Doing the Right Thing

Woman looking into distance whilst thinking

Years ago, I stumbled upon a quote by T.S. Eliot, “Keep true, never be ashamed of doing right; decide on what you think is right and stick to it.”  The quote resonated deeply with my personal and professional values.  After all, my life’s work was about doing the right thing and assisting positive life-changing opportunities for others.  The quote became my mantra.  I adopted this belief in my work and my everyday life.  It was not always easy figuring out what was right that benefitted others; however, it was always clear to me that fighting for equality was a no brainer.  To some this may appear conceited, though through the years this mantra has lent me confidence and a voice.

Lately, I am stumbling through many personal and professional challenging obstacles, uncertainties, and complicated questions.  Did the world suddenly become so complicated?  What happened to the simplicity of my mantra?  I revisited the quote and became captivated with the meaning behind my diehard mantra, “doing the right thing.”  What does it exactly mean?  Why is it sometimes so hard to be strong and do the right thing for yourself?  I guess once you add the “self” into the mixture, we have just created what science would define as a compound chemical reaction.  A reaction can explode, fizzle or create a new complex discovery.

I opt for complex discoveries.  The discovery is when you open yourself up to reactions; you choose to learn more about yourself.  (Though some may not.)  The reactions can’t help but touch your most inner core sense of being and values.  It questions who you are.  You are propelled in different directions, bombarded with multitude of thoughts and your emotions are baited. You process the elements and your sense of being with the world around you.  Are you going to combust or will you create a new level of knowledge, awareness and resolve?  The scary part of this whole event is not knowing what will come next and the potential of your personal biases being confronted.  You may even discover something you don’t like about yourself.

Know that this will happen.  When we choose to transition to a higher level of self-awareness; we will learn about our own prejudices, biases, values, beliefs and behaviors. This is a very brave resolution.  Remembering a book that was extremely helpful, The Four Agreements, a book written by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It is an inspiring and thought-provoking book.  The book can help guide you to the next level of self-awareness. In a future blog, I will explore the connection between “doing the right thing” and “moral courage.”

To stay true to my mantra, I try to remember three things:

  1. Be open and present at all times.
  2. Be honest with myself.
  3. Embrace and develop my personal strengths and challenges.

Keep evolving.

Are You Ready to Lead?



Business Team at Computer


Are you ready to lead?  In many leading social media leadership tools and web sites, this question is typical.  There are many great leadership resources in the cyber world.  Google the word, leadership and you will find hundreds of entries.  When you type in “deaf leadership,” you might find only a few.

As a deaf leader, are you ready to lead?  The meaning of the question immediately changes.  We live in a very complex and competitive world.  With a click into our cyber world and we get instant information. We also live in an auditory-based world.  There are plenty of audio books, webcasts, web chats, recorded presentations and more.  The convenience of leadership resources is just tremendous for the mainstreamed Americans.

Can we stay on top of our game?  Yes!  But, we certainly do need to utilize every trick and resource to level the playing field and demand accessibility.  First of all, we would need to read quite a bit.   Invest in some good reading glasses and set aside time with your computer or tablet.

As a deaf evolving leader, some of my strategies include:

  • Checking out the TED webcasts(  Majority of the webcasts are captioned.  They provide a wide range of topics. I tend to pay particular attention to the topic that seems to capture the audience interest, content, presentation style, pace, poise and attire.
  • Stay connected to your favorite news online.  I often do a scan of current events and identify leaders who are featured in the news.  Learn more about them.
  • I am a fan of books.  I like to read reviews and inquire among my colleagues about any new or past books that have been “talked about.”  I will invest in books or ebooks. Examples of books that has created interesting dialogues, Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and Deepak Chopra’s The Soul of Leadership.
  • LinkedIn Updates and News provides greats resources.  Stay updated with your LinkedIn and see what other professionals are contributing in your area of interest.
  • Learn how to “scan and skim.”  There are many great BLOGS and articles.

Happy reading and good luck in your leadership development!

Dying at Home

I shared my stories with a remarkable woman, Dr. Helen-Anne  Manion (of Bundeena, Australia).  I learned that she and her husband, Gerard, have dedicated their lives to working to help people all over the world with the Dying At Home program.  This conversation inspired me.

This video was created in honor of my father, Daniel Goncz and my step-father, Bob Stremmel.  Cancer took them away from my family.  While battling cancer, my father and step-father wanted to die at home.  These journeys were life changing and humbling.  Dying at home is possible.

I am committed to share my knowledge, experiences and support to those who desire to learn more about dying at home.  Speaking from experience, not once, but twice.  I am forever honored to be part of my fathers’ journeys.  They died at home with love, with family and with dignity.

I miss you Dad and Bob.  This is for you both with love.

