Vaclav Havel – Playwright, President, Activist, Leader
By Dave Olson, Fall 2002
NOTE: Written for a course at The Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA) as an assignment to report about an admired leader. More resources to follow for archival interest.
Vaclav Havel’s career spans disparate jobs from brewery worker to playwright to President. His life is highlighted by his unusual rise to power, writing of existentialist plays and political potent essays and his remarkable journey from a dissident in prison to the leading a fledgling country from the presidential castle in a matter of weeks. Most importantly, his vision of bringing former-Soviet eastern European republics into the European community in a non-violent, efficient and sustainable manner is his greatest legacy.
Havel didn’t plan on a career in politics and came to his leadership positions in strange turns of events, perhaps he inadvertently refers to himself in his discourse, “Summer Meditations,” “…if your heart is in the right place and you have good taste, not only will you pass muster in politics, you are destined for it. If you are modest and do not lust after power, not only are you suited to politics, you absolutely belong there.”
On the first Saturday of 2011, i ventured out to the glorious UBC campus on a stunning Vancouver day to spiel at the Student Leadership Conference with a talk called “Hitchhiking the Boardroom – Leadership Lessons from the Road“.
Basically, I outlined various traits and skills about leadership – most of which i’ve exercised at my day job – and explained scenarios from past adventures which taught (or allowed me to practice) these skills.
For example: Patience while arriving in Japan learning no language, or the importance of escape plan when confronted with an un-savory ride.
This construct allowed me to share the lost years of roaming and experiment with some new metaphors.
In all, some fun storytelling to a full room (off-mic and off page). I’ll compile the Twitter (great) feedback eventually, but here are a few key artifacts so far:
1) The slide deck featuring photos of hitchhiking signs from journeys past as well as anecdotal snaps
2) An article from the Vancouver Sun which i’ll liberally excerpt from for the preservation of the record.
Vancouver Sun Article
Note 2 alternate versions:
Bringing a good idea to fruition and Everyone can be a leader By Jenny Lee, Vancouver Sun January 8, 2011 Dave Olson community director of Vancouver technology company, Hootsuite, says leadership skills are best learned when you’re out of your comfort zone. Photograph by: Jason Payne, Vancouver Sun
Conference speaker Dave Olson, who is community director of Hootsuite, a young local technology company, believes that leadership is learned by getting out of one’s comfort zone both pysically and mentally.
Leadership in fast-paced technological world is all about teamwork and camaraderie. Leaders must learn to trust, delegate, experiment and refine, he said.
“A lot of the things we experience living an adventurous life teaches us practical skills when leading fast paced groups,” Olson said. For Olson, that meant travelling. “Other people can learn the same feeling of openness when volunteering to work with handicapped kids one summer. For me, I learned about openness by sticking out my thumb.”
At Hootsuite everyone works in one big room and “everyone’s opinion is valid,” Olson said. “There are not a bunch of egos. We cross over and share skills across the department.
“You definitely have to cultivate that atmosphere,” Olson added. “You have to have something that brings that to life. [And] it starts top down.”