The Words of the Cooper Family

Leadership and team work lessons start from your family

Simon Cooper
April 6, 2012

Two people in charge of many of the smaller decisions in our family

Have been thinking a lot recently about why I decided to step down from my role of leading and managing our UK Unification Movement on the national level, and feeling more inspired to work on the local congregational level. One of the reasons of course was that I was being asked not to manage and lead and generally was getting mixed messages about how I was doing in my role.

These were fair enough, my performance was mixed. Strong in some aspects, but also very weak in others.

However we are all sometimes afraid to be plain, simple and honest with our communication, and the result is that commonly agreed expectations are hard to achieve.

Another challenge I realized was the concept of our UK leadership team and European office being 'one team' has not yet been developed into a successful healthy model. It's a project that needs more consultation and investment from all of us. Reflecting on that I felt drawn to think of how we all do team work in our families.

In a family that functions well we have a great example of the basic principles of good team work. There are very different needs and outlooks amongst the family members, but they value their identity and common endeavor as a unit to a degree that means that one way or another they are willing to negotiate and sacrifice for the sake of maintaining their common cause.

Being part of a family is a powerful human urge that despite the challenges we get faced with, between siblings, parent and child, and between husband and wife, we tend to be willing to put in the work to take the project forward. Our scripture and Unificationist teaching explains to us why this urge is so strong in the context of love, life and lineage.

But I find as a father and husband, that though I hold a central leadership role in the family it is unworkable when I don't allow my ideas, and plans to be questioned, when I don't take on suggestions from others in a serious way.

Especially the husband and wife's ability to listen and learn from each other is the core of any successful leadership in a family. And any spouse who attempts to lead their family unilaterally eventually discovers they are not really leading anyone, but just shouting loudly.

When I think about how we have been developing our leadership relationships amongst those of us who lead in our Unification Movement, we often forget this lesson we learn as a spouse in a family. We forget that children are also there to learn from rather than to just be taught:

"To heal a world where there is no hope, and which is lacking in love, we need to go back to the pure hearts that we had as children".
Page 7, As A Peace Loving Global Citizen

The more we explore how trust is built up and sometimes lost in our family environment the more we will find lessons to draw upon for our leadership roles beyond the family.

One of the virtues we need for any team to be successful is to be moderate with our point of view, otherwise we lose the bigger picture that God provides us through the wisdom of others.

With all the new technology around these days I am a bit terrified of what my children will have access to as they purchase an iPod Touch or an MP4 player, or turn on the TV.

If my eldest son, 11, wants to download something like an app or a song he needs my password, I listen to the song first. Sitting there with my wife next to his bed, she says she doesn't tend to listen to all the songs first like I do. And then she says something not just to me but also to the young man lying in the bed, not powerful only because of the words used, but more because of the tone with which they are said, along the lines of: "…I trust Damon, because he is such a good and responsible person." And in the moment my fear of what he listens to is tempered and made more healthy by a different style of leadership I can see in my wife which is in many ways so empowering.

On the flip side, I point out that something they are watching on TV about fat and thin people, that my wife has deemed okay, might be better not watched for various reasons, and she catches my point.

Amongst us as leaders if we could only engender that kind of team work, where we fully appreciate the need for more of a dynamic of when to listen and when to speak, when to take criticism, and review our approach to moving towards that common endeavor.

If you see yourself as playing a leadership role due to some position you hold or simply due to your commitment to a cause and a belief, AND you want to do so as someone who is a team player, look to your family and see how well you practice there. Regardless of whether you are performing competently or sometimes being incompetent, you will find a host of lessons from that school of love that never lies: the family 

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