ANSWERS TO CRITICAL QUESTIONS
Having invested many years in classrooms, lecture halls, and diverse learning environments, I know full well that questions are more important than answers. The honest truth is that answers may vary with time, but questions, framed properly, expose the substance that underlies the answer. “Ask Najoli” uncovers the substance of who I am and outlines a variety of insights on a variety of topics .
“Questions Uncover Essential Substance Thereby Influencing Opinions, Nuances, and Statements”. – Dr. Herman Najoli
Qsn. 1: What’s your story?
Ans. 1: I am a father, a friend, and a futurist. I am a father because my best friend of 16 years, my wife, is honored with the blessing of having two children that we cherish so much. Additionally, I model fatherhood as a coach to many young boys and girls in a number of city neighborhoods. I am a friend because my mission in life is to serve people with humility, empathy, resilience, maturity, authenticity, and niceness. And I am a futurist because I am driven by a passionate desire to make tomorrow a better experience for all than yesterday was for many.
Qsn. 2: Can you please provide some more detail?
Ans. 2: Well, I am an educator and public servant. I delight in introducing myself as a father, a friend, and a futurist. My career as a Public Servant spans several decades, continents, states, and sectors. I have written four books and hold a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership. I completed my dissertation on Wisdom and Organizational Citizenship Behavior in Leaders. I am one of the winners of the Forty Under 40 Award (September 2015) hosted by the Cincinnati Business Courier for my work with homeless men. I have served on the WCPO Community Advisory Board, and the Hamilton County Tax Incentive Review Commission (TIRC). I live in Price Hill with my wife Danyetta and our two children, a boy age 14 and a girl age 11. I enjoy soccer, outdoor tent camping, reading, and traveling. I also love to cook. My favorite TV show is a PBS cooking show, ‘The Great British Baking Show’. I am a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cincinnati Reds, FC Cincinnati Soccer, West End Pride soccer, St. William Blue Knights programs, and Walnut Hills High School sports.
Qsn. 3: Summarize your life mission in just three sentences?
Ans. 3: Helping people. Joining visionaries. Nurturing leaders.
Qsn. 4: What impact did your first job have on your life?
Ans. 4: My first job out of college was in Garden Valley, TX where I became an Administrative Assistant at a youth development organization known as Teen Mania. During my first week, I took the Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI) which made a lifelong impact. I discovered that I am an ENTJ (Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, Judgment) and that has helped me grow as a leader. I was there for one year from August 2001 to August 2002. I enjoyed the job because it was developmental in nature. We were pushed to read numerous books. One of my favorites was StrengthFinder which revealed that my top 5 strengths are Input, Futuristic, Achiever, Self-assurance, and Deliberative (That’s where I embraced the idea of being a futurist). This knowledge has continued to fuel my work, my friendships, and my desires. The job also involved tremendous interaction with many leaders from across the globe, enabling me to meet many catalysts of change who have left indelible marks on my life. It was there that I decided to go to graduate school for a leadership course. This ultimately led to meeting my wife. As they say, the rest is history.
Qsn. 5: Describe your upbringing. What impact did it have on you?
Ans. 5: I had a great upbringing. My dad taught me the importance of hard work and academic excellence (he and his brother were the first ones in my community to receive college education). My mom taught me the value of relationships and empathy for people (she was a great registered nurse). My paternal grandfather demonstrated to me the power of embracing the future and seeking change (he was the pastor of a church and principal of a school planted by British missionaries). My paternal grandmother oozed life and showed me the beauty of just being authentic with people (she was a marvelous story-teller). My maternal grandfather showed me what it meant to live by sound principles (he was a soldier and statesman). My upbringing planted seeds of leadership in my heart.
Qsn. 6: What global event had the greatest impact on your upbringing?
Ans. 6: Without question, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. I was extremely young, barely 12, when I found myself glued to the Television screen watching as President Ronald Reagan made that speech calling on Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall. My dad had traveled extensively in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, primarily in Israel, Netherlands, England, and Germany (He gave me my first name after befriending a German who developed a close affection to him). As we cheered that wall coming down, my dad helped me understand the wonderful significance. I have cherished that to this day. The tearing down of the wall helped me understand that I can be a bridge builder in this world. I was inspired by the ideal of a nation that advocates for the freedom of its people and the people of other lands. Little did I know that my own vision for life was developing. Years later I dedicated myself to harnessing and engaging remarkable minds to align and nurture their natural abilities for joyous outcomes through leadership and inclusion. That really was rooted in seeing the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Qsn. 7: According to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’
Ans. 7: The one thing that absolutely gives me the greatest joy in life is donating blood. I follow a personal unforced rhythm of giving blood four times a year. It is deeply satisfying and saves lives. Here are some images.
