I’ve just spent a week away learning about all things leadership.
And what a week. Inspirational speakers, workshops, new ideas, time outdoors, mindfulness, team sessions, not to mention meeting so many great people.
I’m lucky to have been given this opportunity through work. But what did I learn?
The big stuff
My notebook’s full of stats, quotes and scribbles about things like the importance of story telling, creativity, co-production, bravery, humility, sacrifice, complexity, systems and a whole load more.
To be honest, I think we over-complicate things sometimes. Which is why I’m trying to understand, in simple terms, what all this means for me. So here’s a few messages that stood out:
- Look after yourself physically and mentally – nobody else will
- Honour who you are and understand your narrative
- Be courageous with your ideas and take risks
- Give power away, gifting people with trust and freedom to act
- Build alliances and involve people at all times
What does that all mean?
No speaker focussed on the first point in any great detail, but one way or another, it kept cropping up. For me, it’s number 1. If I don’t get this right, what chance have I got achieving anything else?
This links to the second point. On the last day, Emmanuel Gobillot talked about the importance of knowing who you are and understanding your narrative, which he defined as 1) What’s your story? 2) Where are you going? and 3) Why are you going there? And he asked: ‘what’s gonna make people look at you and think, yep, I believe in you and you have my commitment?’ Something I’m mulling over.
Being brave and courageous came up time and time again. ‘Be brave every day!’, ‘Take responsibility’, ‘Don’t seek other people’s approval!’ etc. Listening to people talk about it, I realised being brave isn’t always about taking big, bold and dramatic action. It can also mean taking small steps that make a difference or drive change. Take Greta Thunberg (more on Greta below), deciding last summer to skip school on a Friday and sit outside the Swedish parliament because of their inaction on climate change. In turn, inspiring a generation of children and young people to stand up and make their voices heard.
One of the workshops I went along to was on hubris, a disorder and intoxication of power. I don’t think I need to name names of people who display it. It’s there, every day in the news. True leadership on the other hand, comes when we give it away. Coaching, not commanding. Humility, not ego. And listening to people – definitely one I need to work on!
One of the week’s highlights was Margaret Heffernan . She said: ‘You won’t know how to solve a problem until you share a problem’. Which is why working with others, building alliances and involving people at all times was a constant message through the week.
It was a fantastic week but I know my search for answers, on loads of stuff, will probably never end. So in the coming days and weeks, I’m looking forward to re-reading my notes and flicking through the books of some of the speakers – Margaret Heffernan’s ‘Wilful Blindness’ is first up.
The day after it finished, I bought a paper and clocked this article with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg. Perhaps fitting with everything I’d learnt in the week, Ocasio-Cortez says:
- ‘Leadership is about doing things before anyone else does them. Leadership is about taking risks. Leadership is about taking decisions when you don’t know 100% what the outcome is going to be…And there are detriments to following. You are too late. You do not control your destiny. You are not in control period.’
So with everything I’ve learnt and taken on board, I guess I’m left thinking about that simple choice: step up or stay put?