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My New BFF, Diane Rehm

In Diane Rehm, Howard Gardner, Kouzes, Leadership, Malavenda, NPR, Pablo Malavenda, Posner, Purdue, Uncategorized, WBAA on June 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm


Authentic & Incredibly Credible – Leader & Voice

We all love certain celebrities and have expectations for what they’re really like.  Occasionally we get the chance to meet these celebs and our expectations are tested.  I recently met one of my favorite National Public Radio personalities, and she far exceeded all of my expectations. The experience from beginning to end was such a joy! Diane Rehm is my NBFF.

Days after declaring Diane Rehm my new BFF — I was driven to figure this out.  How did she do it?  How do some people have the power to give us hope, make us comfortable and make us feel loved and valued — so deeply, so quickly? I immediately thought of Diane Rehm as our leader, our savior in a sense; someone who is authentic, smart, and forward thinking.


Diane Rehm, popular radio host of the daily NPR program, the Diane Rehm Show, came to town last week to be a part of the 90th anniversary celebration of our public radio station, WBAA, public radio at Purdue University-West Lafayette, Indiana.

WBAA Staff with Diane Rehm

WBAA Staff with Diane Rehm

Diane Rehm was the keynote at the hoity-toity Gala evening event and at the Women in Leadership breakfast. At both events, Diane Rehm shared stories of her life and career and then entertained questions from the audience. I was lucky enough to be able to attend both events — and was able to meet her both times. Diane Rehm is charming, gracious, witty, inspiring, visionary, passionate, honest, and very smart. Diane Rehm confided in and trusted us like friends. She shared stories of her personal journey, her worries, and gave us much to ponder on a local, national and global level. Diane is one of us; she understands our fears and gives us hope; and we are ready to march with her to fight for a better future for all. Diane is a charismatic, developed leader. Diane Rehm has Incredible Credibility. Diane Rehm is genuine and authentic. After a short time, everyone fell in love and truly felt like her new BFF. If you liked her before the event, you loved her like a dear friend after these events. 

After 25 years of hosting speakers and keynotes, I assure you this is not always the case — in fact, it is rare. When hosting a celebrity, I would meet with them before they hit the stage. Most of the time, I was unimpressed and found the pre-show conversation difficult and awkward. Often times the speaker was demanding, rude, and hard to please. I once had a speaker show up two hours late — missing the VIP dinner with student leaders before the show and making the audience wait an hour before starting their presentation. I have experienced and seen so much that I have become a bit cynical and often have very low expectations. That’s why when you meet someone like Diane Rehm it is worth shouting about (or at least blogging about).


I am not surprised.  The characteristics we admire in our leaders are embodied in Diane Rehm.  My theory for how Diane Rehm so successfully won us over has to do with her Incredible Credibility.

Diane Rehm & Kristin Malavenda, WBAA news producer

Diane Rehm & Kristin Malavenda, WBAA news producer

Credibility is complex because it  includes a variety of different characteristics like being honest, inspiring, visionary, and competent, to name a few. DR exudes trustworthiness, is dynamic, progressive, and knows her stuff. When you trust the messenger, you will believe in the message. We believe in Diane Rehm. If you are a regular listener of the DR Show, you know you can count on Diane Rehm being prepared with great knowledge and skill. Diane Rehm is genuinely excited personally and optimistic about the future of her show, her message, and our nation. Today, to be perceived as being Credible is rare; however, according to the research of James Kouzes & Barry Posner (2008), Credibility is a concept that every Leader must acknowledge.  Kouzes & Posner (2011) refer to this as The First Law of Leadership.

The First Law of Leadership: If we don’t believe in the messenger, we won’t believe the message.

If you don’t trust the messenger, the message is irrelevant.

