Colin Walsh/ Class 10: Leadership

by Colin Walsh

251. What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership isn’t just a trait, it is a way of life. A leader is on duty 24/7 and 365 days a year for the rest of their lives, because being a leader means leading one’s own life first. Being a leader is much more than just someone who tells people what to do. Leadership begins within a person. A leader must first lead themselves before they can lead anything else.  Leadership is the ability to be a leader.

In order to know what hot is, a person must first experience cold. Likewise, in order to know what a leader is, a person must know the opposite. The complete opposite of a leader is a follower. A follower is a person that wears a collar around their neck and is dragged through life by other people. They are a slave to everyone around them. The people that surround them tell them how to dress, what to do, when to do it, how to look, and how to act. Every action of a follower is viewed in a social mirror and compared to everyone else’s’ actions. Therefore, every action is decided for them.

A leader is the complete opposite. Leaders are individuals. They make all of their own decisions, based on their own values and goals. Leaders know what they want, and know how they are going to get there. Leaders don’t simply accept something as right because someone else said so. Every decision a leader makes, is made with a purpose. By leading their own lives, a leader sets the trend, instead of simply following it.

Overall, leadership is the ability to be a leader. A leader first leads their own way by choosing a path where they want to go. Then by traveling this path, they clear it for others to follow. A leader cannot lead anything without first leading themselves.

252. In what ways have your past decisions prepared you for leadership?

In my late teens, before I was arrested, I was the antithesis of a leader. I was a follower. Every decision that I had made was compared to what others’ opinion was of me. Immediately after being arrested, that all changed. I was then forced to become a leader in order to save my life.

Being a follower during my late teens led to my arrest. The choices that I was making weren’t my own thoughts. I was like a puppet, and my friends were like the puppet master. Unfortunately, the choices that I was making were wrong. These choices led to my arrest.

Following being arrested I was forced to become a leader. As soon as I was arrested I was no longer able to see any of my friends. Therefore, I was forced to think for myself, and make my own choices. Being in the county jail, under 23 hour solitary confinement, I realized that I was all alone in life. Therefore I myself was the only one to blame. I realized that I needed to regain control of my life. This is when I decided to become a leader.

My following decisions made me more of a leader. First, I wanted to immediately separate myself from the group that I was arrested with. In order to do that, I did what no on else in the situation did, I pleaded guilty. I took responsibility for my actions, thus separating myself. the decisions that I made from then on were my own. Every choice that I made from then on, led me closer to becoming a leader.

Now even though I am in prison, I am a leader. I don’t simply live like the stereotypical prisoner. I try to be an individual, and separate myself from the stereotype. Being an individual makes me a better leader.

The choices that I made in my late teens were the antithesis of leadership. Those choices perpetuated great failure. Following those nescient decisions, I chose to become a leader.

253. Where does leadership begin?

Leadership begins with a the person being the leader. People must be able to first leader themselves, before they can lead anyone else. If they can’t lead themselves, it is not possible that they can be a leader.

If  two people are lost in a desert and neither of them know where they are or where they are going. Which one is the leader and which is the follower? Clearly neither because they are both lost. But if one person knew where they where going, then they would be the leader. It is the same with anything else. It is only possible to be a leader if that person knows where they are going. Therefore it is obvious that leaderships must begin with the leader.

The leader must find their own way first, before they can lead anyone else. Otherwise, everyone is lost.

254. In what ways can an individual measure his capacity to lead?

A person can measure their ability to lead by the way that they lead their own lives. A person that can lead themselves successfully, has a great capacity to lead. By measuring this ability, a person can gauge their ability to lead.

By having accountability for themselves, people are able to measure their lives. People can hold themselves accountable by setting and achieving goals. This method forces a person to gauge themselves, thus gauging their ability to lead.

Leadership begins with the individual who is leading. Therefore for a person to gauge their ability to lead, they must first gauge themselves.

255. In what ways can an individual measure his effectiveness at leadership?

A person can measure their effectiveness of being a leader by measuring themselves. A person’s effectiveness in their own lives, directly reflects their effectiveness in general.

A person emanates leadership by leading themselves. By setting an objective and pursuing it until achievement, shows everyone  that a person is effective in leading themselves. This shows that this person can lead others identically. Living this life sets an example and clears a path for others to emulate and follow.

