Sunday, October 7, 2007

Letter from the Editor

Life and Times of JWN
Joe, Genny Invite
Leadership Is Service

In the upcoming week, I have the pleasure of delivering my first keynote speech at the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) District Conference. It will be in front of a slew of high schoolers, faculty, and administration at Windsor High School, my alma mater. In addition to my speech, I am also putting on a workshop on leadership. This latter obligation has had me thinking in the past few weeks about what it means to be a leader.

"So Joseph, what does it mean to be a leader?"

Throughout the last 7 years of my life I have attended a variety of "leadership events." These include everything from the New York State Council on Leadership and Student Activities (NYSCLSA) camp, three NYSCLSA conferences, 10 to 15 one day leadership events, and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society's National Leadership Conference in Austin, Texas last year. In addition, I'm currently participating in Leadership Livingston, the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce's ten month leadership development program.

I have heard about forty different definitions of what it means to be a leader from these events. Of all of these definitions, however, one has stayed with me because it meshes the most with my personal value system. It is...(drum roll please)...

Leadership is service.

With the organizations I have led throughout the years and the ones I currently lead, this is the mantra I try to follow. It is consistent with my personal belief that you need to add value first in what you do. If you consistently give of yourself, expecting nothing in return, then you will find fulfillment beyond your wildest beliefs.

We live in a society which is very "me" oriented. More often than not, you will hear people say, "Well, what do I get out of it?" or, "What's in it for me?" Thinking of leadership as service helps combat that ideal.

Your role as a leader is to serve the people and the purpose. It is not about you or the notoriety you get from being "President" or "Chairperson" of a committee or group, it is about the value you can add to the people you lead and the cause you're committed to.

A leader's role is often that of the visionary and motivator. He cannot fulfill the vision on his own, but rather he must inspire his team to carry it out and bring it to fruition. This brings to mind a few key terms in leadership:

Delegation - This is sometimes thrown to the wayside in fledgling organizations because of the "me" attitude discussed before. But, it is essential to making a lasting impact. Its power lies in a simple rule of thumb, people will be true to what they help create. Get people involved and they will be bought in for the duration.

Responsibility - A leader is responsible for the ultimate success or failure of the team or organization. They are not just responsible for the greater good the organization can achieve, but also to each individual that is part of the team. A leader must carry through on his promises and be true to all of the parties involved.

Accountability - If the team is led poorly, it is ultimately the leader who needs to take accountability. Anything that happens under his watch is on his back - success or failure.

Attitude - This is one of my favorite parts of leadership because if used well, it has the potential to make a tremendous impact. One of my personal values is to make a consistent positive influence and if leveraged in the right capacity - a leadership role - incredible change follows this type of attitude.

These are a few lessons on leadership that I have learned throughout the years as I've developed as a "leader."

When put in a capacity they are passionate about, leaders have a tremendous opportunity to facilitate great change if they keep in mind some of the ideas just presented.

Have a great week and don't hesitate to respond with some of your thoughts on what it means to be a leader. You can reach me personally at or 607.743.8569.

Lead well or be led well. There's no other way to rock it as we all have our part in the leadership puzzle.

Warmly yours, ~JWN

Jeremy Grace

Jeremy Grace:
It’s About Being Curious

Edited and Arranged by Joseph W. Norman

For more from Bigger Impact co-founder, Joseph Norman, visit
Enjoy the read about...Jeremy Grace...below! Thanks for your readership!

Jeremy Grace is a Professor of International Relations at SUNY Geneseo, but the bulk of his work has been in the fields of democratization and refugee protection. He has traveled the globe working in multitudes of war torn countries to help facilitate their election process post conflict. Some of these countries include; Bosnia, Liberia, Uganda, Israel, the West Bank, Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor, the Balkans, Croatia, and many more. Known for his high energy persona and unique style, Jeremy Grace is a man that does more then just teach, he brings the subject to life with stories of his ongoing international experiences. What keeps him going? His curiosity for what he does and his desire to remain engaged in what he’s good at with the skill sets he has extensively developed.

VIP: Now, you started your education at Northern Arizona, correct?

JG: Well, I didn’t start there. I finished there. (Laughing) I was one of those struggling undergrads that needed a mission in life. I started at Boulder.

VIP: Is that where you grew up, in Colorado?

