Fonseca (Zeke) Woodruff admits he was once a bully himself. He’s built on that experience to become a leader speaking out against bullying. Zeke recently wrote, co-directed and produced a short film called “CORE” about the causes and effects of bullying. We invite others to view this latest video release, “David’s Journal: The Bullying Chronicles“.
By day, Zeke’s a technical trainer for a large coporation. In his off hours, he volunteers his time as VP of production for Vicky Dee Edutainment, an Atlanta-based start-up nonprofit offering support and mentoring to at-risk youth.
We recently sat down with Zeke to ask him how effective leadership can play a role in helping to stop bullying.
Q. What personally inspires you to lead?
Whether it’s on or off the job, I’m inspired to lead in order to make a difference. If the training I provide helps our customers become more successful, then I am successful.
In my volunteer work, I focus on making a difference for those who aren’t strong enough to stand up for themselves.
As a young person, I was bullied and teased for being overweight and learning disabled. I became a bully myself as a way to “fit in.”
Later in life, after I dealt with the pain I endured as a kid, I knew I needed to give back. That’s how my volunteer work began.
Q. Describe one of your earliest leadership moments. How did it shape how you lead today?
As a trainer at a call center, I established “row captains” in the classrooms. These captains were top students who were experts in a particular subject. I asked them to take responsibility for each person in their row.
I created these subgroups as a way to better manage the learning process for my students. As a result, these captains helped foster a team atmosphere, where all participants had a stake in learning.
I still use the same model for training. Develop strong team members and identify staff members in the pharmacy who are savvy with technology so they become super users onsite.
Q. If you could have coffee with a famous leader (past or present), who would it be and why?
Henry Ford. He revolutionized the auto industry with the assembly line. Despite objections from his board members, he raised workers’ wages. That’s what leadership is about; making tough choices that better serve the company and your team.
Q. What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions that people have of leadership?
That if a team doesn’t meet its goal, it’s the leader’s fault. I believe the team is responsible for the team’s success, not its leader.
Q. What is your favorite leadership book or blog?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
Another book is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. I recommend the teens I counsel read this to help them improve their self esteem. Those who bully or want to hurt other people are often angry at themselves or have been hurt by others. It’s a vicious cycle, but we can stop it by speaking up.
I tell kids, don’t be a bystander. I tell my team the same thing, because there can be bullies at work or others perpetuating wrongdoing. You have to speak up. Report misdeeds. Do what you can to make a difference.
To find out more ways that you can help to prevent bullying, please visit Help to Stop Bullying.