

It may take three cups of tea to begin to have authentic conversation with our adversaries. But that is time that could be very well spent in contrast to the limitless sums that can be spent to prolong the conflict.

U.S. Generals are beginning to agree.

Source: The New York Times, July 18, 2010

Leadership On-the-Spot: My Miscalculation

July 2, 2010

I hesitate to relate this story as my first official blog post, but why not throw out a doozy of a vulnerability right from the start?    

I am on a fantastic cross-departmental team that is (structurally) as flat as a pancake – no organizational authority, per se.   We have established trust, and work quickly and creatively toward our project goals.  After a lengthy planning meeting yesterday with my team and several guests, I realized in a de-briefing session that I had misappropriated my efforts in leading the conversation.     My impulsive decision to ‘take the reins’ during the meeting’s discussions was not welcomed by my comrades.   In a gut reaction to my impression of an awkward, mostly quiet beginning of a group meeting – I decided to lead the discussion – out of anxiety!    Major miscalculation.    And although I have tremendous respect for my teammates, I defintely felt sensitive to their post-meeting comments: “…we just weren’t prepared as a team” or “…we got way off track” and,  my personal favorite “…who was leading this meeting?”…

It was a moment of clarity, two hours too late.     After I got over my tendency to finger-point (why didn’t my team help me out?..why didn’t someone else jump in and take over?…why do I have to do all the talking?), I made up my mind not only to look before I leap – but think before I lead.