Leaders are Readers

March 26, 2018 at 6:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This past week I found myself again immersed in a thought provoking book. The book in question had been a recommendation from a friend. As I sent multiple text messages throughout the week reflecting on what I was reading and thanking him for the loan, I then received an email from an Assistant Principal within one of our client schools. It read, ‘I wanted to say thanks for suggesting reading that book. I read it over the weekend and couldn’t put it down!’

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry S. Truman

I love conversations that turn into book recommendations. They’re opportunities to be inspired, challenged and changed by the learning that lives within its pages. Not every book will grab you the way I and the Assistant Principal felt this past week. But each book we chose (or chooses us) has the potential to open us up to another way of being in the world. The funny thing is I haven’t actually read yet the book that I recommended to this Assistant Principal. I’d heard about it in a podcast and told him that, but I can’t wait to get to it over the coming weeks.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

I’m a serial highlighter in the books that I read. Because last weeks book was a loaner though I reverted to taking notes as I read instead. I found myself busily writing as there were many things that jumped out at me within the pages of ‘Utopia for Realists’ (written by Rutger Bregman). There’s one particular quote though I’ve found myself coming back to each day as I reflect on this book. In sharing an example of a pilot program that was happening in London Rutger Bregman provided a quote from an Aid Worker involved, ‘It’s quite hard to change overnight the way you’ve always approached this problem. These pilots give us the opportunity to talk differently, think differently, describe the problem differently…’

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” – Margaret Fuller

This might just be what books do for leaders as well. We are all navigating lenses that are clouded by our own experiences, biases, etc. When we are able to lose ourselves in another persons perspective, research or storytelling we get the opportunity to as I mentioned earlier be inspired, challenged and changed by the learning that lives within its pages. What are you reading at the moment? And what books would you recommend to others?

“The best leaders are the most dedicated learners. Read great books daily.” – Robin Sharma

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The Most Challenging Part

March 19, 2018 at 4:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love and am constantly inspired by the honesty of the participants within our program experiences. They’re always reminding us why courage is so important within our individual and shared journeys of potential. As the quote below so eloquently shares, if we are to practice the purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours of leadership (honesty, kindness, love, acceptance, compassion, etc.), then courage will definitely play a pivotal role. This is especially true if we’re interested in really bringing leadership to life, embodying it within our daily thoughts, words and actions.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” – Maya Angelou

Honesty involves the yin and the yang though. How often can we get caught up in only wanting to explore the positive side of something? This is why we purposefully embrace, get playful with and practice a variety of ways we can navigate the challenges that leadership presents within the experiences we facilitate. We want to be honest about the full spectrum of what’s involved in making a difference. Without taking appropriate risks and then learning from the successes and failures that will inevitably happen we’re not going to be able to most effectively be the change we wish to see.

“If you want to make everybody happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.” – Steve Jobs

It’s also why a particular question we pose and the responses we get during a program day always open up such interesting discussions (What is the most challenging part of leadership?). The other week a Year 6 boy’s answer to this really showed his depth of understanding and the courage associated with purposefully choosing to lead. He came up to me during the reflection and said, ‘Can I tell you what I wrote for that one?’, pointing at the piece of butchers paper where the question was written. With wisdom he then shared, ‘That some of the decisions that we’ll have to make as leaders won’t make everyone happy’. Absolutely I thought as I processed what he’d said, before we opened up a conversation around his thoughts.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” – Stephen Covey

As leaders we’re all about creating ripples. Some of the choices we’ll make though will challenge, confront, take out of their comfort zone, etc. others within our spheres of influence. As leaders we’re mindful of not intentionally using our thoughts, words and actions to negatively impact these people. Instead we’re prepared to stay aligned for long enough to navigate our own and others feelings of uncomfortableness and vulnerability because we’ve taken the time to work out what’s most important (individual and shared values). It’s not easy, but it’s how we really bring about change.

“Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” – Chinese Proverb

A Year 6 girls honest response last week really got to me as well. She said, ‘But how will we know it’s the right way?’ It was another one of those deep breath moments, the juiciness and depth that I love when facilitating. It’s only through courageous practice that we’ll work that out though. We’re all very human and will doubt, second guess and question right throughout our lives. But as leaders we’ll also have the courage to consistently practice what’s most important (individual and shared values), knowing that our thoughts, words and actions matter, as we respond within the challenges that we’ll navigate. It’s definitely a journey, not a destination.