JG: I grew up in Singapore actually. At six weeks old my parents moved to Singapore. My dad was working with a little non-profit focused on social justice and peace building. He was a classic sixties, hippy, Quaker kind of guy.

We moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the mid-seventies when I was about eight or nine. I went to high school there and did all that kind of stuff and then for college, I decided that I liked to ski so Boulder made sense. Out there I went and ski I did at the expense of my academic pursuits. After two semesters I realized that it was a waste of time. It was a waste of my time and my parent’s resources. They helped communicate that message by cutting me off.
So then I had to goof around for a while working as a landscaper, a ski bum, and doing some other things just to stay afloat. Eventually I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. It was at that point that I really became reconnected with my interests in the international world.

I went back to school in Northern Arizona. There I had a completely different mindset. I was on my own so every class I skipped was money out of my pocket. It really changed my approach to education. It applies a certain extent to my job here as an advisor to students. I have to be careful because I have a personal experience in my own background with not quite clicking at first. So, when I interact with students that are not quite clicking I have to balance between, “Well, this path worked for me but it might not work for other people.” It is difficult actually to operate in that environment.

So, back to Northern Arizona, I majored in Political Science. They didn’t have an International Relations degree, otherwise I would have picked IR, but within Political Science you can be an IR person basically. I finished up there and then went to graduate school in Washington D.C. at American University; specifically for a Masters in International Affairs. That is pretty much the educational background.

American was a great education. It’s a very good school and the program is a highly regarded one. It’s become better since I left. It’s one of those things where I get to rest on laurels that weren’t there when I was actually a part of it. But, the same is true with Geneseo now. People that graduated from here in the seventies can do the same.

For me, the experience at American was both the education and having some fabulous professors that really got me thinking about stuff. But, it was the internship and the contacts I built at American - I had two years to do that – that landed me my first, post M.A. job. That first job subsequently set me on a career trajectory in a way that I had never anticipated going. To the point where my professional consulting work now is all based on that one random fact of getting that internship. I can trace the whole chain of events right back to there.

VIP: What was the internship?

JG: It was with an outfit that isn’t even around anymore. It was a think tank called the Overseas Development Council which did foreign development policy; primarily economic growth studies. We contracted with governments and the U.S. Agency for international Development. The organization would get these big research grants from governments but also from the World Bank to explore interesting and novel questions on issues of economic development.
A Poster Hanging in Jeremy's office

I had gotten in there on a project because my interest was international trade politics, but in
particular I was interested in the relationship between global trade law and issues of environmental protection. I was looking at the convergence between multilateral environmental agreements and how the trading system operated. Not because I had an ideological commitment to any one point of view, but I was just curious about these two international regimes that were bumping into each other.

So, I started with them on a project looking at that, but when that project ended it was the same time I was finalizing a degree, so I got hired on to look at a post conflict project that was looking at how you do economic development in the aftermath of civil wars and state collapse.

From there, I got really interested in that question and then at the end of that project the woman I was working for had a number of contacts with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which is an international governmental organization that was going to be in charge of post conflict democratization in Bosnia. This was in ’96, just after the peace agreement in ’95, so everybody was mobilizing and moving in to solidify the peace.

I went into Bosnia as an election observer. That was all it was. I was going to be there for two and a half weeks and look at stuff. They gave us these long check lists, which said that ballot has to go here and people have to be screened and nobody is shooting each other. But, I was so fascinated by that. So, when they sent everybody back home – there were about 2,000 of us that went over there to observe this election – I skipped the flight.

I just stayed in Sarajavo and went knocking on people’s doors because I was so curious about the contours of what caused this civil war, but also this enormous international machinery – which I had never seen before – that goes into these countries after there is some sort of peace agreement. And, what role this international machinery – both the governmental players and the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) – do they play in solidifying the peace. I got really interested in that.

I actually got a full time job with the agency that brought me, but more at the implementation side of things. It was long term work on building democratic institutions in Bosnia. So, I did that for about a year, and then after a year they sent me off to Croatia to work on reestablishing connections with Bosnian refugees there. So, I became their country representative in Croatia. Then I got really interested in this nexus between displacement and political rights.