Dying At Home (ASL version)   [Click to view video on Vimeo]

Dying At Home (ASL version)   [Click to view video on YouTube]

For more information on Dying At Home  [Click here]

Breaking Through the Status Quo in Your Leadership



I was never keen with the concept “status quo.”  If you are like me, I thrive in dynamic and organic leadership.  Things are never a constant, things change.  I like being part of maximizing opportunities, realizing goals and developing outcomes that will change a deaf person’s life.  In my world, if there is an opportunity to ultimately create a significant impact on the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people, I will seize that opportunity.  So apparently, status quo and my leadership just don’t exactly gel.

According to the dictionary, status quo means existing state of affairs.  To me, status quo is purposefully putting something on hold or in a lull state. Depending how you look at it, it can be a positive or a negative thing.  In the world of leadership, status quo should be managed with care and purposeful planning.  This window of time may create an opportunity for you to breathe and to refocus.  However, it also may be an opportunity to systematically deter your leadership momentum. I describe it as a slow, unsuspecting death.

Whether status quo is instituted by an external force or faced with a personal challenge, I usually take the idea “status quo” with a grain of salt and view it as a temporary event.  As a leader, I choose to find this opportunity to strengthen my leadership or business case.  Strengthening or rebuilding your leadership will simply redefine or amplify the purpose of your work.   Status quo does not define you or your work. It is what you do with it.

Some helpful tips when breaking through the status quo in your leadership:

  • Define what “status quo” means to your leadership or the work?
  • Is it a catalyst for positive change or a deterrent to sabotage your leadership or work?
  • Elicit a trusted mentor to filter the status quo.
  • Create an action plan to deal with the status quo.
  • Take action.

Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.  Believe in your leadership and your work.


Adaptive Leadership

I am always looking for a good book.  Few years ago, I was introduced to a very valuable and practical leadership book.  The book was entitled, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World written by Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, & Marty Linsky. The authors discusses adaptive leadership and the application of the necessary knowledge and skills for change.  When a leader recognizes that a system is not working, it must be diagnosed and challenged to initiate change.  The authors established four tips: Don’t do it alone; Live life as a leadership laboratory; Resist leaping into action; and Discover the joy of making hard choices.   These four practical tips transformed my life as a leader in any given leadership situation.

 As a deaf leader, it is very easy to fall into a trap of feeling obligated when confronted with the deaf community’s pleas for direction and advocacy; witnessing the obvious injustices and feeling  fired with passion to improve quality of lives.  I may be ready.  However, the deaf community and our opponents may not be ready.  It is tempting to go forth and make change.  “Don’t do it alone.”  The danger is not being alone but feeling alone in your leadership efforts.  I learned that it is vital to share and prepare the leadership challenges and successes with your fellow team members. Always remember, it takes two to tango.

The second tip stated “Live life as a leadership laboratory.”  The opportunities to practice, apply and share leadership knowledge occurs every day.  I realized that they are with me everywhere I go – workplace, home, my son’s soccer board; community volunteer activities, and more.  I realize that each of these opportunities will enhance my ability to recognize valuable leadership opportunities, as well as to try things out, make mistakes, strengthen my skills and find joy in leadership work.   Not only finding joy; but the frustrations and disappointments as well.  It is rather difficult to remain objective when you are in the center of the drama.  But keeping that in the back of your mind will only help you develop the ability to see the big picture.

I have reminded myself countless times to take the time to pause and reflect.  Be mindful of my urge to do something about it immediately.  “Resist action.” A leader takes the time to diagnose the issue and anticipate the response.  Waiting can be uncomfortable.  It is highly likely that once the diagnosis is confirmed, the pot will be stirred; changing minds will be required and resistance will occur.  The most important lesson I gained from this tip is that I need to give myself the license to assess my own skills and to determine whether I am the right person to intervene or if someone else would have better chance of success. As an adaptive leader, I will conduct an inventory of the risks to myself and my organization.  Then I ask myself, “Are the rewards worth the risks?  What am I going to do about it?”

“Discovering the joy of making hard choices” seems like a contradiction.  However, leadership is like a two-sided coin.  One side signifies the act of leading to influence and create change for the purpose of betterment in the lives of deaf and hard of hearing or any other cause.  It is a commitment.  It is a joy to witness the positive outcomes from our benefactors.  The other side signifies adaption and giving up something to lead the change.  As a leader, I may have to let go of my original idea or plan in order to accomplish a positive outcome.  It also means that I need to make a challenging adaptation to myself and my leadership.  This awareness gives me the opportunity to decide to lead or not to lead. This is a tremendous personal growth and awareness experience.

As an evolving deaf leader, I learn to adapt to various situations and look for leadership tools to increase my positive outcomes. I hope these tips provide you the tools for great successes as a leader.  Good luck!

(Heifetz, R., Grashow, A. & Linsky, M. (2009).  The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World.  Harvard Business Press)

VOICE…how do you sign it?

