Leading Through Challenge

Leading Through Challenge

It was lauded as a first. In January, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Orioles manager Buck Showalter shared the stage at Pathfinders for Autism’s second annual leadership conference.

“Yes, we’re here, but let’s be clear, we’re not happy about it,” Harbaugh quipped after an introduction by Orioles hall of famer, B. J. Surhoff, President of Pathfinders.

With no post-season play for either team, a rarity that afforded them the opportunity to participate together at the event, both Harbaugh and Showalter had fallen short of their goals. Yet, they were speaking to an audience of hundreds about leadership.

“Adversity and success,” Harbaugh paused, giving the two extremes the weight they deserved, “either one can lead to the question, ‘What do we believe in?’ and then, ‘What do we change?’”

Showalter agreed, noting there is extra time, albeit unwanted, to reflect on what’s important, to look at the situation, the team, and then ask, “What separates you?” Then with the warmth and depth that only a seasoned manager can give, he added, “You have to bring what you bring.”

As I listened to these men and looked around the room at the people who had come to learn about leadership, I felt a powerful camaraderie. All of us were there to hear what leaders know best—how to meet and work through challenges.

“The principles don’t change,” Harbaugh said, “but the methods do.”

I wrote his words down, finding them to be so true, especially when parenting a child with autism. The principles don’t change—we all want the best for our child and for them to succeed. But my, oh my, how the methods do.

Beyond traditional speech and occupational therapies, we’ll try Applied Behavioral Analysis or Relationship Development Intervention or Sensory Integration therapies. Or maybe attempt Floor Time, Picture Exchange Systems, or music, art, sound or light therapies. Then there are therapeutic horseback riding programs and specialized swimming programs and the cleverly named “I Can Do It Too” gymnastic programs—when the truth is, “I Wish I Didn’t Have To” may be pounding in our hearts as we sort through all the options.

But we do.

My father used to say, “No experience is wasted unless you let it be.” The folks in that room knew that. On the field or off, we are resourceful. We are analytical. We are keen observers of what works and what doesn’t.

We do what the best leaders do: We win. We lose. We learn from our experiences and keep trying.

And bring what we can bring.

April is Autism Awareness month. Do you have something you can bring to make life better for those living with autism? I’d love to know. For opportunities to participate, give, or volunteer, check out Pathfinders for Autism or if you’d like to honor my Madison in the upcoming Pathfinders Golf Tournament with a contribution, go to Madison’s Banner.

Madison and Becky

My best—always,

Becky  (Nana B)

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P.S. For more about life with my Madison, see my column series, Tuesdays with Madison.