Nobody would trust an overweight personal trainer, a crazy psychologist, or a sick doctor, because if they were effective they would have first taken care of themselves. Likewise a successful leader must first prove to be successful in their own lives.

256. What does it mean to have a vision?

Having a vision means to see the end result without actually being there yet. In a plan it is the target that is aimed for, or the goal that is sought. If point A is where we are now, and point B is where we want to go, the vision would be point B.

Having a vision is like standing in New York City and deciding that you wanted to go to Rockefeller Center. That is the vision. You know why you want to get there, you may even be able to picture it. But the fact that you want to get there is your vision.

A vision is abstract, because it can only exist in the mind. Until it is implemented it isn’t real. Call it a dream, call it an aspiration , or a vision, whatever you call it, having one is the first step in a successful plan. You can’t hit a target that doesn’t exist.

257. How does a leader gauge the effectiveness of a plan?

Leaders gauge a plan before it is even created. This is the vision. Leaders have the ability to assess quickly whether or not something is worth pursuing. This ability is not magic, and anyone can do it.

Leaders first assess risk versus reward. Once they decide that a plan is worth pursuing, the leader picks an objective. With the end in mind, a leader will break this large objective into smaller manageable objectives. Then they set a timeline. With these objectives, and a timeline leaders are able to gauge their effectiveness. As each objective is reached in the correct amount of time, a leader knows that their plan is effective.

Knowing where you are, and setting a plan to get there gives a person the ability to gauge their plan.

258. Why would leadership require accountability tools?

Leaders would be wise to use accountability tools in every aspect of their lives. These tools show leaders whether or not they are on the right track. It allows a person to adjust as soon as a problem develops, instead of letting the problem grow. Without using these tools, leaders will leave things to chance, and can end up wandering in the wrong direction.

The only way to gauge progress is through accountability tools. Even if people know where they want to go, how do they know they are going to get there? The only way to know for sure, is through accountability tools.

259. How would a leader make the most effective use of accountability tools?

Leaders could make the best use of their accountability tools, by constantly referring to them, and by using them in every decision. That is how leaders can receive the greatest benefit from these tools.

Just like on any machine, leaders should constantly refer to their gauges. They can use these to constantly measure progress. Leaders should first identify their vision, and clearly define it. Once it is defined, they should map out a detailed, step by step plan, methodically planning every step. Then as they work through the plan, they should constantly check their progress. This is the only way to make sure that they are headed in the right direction, toward the goal. Just as a person would constantly refer to a map, making sure they make every right turn, leaders can make the most out of their plan by constantly referring to it.

260. How would you describe leadership by example?

Leadership by example means that the leaders must practice what they preach. It isn’t just telling people what to do, but showing them how to do it. Leading by example is about inspiring others to live by the values that the leader lives. Leaders, that lead by example, are writing the script for others through action.

This is the difference between a ruler and a leader. A ruler just makes orders without taking their own advice. Leaders, on the other hand, inspire people to want to follow them because they see the results of the leader’s actions.

Multiple management studies show that autocratic leadership is ineffective. These same studies show that leadership through example is one of the most effective management techniques.

Leadership through example is the only true form of leadership. If a person told another to go into the woods, and the other person went alone. The person that told them to do it is not leading anything. Now if the person actually went into the woods with the other, then he is leading. Until then he isn’t any different than the person that he is trying to lead.

261. What does leading with integrity mean to you?

Leading with integrity is leading in adherence to a strict code of ethics and values. If leadership begins with the individual then leading with integrity also begins with the individual.

For a leader to read with integrity, they must first live their own lives with integrity. This means living in accordance with set values. Then a leader must live in harmony and consistency with these personal values.

Always living with integrity is the only way to lead with integrity.

262. In what ways does personal leadership require an individual to put the concerns of others ahead of his own?

Personal leadership requires people to define their roles in life. They need to know their responsibilities. They also have to know what positions they hold. In order to serve these roles people must consider others before they consider themselves.

A person must define their roles in life. Whether they are a father, son, employee, or whatever, everyone has roles in life. When a person defines these roles they must consider others that are involved in the role in order to effectively serve that role. If a person is a father they must consider their son, if a person is a son they must consider their father. If they are an employee, they must consider their boss. This is the key to personal leadership.

