3 Mini Lessons from a Mega Event

Cat Lady - a limited edition serigraph created by Alison Bremner, 2014 Artist Designed Collection Fellow

Cat Lady – a limited edition serigraph created by Alison Bremner, 2014 Indian Market Artist Designed Collection Fellow (Reprinted with permission)

I recently attended the Indian Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During this event, approximately 1000 Native American artists gathered on the Santa Fe Plaza to display and sell paintings, carvings, textiles, beadwork, basketry, pottery, and jewelry.  The tradition is in its 93rd year with this year’s attendance estimated at 175,000.  Under the azure blue sky with the sun bearing down, the atmosphere was filled with celebration of the Native American heritage.

My conversations with the vendors were engaging. I listened to various craftspeople describe their process for creating the treasures before me.  As I reflected on my time at Indian Market, I realized that the stories the Native Americans shared with me were all related to three simple principles.  And that these principles, if applied to an organizational setting, are the key to engagement and leadership effectiveness.

These are the lessons I learned.

Be Proud

The Native Americans I met were proud – proud of their heritage, proud of their family, proud of their tribe, proud of their craftsmanship.  Respect resonated in every conversation.

Leaders, ask yourself – do you have a sense of pride in your work, your team, your organization, your mission? Do you respect yourself and your colleagues for your collaborative results? If not – what are you going to do about it? If you hang your head when thinking of any part of your leadership experience, maybe you should rethink and redo. As leaders, let’s put pride back in hearts and our work.

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”

– Abraham Lincoln


native american weaving

Native American Weaving – istockphoto.com

The craftspeople at the Indian Market were multi-generational. Skill in creating the works of art is passed down from one generation to the next.   Work produced is a family affair – grandparents with parents with children.  The techniques are taught with patience; the learners adopt and perfect the skills. Each generation works to improve upon the techniques of the previous.

As leaders, isn’t our job also to teach and open the doors to experimentation? Our goal should be to develop those who follow us. The sharing of knowledge and skills cements the future. And the patience to encourage others to try something different and improve upon the past creates an environment of learning.


Native American Beadwork

Native American Beadwork – sbbowen

Drums, music, ceremonies, festivals, and celebrations are prevalent in Native American culture. Walking through the display area, I encountered the songs and dances of Native American traditions. Ceremonial dances serve vital roles in expressing hope and gratitude.

As leaders, do we take the time to celebrate our successes? Sometimes we are so busy attending to the “task at hand”, we fail to stop, assess, and then celebrate our wins or even our failures. Revel in your learning. Applaud the completion of each step. Celebrate your journey and your team’s accomplishments.

I am honored to have witnessed this great gathering and am pleased to take these lessons with me as I focus on helping leaders develop. In most cases, simplicity is best. Be Proud – Teach – Celebrate.

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”

– Native American Proverb, Dakota

My thanks to Alison Bremner for the privilege of showcasing her work in this post.  Alison is from the Tlingit tribe, born and raised in southeast Alaska.  She sends along her inspiration for creating the Cat Lady:  “When the Spanish ships came to trade, the Tlingit would pull alongside them in canoes. One such time, small furry creatures were running along the Spanish deck. That is how the Tlingit came into contact with domesticated cats.”


2 Comments on “3 Mini Lessons from a Mega Event”

  1. Anonymous says:

    On target! thanks for sharing

    • Susan Bowen says:

      Thank you for your comment. I am always pleased to hear others’ thoughts about my posts. I welcome your feedback and appreciate that you agree with my learnings.

      All the best,


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