A Leader and a Follower

My fingertips on my left hand have callouses and no sensation.

My fingernails are short enough that it looks like I bite my nails, even though I abhor the habit.

I now spend an hour every day.

I now cough up $120 per month to the Folklore centre.

Neither of my parents have a musical bone in their body.

This is just proof that I never would have started playing guitar this year  if left to my own devices.

I suppose I was inspired.

This summer I won tickets to the Dawson City Music Festival. DCMF is famed for it’s unique location in a quaint, riverside, mining town smack dab in the middle of the Yukon, neighbouring… nothing.  Each year it draws in an unimaginable array of talent from across the globe.  This year’s line-up exceeded my expectations.  I must admit, I was looking forward to DCMF because of the dancing, the food, the random running race, and the socializing.  The music, I thought, was just a catalyst.

I stand corrected.

Mid-afternoon on the second day of the four day fest, I was exhausted in the worst way.  I had been up a little later than originally planned, and consumed more beverages than I care to remember, and to top it off, I woke up at 8 AM to run the Dome Race (just 8K straight up a hill, NBD).  Regardless of all of my ailments, I was compelled to not let the tickets go to waste and in fact listen to some of the music.   My friends and I parked ourselves on a bench in the main tent and enjoyed the first act, an upbeat swingin’ band from Chicago.  It kept me awake and interested long enough to listen to the second act, which I had originally planned to spend asleep on the grass.  Thank god I decided against it.

This act was a compilation of guitarists from all attending bands, gathered together to simply jam Neil Young songs.  It started off slowly, and it took me a while to recognize that they were amping up to Cortez the Killer.  I mentioned to my friends that there was a single female guitarist on the far left rockin’ with a sleek gold guitar.

Interest totally piqued.

Then I noticed that she had a small section of her head shaved…

Yep. Badass.

Then the wicked-super-beyond amazing solo’s began. WOW. I’d never seen someone play guitar the way she did.  Even the male guitarists on stage stopped to stare (why so surprised guys?). At this point I couldn’t decide whether to head-bang, or continue to stare in awe with my jaw on the floor. My (low) energy level dictated that I remain there with my mouth open.

That, dear readers, was the beginning of an inspiration.

Following that performance I:

1) Googled her and discovered that her name was Donna Grantis

2) Made sure to attend each and every show that her and the band the she belonged to (I eventually found out that it was an amazing blues band lead by the talented Shakura S’Aida) played during their entire stay in the Yukon.  That included one night, when the emotional connection between guitarist, vocalist and audience pretty much moved me to tears. No shame (swear it wasn’t just me). And one night in Whitehorse, when my dear friend went up to Donna pre-performance at a local pub, pointed at me, and said “Say hi to my friend, she’s in love with you”. I proceeded to blush, and die.  Then Donna came and gave me a hug, and we chatted, and I was forever inducted into the Donna-followers-for-life club (figment of my imagination).

The connection that Donna Grantis has with her guitar, her music, and her fans is unparalleled from my perspective.  It is safe to say that it is her sheer passion that evokes such strong responses in others.  I must also mention that nearly everyone who witnessed her on stage throughout the festival was hooked.

I equate her to the female version of one of her inspirations: Jimi Hendrix.  The female Canadian Jimi Hendrix from Toronto who studied at McGill, close enough.

Something about Donna just demands a following.  It’s not power of persuasion.  She isn’t incredibly marketed. She could not be labeled as outgoing.  She is, however, sincere, raw, and incredibly encouraging to those whose passions and dreams involve music.  The way she plays just dares the audience to enjoy music as thoroughly as she does.  She does great work in promoting guitar playing among women internationally, as well as locally.  This type of leadership is derived from her relationship with the musical community.  None would categorize her as a leader based purely on her profound “leadership characteristics”.  Her success as a leader is determined entirely based on the dedication of her followers, in addition her depth of connection to those followers at the individual level.

If I am any evidence, then she has been a successful leader. I not only aspire to play guitar beautifully (like she does). I aspire to lead like she does.  The signed poster and christmas card (also the two picks, and pickholder!) that I received from her (via my very smart boyfriend) for christmas, can attest to my motivation.

If I could lead because my followers share my passion, and see me as an aid in achieving their goals, then I would be satisfied.  Inspiring people by demonstrating, by embodying the spirit you want to portray, requires no convincing.  The generosity and enthusiasm that Donna has shown me will, undoubtedly, play a role in the way I treat individuals and live my life in the future.

Now, my story of a follower is going to be more succinct. It took me a long time to think of someone fitting.  The reading assigned, by Baker, reminded me that I’m not looking for someone who “is” a follower, just someone who plays the role with grace.

I realized that this could be none other than my step dad.

He is soft-spoken, good-humoured, and flexible.

Not just any individual could withstand the power that is my mother.  She has vision, ethics, and is characterized in every possible way as a leader.  In order to play the follower in our household one must empathize with my mothers motives, understand her rants, be able to translate goals into actions, and have the grit to challenge her when it is evident that new direction needs to be taken.

My step dad does this.

His actions may be inconspicuous, but they do not go unnoticed (by me anyways).

He knows that my mother wants to have a more workeable kitchen that promotes homemade dinners and moves us away from spending too much money eating out, while embracing the values of whole foods.  He also knows that my mother loves food blogs.  He uses his incredible knowledge and skill in the area of technology, with my mothers primary directives, and takes it upon himself to install a touch screen computer in the kitchen attached to a mac mini.

This is genius.

Food-blogging, recipe-accessing genius.

We advance as a family, not simply because my mom has the ultimate say and is a fearless leader, but because she and my step dad form a partnership.  The leader and follower roles are symbiotic. If my step dad was unable to follow in the way that he does, it would still be just my mother and I.  He would have perhaps been eaten alive if he didn’t possess the ability to ground my mother.  I now have another father figure and a fabulous four and a half year old broski.

From my step dad, I understand the importance of patience and understanding in being and effective follower.  Sometimes the calm, well thought out solutions are required to bring the unbounded passion of leaders back to earth.

I love my modern family.


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