263. How can our behavior in prison influence the lives of those we ask to support or sponsor us?

Our behavior affects everyone that is in our lives. The decisions that we make from the second that we wake up , until the time we go to bed, affect our own lives. By affecting our own lives, we affect the lives of everyone in our life.

Our lives are an aggregation of our choices. Our choices become our actions and actions form the lives that we live. In prison the rules of life don’t change. Since prison is such a restricted environment even small decisions can be life altering. Something as elementary as a snide comment to a guard, can result in disciplinary action. The consequences of these choices can completely change a prisoners life, thus changing the lives of the people that support the prisoner.

Every action that a person makes has a negative or positive reaction. Like a stone thrown into a pond, the stone does not only affect the water that it touches. It affects the entire pond. Our behaviors are the same as the stone. No man is an island onto himself, everyone is part of the mainland.

264. When living within the restrictions of prison boundaries, where can we turn for leadership training?

Even though a prisoner is very restricted within prison, it doesn’t mean that their time has to be totally useless. Prison is a great place for self improvement. One skill — among many — That a prisoner can train is their ability to lead.

A leader must be an individual. They must make their own decisions, and they must only take others opinions as suggestions, then use those opinions to make their own decisions. Prison is a great place to learn how to do this. When coming into prison, a new prisoner can be whomever they want. Therefore, if a prisoner wants to be an individual, this is a great place to start. A prisoner can train being a leader by training to be an individual. A prisoner can do this by taking control of their lives, and living a schedule that is beneficial to them.

Also, prisoners have access to a large selection of literature. I feel that reading is the best way to learn leadership techniques. By reading books, magazines, and newspapers, that can teach these techniques, a person can learn how to be a leader. Also by reading books about other successful leaders, a person can learn how to be a leader. Anyone can teach themselves a great amount of leadership techniques, by simply reading books and other publications.

One final source of leadership knowledge is through others who have experience and have knowledge in the field. Believe it or not, prison is full of people who have been CEO’s, other top executives, and even some political leaders. Many of these people have a lot of good knowledge to offer. They have many years of experience, and much to teach about leadership. From my experience, I have realized, that these people are very eager to teach and help others. Currently, I live with a man who has over 50 years of business leadership experience. He has been the CEO of multiple multi million dollar companies, and has built some of his own. He has multiple degrees, and even more knowledge. I constantly tap this knowledge and use it to train myself. Prison is full of people who are and were leaders. Learning from them is a great way to train in leadership.

Even though a prisoner is restricted and cut off from many valuable resources, they are not helpless. Prisoners still have multiple opportunities for self improvement. Through taking advantage of these opportunities a person can train themselves as a leader.

265. Describe an individual who has leadership skills that you admire?

There are multiple people that I admire for their leadership. There are historical figures, political leaders, and leaders of muli-billion dollar companies. But none of these people amount to the two people that I admire the most. I admire these two because I can relate to their journey.

These two extraordinary leaders are the epitome of leadership. Their many accomplishments are more private than public. Although these accomplishments have not yet made them famous, I know that they both lead lives that I believe to be quintessential leadership.

The first person is Michael Santos. He single handedly conquered a quarter century of prison time, in some of the roughest prisons in America. Not only did he simply survive through this, he thrived. He made a vision, early in his sentence, this vision was about being successful. Even though he couldn’t always control the conditions in which the system placed him, he controlled himself, and lead himself to the vision. He set a plan, and then followed it directly. This vision may have been 20 years in the future, but he kept it in sight, and stayed in the right direction until achievement. Michael has earned advanced degrees– that the majority of the world can only dream about– he formed a writing career from inside of prison, and that is only the most evident of his accomplishments. The list of his accomplishments can be published as their own book. Michael’s life matches and exceeds that of any of the greatest leaders in the history of the world.

The second person is Justin Paperny.  His leadership is almost identical to Michael’s. Like Michael, Justin formed a vision. Even though his life was uprooted when he was arrested, he still formed a vision. With this vision he formed a plan. Then with this plan he marched step by step following his plan. Eventually he reached his vision. This vision was also success, success through adversity.

