I have two offerings for you this edition!

First, I was recently interviewed by Tony Rezac on his Basecamp for MenPodcast.

Tony is an author, coach, and workshop leader, and a fellow warrior brother in Mankind Project USA.

We had a juicy conversation for about 20 minutes on the some of the challenges facing men today, and the ways in which working with a men’s group can help.

I enjoyed our chat immensely, and I really like and respect Tony. Check it out and please share if you are so moved!

Second, I was recently asked to do a writing exercise about my leadership and how it has evolved, and this piece emerged. I hope it is of use to you!

From the Department of the King

When I said I wanted to be the King of BeeCharge!, our long running camp at Burning Man, everybody thought I was joking.

I had been the de facto leader for many years at this point, which really meant I was the cat-herder, emailer, and chief nudger. I was the one who started the thread about the kitchen and the one who reserved the truck and the one who managed the budget – sometimes going in the red- and the one who answered all the questions.

Then I started to get resentful, a common malady for Burner leaders.

I felt like I was doing too much while others weren’t doing enough, and often I didn’t feel seen and appreciated for my effort. Even as I felt a huge responsibility and burden, I didn’t actually have any authority and always felt like I was asking for favors.

Change was needed, so I took a deep look inside myself. I joined the ManKind Project and started sitting in a circle of men for support and accountability. I gradually saw that I was being driven by old stale stories from my childhood, and my deepest belief was that I was unworthy of love and affection.

The truth was I wanted so much to be liked I rarely said no, and this lack of boundaries often led to the over-commitment, fatigue, resentment, and flawed leadership that I experienced in the early days of the camp.

With the support of my men’s circle, a series of powerful life coaches, and the love and connection of our Bee community, I found healing by loosening up on my judgments and criticisms, especially of myself. I learned to love myself and to open my heart to others.

Much of this growth happened on the playa, where judgments and projections may fall away in the container of immediacy and participation and radical inclusion.

So years later when I claimed the title of King of BeeCharge!, everybody thought I was joking, but I was dead serious.

I decided to step into a new way of being as a leader, to live in integrity and be accountable, to do what I say, and when mistakes happen to admit it and clean it up. I embraced the dirty jobs and led by example, while always making sure to share a wider vision of our effort, so our people remembered why we were doing so much hard work.

I made friends with conflict and got curious about the grey areas, recognizing that the more intense things become, the more I shine and the more brilliantly I may show up.

As a leader, I am a healer, a counselor, a consoler, and a coach. I mentor and guide the new people in acculturating, and I am the first and last to MOOP the camp and surrounding neighborhood. I am the fire-tender of our camp, keeping the flame going even in the winter when Burning Man seems far away and energies are low.

People reach out to me all the time, for support and listening and problem solving. It is a huge honor to me when a friend (or an acquaintance!) trusts me in this way. I am often told that I am inspirational, and a great example of how a man should live. I am told I am the best dad ever, and I am told by a very large circle that I am loved and appreciated.

With the new skills I learned on the playa and in the ManKind Project leader training program, I stepped into supervision and leadership at the public defender’s office too, where I led teams of lawyers handling the most difficult and high-pressure cases in the state. I volunteered for the most serious multiple murder case in county history and we managed to avoid the death penalty.

I became a teacher of trial skills and self-care, and a mentor to young lawyers. I became a leader in the wider criminal justice community and gained the respect of judges and prosecutors and even police officers, finding ways to connect beneath our surface disagreements of how a case should go. I have been invited many times to apply to be a judge, and always said no, as I was not ready to leave the PD’s office.

My biggest challenge is patience. I push myself hard, and sometimes I think I see the big picture and what needs to happen so clearly that I push a situation too. What has helped me with this is my meditation and zen practice, regular yoga and qigong, and my essay writing and poetry. What especially helps when this comes up is to reach out and ask for support.

In my leadership I am willing to sit with and reveal whatever feelings or stories are bubbling inside me. When I lead from my heart in this way, I help others to see that they are not alone in feeling anxious or sad or overwhelmed.

Of course, there is also much to celebrate, and I am willing to lead in the fun too! Every year after our Wednesday party, when the Bees swarm the Man I am out front, leading the charge with a megaphone and a tutu, stirring the pot and building the buzz to a frenzy!

Burning Man was the opening that led to much of the growth in my life and to my emergence as a powerful, compassionate, and collaborative leader.

There is an old tradition out on the playa of Burners greeting each other with “Welcome Home.”

I have learned that home is not a place or a location. It is a state of mind, a way of being with myself.

Home is a way of loving and accepting who I am.

Home is recognizing the great gifts I have to offer the world, and understanding that to withhold these gifts would not only be a shame and a waste, it would be an abdication.

So Welcome Home dAVE. Welcome Home!

What are your proud of in your leadership?? What are you working on?

Dave Klaus

King Bee, Fire-Tender