Qsn. 8: What is leadership really about?
Ans. 8: I have learned that people don’t care about what you know until they know that you care. Leadership is about caring. Caring leaders enable communities, groups, and organizations to move forward, be first, and lead. I CARE because I have Cognitive insight for decision-making, Affective knowledge for relationship building, Reflective depth for learning from the past, and Engaging spirit for the present. My mentor John Maxwell, says, “experience is not the best teacher; evaluated experience is the best teacher”. My work on the dissertation, in which I interviewed 193 leaders across the US, demonstrated that the reflective dimension of wisdom emerges from evaluation. Alexander Hamilton once said, “People sometimes attribute my success to my genius; all the genius I know anything about is hard work”. I say, hard work eats experience for breakfast. Through hard work, we model CARE.
Qsn. 9: You wrote a book titled, ‘Public Servants in Government, Education, and Nonprofit Sectors’. What are the main qualities of a good public servant?
Ans. 9: Yes. That is my fourth book. Allow me to highlight six qualities that I believe are essential for good public servants:
- Neighborliness – Being neighborly stems from an inherent belief in the dignity of all people. For me this has emerged from being inviting and welcoming to others who are different.
- Accountability – Leaders must be accountable. For me this has emerged from seeking and applying feedback that enables personal growth.
- Joint problem-solving – Leaders must be able to work with others in developing solutions. For me this has emerged from collaborative partnering with remarkable minds.
- Objective & others-oriented – Leaders must be others-oriented and objective. For me this has emerged from pursuing good and serving with joy.
- Leadership minded focus – Leaders must have the wisdom of servant-leadership. For me this has emerged from a daily study of leaders and cultivating integrity.
- Inclusive in approach – Leaders must be inclusive. For me this has emerged from developing connection intentionally with people from all walks of life.
Qsn. 10: What in pop culture captures your leadership philosophy?
Ans. 10: I use a movie to describe my philosophy. I think this would be the best way to provide depth of understanding. The movie Black Panther provides an intense grasp of my philosophy. There are seven main things that I’ll highlight using the acrostic PANTHER:
Pride in heritage as a Black male – T’Challa, King of Wakanda, is comfortable in his African ancestry. He knows who he is. His identity informs his leadership.
Accept the call to leadership succession – After his father dies, he takes up the mantle knowing that “It’s hard for a good man to be a king”.
Never downplay personal rights and influence – He fights for Wakanda’s ownership and control of its resources.
Train yourself to be a superhero for others – King T’Challa looks out for the disenfranchised. He helps in missions around the world.
Hold all humanity in high regard and esteem – People of all genders and backgrounds are valued throughout the movie. The king is a warrior who serves others.
Embrace moral duty to help – T’Challa promises to use unrivalled capabilities to serve the world with the support of his sister – the smartest girl in the world.
Respect past kings but move forward – He has visions with his dad and other kings but he reaches a moment where he emphatically tells them, “You were wrong”.
Qsn. 11: Can you expound on why it is hard for a good man to be a king?
Ans. 11: That statement by King T’Challa in Black Panther is telling. I know many good men and women who delight in quiet acts of bravery, compassion, and love to fellow humans but will not embrace the spotlight. It really is hard. For me, I have given back quietly behind the scenes and found great joy in doing that. My journey has enabled me to develop certain characteristics that I find ideal for my style of leadership. In a nutshell these are:
- Humility – Being humble is foundational for good leadership. For me, humility has emerged from a life of faith expressed in daily life.
- Empathy – Being able to see and experience another’s perspective is critical. For me, empathy has emerged from a passion for people and service.
- Resilience – Being tough as a person is necessary because leading is difficult. For me, resilience has emerged from navigating unique challenges.
- Maturity – Being aware of the right actions and behaviors for each moment is vital. For me, maturity has emerged from multicultural, global interactions.
- Authenticity – Being a person of integrity and truth is important for an office holder. For me, authenticity has emerged from embracing wisdom virtues.
- Niceness – Being an overall nice person is a crowning jewel of great leadership. For me, niceness has emerged from listening and valuing others more.
Qsn. 12: How are you living your dash? In other words, what would you like inscribed on your epitaph?
Ans. 12: To me, life is a pathway. I want to be said that I was the best father, a better friend, and a good futurist. Here’s what this means:
As a father, I delight in being humorous, endearing, responsible, motivational, adventurous, and noble. A fellow father Donald E. said, “Herman possesses the ability to look at life with a sense of excitement and passion. To talk to him about the things that he is excited about, raises the level of excitement in others”.
As a friend, I genuinely enjoy sharing my joy, understanding, mission, beliefs, and aspirations. My friend Jenilee S. said, “It always impressed me how all your conversations seemed carefully thought out and purposeful, though they were never overbearing or overly serious. … it just flowed up from out of you… you are purposeful about life…”.
