I attended a special, brief flash mob for Father “ROG” today on the Seattle University campus. I’ve never met him, but he inspired me today.
I learned that Father Rog (aka, Fr. Gillis) is an SU jesuit and teacher who has cancer and has been in the hospital. He is apparently known for dancing a signature dance–not particularly well–to start teaching sessions. The impromptu flash mob came together to videotape themselves dancing his signature dance as a tribute to him and also to record personal get well messages for him. That 40+ diverse people from all parts of campus (and beyond) dropped what they were doing at 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon to show you love (and embarrass themselves) says a lot about you, I think, Father Rog. I wish you long life and good health to keep on dancing.
Here are some things I saw and learned, in no particular order, as part of this group:
- There was some trepidation on people’s faces. Nobody was quite sure what to expect. Made me think “Organizing in this manner–and stepping outside your comfort zone in a very visible setting–is a bit scary.”
- The group had fun as people relaxed.
- People all over the place became visible leaders. One of the most visible –a mid-20s guy who could dance (go DJ)–had only learned about the event very recently (I think he said “this morning”). Three early to mid 20s women stepped up to help him and together the four of them led the larger group in learning and performing the signature Father Rog dance moves. Two older women, in the 40+ range, also appeared as visible leaders: one explaining what the group had formed to do and finding music to dance to and the other providing encouragement, running the video camera, and dancing goofily (that’s a technical term) which appeared to put the rest of the crowd more at ease. If you read this blog, you know that this impromptu groups-leading-groups pattern shows up in the groups I study.
- There were many invisible leaders. Father Rog himself is an example. My friend Diane who offered me the back story about Father Rog almost as soon as I walked in (love the context, thank you D!!) is another example. The many people who were clearly VERY outside of their comfort zones dancing at work were demonstrating courage and leadership just by showing up. Like my friend Carol, for example. I also learned that one woman had gotten up early and driven a very long way just to do this (an event that took no more than 15 minutes total). Impromptu individuals-leading-individuals, people naturally and willingly helping each other out, and invisible leaders becoming visible are all patterns in the groups I study.
- People who didn’t know what they were doing in the moment happily followed. They became leaders as they pushed forward other people who they thought might be good dancers, as they mastered the dance moves, as they let go of their fear, and as they walked away having been part of their first-ever flash mob.
- I came away from the experience with a similar feeling to other groups I study, thinking to myself “Everybody who was part of this group is a leader!”
- As an alumni, I go back to my university to spend time with my former self-organizing groups and with new ones. I’d never thought about that before.
- I bumped into two friends of mine who I haven’t seen in a while–people from another self-organizing group of mine (we got our doctoral degrees together). They both showed up to show their love and support for Father ROG. These two women are so beautiful, inside and out, I just want to squeeze their cheeks. Carol and Diane, I hope you know how amazing you are! Check out Diane’s blog here: http://whitematters.wordpress.com/.
- I also learned an important lesson as a learner/researcher studying self-organizing groups. If you want pictures of a self-organizing group in action–a group that you yourself become part of–bring somebody else to take photos. These photos aren’t the best because during all the fun parts–all the parts I was part of the group myself–I was dancing.
That’s all I have time for now. I have to run out to another flash mob rehearsal. SU, you are a complicated, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes utterly amazing place. Groups like this one remind me that I am so very, very lucky to be part of you. And thank you, group members, for being yourselves.