Citizen Leadership = Courage to Act on Convictions

My heart goes out to the Citizen Leaders on the University of California Davis campus who demonstrated, by their peaceful sit-in, the courage of their convictions, only to be assaulted by the campus police. 

These sons and daughters, these American citizens, part of the Occupy Wall Street movement on the campus, became the latest victims of alleged police brutality to be captured on video. The videos show the students seated on the ground as a UC Davis police officer brandishes a red canister of pepper spray, showing it off for the crowd, and then dousing the seated students in a heavy, thick mist. (Note: This was an officer of the UC Davis Police Force, not the officers from the city of Davis, California).

“The UC Davis students were peacefully protesting on the quad,” wrote the student who took the videos in an email to The Huffington Post (from which this blog posting is excerpted). The filmmaker, a senior, asked that his name not be used for fear of retribution by campus authorities. “The cop gave them 3 minutes to disperse before he said they would come and disturb the protest. The main objective for them was removing the tents… The students did have a right to be on campus, they were assembling peacefully and the campus was open at the time.”

UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza defended her officers’ actions to KCRA. She argued that it just wasn’t safe for students to camp on the quad. “It’s not safe for multiple reasons,” Spicuzza said.

Claudia Morain, a UC Davis spokesperson said, “We are just not going to allow a tent city. Just period. In these budget times, we shouldn’t use resources that should be going to our core academic mission going to a tent city. The police tried to use the least force that they could.”

The UC Davis chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, released a statement Friday. It states, “We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested. We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.”

Nathan Brown, an assistant English professor at the university, released an open letter to the chancellor, calling for her resignation. He wrote, “You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt.”

The student filmmaker, who says he is not part of Occupy Davis, told HuffPost, “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think such a thing would ever happen on campus over a tent being on campus. It’s embarrassing on the part of the police to take such actions.”

Excerpted from The Huffington Post 11-19-2011


The Citizen Leader: Citizenship and Leadership Lessons Made Meaningful and Designed for Practical Application

I have written The Citizen Leader to be usable by and accessible to everyone. Since most people won’t have an opportunity to participate in an organized, company-sponsored or costly seminar on leadership, I have designed this guide to be your de facto workshop. It provides rigorous, thorough, thoughtful (and thought-provoking) leadership guidance and training, with the goal of helping you to grow personally and professionally. For your part, in order to gain the most from the investment of your time and energy as you read through The Citizen Leader and work through the exercises, you will need to be both reflective and actively engaged.

The Citizen Leader is not leadership made quick or easy, nor is this leadership dumbed down. There are no such things. Rather, this is leadership learning and lessons drawn from the experience of real people, designed for practical application, and intended to benefit anyone with a commitment to being more of a leader — regardless of their title or position, and regardless of the size of their staff, supporters or followers. I draw on two decades of consulting, coaching, teaching graduate students and facilitating leadership seminars in business, government, the military, academia and the not-for-profit world. My audiences have included men, women and young adults, with identities and titles ranging from corporate CEO to entrepreneur to local shop owner, from sales executive to sales associate, from scientist to service industry and social worker, educator to engineer, banker to beautician, construction worker to caregiver, admiral to ensign, lawyer to legislator, Ph.D. to M.B.A. to middle school student, and many more. This guide draws on the wealth and wisdom of their experience, exploration, example, struggle, success, breakdown, breakthrough and sheer determination.

Excerpted from The Citizen Leader

Peter’s Perspective: What is Citizen Leadership and Why is it Important Today?

Citizen Leadership is:

Character and courage: Men, women, young adults and teens getting clear on who they are and how they want to be in the world, so they act and speak with authenticity and with the courage of their convictions day in and day out, in private and public – at home, in school, at work, in their club, in church and temple, on a team, in a troop, in the support group, in the neighborhood.

Contribution to the community: Men, women, young adults and teenagers applying the qualities of their character as they participate in or champion efforts to better their world and create great places for us all to live, work and play.


We live among circumstances that test our character every day. We live in an era during that barrages from all sides and online by forces — whether psychological, physical, spiritual or other — that can leave us struggling to know: What is the right thing to do? How is the right way to be? To act? What is the right thing to say? Pressure from peers, parents, partners, teachers, bosses; professional pressure, social pressure, popular culture, and social media; prospects for personal gain, power, profit, prestige and position; noxious preachers and pundits, prejudice and fear mongering — they fog up our minds, and sicken our hearts.

I believe these forces are particularly treacherous for those who have not yet developed a personally meaningful set of guiding principles and who are struggling to hang on to a clear, steady sense of who they are in the face of a daily assault by these forces. I think, in particular, of younger people, just starting out, just trying to find their way and figure out the rules of engagement in our culture, in their world.

They, and we, all risk falling prey to the influence of those who would manipulate us for self-serving purposes. This is especially true in our culture in which the dominant forces – at least the very public dominant forces – seem to be profit/wealth, power, prestige and personal gain. These are amoral forces. They are not necessarily bad or good.

What is good is when the men, women and young adults who find themselves in the throws of these forces hold constant to their personal principles and act in ways that reflect those principles. That is the foundation of citizen leadership.

Peter’s Perspective: When all is said and done, we live in a world we create by our actions and words

We are all witness to the torrent of fabrication, lying, maligning, intimidation and fear mongering that are being used (and all too often condoned or lauded) by people in all of our institutions – government, business, media, sports, religion – to pursue their ends. Hiding the truth, if not outright lying, seems to be emerging as a behavioral norm rather than abnormality. (This is the topic of the recently published Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff by Pulitzer Prize winning author, James B Stewart).

So many people are at risk of being or are already being swept up with the tide – choosing to act and speak in ways that mirror these public and private figures without pausing to examine the kind of world their words and actions are creating for themselves and for the people around them in their homes, at work, in school, on their teams, in their churches and temples, or among their neighbors.

It takes a strong and steady sense of self at one’s core, and the courage to act and speak from one’s core, to deflect the daily forces that would have us follow a leader who invites, tempts or at worst insists that we deviate from who we are and how we aspire to be in the world.

When all is said and done, we live (today and well into the future) in a world we create by our actions and words. Citizen leadership asks us to be clear on who we are and what we stand for today, and prompts us to speak and act in ways that create the great places where we would want to live, work and play, today and tomorrow.