Developed Leader

I loved hearing from and meeting Diane Rehm. Days after her visit I kept referring back to things she shared about her philosophy and values. At one point I felt compelled to listen to her Women in Leadership breakfast keynote again online — which I never have done before. If DR fans or more generally NPR fans are a community then Diane is our leader, and she epitomizes a Developed Leader. From her opening remarks it was clear Diane Rehm was a legitimate part of our community and she immediately connected with everyone.  Diane spoke about WBAA’s 90 anniversary and the importance of giving to public radio as if we had known each other and struggled together for a long time.  Her story of how she ended up in public radio and how she approaches producing a daily, two-hour show demonstrates congruence between her message and her values and philosophy.  Diane Rehm’s credibility is enhanced by the fact that she has chosen to be in public radio, hosting the DR Show, and being a vehicle for the rest of us to get engaged in the important conversations of our time. Consistent with Howard Gardner’s research (1995), Diane Rehm is a leader of a society — albeit a society of NPR nerds, but a community just the same.  She has chosen our cause and we have chosen her as our leader.  Howard Gardner in his text, Leading Minds, refers to this as a Developed Leader. A Developed Leader has a tie to the community and relates stories that are consistent with the values and vision of the community (Gardner, 1995).

Her Stories

The real power behind Diane Rehm and her presentation in celebration of the 90th anniversary of WBBA is her stories. There were a few themes in her remarks and in her answer to the audience’s questions.  A few of the more powerful insights, sage advice and wisdom from Diane Rehm’s remarks are as follows:

  • One of my complaints I have about my station is that communication, even important communications, are done via e-mail. I don’t think that helps for cohesiveness, for the kind of creation of a strong team effort. We all need to be together in some way, in some form, in order to help each other — sending out that message orally, verbally — ’cause that’s the way you help people.
  • During these times we have been caught up in a plethora of sources of information and focused to the next thing – the next message – the next tweet – the next message on Facebook. We are forgetting about the importance of conversation. Conversation enriches life — it is important to sit and talk and to really engage. Conversation creates meaning and depth.  Conversation is what keeps us human — is what keeps us relating with each other.  And that’s my worry that we are so focused on these gadgets and so focused on the illusory connection that these gadgets provide that we will forget how important it is to relate on a human level.
  • The most interesting dinner parties are those where people are willing to engage — where real conversations begin by asking each other questions and listening to the answers with genuine interest.
  • Media today is often designed to tell you what to think.  At the DR Show our goal is to give you enough information to engage in the interview. The DR Show will not tell you how to think but rather will all you to think for yourself. This is true for public radio in general and why we all need to support public radio and advocate for funding.  Stations like WBAA send out messages of hope, of encouragement, of good news, of good conversation around the Indiana area.  And the message is coming from a local personality that you trust and with who you are most comfortable. A person who allows you to think rather than tell you how to think or what to think.
  • Young professionals must follow their passion — especially women. When you are starting out, don’t hesitate to volunteer.  While volunteering you are learning and being trained.  This is how I, Diane Rehm, learned about public radio. People would ask me why are you volunteering without pay.  My answer was and remains — I was learning. Any opportunity to learn is a gateway to a new career.  If you love that volunteer work, want to pursue it more, and are willing to put in the time and effort to pursue it — it becomes a dream.  I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t come easy.  I carried my own equipment; I had to report to work at 3 a.m. — and these were two part-time jobs. You have to work your bottom off.  Too many young professionals have dreams but are not yet realizing how much effort they have to put into the work part – the self training part – the relationship part — in order to achieve those dreams.

As you can see, Diane Rehm’s message is consistent with the vision for her show and her role in public radio.  Diane Rehm is a leader with credibility and a talented interviewer.  Diane Rehm is excited about her work, intelligent, authentic, inspiring and forward thinking. When Diane Rehm made her entrance at the WBAA Gala Dinner and Leadership Breakfast, we all wanted to be her friend; when we left the event, we all felt comforted, filled with hope, re-energized, and ready to face the future — what ever it may bring.

Diane Rehm is our new BFF — and everything in the world is going to be fine.


