[nfbmi-talk] Leadership & Empowerment Revisited

Terry D. Eagle terrydeagle at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 4 14:37:06 UTC 2014

Given the tone and judgment of some on this list in the past day, I offer
and revisit the May 8 post by Terri Wilcox.  Justin's final paragraph says
all that needs to be said.


Too bad and how sad this was not the focus, theme, and content  of the
leadership seminar held in September, rather than an agenda and event that
took on an atmosphere and result of division, disempowerment and
discouragement of valuable members without a title, and who have a genuine
dedication to the NFB philosophy and mission.

>From Terri Wilcox:

"     I was just reading an article from the April Braille Monitor. I
thought it was excellent and so I am posting it to the list. Have fun
reading it. I thought it was really neat how Justin Salisbury thought
through Dr. Maurer's Banquet address from last year and applied it to his
field of study. He shows how each of us using power can help empower others
in our Affiliate. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did."  --Terri


Braille Monitor                                              April 2014


Economics of Leadership: Is Power Rival?

by Justin Salisbury


>From the Editor: Justin Salisbury is a doctoral student in Agricultural and
Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from
Connecticut, he earned his bachelor's degree at East Carolina University and
then attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind. He has been active in our
movement everywhere he has lived. Here's what Justin has to say:


Justin SalisburyThe science of economics is the allocation of scarce
resources to achieve maximum well-being. All finite resources, including air
and sunlight, are considered scarce. One characteristic in economics which
helps define the type of good is whether or not the good is rival. If a good
is rival, one person's consumption of it restricts another person's ability
to consume it. For example, if I buy an NFB of New Jersey Whozit necktie,
there is one fewer Whozit necktie available for you to buy. If I eat a
banana, that banana is gone, and it is most unlikely that anyone else will
ever be able to eat it.



At the banquet of the 2013 National Federation of the Blind Convention,
President Marc Maurer said, "One misunderstanding about the nature of power
is that this commodity is finite, limited in quantity, and shared only by
the fortunate few. To get power it is (according to some) necessary to seize
it from the hands of others."


Someone with this misguided philosophy views power as rival. Such a person
would say that, if I exercise power, there is less power available for you
or your neighbor to exercise. If I exercise power, someone who views power
as rival would view me as a threat to her own power.


In the National Federation of the Blind, we work together to enhance each
other's ability to exercise power and thus empower each other. Whenever I
read an article or hear a speech delivered by another Federation leader, I
am learning how to do better work myself. When Trevor Attenberg writes a
brilliant letter, I get out my dictionary and absorb a masterly articulation
of the capacity of blind people, or a new approach to conflict resolution. I
can then use those techniques to enhance my power, and Trevor's exercise of
power actually adds to mine. It does not subtract from it. This experience
provides a counterexample and argues that power is non-rival.


I now serve as legislative coordinator and first vice president of the
National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin (NFBW) and president of our
Dane County Chapter. NFBW President John Fritz always supports and
encourages my efforts. His support and encouragement empower me further, and
any power that I have adds to the power of our affiliate. As our affiliate
grows more powerful, the power of each affiliate member in turn increases.
When we empower each other, we empower ourselves, too.


By contrast, someone who views power as rival might think he has an
incentive to try to undercut and undermine the potential for power in anyone
else who might exercise it. Such a person could try to break apart every
other power structure in his/her affiliate in order to keep all of the power
around him/herself. Such a person would weaken the organization and
therefore weaken him/herself.


Though power is not rival, titles frequently are. There is only one
president of the Connecticut Association of Blind Students (CTABS). As long
as I am CTABS President, nobody else can also be CTABS President.


There is often a view that power intrinsically lies within titles. Some
believe that a president is powerful, at least in part, because she is
president. She has acquired the rival title of president and is thus
powerful. If this were true, then it would also mean that people without
titles automatically have less power. If we accept this idea, then we are
disempowering ourselves so long as we do not hold the top title in the
organization in question. The less power we have, the less power the
organization has, the less effective the organization will be, and the less
power each member has. If we disempower ourselves, we disempower our
presidents, executive directors, and the like.

If we want our movement to be powerful, we need to recognize that we all
have power as individuals and that power is non-rival. A transformational
leader is an agent of change, so every Federationist is a transformational
leader. A leader is powerful to the degree that he empowers others, so we
must empower each other, titles or not, to achieve equality, opportunity,
and security for the blind.


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