That’s a human rights issue and it marries two specific international rights issues. One is civil rights, political rights, and the human rights system and how that all operates the right to democracy, freedom and fair elections – all the things we associate there – with a very different one which is the protection and care of refugees and internally displaced people.
The two got linked in the context that you could not rebuild political institutions in Bosnia that were participatory if you were going to exclude all of the displaced people from that process. What that would do is it would legitimate ethnic cleansing as a political and military tactic on the parts of warring parties. So, if you just said, “You people are no longer Bosnian citizens,” then you are sending a message to every militia group in the world that says, “If you want to establish political control over a territory, expel all of your enemies.” Ever since then, that is what I’ve been working on. It is that nexus between those two things.

I have been doing a series of projects in my consulting work where we’re providing assistance to the UN system - when they get called on to do these post conflict democratization projects - with national authorities when they are doing elections in the context of conflict and displacement.

Then, also at the global level we’re working in the human rights machinery in the UN in Geneva to try to establish a better recognition of the standards that are at play and making those standards cohere with what goes on in the human rights machinery.

So that is really what I’ve been doing. Even since ’99 when I came to work here, I retained work on these issues and continue to work on them up to now. So, that’s my story. And, sometimes when I get around to it I teach a class.

VIP: …I really like the idea of operating out of developing countries because there is so much opportunity and so much disparity. It is ridiculous how many people out there are just sitting in a hut right now.

JG: Yeah. It poses the questions, “How do you engage that kind of economy? “ Again, it comes back to the issue of curiosity. There are so many different reasons and explanations for why they’re sitting in that hut. But, each of those explanations that you develop for explaining that is going to have different policy implications for how you get them out of there and how you bring them into a global market. That really is where we are right now in development economics; a field of international relations that is addressing that issue.

But, again, it comes back to not having the ideological blinders. It comes to just being curious and figuring out exactly why those people are in that situation in order to figure out the appropriate role that power – which is ultimately what governments are, they are legitimated sources of power – can be used to push the process forward. For me that is what it is all about.

VIP: What motivates you to continue onward? Seeing that disparity in your world travels…what keeps the ball rolling for you?

JG: You have to remain engaged in life; for me anyway. This may not be true for everybody, but for me you have to remain engaged. It is one thing to be curious about the world and read about the world in all the great history books, the New York Times, and everything else, but it’s another thing to translate that into a sense that you have an obligation in the world to do something. Now, what that is…be a CD producer, be a documentarian, be a journalist, be a business person, whatever it is it doesn’t matter.

For me, it just worked out that this is what I do in the world and to stop doing it would be like death. What then? I was thinking about this the other day because the lottery a month ago was something like $400 million and I was at Wegman’s and I thought I should buy a lottery ticket. Then, I was like, “Well, yeah, but what would that mean? I could quit my job, buy a new swimming pool and buy new guitars, yadda yadda yadda. Do all the stuff I’ve always wanted to do.” And even then it doesn’t mean anything to me.

I couldn’t quit my job. I wouldn’t be happy. Of course in the end, I was like “I could give it away and I could do all this cool humanitarian stuff all over the world.” So, then I went ahead and bought the damn lottery ticket. (Laughs) But I had to rationalize it in that way.

I keep doing it because frankly, I’m curious about – well, almost anything can absorb my curiosity – but I have this thing where all of my intellectual thinking is about international politics. It’s about issues of war and peace. It’s about issues of human rights. And, I need to remain engaged in that. It is to the extent that I continue to do this work and it is very much focused on trying to identify situations where the unique skills that I have developed – and they are very limited and unique as very few people work in this particular field where democratization and refugee protection cross leaving only a handful of us that have this background and experience – I feel like we need to keep doing that.

In the context of the recent work we’ve been doing, we’ve been targeting specific country interventions. They sent me to Afghanistan. They sent me to Nepal. They sent me to Uganda. They sent me to Liberia. All of these places in the last couple years where you’re having some sort of transition out of civil war and towards peace, hopefully, and they don’t know how to deal with the problem I know how to deal with. I feel that if I’m not doing that then I’m not doing anything. I mean I’m still teaching, and teaching is important too, but…

VIP: What are some of your favorite places to travel to?

JG: All of them. My favorite country in the world is Slovenia in terms of its awesome geographic features. It’s like a miniature version of the Alps in Switzerland but it’s undisturbed and unspoiled. It’s like traveling in the Alps 200 years ago. My wife and I were there when I was working in the Balkans. We went up there for a two week vacation and I was just so blown away by the physical features.