  • Gardner, Howard (1995). Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership. New York: Basic Books.
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2011). Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2008). 4th Edition. The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Rehm, Diane (2012, May 17 & 18). WBAA 90th Anniversary Keynote at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

For more suggestions on must-read LEADERSHIP books, check out this PCPop blog post:

Saying Goodbye: You’re Off to Great Places

In Adjourning, Books, College Students, Dr. Seuss, Exploring Leadership, Group Dynamics, Komives, Kouzes, Leader, Leadership, Malavenda, Nance Lucas, Oh the places you'll go, Pablo Malavenda, Posner, Timothy McMahon, Tuckman Stages, Uncategorized on May 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm


Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away.

Saying Goodbye can be a powerful and transforming action that many Leaders overlook. Leaders spent a tremendous amount of time and energy building a hardworking, cohesive team and often see great results. But Leaders fail to give appropriate praise and recognition which should include some type of ceremony at the end of the year. In many team situations there is a clear and definitive “end” of the year, completion of the work and inevitable dissolution of the relationships. This is especially true in organizations in which the leader, chairperson, or president must be elected (or re-elected) each year — like student organizations and societies in college and high school. It is that time of year when some students are getting ready to graduate and for life after college, and all of the other students are preparing to move on to the next level of leadership. Leaders often let the outgoing members of student organizations just fade away though and allow the incoming  Leaders and the formal graduation ceremonies take precedence. What Leaders must do however is give formal recognition to the accomplishments of the team which has been together for the entire year and most likely has many wonderful things on which to reflect and of which to be proud.

Great Leaders spend part of their tenure recognizing accomplishments, rewarding good work, working on team building and trust among group members, and empowering and encouraging their team members to work hard, take risks and make history. Ironically these same Leaders often leave office and fade away without properly “Saying Goodbye” and more importantly without allowing the team members to say Goodbye to each other. When Kouzes and Posner talked about “Encouraging the Heart” they were not only referring to recognizing individuals throughout the entire year but also having an upbeat year-end celebration to give closure to the entire team (Kouzes & Posner, 2008).

Encouraging the Heart is based on two commitments: recognizing contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence and celebrating the values and victories by creating a spirit of community (Kouzes & Posner, 2003).  For some leaders Encouraging the Heart comes naturally but for most it is not their strongest trait. Believe it or not it is easier for many Leaders to “Challenge the Process” but Encouraging the Heart frightens them. Yet is it so important that Kouzes and Posner dedicated an entire textbook to this one behavior of their Leadership Challenge — Encouraging the Heart. Now there’s a book, Encouraging the Heart workshops, and the Encouragement Index. So don’t blow it by not coordinating an end of the year celebration. According to Kouzes and Posner the importance of Encouraging the Heart is backed up by research that reports that approximately one-third of North American workers say they NEVER are recognized for a job well done, a little more (44 percent) say they receive little recognition for a job well done, and only 50 percent of Leaders say they give recognition for high performance  (Kouzes & Posner, 2003). Great Leaders know that people matter, and Leader must make people feel in their hearts that they are valued and appreciated — and we’re not necessarily talking about money or salary.

You’ll be on your way up!

You’ll be seeing great sights!

You’ll join the high fliers

Who soar to high heights.

Also remember that every group, team or organization goes through developmental stages explained well by Bruce Tuckman’s Group Development Model. Tuckman’s original stages of development, as you will recall, are as follows: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing (Tuckman, 1965).  In 1977, Tuckman with Mary Ann C. Jensen added a fifth stage: Adjourning. Adjourning has also been referred to as the De-Forming or Mourning stage.  Tuckman and Jensen (1977) realized the function or design of many groups is to complete a series of tasks and to dissolve.  Even if the group continues to exist the members of the group will be different and the developmental stage would revert to the Forming stage also know as Re-Forming and Re-Storming.  Adjourning allows for the group to continue on with new members, new leadership and a new set of goals and tasks to complete.  According to Tuckman and Jensen (1977): When it is time to end or change the group in some way, managers can be perplexed by the blind refusal to change or contemplate a future that is different from today. This requires the skills of “Change Management” Leaders to be deployed, for example in celebrating the successes of the past whilst steadily revealing the inevitability of the future (Tuckman & Jansen, 1977). As with beginnings, rituals help people cope with the changes of ending. If properly implemented the Adjourning stage which includes Encouraging the Heart behaviors can be transforming for all members including outgoing members and new incoming members as well.

