I was asking myself a few months ago Why things aren´t happening?. Well, they are. It´s true that ideal working environments do not exist and the Kennedy Center is no exception. But it is, without any doubt, a great school.
The face of the Kennedy Center in the last decade has been Michael Kaiser. A charismatic leader, who knew how to translate his vision into a concrete mission that orientates the Center´s activity. He also knew how to bring into his team an excellent group of professionals – intelligent, experienced, hard working, dedicated – who embrace his vision and collaborate with him in order to make the dreams come true. This team´s cohesion is truly impressive. This is what happens when there is a clear mission, determination, tenacity, a true sense of responsibility (see post On leadership).
Another impressive thing is the clear notion that everyone´s time is valuable and shouldn´t be wasted. The Kennedy Center invests little time in meetings and a lot of time in action. Further to this, punctuality is a rule rarely ignored. The President meets with the Vice-Presidents once a week, for ten minutes, and this doesn´t seem to have a negative effect on internal communication or the team´s efficiency when carrying out their duties. There´s a lot to do and... it´s done. This is what happens when work is vey well planned, procedures clear and each member of the team knows what he/she has to do and takes responsibility for it (see post On planning).
There is also the pleasure, enthusiasm, pride and dedication we feel in those people who support the Kennedy Center, either financially or with their work as volunteers. Because they ‘form part’. This is what happens when an institution is aware of the importance of the ‘family’ for its future and knows how to take care of it (see post On family). The majority of the fellows are now going back home determined to build their own.
What has been referred so far are concepts and practices that form part of the Kennedy Center philosophy and were transmitted to us during the seminars and meetings we had with a number of people, both members of the Kennedy Center team and special guests. But there was one thing I believe was not exactly part of the curriculum. Among all the people we had the opportunity to hear, there were some who spoke with such passion about what they do, with such energy, with such shining eyes, that they reminded us that this is what happens when a person, a professional, is at the right place; when one has the possibility to give, everything one knows and everything one can; when one is availed; when one feels that he is learning and growing; when one feels challenged; and when one feels aknowledged.
At the International Summer Fellowship we learn a lot thanks to the generosity with which the Kennedy Center staff share their ideas and experience with us. But we also learn thanks to the contributions of the fellows themselves, intelligent, interesting and enterprising people. Sharing with them brought pleasure, inspiration and enrichment. What I wished the most before starting this fellowship was for my certainties to be challenged. They were not. I would rather say that many of my certainties were confirmed. There were not exactly discoveries in the last four weeks. There were reminders that turned into great lessons which had a great impact. This is what I am carrying back with me; this is what will guide me until I come back to the Kennedy Center next year.