Author: Bob_H

Robert S. Holzman, M.D. is Professor Emeritus of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine. He currently serves as Co-Chairperson of the Board of Be Present, Inc., an international non-profit organization founded in 1992 to teach the Be Present Empowerment Model and promote sustainable leadership for social justice. The practice of the model involves working in a group process that enables each participant to (1) “know yourself outside the distress of oppression”, (2) “listen to others in a conscious and present state”, and (3) “build effective relationships and sustain authentic alliances”. For more information on Be Present and the Be Present Empowerment Model please visit the website or contact info@bepresent.org

I am a Wealthy, White, Jewish Man, So Why Do I Have This Compulsion to Lead?

Over my life a characteristic feature has been that I remain in groups where I have a position of leadership and that I do not remain in groups in which I am a follower. It’s about control, of course, and it’s a characteristic I have been aware of since college, but only recently have I gotten insight into what drives me to behave this way.

In my career as an academic physician, researcher, and administrator, I was often in collaboration with others, but that collaboration included both explicit and unspoken hierarchies of power (for example, seniority of authorship or academic position). For the past decade as a member of Be Present’s Board I have worked in a very different collaborative model, one in which decisions are made collectively and by consensus and where deciding to just “go along” with the group is not part of the true process. It is still a struggle for me to be fully present in collaboration unless I am also present with my awareness that in such settings I have strong emotional reactions that can drive me to controlling or manipulative behavior. If those emotions are suppressed or not acknowledged, anger will accumulate and emerge forcefully and unexpectedly at some future time and often in another context.

So, what is new about a wealthy, white, Jewish man, accustomed to positions of power, acting to push his ideas and thinking on others or feeling entitled to act out his anger on others? It fits so many stereotypes and expectations, and when I can look at myself from outside my emotional distress, then I can see the assumptions of superiority and privilege within me that fuel such stereotypes and that I wish I were rid of. However, emotional distress often will grip me before any lightbulb turns on to reveal that I am about to act out my distress. Why is that distress so quick to come and so strong in its influence? Read more

What I was… How I changed…Where I am going…What I know now

by Bob Holzman

This article started as a section of a personal fundraising letter on behalf of Be Present, Inc.  In three paragraphs, produced with support and feedback from my wife, Clare, as well as Margherita Vacchiano and Carletta Joy Walker, I described how 14 years of working in the Be Present Empowerment Model had affected me at the personal and professional levels.

I have worked to learn and practice this model for the last 14 years. While I was aware of the overt and implicit sexism, racism and classism in American society, it was still a revelation to uncover the effect of these “isms” when they were unconsciously incorporated in my own words and behavior.  I came to better understand how my actions elicited reactions in others and how to make changes in my behavior.  I became conscious of the signals my mind and body were sending when those actions were driven by otherwise unconscious processes. Read more