The word voice represents a unit of expression including standing up for oneself, defending a position and asserting one’s rights.  The deaf community typically views the word voice as a representation of the dominant culture and the English language.  Voice also represent a vocal sound, speech or utterance.  While the deaf community utilizes their hands to vocalize themselves, the word does not exactly fit in the American Sign Language vocabulary.  Since the word voice is not readily translated into American Sign Language, the translation can lose its potency and/or its meaning.  The American Sign Language translation for voice produces multiple, descriptive signs or sign phrases to capture its meaning.  This concept, in American Sign Language, simply does not have a single equitable sign to represent voice.  In American mainstream society (the hearing community), the word voice when used in context is understood and considered powerful.  No explanation or description is needed. Does this mean we lose our potency as a linguistic minority? I don’t think so.

Analyzing situations where deaf leaders asserts their voice is fascinating and complex.  Reflecting upon my professional and personal lives, I have experienced and witnessed many examples of these assertions.  As a deaf leader, I find myself contemplating strategically how I would deliver the message in American Sign Language to maximize the power behind my voice. I am confident that the potency is captured through my stance, expression and passion.  Often times, in the midst of interpretation, I have left my interpreters in the whirling dust.  However, I do recognize that interpreters will faithfully translate/interpret what they see; and I will use strategies to support my interpreters in mirroring my potent voice.

The Deaf President Now leaders’ moving speeches or the historical George Veditz’s ASL preservation film are great examples of how leaders asserts their voice.  I continue to ask today’s deaf leaders, “How do you sign v-o-i-c-e?”  I receive numerous suggestions, elaborate descriptions and many versions of voice.  But they will always stop and ponder for a bit at the question. The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle stated, “All that a man has ever thought, wanted, done, or will do, depends on the movement of a breath of air, for it this divine breath has not inspired us, and floated like a charm on our lips, we would all still be running wild in the forests.”  Aristotle is so grossly misinformed on the potency of American Sign Language and our voice. 

My dissertation study, Sustaining Voice Through Leadership: How Do Deaf Leaders Sustain Voice in Challenging Dominant Systems, identified 8 characteristics that deaf leaders share when asserting their voice:

  1. Empowered Articulation – The deaf leader develops a message that is empowered and purposefully articulated.
  2. Nurture Relationships and Connections – The deaf leader cultivates relationships to gain support and allies to bridge worlds.
  3. Credibility – The deaf leader demonstrates skills, knowledge and confidence.
  4. Owning the processes – The deaf leader is acutely aware of the dynamics in her environment.
  5. Solution Oriented – The deaf leader focuses on solutions when presented with challenges and/or conflicts.
  6. Bridging Communications – The deaf leader mediates multiple languages and cultures.
  7. Building Experiences – The deaf leader builds maturity and knowledge through experiences.
  8. Managing Peripheral Challenges – The deaf leader anticipates other challenges that are secondary to cultural and linguistic challenges.

(Author’s note: The study focused on deaf leaders’ lived experiences.  The meanings were grouped into four thematic areas: unique qualities, cultural challenges, positioning strategies and experiences in sustaining voice.  This blog piece represents a partial list.)

We hold the power of our voices in our hands.  Wishing you all the best in your leadership endeavors!

Introducing my new blog!

Always evolving.   It is probably the consistent theme in my life. My personal and professional lives have travelled down many roads…. some less travelled and some frequently travelled.  The roads have taken interesting turns, presented occasional bumps or frustrating detours.  I have tackled numerous dead ends but always pleasantly surprised with beautiful scenery and amazing discoveries.  I typically plan my adventures.  Like my GPS, it does not always register the unexpected surprises.  Some adventures will go according to my plans and some do not.  I am constantly recalculating my adventures… that is myself.  Thus, I am always evolving. It’s indeed a real good thing.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself.  My name is Darlene Goncz Zangara, Ph.D., LPC.  I am quite proud of the initials after my name.  I obtained a doctorate degree in Leadership and Change from Antioch University.  My dissertation is entitled, “Sustaining Voice through Leadership:  How Do Deaf Leaders Sustain Voice in Challenging Dominant Systems?”  The research has led me on an amazing journey into the world of leadership and understanding the unique experiences of deaf leaders and how they sustain their voice in today’s platforms.

I am also a licensed professional counselor in the state of Ohio and received my Master of Arts degree in Counseling with Deaf and Hard of Hearing from Gallaudet University.  I have Bachelors of Sciences in Deaf Education from Bowling Green State University.  I have dedicated myself in areas including leadership, non-profit management, human services, program development, marginalization phenomenon, deaf/hearing cultural mediation and strategic change. I am also a consultant, trainer, facilitator and speaker.

Let me tell you about the newest adventure I am planning!  I am going to launch my new blog –  The Evolving Deaf Leader.  This blog will capture my reflections of leadership experiences and scholarly works as it relates to the world of deaf leadership. In keeping up with the pace of our society, we evolve to survive and thrive during our adventures.  Keep evolving!