Culturally and in terms of interacting with people, my favorite place is anywhere in Africa. I just adore working in Africa. I can’t get enough of it and I will not ever turn down a mission to go to Africa. I loved my time in Liberia. I loved my time in Uganda. And I think it’s because the tragedies of the continent have not overcome optimism and an ability of the people to interact with each other with a sense of humor. And also, Africans are curious.

I worked in Afghanistan and I worked on the Iraqi elections. I didn’t actually go to Baghdad but I worked on them with members of the Iraqi Election Commission. And, I love the Middle East as well. I’ve worked in Jordan and the West Bank, but nothing compares to Africa. There’s this connection that I feel somehow with Africans. I think there is so much promise there that people ought to be paying more attention to but it’s been marginalized. So, I also see a duty in being engaged in a place that is being marginalized.

VIP: We’re actually traveling to Ghana at the end of the month through the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce…

JG: Ghana is one of the continent’s miracles in the last few years. It is one of the stable places. And, if Ghana can do it compared to where they were in the late seventies then anybody can do it in Africa. That is really exciting. I happen to know a lot of Ghanaians that work in the international system. They are major contributors to peace keeping operations, so I’ve interacted with them in the context of UN missions. And, their election commission is the most dynamic in the world. We actually brought members of the Ghanaian Election Commission to New Delhi to train the Iraqi Election Commission. That’s how good they are.

VIP: So, we heard you’re also in a band…how is that going?

JG: Well, we’re the usual band. We broke up. It was all about lawsuits and partying. You know the classic stuff. (Laughs) No, it wasn’t like that at all. It was a psychedelic polka band. That band is not really active anymore.

I do have a little jam group going now. We are in the process of putting together another band that won’t be psychedelic polka which seemed to have a limited market appeal. All of those Southern Tier hippies…they liked it. But, the real structural problem we had was we had an accordion and a harmonica.

VIP: What are the instruments you play?

JG: The guitar. The mandolin. I have a Hopi drum, but I can’t really call myself a percussionist. I goof around a little bit on the banjo too. String instruments primarily.

VIP: What is your prediction for the 2008 presidential election?

JG: Politically, despite my dad’s radical background, I was actually very middle of the road if anything. I mean in college I dabbled with protest politics and got maced at the CIA recruitment center or whatever, but after that point learned a lot in my work. In the Balkans and these war torn countries I learned about what’s practical and realistic in the world. I moved away from the American liberal, optimistic ideologies to a much more, “Ahh, things kind of suck and the world is full of trade offs,” attitude. It would be great if we could provide the social welfare programs in the United States that the Europeans provide their citizens, but there are costs to that. So, I became economically a little bit conservative. But, the Gingrich revolution really turned me off too. I’m really confused. I don’t know where I stand yet.
VIP: How do you define success?

JG: I don’t really have an operative definition. But, I’m curious because it’s an interesting ordeal. How do you define it within the context of each of your own lives? How do I define it for myself and am I living up to it? I don’t know. Your subjects are always going to be in a position where they say, “Well, I would have to define it in a way where it applies to me,” unless they’re really bummed out or sad.

I think I would have to say it has something to do with the idea that you’re successful when you position yourself in life in some way to satisfy your curiosity about whatever it is that you’re interested in. And, it doesn’t really matter what that is. I mean if you’re fascinated by the process of flipping burgers at McDonald’s, that’s success.

But, for me, successful people are people that are innately curious and spend the time and take the initiative to address their curiosity about things rather than come at the world from some sort of preconceived place. You know, like, “This is the way the world works and I operate in accordance with my world view and my logic and my theoretical disposition and I NEVER GET THE BLINDERS OFF. To me that’s what makes me madder than anything.

For me personally it is a constant challenge to try to formulate a world view and that requires a certain amount of curiosity. If you can get yourself in a position in life where you can do that and get paid for it, then obviously, that is the height of success. Even if you don’t get paid for it and have to flip the burgers, but outside of that context of what you are doing to earn a living you’re still going after the thing that makes you curious, than that is success.

But, for me, it’s not about money. It’s about the element of understanding the world that we live in.
Joseph Norman, Jeremy Grace, Ben DeGeorge, Tom Soeller

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Jeremy Grace
Professor of International Relations
SUNY Geneseo
Office: Welles 3F
Phone: 585.245.5455