Lao leadership we can look up to


Sabaidee, everyone, and happy new year.

It’s been a long time since I last posted and there are so many exciting things I want to share with all of you.

This year is the 40th year since the end of the war in Laos, and for many of us it was the beginning of a long journey. Some of us have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, they have become civically engaged and part of the American democracy. Some of us have become great teachers, great artists, great leaders in their community. Others still need a hand, and we can’t turn our backs on them.

This week we remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and one of the things our staff regularly read is his Drum Major Instinct speech. What many of us like is the part where he says “everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” For several years now the Lao Assistance Center has been conducting the Lao Leadership Institute, trying to get many of our community members to see the importance of participating and that it is ok for us to take leadership positions in our community. We are looking forward to the next cohort we can train in this program and applying the new ideas we have learned along the way.

The important thing to me in building good leadership in our community is building a model for Lao American leadership that can be a good role model not only for the next generation but for other communities too. I want us to build high standards and expectations for ourselves that are effective in both the mainstream culture and appropriate to our own community. How do we build our community in a way that we all remain committed to giving each other another chance and to see that building a community on our core values is something worth working towards?

There are several ideas I found over the years that may be helpful for my fellow Minnesotans and others across the country. There are always many more ideas for good leadership and I hope you will share them with me and others in our community.

But to be a healthy leader means that we have to understand our own boundaries and our own values and how they match those of others who are in our commuity. It is important to understand that values change and we can evolve. We have to ask what we need to do be effective and humane when we stand up for what we believe in, or what we need to do when we need to leave gracefully. In all cases, we want to seek a win-win for everyone whenever possible. This is something that would be of benefit not only for Lao communities but any community.

There are times as a leader we need to know when it’s ok to just shut up and listen. Experimenting and taking risks, even experiencing failure is an important part of the human experience. It’s also important to take vacations and let others be the leaders. This can be scary to some, but I think it’s a good test of your leadership to see how much you are missed or needed. Good leadership also involves developing a sense of humor, not to mock yourself or others, but to grow a sense of perspective and where everything fits in the big picture.

As leaders we have to tech others that it’s ok to ask questions and to challenge decisions, and to expect healthy conflict and disagreement along the way. Be we need to look in the mirror, listen to what we’re saying and understand what our behavior is doing in our communities at all times. It can be scary to change your ways but it can be even scarier to stay the same. Seek the approaches that are genuinely healthy, and assume good intentions in each other. Sometimes we can’t go along with every good idea, but we have to keep our doors open and be there for each other if we want a community worth having.

Everybody can be greatbecause anybody can serve