I don't even know. A few weeks ago are go involved with a job painting. The operation was to restore the outside and inside of 96 windows. This was also to include sash replacement (a weight and pulley system used to keep window opened or closed). The uniqueness of the opportunity finds itself multi-layered. Not only had I arrived at this opportunity through the connection of a mutual friend, but my employer was contracted for this project by yet another mutual friend.
For the next 3 weeks I woke up every morning at 5:45 or earlier, and arrived on site to work by 7 am or earlier. It soon became apparent that I would be leading the crew that was to provide the labor for this project; much to my dismay. I never had a father to speak-of, he was absent to say the least, while I was hoping to be able to learn from this individual, a trade. As gods enjoy to do, they laughed at this aspiration and placed two older gentleman (>55), one white and the other black, a middle-aged Chicano man (late-thirties to mid-forties) who didn't speak much English; and on most days, even the boss would arrive and asked me what needed to be done.
For a while I was able to cope with the situation. Until another individual was hired who fell asleep on the second day. I had to pressure my boss to let him go. After all was said and done, my immediate boss thanked me for my persistence in the matter. As well, I brought on another kid who was quicker to listen and to work. Though the complaints continued to roll in; most often towards the older black man. While they were not always entirely unfounded - he had been hired under the auspices of having experience, though often did things in an inefficient manner; he was capable of listening and taking direction.
Instead of taking a lead, my boss would arrive on site around 10am or so, only to soon leave for need to run errands or some other reason, perhaps needing to do paperwork. His days would often seem to end around 2-3pm, and then he would be off to the "office", a.k.a. a bar that he helped re-paint. This was quickly observed by the other workers, and only reinforced my position of leadership. The deal breaker arrived every time my boss would complain about the bureaucratic rigors mandated by the contract he has signed.
An aspect of the project, as it was paid for my grant money, was that a racially diverse labor force be employed (i.e. women and people of color). We had not a female painter, but we were stacked with people of color. Though as seems to be the case with all city jobs, strict records of employment schedules must be kept. My boss felt as though his privacy was being invaded. I could empathize with his discomfort in this matter. It was also the first time he had taken on such a comprehensive contract. Being that I also knew his employers, and had been hearing about this project from them for the past 6 months, I was also aware of the type of money he stood to make from the project.
The project was a fiasco from the start though there were two incidences near the end that pushed me to leave. The kid I brought on-board also worked at a restaurant with me and needed to leave by a certain time on certain days. Friday was one of those days, as well as payday. Our boss was aware of this person's time constraints, had already been on-site earlier that day, but had not distributed checks. Rather, he arrived 20 minutes after this individual needed to leave and when I asked for my check, snidely quipped, "You'll get your check." I did not feel such an attitude was at all deserved.
The next day was a Saturday, and being that this project need to get wrapped up before the snow falls - I was working, along with a few other crew members. Per usual, the boss would call mid-morning to check-in; though this morning he added a new analogy to his position. He declared that he would come in for a few hours to "crack the whip". WTF?!?
A previous job I worked for a couple of years, during my phone interviews the question was asked, "are you black?" I thought this to be a very fucked up question to ask, though I obliged to reply, "No, I'm Colombian." Such a designation often ingratiates me to the category of white-males who fantasize about being drug kingpins. After working the job for a while, a complaint I've heard more than once is usually enunciated, "I've just never had good luck employing black people."
This conversation came up multiple times at the painting job, which was ironic seeing as my boss had been contracted for this job by a black-owned company. Suffice to say, I could not work for this individual anymore. The individual I brought in remained at the job, though soon enough he was injured on the job and is now receiving workers compensation. My dear friend, my boss' employer, soon called me to express that my decision to no longer work for this individual did not affect our friendship at all. While ... I just heard news that the kid I brought in, his mom isn't doing well. I told him that no matter what I'm here for him - be it help moving, someone to talk to, or just someone with whom to kick it.
Leadership -- it's not about completing a task, it's about getting everyone through the task and onto the next one. It's about understanding people where they are at -- there are many other nuances to this story. I worked for this boss' mother other a few months ago, unbeknownst to all of us until he surprised me one morning with the question, "So how long have you been a peace activist for?". I didn't know how to reply. I played it off as a joke, until I realized he was serious - it was around 7 am that this conversation took place. I gave to him a synopsis my ventures in the non-profit world and felt more comfortable that he was aware of my equality-oriented mentality. A conversation for another time will be the pervasiveness of an exceptionality-plague that afflicts many who often exclaim, *"I'm aware of the problem, but I'm not like that."
I have yet to receive this last pay check.
Knowledge can be both power, and pain.