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Closing Session Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner Q&A

Posted Oct 22 2008 9:30pm

Lifemag_1961

LiveBlogging from the Closing Session

Q: What caused you to make leadership your love?

Jim:  I'll tell you my story. If you go back to 1961 in January and are able to find an old Life magazine, possibly somewhere in the attic or on eBay and you look on the cover, you'll see John Kennedy being inaugurated President.  Look below and count three people to the right, that's me.  I was in John Kennedy's honor guard as an Eagle Scout.  I look back and if there was one seminal moment that was it for me.  I became curious about what it took for someone to be there.  I then began a personal pursuit, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" . . . and joined the Peace Corps got involved in community service and starting thinking about what I could do to improve our fate.  Fast forward to 1981 at Santa Clara University.

This guy knocked on the door, it was Barry Posner.  He also told me that used to be his office and that if I needed anything I could ask him. I took him seriously and did ask him for help. We had a common interest in leadership and we haven't stopped since then. At least in retrospect, that is the one moment I most remember.

Barry: I haven't stopped helping Jim Kouzes ever since.  A lot of influences in my life: first of all it goes back to being the oldest child, a first generation college student in my family, my parents.  My parents owned a small business and shoe store, and when I got old enough I did the cash register, then stocked the shelves, and learned about responsibility. 

I was an undergrad at University of Santa Barbara from 1966 - 1970 and it was a tumultuous time for college students.  Lots of changes over 4 years. We didn't have classes my senior year, we mostly had demonstrations.  I got involved in a particular demonstration for different reasons and I remember a moment thinking about what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be, how destructive . . . and it made me think about me and about the power of a group without leadership. It has caused me over the years to think about liberating the leader within each of us, people are very, very powerful. 

Sometimes it is about the tyranny of organizations, we say, "they won't let us do it, they are responsible."  My interest is about making people more powerful to stand up to organizations and how collectively we can get together to make the world a better place.

--posted by Deb Nasitka

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