These two great leaders exemplify leadership. They both first started by leading themselves. Once they successfully completed that, they are now leading hundreds of prisoner to the same success. This is what leadership is all about. They both are the greatest leaders that I know.

266. To what extent would emulating such leadership traits influence your prospects for success?

I predict — with great confidence– that by emulating the traits of successful leaders, I too will become successful.

This seems like common sense to me. By emulating the traits of great leaders, and following there greatest habits, then I too will become like them. They say that if it walks like a duck, it looks like a duck, and it sounds like a duck, then it is probably a duck. Likewise, if it walks like a leader, looks like a leader, and sounds like a leader, then it is probably a leader. So learning how to walk, talk, and look like a leader is important. Following in the ways of established leaders, will lead a person to success.

Leaders–who have succeeded– have proved, through their action, that their traits, and habits are effective. Their success didn’t happen by chance. These leaders have cleared the path to success. Following this path, stepping in each footprint, I believe will lead to the same place.

267. In what ways do our day-to-day actions show our commitment to personal leadership development?

Our day to day actions clearly show whether we are leading our lives, or our lives are leading us. Through choices and day to day actions, it is evident how a person leads their life.

A fisherman fishes, a baker bakes, and a leader leads. The activities that we choose to do define who we are. In prison it is the same. A person that chooses to waste their time watching TV, or sleeping all day, shows that life is controlling them. A person that chooses to use their time to better themselves shows that they are controlling their life.

Choosing to take control, shows that a person is leading their own lives.

268. How can a commitment to personal leadership development while in prison influence your relationship with people you haven’t yet met?

It is human nature that people are going to judge others. People always form opinions of others. Many times these opinions are based on little information. The only way that a person can change that opinion is to provide more information that is contrary to their opinion.

As for me, I know that I will be constantly subjected to a prejudice based on my past. I know also that I can influence this opinion. I know that I can do this by showing my commitment to personal leadership. This will be a long stride in influencing this prejudice.

269. In what way can the Straight-A Guide influence your prison adjustment?

The Straight A Guide acts as a guiding light in the dark tunnel of life. The Guide has a great and lasting affect on a prisoner’s adjustment. A prisoner that follows the Straight A Guide, positions himself for a successful life.

The Straight A Guide helps a prisoner stay focused on what is important. The guide forces a prisoner to set a vision. With this vision, a prisoner is more able to avoid the ambient noise that exists in prison. After a prisoner selects a vision, the guide forces them to set a plan. With the prisoner’s plan, he is even more focused. This focus plays a very important role in a prisoner’s adjustment. Finally, the guide encourages a prisoner to follow their plan step by step. By following their plan they spend their time working toward their vision, not wasting it. Doing these three simple things, through the Straight A Guide, will have a positive influence on any prisoner’s adjustment to prison.

Overall, the Straight A Guide is a recipe to success. It helps lead a prisoner from point A to point B. Any prisoner that completes that Guide will be more prepared to face the remainder of their lives.

270. In what ways can the Straight-A Guide influence your prospects for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release?

Upon release, the Straight A guide will still be an influencing factor in my life. The principles and values that I have learned, through the guide, will always be embedded in my life.

These principles that are guiding me through my self-improvement in prison, will guide me through the rest of my life. No matter where I go, or what I do, I will always apply these lessons. They will influence every decision for the rest of my life.

271. In what ways will you use the Straight-A Guide going forward?

Even though I am finished the Straight A Guide workbook, the real program is never over. I intend to use the Straight A Guide for the rest of my life. The Guide will influence every decision that I will make in my life.

For the remainder of my prison term, I intend to use the Straight A Guide to guide me through this time. I will continue to follow the plan that I have set, and to hold myself accountable along the way. This path will lead to my vision. Through these next two years, the Straight A Guide will guide me to success.

After my prison term expires, the Straight A Guide will continue to guide my life. I will use the principles of the Guide to guide me in ever decision that I make henceforth. As a student, employee, family member, and friend, the Straight A Guide will help me to fulfill all of these roles to the highest extent. The Guide will act as a road map, showing me where to turn, and where not to turn. Ultimately, I believe that the Guide will lead to success.

Even though I am finished this workbook, one cannot ever finish the program. There is no beginning and there is no end. The program is perpetual, and should be used accordingly.

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