In the summer of 2009 I joined the board of WATCH MN, a non-profit research organization that monitors cases of violence against women and children. During 2010 I was very active on the board. Among my activities I went to court and monitored cases, which is the core business of WATCH and is typically performed by student volunteers. This activity in particular made me more aware of the world I seek to lead and change, I realized that there are unseen processes and people that I can help improve while striving towards my goals.
While monitoring cases in the Hennepin County family court I realized how cold the legal system could be to people who are dealing with serious issues like family abuse. I was reminded more of a poorly run factory than a system designed to help people realize justice. One courtroom experience was particularly poignant for me. I walked by many of the victims as I entered the chambers. As usual the court was more than 30 minutes behind schedule. When the attorneys and judge were finally ready for the first case the defendant was escorted by the officer on duty to his seat on the far side of the courtroom in handcuffs wearing an orange prison suit. When the victim walked in, she broke down in tears and had to leave the room. She was unable to speak and shook with emotion upon making eye contact with her abuser.
Before joining WATCH I was oblivious to these types of proceedings although I have lived in Hennepin County my entire life. As a leader, when I find myself operating freely I now ask myself: Is anyone being hurt by my actions? Is there a group right in front of my face that I do not see because I have not been looking? If so, what can I do to improve their situation? Often times as a leader I set my mind on a goal so tenaciously that I fail to see the unseen world swirling around my objectives. I failed to account for the unseen stakeholders in the arenas I acted. The year 2010 was the year that I began to attempt to account for the unseen – even if it does not directly impact the ability for me to achieve my objective – for fear that I may miss a chance to improve a process or a person’s situation.