Growing up, I understood the value of teamwork in a shallow, theoretical, end of a Barney episode kind of way.
Even playing team sports (that my mother made me play and I hated), I only had an appreciation for the social dynamics of teams. The intricacies of group work were over my head. In my mind I always dreamed of being a superstar and charismatic figurehead who did everything great and on his own. In school I dreaded working in teams. I’d much rather do a project by myself so it would all be done my way and so I was guaranteed to get an A+. Group projects tended to mean working with the less capable and less ambitious. Twice in high school I had an assigned group mate pay me to do the work by myself and to just do what I say come presentation time. It was excellent. There were rare occasions where I was paired up with a great ensemble and those moments were and are the things I dream about. More on that later.
I’ve always been an effortless and idealistic visionary. I can imagine the final product in extravagant detail. My mind’s eye is convincing to a fantastical fault, borderline delusional. Unfortunately, for most of my life, my imagination and strategizing has far exceeded my ability to execute. So many ideas and projects never came to life because of my inability to entertain pragmatism or to break big pictures down into small actionable steps.
There were two experiences in my life where I learned the value and necessity of an organized, multi-talented, well led team. One was my after school gospel choir in high school where I was 1 of 3 directors and the other my college community service scholarship program where I was 1 of 2 student presidents. I learned to lead with passion, how to delegate responsibility, how to share the spotlight, and how to depend on others. I saw the importance of deeply knowing the talents of your team and being able to activate those when necessary. I’ve internalized the qualities of servant-leadership.
As a result I am much more practical and don’t get too carried away with my many big ideas. I live for good leadership and even more so for a great team. My favorite movies and shows are those with an ensemble cast playing diverse and multitalented characters who all play their part to accomplish a common goal. Oceans 11, Inception, Scandal, Agents of SHIELD being some of my favorites! There would be occasions in college where we got to pick teams and I happened to be in a class with folks I knew could get the job done. Those moments were wet dreams. A collection of known superstars each taking a piece of the work and creating something phenomenal.
When I set the goal to start a school, I tried to keep in mind that it was not something I could accomplish alone. I had to find a powerful team of people who would believe in me and my mission, a group that would huddle around a cause and could help to make it happen under my leadership. Situations have happened and I have a group of very skilled people willing to work to make this school happen.
Unfortunately for my ego and sense of accomplishment, this team is not really united under MY leadership or for MY cause. It’s more of an egalitarian, collaborative effort. It’s a collabradoodle and we’re all putting our own contributions into the art. With that I’ve had to compromise a lot of the finer details I imagined. It’s felt like the fair thing to do in depending on others. If I don’t allow (not that I’m actually allowing anything but more dealing with it) others autonomy then it’s really just me micromanaging people who I am supposed to be working WITH.
Not to say that this collaboration has not been beneficial but the angst of it all has churned some old frustrations I have with teamwork and being a dreamer. When I’m feeling really bratty I say to myself, “this is MY dream, MY goal, MY life and livelihood! everyone else is freeloading and co-opting MY vision! I shouldn’t have to entertain this conversation anymore as I’VE made up MY mind!” As you can see, there’s a lot of 1st person singular language in there. It’s been a pretty long and annoying year waiting for folks to catch-up to something I’ve already realized or decided. Also, having to go along with a preference that others want when I’m leaning in a different direction. I’ve had to let a lot of things go. I’m still working on letting those things go.
From the beginning this effort wasn’t about me and I struggle to embrace the way things have come about. What I originally imagined was this being “Anthony’s school” in people’s minds and over time I would slowly release my possessiveness of it as I built a community I could trust to take care of it. It’s possible that the way things have happened, collaborative ownership from the start, is better for the school. I don’t know. I just know I’m still working at it and I still have A LOT (most of it) to work on.