The 3-steps to a successful “Goodbye” are as follows:

  • Celebrate
    • Bring all members together
    • Have a meal
    • Dress up
  • Recognize
    • Say Thank you
    • Recognize major accomplishments
    • Honor members – leaders, staff, volunteers, advisors
    • Give a Keepsake
  • Leave a Legacy
    • Pass the Gavel
    • Introduce New Leadership
    • Share Vision for Future — finances, services, programs, and leadership

On and on you will hike.

And I know you’ll hike far

And face up to your problems

Whatever they are.

From an organizational perspective, plan the ceremony and pick a date as soon as possible.  Get the event in everyone’s calendar and make it an expectation to attend.  Assign the planning of the event to someone on the executive team.  I prefer the event to be coordinated and planned by the vice president.  The VP has enough knowledge and connection to the entire organization to plan something appropriate and special.  Make sure the event is within the budget and communicated as an expectation as well as a priority.  Most of your budget will be needed for food and beverages and the gift to all members.  That being said focus on the objectives of the event which represents the Heart of the organization — the people, relationships, memories, and the personal growth of each member; therefore, don’t let the lack of funds prevent you from planning something creative and special.  Everyone should attend. Everyone who attends should feel very special at the event.  Everyone should be acknowledged, thanked and recognized — EVERYONE.  This is consistent with the principles of the Relational Leadership Model concerning Empowerment and Inclusion (Komives, Lucas, McMahon, 2007). Be careful not to plan one of those banquets that makes a few people feel great and most feel ignored and under-appreciated (again).  A proper Goodbye is wonderful and uplifting for EVERYONE!

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

How you Say Goodbye is up to you and should be appropriate for the culture and consistent with the values of the organization.  Here are some ideas that may work for you.

