Islands Off the Beaten Track is the name of an archaeological exhibition organized by the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, focusing on the most remote, inaccessible islands of the Aegean archipelago. Yet, I am not here to promote Greece, Greek tourism, cultural pursuits or archeology. I confess that when I saw the exhibits and the videos of the Aegean magic, something down deep stirred inside of me but I will bypass my sense of Greekness – this is not about that.
What’s important and remarkable is the off the beaten track approach of the team that puts all its passion, determination and hard work to pull this through and make it happen. While Athenian economics and politics rage towards an uncertain future, purity and commitment take over and drive those who dare to dream.
What does it really take for a private museum to put on an exhibition when funds and sponsors are scarce, budgets are tight, audiences are preoccupied and life in Athens and the rest of Greece is no longer the same?
A tight group who shares the passion and believes in the Museum President’s vision can put to shame any Fortune 500 mechanism. Prima inter pares, the president does not miss a hard day at work. Her staff – mostly women (worth mentioning but perhaps coincidental) – are working hand in hand with a group of volunteers who feel proud to roll up their sleeves, and jump in to do whatever it takes. Hard labor it is – without a penny. This is not your usual “do-good” hospital, Red Cross type volunteerism. Pay and status are irrelevant here. This is about sharing – sharing the common goal which is debated, questioned, explored. Point of view, perspective and opinions do count here. If one can defend the argument, then the rest do listen. If one can open the door to a possibility, then the option to follow through will be explored. People argue; disagree; come to a consensus and if convinced, they will agree to change positions. The sword and fear of getting fired is not there anyway – so the motivation is completely different and comes from the sense of working together and doing something that they all feel it’s great to do. The hierarchy and chain of command with the accountabilities and mandates of the operational burdens is clear – yet this is not the top-down order system.
It’s hard work to be a real team. Personalities, tendencies, upbringings, different experiences and the intricate mapping of humanity makes any leader’s task complex. And it’s even harder when people can simply walk away. Feeding the soul, making everyone feel respected and appreciated, inspiring them and bringing up the best in people – that’s what a leader’s job really is. And somehow this team seems to have it right – in spite of the hardships and the ups and downs.
If I don’t respect you – I will pretend I do and go on bluffing my way to work – but much worse I will no longer care. And if people stopped caring – the great things that make the difference will no longer be created – and in the end, we will all lose.