As a futurist, I celebrate being a navigator in the present, an architect of tomorrow, a joint problem-solver, an outcomes researcher, a leader of change, and an independent thinker. My supervisor Heath S. said, “You exuded great optimism by pushing people to a higher standard. Your diligence and your excellence pushed every staff and intern that came in contact with you”!
Qsn. 13: What has historically been an area of improvement for you as a leader?
Ans. 13: When I was a kid I was a big thinker. It’s what led me to being an author and to completing my terminal degree. However, I am also learning how to limit my big thinking. I have numerous ideas and thrive on being visionary. Big thinking is an element of the creativity that oozes within me. There are numerous ideas that I have not pursued. I have learned that being a big thinker with numerous ideas is akin to a farmer with lots of seed to sow. When the farmer sows the seed, some fall on a pathway, some on rocks, some on thorny ground, and some on good ground. My work lately has comprised of extending the arena of good soil so that more of my ideas can spread. That is why I lead. To harness and engage remarkable minds to align and nurture their natural abilities for joyous outcomes through leadership and inclusion.
Qsn. 14: Have you recently had an earworm stuck in your head? Describe why.
Ans. 14: Yes. I have had one song stuck in my head for years. It is a beautiful song composed by a balladeer who collected songs from African American and Appalachian folklore. The song is “I wonder as I wander” by John Jacob Niles who studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Ever since I heard and learned the song in my church hymnal, it’s been an earworm in my head (song number 225, I can’t forget that 😊 ). There are numerous renditions of the song online performed by various artists. John Niles was a master documenter of the voices of Appalachian folklore and African American spiritual songs. As I travel in life, I wonder as I wander and sing the song one too many times. I wonder as I wander. As I lead, I wonder as I wander. As I think about the past, I wonder as I wander. As I think about the present, I wonder as I wander. As I think about the future, I wonder as I wander. I wonder as I wander.
Qsn. 15: What are your five favorite books?
Ans. 15: The best way for me to answer is by ‘decades’ of my life. In my first decade (before age 10), my favorite book was ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, a collection of cartoons. In my second decade (before 20), it was ‘The Hardy Boys’, a mystery series that I could never put down! In my third decade (before 30), it was ‘The Bible’, which I read in numerous versions for many years. In my fourth decade (before 40), it was ‘The Road to Arrival’, written by yours truly, which captures aspects of my life journey.
In this current decade, my favorite book is ‘David and Goliath: Underdog, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants’, by Malcolm Gladwell, which is about shaping the way we think about the world around us. Since it is my current favorite book, I will explain why. I always feel I am like a ‘David’ going against many ‘Goliaths’.
Qsn. 16: Who is your all-time favorite fictional character?
Ans. 16: Without question, ‘He-Man’. As a young boy growing up, my friends called me ‘He-Man’ and I loved the superhero! I would run from school to be home on time to watch the TV series! As a kid, I would transform into ‘He-Man’ on playgrounds numerous times by yelling, “By the power of Grayskull…”! My family had a small dog named Mixi, whom I would rename my ‘Battle Cat’ as we ran through the neighborhood together. It was so much fun!
So here I am today, more than thirty years later, reimagining David vs. Goliath (see question above) and feeling like He-Man vs. Skeletor! I do not have five smooth stones like David. I do not have a Power Sword like He-Man. I do not have the luxury of being in a Biblical story or a fictional TV series. But may we all have the joy of being a superhero for others.
BONUS Questions and Answers
Have a question for me? Feel free to call anytime, or send an email. Look out for the answer to your question here.
Bonus Qsn. 1: Comment on your writing and being an author?
Bonus Ans. 1: It all started with inspiration from my 8th grade teacher, my favorite teacher till today. Whenever we submitted essays compositions, she would post mine on the bulletin board for the rest of the class to read. Educators make a big difference! I’ve written four (4) books so far. My first, The Road to Arrival, is geared to empower people with principles than can guide them towards realizing their dreams. My second, Quest for Light, is an effort to inspire a love for the knowledge and understanding of eternal principles and wisdom. My third, Battling for Your Prophetic Destiny, is meant to challenge individuals to pursue a life calling and do all it takes to realize their highest potential. My fourth, Public Servants in Government, Education, and Nonprofit Sectors, is a handbook of administrative, managerial, and innovative leadership theory for organizational networking. The working title for my next book is Unshackle Your Potential which is about reaching for the greatness within to unlock one’s significance.
Have a question for me?
Call 513-LEADERS or email drnajoli at gmail.com
Dr. Herman J. Najoli, PO Box 7112, Cincinnati, OH 45205