Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Imagine!'s Leadership Development Program Update for March

This month has given Imagine!’s Leadership Development Group (LDG) group a chance to touch on many different areas and activities. After the initial planning phases, both groups are working hard researching and beginning to outline their case study projects. We look forward to sharing what we learn as we continue with this process.

We also attended the first class in the Great Leaders series, offered through Mountain States Employers Council, on How Great Leaders Build Trust. The class talked about the importance of trust in working relationships, common pitfalls to having trust within your team, and strategies for building relationships that foster trust. This class focused on looking critically at your own behaviors, and how they influence those around you. Trust must be built on a balance of valuing people and delivering results; as we all assessed ourselves, we realized that our strengths tend to lie in one area or another. For some, it is easier to focus on the outcomes and not actively invest in relationships, while others have an easier time relating to teams of people, but difficulty in holding these teams accountable to results. Being aware of the importance of both aspects allows us to reflect on current behaviors and improve them as we learn. We look forward to building on what we learned next month!


A final highlight of the month was discussing the book The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida. Naoki has autism, and wrote the book using an alphabet grid when he was 13 years old. In the book, he attempts to answer the questions that his family and society have about his behaviors, and how autism affects his life. The book has such a different perspective from other books that discuss intellectual and developmental disabilities. It gives insight into the self awareness that Naoki has about his autism and how much he knows, but can’t control. Reading his account of his experiences, which are laid out with honestly and thoughtfulness, encourages us to look beyond the surface behaviors of those around us. Often our reactions and own behaviors exasperate the challenges of others. As David Mitchell, who wrote the introduction to the book, points out, it’s important to really consider which behaviors, “aren’t symptoms of autism but consequences of autism, its harsh lockdown on self-expression and society’s near-pristine ignorance about what’s happening inside autistic heads.” There is no one account that can capture the experience of every individual, and we discussed at length how Naoki’s account is very true for him, but may not be true for all. Elena provided some insight into how Naoki’s Japanese culture may have influenced his perspective, and how a westerner may have answered the same questions defiantly.

Understanding what’s happening inside anyone’s head is complex, and the limited capacity of language to capture the abstract concept of emotion limits us. Whether Naoki’s experiences are true just for him, or offer a more universal insight into the thinking of those with autism, The Reason I Jump forces readers to think and experience to world of those who think differently. Naoki ends the book with this thought: “I think that people with autism are born outside the regime of civilization. Sure, this is just my own made-up theory, but I think that, as a result of all the killings in the world and the selfish planet-wrecking that humanity has committed, a deep sense of crisis exists. Autism has somehow arisen out of this. Although people with autism look like other people physically, we are in fact very different in many ways. We are more like travelers from the distant, distant past. And if, by our being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for Earth, that would give us quiet pleasure.”


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