I spent the better part of the last two weeks with 9 executives who were part of a development program aimed at producing strategic, visionary, and influential leaders. What they learned from the program inspired me.
This is a sample of what they learned:
- That people matter. Connect with them on a personal level before jumping into the work.
- That leaders have diverse backgrounds, come from different organizations, and have different lines of work yet they share a common work experience, a dedication to the mission, and similar problems. In other words, you are unique, but you’re not alone.
- That creating an open environment for honest introspection builds trust and allows for deeper understanding.
- To laugh more and value laughter.
- The power of reflective thinking. That thinking back over the events of the day, maybe using a business journal, promotes continuous learning and deeper awareness.
- The value of connecting with the people around you and building relationships at work.
- That leadership isn’t about directing, it’s about motivating.
- That moods are contagious. You can influence people with just a joke and a smile.
- That meetings can be more effective by making them more diverse—changing the venue, inviting different people, or maybe asking a normally quiet person to talk first.
- Listening is more than waiting to talk.
- It is easy to be a manager. You have to take your time and be patient to be a leader. Our busy work schedules and the pace of things often drive us into manager role.
- We are trained to make decisions, we are expected to make decisions, deciding to let someone else do it is still a decision.
These are the kind of lessons you can’t really get from a book. You have to live them and reflect on them and put them in context. It is an honor for me to witness this kind of learning as it unfolds. I watched these very successful people open themselves to each other, become uncertain and vulnerable enough to learn something new (because you can’t learn something when you’re certain), and stop the action long enough to contemplate how their experience could make a difference back home.
When was the last time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable? When was the last time you stopped the action long enough to observe what just happened and take away the lessons that experience could teach you? When was the last time you really took the time to build trust? When was the last time you shook out the cobwebs and learned something new?
Plum Cluverius, PCC is an executive coach with over 30 years experience in leadership development. She lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.