“… What I can do is offer myself, wholehearted and present, to walk with the people I love through the fear and the mess. That’s all any of us can do. That’s what we’re here for.” – Shauna Niequist

Our Leadership Muscle

March 12, 2018 at 12:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Leadership is like a muscle, it has to be worked if we want to be able to build up, maintain and have access to its purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours throughout our journeys of potential. This takes effort, practice and consistency though, just like regularly going to the gym to develop any of the muscles that are in our bodies. This is why I was left feeling so humbled and inspired by a particular reflection from a Year 6 participant last Thursday. What she shared at the end of her classes L.E.A.D. with Me Program session summed up so beautifully our hopes for all the students we have the privilege to support.

“People tend to believe that practice makes perfect. I however believe practice makes progress. There is no perfection but there is progress.” – Unknown

It was week 2 of 10 with the cohort’s three classes (each class completes a 90 minute session per week). She hadn’t been at the first session the week before so this was her first time participating within the various games, challenges and reflections that we use. From the beginning she’d shown a willingness to share her thoughts, but during the first half of the session she seemed to be very aware of the potential reactions of others as she spoke. She soon realised this was a safe space to dig deeper and was very open about the successes and challenges she and others were navigating. Our final reflection had just finished, I’m just about to pass the students back to their teacher, then her hand shot up one last time. “I feel like we’re going to be stronger at the end of this program”.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams

We know that leadership is a verb, not a noun. It’s why we use, ‘Leadership is action, not position’ (Donald H. McGannon) as the quote that underpins our leadership development programs. We’re in the leadership muscle building industry. We love hearing all about the different ways that participants go on to use their developing leadership potential to make a difference in their own and others lives. The Year 6 girls remark last Thursday reminded me of another L.E.A.D. with Me Program participant’s reflection at the end of the 10 weeks last year. When asked to describe in what ways she felt she’d most grown and developed throughout the L.E.A.D. with Me Program, she wrote; ‘Confident and I feel so much nicer now… Don’t exactly know why’. We know why, she put in effort, practice and consistency to build up her leadership muscles.

“Earn your leadership every day.” – Michael Jordan

Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It’s also not a competition to see who has the ‘biggest’ leadership muscles. It’s an invitation open to us all to own that our thoughts, words and actions matter, and when we purposefully use them we have the potential to make a difference for self, others and the world around us. But as the quote above explains, it’s an every day thing. We’re so fortunate to be walking this path alongside such inspiring students and their teachers. Participants who are open to, honest within and most importantly courageously take on practicing the skills, attitudes and behaviours that leaders have access to. What a journey it is!

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” – Stephen Covey

Our Commitment

March 5, 2018 at 6:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We’re called Explore Discover Act. Not Explore Discover Stop. So the commitment that comes along with this is to open up for our clients and the participants we work with meaningful connection to action beyond our program experiences. This is what excites and inspires us most. How individuals and groups use their learning and their developing leadership potential to make a difference in their own and others lives.

“Just as a pole vaulter uses a pole to catapult themselves over a horizontal bar, learning can propel an individual forward and upward.” – Emma Weber

Last week I had a conversation with a participant who completed our 10 week L.E.A.D. with Me Program last year in Year 4 that reminded me of this process. I was at the school again to work with their Year 6 students now over the coming 10 weeks. So many of the Year 5’s (the cohort I worked with last year) came running up to me at various times throughout the day to say hi and chat about what’s been happening since the last time I saw them. One particular boy’s comments really jumped out to me though.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Dr. Denis Waitley

As we spoke I asked him who his new teacher was this year. Then on hearing his answer I enquired whether he had a lot of his friends from last years class in with him again this year. His response was so inspiring. He quickly said, ‘Remember what we kept saying last year about stepping out of your comfort zone and connecting with different people, well I’ve made so many new friends because I’m in with so many new people this year’. The practice he’d been developing was now a practice that is being used.

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” – John Holt

This is why experiential learning is our vehicle of choice as we deliver programs. We want to give the participants the opportunity to learn by doing, with reflection. It’s also why we provide ongoing communication to our clients. We want to give the participants the opportunity to continue building their leadership potential even after we’re gone. But most importantly though, it’s why we so passionately deliver the experiences that we have the privilege of facilitating. We want to give the participants the opportunity to be engaged, challenged and inspired as we and they explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically.

“Thought and learning are of small value unless translated into action.” – Wang Yangming

Thank you to all the leaders we have the pleasure of supporting who remind us daily what it means to courageously use your thoughts, words and actions to make a difference in our own and others lives!

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