Paul Kotz, a writer living in the Como neighborhood, knows that everyone at some time goes though crises.
He is hoping his latest book, “Profiles in Kindness: Stories of Servant Leadership and Inspiration,” can help people emerge from those crises and find some comfort and some joy in his words.
Although written before COVID-19 and the tragedy of George Floyd’s death impacted so many, his book strikes a chord during these difficult times.
Kotz, a professor at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota who teaches in the Doctorate in Leadership program, said he loves to write. “Hopefully I can touch peoples’ hearts and let them see there is hope, and good stories are happening in the world,” he noted.
Be a servant leader
Kotz wrote an earlier book, “Something Happened Today,” for his daughters, and then decided to publish that collection of stories designed to inspire and challenge the reader.
“For this book, I coupled that with the idea of servant leadership,” Kotz explained. “How do we reach out to our community, the people we interact with daily? It builds on the first book.”
Kotz explores how people can be influential and inspirational leaders. Throughout the book he draws on quotes from individuals, both the famous and not so famous, who all have something noteworthy to share.
A point made by American author Alison McGhee especially resonated with Kotz. “Every moment of every day you can bring people down or you can lift them up,” she said.
Kotz emphasizes that point throughout ‘Profiles in Kindness.’ “We need to seize the day for what it is,” he said, “But we all hit hurdles and hardships.” Looking at how people can lead in their community, their schools or companies, Kotz said he asks this question: “How do you want to spend your remaining days?”
He suggests in his book that being a more effective leader involves experiencing everyday life and learning from it, being kind, developing new insight, having our eyes open to better ways of handling situations, and then taking action to make a situation, our communities and the world a place to thrive and inspire others. “If you lead by example, people get inspired to do good things on their own,” Kotz added.
He acknowledges that all people are in some ways flawed human beings, and there is no one canned way to provide leadership. “But everything we do is built on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “We can learn so much from history, yet still unfortunately do the same things over and over.”
Motivate others to see good in themselves
Kotz noted that the Martin Luther King Jr. quote “It’s not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people” is as timely today as it was when he first said it.
“I am a privileged white male,” Kotz said, “and I have had my own hardships. But if you are a person in poverty, and you don’t have all the resources others have, it’s hard to say pick yourselves up by your bootstraps and go get a job.” Part of leadership, according to Kotz, is recognizing how you can look at people’s strengths. “If you can motivate others to see the good in themselves, things can kind of take care of themselves.”
Open your eyes and ears
Being in a position of leadership can be both a blessing and a curse, Kotz states in “Profiles of Kindness.” He said, “It’s a blessing when someone trusts you, but at the same time sensitive information they share can be almost too much.”
Citing his own experience, Kotz said he may not be able to actually help the person who came to him seeking advice. “I can’t live your life, but I can give you examples of what I have done. It may not work for you,” is what he may tell the person.
“I temper my comments to others with the gift of experience, the gift of making mistakes and learning from them and trying to help others not make some big ones.”
In his book, Kotz writes that he tells individuals that even if they did not get the job or promotion they wanted, they can learn from the experience and prepare better for the next challenge down the road.
Kotz admitted that life’s challenges provide us with some pain, and we may have to refocus or give up. “My hope, with both of these books, is that they can serve as a springboard,” he said. He cited the difficulties people face when they are in the midst of a problem, but once they are through it they say “Wow!”
“We can use creativity and motivation to bring a better joy,” he said.
Kotz explained that he does not write every day, but his writing can come in clumps. “I do write every other day, some small snippet of me trying to process things,” he said. Taking his dog for a walk, he often comes across people who come up and talk to him. “That happens to me a lot; I must give off signals,” he said. “And I welcome that.”
People who have read or reviewed his latest book have told Kotz they like the idea that they can pick it up and read different pieces of it and feel something different each time.
“I maintain in both books that someone, somewhere, is trying to do something good for someone else at this time,” Kotz said.
“Some say this is a horrible world, but you have to open your eyes and ears to hear things around you. It takes patience and a conscious effort, and as a leader you have to do that.”
Kotz encourages others to reach out to others and ask for help when needed. “Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially these days,” he said. “It has been a long time since we had a pandemic, compounded by the George Floyd tragedy. We have to face our problems head-on and look at ourselves on a daily basis and ask ‘What are we all about?’”
“Profiles in Kindness” is available on Amazon or by contacting the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.