  • Thank You — A thank you gift that each member may take away. It may be engraved with the “year” or term of office or something that can be personalized like a picture frame.
    • Flowers — a flower for each outgoing member
    • Gift — glass, mug, picture frame (for the group photo mentioned below)
  • Recognition
    • Plaque – may include photo, name, year or term of office
    • Certificate of Achievement/Excellence — this is most inexpensive recognition item you can give but it will be treasured by the members.  They look great if you use multi-colored certificate paper, and they can be personalized and signed by the VIPs of the organization.  For a few more cents, you purchase certificate covers and fancy stickers and ribbons to make the presentation even more dazzling.  Check with your national/international office for pre-printed certificate paper.
    • Photo of Group — the photo may be distributed electronically or made available online; the photo should include a “key” with names of everyone pictured and not pictured.
    • Logo Item — a lapel pin, patch, medal, hat, fancy pen, coaster, etc.  If the organization is a national/international or has a specific logo, there may be items for sale from the national office.
  • Program
    • Emcee, Keynote, Presenters — decide who will be hosting and emceeing, select and invite a keynote, and select presenters
    • Keynote Remarks — should focus on Leadership and leaving a legacy for the future. Considering using creative, leadership focused quotes and books like Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. {More information on how to use Story Books in Leadership may be found in this PCPop post: Story Book Leadership: Getting Started.}
    • Script — Write a script. Do not ad lib or “wing it.”  Don’t deviate from the script once it is written because it was developed to give everyone equal recognition and assures that no one is singled out as extra special (unless that is part of the original plan).  We have all witnessed this disaster — when the emcee calls up each member to receive their certificate and offers personal remarks about one particular member and then has to come up with something equally impressive for everyone else.  It never works out well, and it makes the program awkward for everyone.
    • Awards — are optional.  If you choose to give awards like best program, best committee, best chairperson, best senior, best alumnus/a, etc — make sure they don’t do more harm than good.
    • Special Recognition — decide if you wish to honor specific groups or categories of members like all graduating seniors, all executive team members, advisors, staff, or committee chairs.
    • Creative Presentations: Superlatives, Limericks, Funny Awards for each member.  With these creative presentations you must make sure there is one for each member.  A small group of officers or committee members may create these presentations or they can create the awards and superlatives and have the members vote (like “Most Likely to Succeed”).
    • Passing the Gavel: Give the outgoing president an opportunity to give remarks about the year’s accomplishments and highlights.  The outgoing presidents then presents an engraved gavel to the new president for the upcoming year.  The new president shares his/her vision for the next year building on the success and hard work of the outgoing members.
    • Photo/View Slideshow — Every organization should have a director of communications who is responsible for taking pictures and video at all events.  Their ultimate goal is to have enough photos to create a meaningful slideshow for the end of the year banquet.  The slideshow can then be shared online with all members — another gift for all members — as well as alumni and friends of the organization.
    • Music/dancing:
      • Dinner music –if you have the funds, during dinner it is a nice touch to have live music featuring a piano player, jazz combo, violinist, or harpist.
      • Dancing — After the formal presentation, some group may enjoy dancing to a DJ, who will also play “dinner” music and supply you with a microphone and sound system for your keynote and presentations.
  • Food & Beverages — Dinner, Lunch or Breakfast
    • Plated — served, sit-down meal; must coordinate special dietary meals in advance
    • Buffet — hot meal, easier to accommodate special dietary needs
    • Picnic – variety of menus will work: burgers/dogs, steak/potatoes, shish kabobs, bbq (ribs, chicken), clam bake
    • Hors d’oeuvres — this is a great option if your budget will not allow for a full meal but make sure the food is hot and plentiful.
    • Desserts — this is another great low(er)-budget option but make sure you have healthy options too like fruit smoothies, yogurt, granola, fruit salad or fresh fruit platters.
      • Buffet with a chocolate fountain (Yum!)
      • Ice Cream Sundaes — make your own — make sure you have lactose-free (soy) and lower fat options like sherbet.
  • Beverages
    • Cash Bar — general rule of thumb is that if more than half of your honorees and guests are of legal drinking age a cash bar would be appropriate.  You may disagree but I don’t think using organizational funds to pay for an open bar is appropriate.
    • Coffee — if dessert is a part of the event, coffee would be a nice addition.
  • Venue— once you decide on the program and the food you would like to serve, you have a few options for venue.  Remember to ask about catering options, food charges, vegetarian options, tax charge, service fee, tip/gratuity, bar fee, bar minimum, security requirements and any other costs.  Make sure you ask about specific requirements and the cost, if any, for a microphone, lectern, video projector, screen, dance floor, linens, flatware, centerpieces, table for awards, etc. Options for your venue are as follows:
    • Banquet hall
    • Hotel banquet room (tend to charge extra for everything — so, get a quote!)
    • Private home (obviously technology challenges)
    • Park, beach, golf course club house, country club, pavilion, outdoor plaza/patio, neighborhood clubhouse
    • Restaurant — private room
    • Museum, gallery


Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way!

(Dr. Seuss, 1990)

It sounds like a lot of work, but the rewards are tremendous.  Each one of your members will feel wonderful about their experience with the organization, be proud of what they were able to accomplish, and be confident that their contributions are appreciated and valued. New incoming members and officers will be inspired to continue to work hard toward accomplishing the mission and vision of the organization.  You will have started a meaningful tradition that members will look forward to attending each year. You will have become a great Leader who is comfortable Encouraging the Heart and understands the importance and significance of the Adjourning phase of group development. “You’re off to Great Places – Today is Your Day – Your Mountain is Waiting – So, Get on Your Way!”


  • Komives, Susan R., Lucas, Nance, & McMahon, Timothy R. (2007) 2nd Edition. Exploring Leadership for College Students Who Want to Make a DifferenceSan Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2003). 2nd Edition. Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2008). 4th Edition. The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Seuss, Dr. (1990). Oh, The Places You’ll Go! New York, New York: Random House.
  • Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Development sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.
  • Tuckman, B.W. & Jensen, M.A.C. (1977) Stages of small group development revisitedGroup and Organizational Studies, 2, 419-427.

For more suggestions on must-read LEADERSHIP books, check out this PCPop blog post:

For more on Story Book Leadership, check out these PCPop blog posts: