New Book Shares 'Humanity' Perspective |  Feature Articles

New Book Shares ‘Humanity’ Perspective | Feature Articles

People and horses should be treated with respect.

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

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

During LitFest Pasadena, authors, poets, publishers, and political leaders engage audiences in conversations about literature and broader societal topics.

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

During Zdunek’s tenure with the symphony, he helped it recover from a near-closure after 80 years.

Davis is a Colorado born and raised cowboy, instructor, auctioneer and clinician. Now residing on a ranch in Chino Hills with his family, he owns and operates a riding barn and travels around the country teaching riding clinics to young people.

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

Zdunek said the two quickly discovered they had a similar approach – personally and professionally. He quickly learned that Davis’ horse whispering techniques reflect the way Zdunek treats his clients.

“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 forward.”

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

Readers are faced with challenges that they can overcome in their professional or personal life. For example, they are asked to bring an abstract piece of art to a staff meeting as a talking point.

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

“There’s no right or wrong answer, but it gets people thinking creatively and curiously. It also teaches everyone that life is not black and white. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s what you make of it and bring to it and what your experience is.

The ideas described in “Cowboys & Conductors” can be used in personal or professional life, as individuals must adapt to change.

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

“You don’t have to be in business. It is enough to be a human being. It really focuses on the “humanness” of our lives and how to better connect with each other in each of these areas. Whether you work with horses or people or just want better relationships with friends or family, then this book is for you.

Zdunek said too many people are giving themselves memberships. For example, he said, “I’m from a certain religion, so that’s what I believe.” Or I’m a certain political affiliation, so that’s what I believe. We use them almost like defense systems, so we don’t have to think about gray. We don’t have to think about nuance.

“To be a great leader is to allow ourselves to bask in the gray, to enjoy it and to understand what forms come from it. Even the way we identify ourselves is complicated. Gray is really about allowing all of that to exist in the same space.

Zdunek said strong leaders must have a solid foundation and be curious, creative and engaged.

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

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

“Not saying they’re this or they’re that and that’s how they’re probably going to be or what they think.” Everyone 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 were thinking of unifying it, but it’s better in its raw form so you can hear the personalities on the page,” Zdunek said.

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

“We wanted to make it very simple so that it would appeal to CEOs as well as young kids trying to figure out how to work with each other on the playground,” Zdunek said.

The two authors are developing an immersive ranch experience for team building experiences like learning to care for horses. They will also develop their leadership skills using “Grey Leadership”.

Dustin Davis and Paul Jan Zdunek

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday May 14

OR: LitFest Pasadena at Pasadena Presbyterian Church,

585 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

COST: Free


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