New book shares ‘humanity’ perspective | Feature Stories

People and horses should be treated with respect.

This idea is emphasized in “Cowboys & Conductors: Conversations on Horseman-Humanship,” a book by Dustin Davis and Paul Jan Zdunek.

The two will discuss their book, sell and sign copies of it as part of LitFest Pasadena on Saturday, May 14 at Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

At LitFest Pasadena, authors, poets, publishers and political leaders engage the public in conversations about literature and larger social issues.

In “Cowboys & Conductors,” Zdunek and Davis share the lessons they’ve learned throughout their careers. A native of Glendale, Zdunek is the former conductor of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops. Now he is a change management professional and certified exit planning advisor for dysfunctional organizations.

During Zdunek’s tenure at the symphony, he helped recover from near closure after 80 years.

Davis is a cowboy, instructor, auctioneer, and clinician who was born and raised in Colorado. He now lives with his family on a ranch in Chino Hills, owns and operates a horsemanship barn, and travels across the country teaching riding lessons to young people.

The two men met when Davis enlisted Zdunek’s help to set up his ranch as a professional business.

Zdunek said the two quickly discovered they have a similar approach — personally and professionally. He soon learned that Davis’ horse whispering techniques are a reflection of the way Zdunek treats his customers.

“You don’t drag them kicking and screaming,” Zdunek said.

“You have to figure out what they need, where they are, where they need to go, and take them by the hand and move them.”

“Cowboys & Conductors,” released in March, shares their conversations about leadership. The book also outlines “Grey Leadership,” a style the two developed based on their views and approaches to being good leaders.

Readers are given challenges that they can complete in their work or personal lives. For example, they are asked to bring an abstract work of art to a staff meeting as a point of discussion.

“It makes them not just say, ‘This is what I see or what I think it is,’ but it defends their position as to why they think that object is what it is,” Zdunek said.

“There is no right or wrong answer, but it makes people think in a creative and curious way. It also teaches everyone that life is not black and white. There is no right or wrong answer. It is what you make of it and bring and what your experience is.”

The ideas outlined in “Cowboys & Conductors” can be used in personal or professional life as individuals have to adapt to changes.

“You don’t have to be a leader,” he said.

“You don’t have to do business. You just have to be human. It really focuses on the “humanity” of our lives and how we can better connect in each of these areas. Whether you work with horses or people or simply want a better relationship with your friends or family, this is the book for you.”

Zdunek said too many people give themselves a membership. For example, he said, “I’m a certain religion, so this is what I believe. Or I have some political leanings, so that’s what I believe. We use those almost as defense systems, so we don’t have to think about gray. We don’t have to think about the nuance.

“To be a great leader is to allow yourself to enjoy the gray, enjoy it and find out what shapes come from it. Even how we identify ourselves is complicated. With Gray, it’s really about everything being able to exist in the same space.”

Zdunek said that strong leaders must have a strong foundation and be curious, creative and committed.

A gray leader must also be open to working with people of different points of view and make the effort to get to know them on a deeper human level.

“‘Grey Leadership’ is really about understanding every person in front of you,” Zdunek said.

“I’m not saying they’re this or that and this is how they’re probably going to be or what they’re thinking. Everybody is different.”

Neither Zdunek nor Davis had written a book, but they are fans of self-help and leadership books. “Cowboys & Conductors” shares each of their voices.

“We thought about unifying it, but it’s better in its raw form so you can hear the personalities on the page,” Zdunek said.

“Cowboys & Conductors” traverses the genres of self-help and leadership, as well as biography. Zdunek said he and Davis explore complex topics but present it in a way that’s easy to understand.

“We wanted to make it really simple so it would be of interest to both CEOs and young kids trying to figure out how to interact with each other on the playground,” Zdunek said.

The two authors develop an immersive ranching experience for team building experiences, such as learning to care for horses. They will also develop their leadership skills using ‘Grey Leadership’.

Dustin Davis and Paul Jan Zdunek

WHEN: 13.30 to 14.30 Saturday 14 May

TRUE: LitFest Pasadena at Pasadena Presbyterian Church,

585 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

COST: Free


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