By Dick Mason

The Observer

Jon Jasch struggled during his first year as a counter-terrorism agent for the FBI about a decade ago in California.

Jasch was frustrated as he attempted to develop a network of sources for information about terrorism activities. This was no small matter since sources are the eyes and ears of FBI agents, and Jasch’s director said he would not talk to him again until he had a network of informants.

“(Finding sources) was one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life,” said Jasch, a Florida resident who spoke at Eastern Oregon University Wednesday during a presentation about the fundamentals of leadership.

Jasch’s FBI career turned around after he accompanied experienced FBI agents as they consulted their sources. He said he was stunned to see how open veteran agents were with their trusted informants, individuals who were risking their lives to help them for relatively small amounts of money.

“They would talk to them about their families, even their hobbies,”Jasch said. “They took off their masks.”

The young FBI agent saw that because the veterans opened up with their sources by discussing themselves, the sources returned a measure of trust by sharing valuable information with them.

“It was about the power of vulnerability,” Jasch said.

This power is critical for successful leadership, he said, but it is becoming harder to utilize in today’s social media age when many are focused on cultivating only positive self-images via Facebook and other social media.

“People do not want to take off their masks,” Jasch said.

Leaders who succeed in getting people to take off their masks can get groups to succeed in remarkable ways. Jasch told a story about successful men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino, who started his head coaching career at Providence University. At one of the first team meetings Pitino asked his team how well they know each other. Several of the players said they were close, but when Pitino questioned them about the families of their teammates, it turned out the players knew very little. This finding sparked an open discussion about families in which all the players shared information about their loved ones.

The discussion, Jasch said, helped the Providence team bond in a manner that contributed to its advance to the final four of the 1987 NCAA basketball tournament.

Jasch wants people to understand that anyone can be a leader. He said that one does not have to be blessed with charisma or be outgoing to be an effective leader.

“Forty percent of us are introverts who like to sit in the back of the room,” said Jasch, who puts himself in this category.

Still, Jasch, 40, is stepping forward to give numerous talks to college students each year about the importance of becoming leaders.

“Leading is a choice. You can be the type of leader everyone wants in their life,” he said. “If you lead, you will have a sweeter life and so will those around you.”

See complete story in Friday's Observer