The following post coincides with the reading of the introduction and chapter 1 in the book The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. It's to be a general look back on the personal formation of how I view leadership and what it took to arrive at that conclusion.
State of the Union
When thinking back to how I got to where I am today in the context of leadership, I can only think of the phrase "we all have gifts."
photo courtesy of pintrest.com
Historically I never found myself seeking out leadership qualities. I often was the person who spoke little and observed a lot. I was looking at peoples' words and actions, and watched for how others responded. This led to a draw towards figuring out what motivated people as well as what made them genuinely happy. What I discovered is that people are different! There wasn't one thing that made people happy. This was the beginning of my journey inward.
While I have met many folks that I would call "good people," I've never met a flawless person I would truly want to emulate. In an open-minded fashion, I began to characterize people and draw on what I saw as "gifts." I began to look at these "gifts" as qualities that make up a good person, a leader.
Thus begins a never-ending social experiment into the world of finding the good (which for all of us can sometimes be a challenge).
Milestones and Risks
I am a big believer that where we are today is due to where we have been and the choices that we have made. That's heavy to think about, but very true. Opportunities are right in front of us everyday, even if we don't always acknowledge them. Our choices define us.
In thinking back to risks and choices in reference to where I am at today, there are specific actions that come to mind...
1.) Put myself out there - I have found that I often open my mouth and speak in a quiet room. Not because the room is quiet, but because I feel there is something to say and it's not being said. I recall doing this in the middle of my undergrad tenure. As a musician we are given the chance to perform for playing assessments called juries to a panel of music professors. This at times was extremely nerve racking and seemed more like a right of passage than an assessment. I intentionally chose repertoire which I couldn't fully do. For some reason I wanted guidance more than a pat on the back for my work. The down side of putting yourself out there is that the response is often unknown...
2.) Agree to disagree - As a music educator who believes in what music does for students and the necessity of engaging student learning through music, I often find myself at odds with folks not of the genre. I'm always open new ideas, but not at the expense of the learning. With this concept at the forefront of my thinking, I respectfully and often agree to disagree.
3.) I know what I know, not what I don't - While I strive to apply what I know to unknown situations, knowing will always trump not knowing. This is something that I continue to work on daily; opening myself up to admitting I do not know. Once done though, this opens the doors to personal learning and growth.
4.) Taking advantage of and seeking out opportunity - I enjoy a challenge and find that status quo is hard for me to park at. This means that I am always seeking out and taking advantage of opportunity. As a younger person in my twenties this didn't seem to be a problem. I slept less and worked/played more, but I could do it. As my family has grown I am prioritizing my opportunities. I still want to believe that I can do it all...
Qualities That Define
When I think of leaders that I have looked to (the "gifts" that they portrayed), there are specific qualities that stand out. These qualities have had a large impact on who I am and how I go about living my life.
1.) Setup for success - As an educator I use this phrase everyday with my my students and colleagues. In order to be successful we have to do what is necessary to make it happen. Success doesn't fall in our lap and say voila!
2.) Empathy- While some people may be the smartest, the brightest, and the most passionate, if that can't be shared with others it will never be what it could have been. We as leaders must have the ability to look through the lens of other people who are different than us.
3.) Grounded - There is a reason why we do what we do. Sometimes that reason is defined and sometimes not. A leader I am drawn to is someone who has the ability to have the why always at the forefront.
4.) Talk the Talk... ...Walk the Walk - I have found the leaders I have confided in do as they say. This builds a sense of validity. Honesty is present. If they say it, then it's true and it will get done.
I find that there are many qualities that make up good leaders and they are all in a different context. Overall leaders are genuine, they are themselves and use their "gifts" to do whatever needs to be done. Leaders make it happen in when there doesn't seem to be a solution.