The Process

June 18, 2018 at 4:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Learning, growth, and development are definitely a process. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability. And that’s for all involved. We’re just so incredibly grateful to be entrusted with being a part of this process within our client schools. Especially when you consider how transformational the process can be.

“Don’t judge. Teach. It’s a learning process.” – Carol S. Dweck

Over this past week we’ve had the privilege of reading through reflections from a Year 6 cohort we recently spent 10 weeks supporting through our L.E.A.D. with Me Program. It’s an amazing journey to go on, with each of the 3 classes taking part in an hour and a half session each week, as well as receiving a reflection opportunity that can be completed in class before the next session. Our mantra for this year as you know is Cooperative Advantage. It fitted perfectly with the brief we received from the client as we prepared for the program, and we’re so excited it has enthusiastically become an anchor for them as well at their school (as seen in the feedback we received below).

‘Cooperative advantage was something that stuck with the children and has been woven into other areas of our program. The YouTube clips each week were powerful for the students to visualise the week’s theme and to break it open. The discussion my class had during these reflections was so rich!!’ – Year 6 Teacher

What aspects of the learning, growth, and development process inspire us most? Firstly, it has to be the authentic application of the participant’s transferable skills, attitudes, and behaviours into other areas of their learning and leadership journeys. We’re not just interested in what happens while we’re there. We’re passionate about what ripples are being created when we’re not there as well. It’s such a humbling experience when we receive feedback like we have below that shares more of the cohort’s inspiring journey with us as well.

‘Their attitude to tasks/situations that they may have previously found difficult. I see many students stepping outside their comfort zone and more willing to give things a go. They have been supportive of one another and are not afraid to recognise one another’s achievements. The students have learnt to appreciate what makes each of their classmates unique and can verbalise their gratitude for this to them. We have been doing the ripple jar with great success – they love it!’ – Year 6 Teacher

Secondly, it has to be the deepening of connection participants experience and what that opens up for them (and us as well). Connection is the glue that holds our humanness together, allowing us to take more appropriate risks and contribute most effectively within those spheres of influence. Pathways to learning, growth, and development become clearer when connection is present. So we loved receiving comments like these below from participants to describe how this important element showed up for them during, and now after, the program experiences.

‘I made new friends during the L.E.A.D. program because I got to know my classmates better.’ – Year 6 Student

‘A leader isn’t someone who goes up onto a stage and orders people, a leader is someone who is responsible enough to not leave others behind, and to help other people succeed.’ – Year 6 Student

‘One was “We rise by lifting others” and the other was that a leader is not on a megaphone screaming orders, they are helping and interacting with the task.’ – Year 6 Student

Finally, it has to be the fulfilment of what we’re most passionate about, the development of leadership potential. Leaders have the courage to see things differently, and that opens up opportunities to think, speak and act in ways that engage, challenge, and inspire. Embracing and making cooperative advantage real is all about moving beyond seeing just the one dimensional, us vs them, winning or losing, not easy = not trying, etc. The way we interact with self, others, and the world around us is able to really come to life. We lead, owning that our thoughts, words, and actions matter, with making a difference being the ultimate why. Below is some more participant reflections that reminded us of this part of the process.

‘Leadership isn’t about the role, it’s about the goal.’ – Year 6 Student

‘I also learnt how hard it actually is to be a leader and how to deal with that struggle.’ – Year 6 Student

‘I have learnt that leading isn’t controlling, it’s contributing. I now always try my best to contribute and listen to what others have to say.’ – Year 6 Student

Thanks you to all the client schools, teachers, and students who welcome us into the process of learning, growth, and development. We love sharing this journey with you!

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What’s Unlocked

June 11, 2018 at 12:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love my job! I know I’ve said it before but I need to say it again. Being able to share my passion for all things leadership, and then through experiential learning help participants to also grow and develop their capacity to lead, is such a privilege. I am constantly being reminded of this. In big ways, small ways, and every way in between. Especially when we’re so poetically reminded of why leadership’s the vehicle, like what happened last week when a particular Year 6 student shared with such depth what leadership actually is.

“Your vehicle of leadership is fueled by your willingness to learn. You can’t lead if you can’t learn!” – Israelmore Ayivor

The picture above is a tweet from one of the Assistant Principals who was in the room for the workshop I was facilitating. Kip’s (Year 6 participant) response really moved me and the group at the time of hearing it, but to then get home and see it had been shared more widely was such a joy. Opportunity is always there when we choose to view our interactions, challenges, complexities, etc. through a leadership lens. The key to unlocking what’s in front of us is then our awareness and purposeful use of our own and others developing skills, attitudes and behaviours as we courageously strive to make a difference.

“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” – Sheryl Sandberg

We love this quote above. What’s unlocked when we own our capacity to lead, and surround ourselves with others who are also courageously choosing to navigate life in this way, is change. Really importantly, change starts with us though. I say often to groups that one of the greatest gifts I’ve experienced throughout my learning and leadership journey is the wisdom to know that the more of me I be, the greater opportunities I’m presented with to create ripples that positively impact my own and others lives. But this more of me I be isn’t a fixed, rigid or independent state. It feels to me more like evolving, unfolding, remembering, sharing, growing and developing.

“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow

Are we willing to embrace and stay with vulnerability long enough so we can experience further cracking open to let our individual and shared light out? None of us have all the answers, wisdom, or tools, we absolutely need each other. If we’re interested in being change agents then interdependency is what a leader’s thoughts, words, and actions really unlock. This is why the group I was facilitating for last week also really inspired me. We had student leaders and teachers/assistant principals in the room from 5 different school communities, who together know they can bring about, support and inspire more change together, than they can apart.

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis

Leadership Isn’t Political

June 4, 2018 at 6:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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At the end of our program experiences I love gauging how the participant’s thoughts, beliefs, and ideas around leadership have grown, changed, or been challenged. Sometimes that happens through direct questioning. Other times it’s through an individual or group reflection. And then there’s also when a participant just comes right up after we finish and shares a particular learning with me. However it occurs, it’s always inspiring to be reminded that leadership has a purpose, not an agenda.

“Remember that leadership is about influence and impact, not title and accolades.” – Robin Sharma

The other week a Year 5 boy summed it up perfectly. He said, ‘Before today I thought a leader was more important than and stood above others. Now I think a leader works with others to make a difference’. What great courage that took to share his growth experienced within the program day. Especially when you consider how dramatic the change in his thinking had been. It’s the most important part of any development opportunity though, can learning be made real by the participant and translated into transferable skills, attitudes and behaviours beyond the intensity of the experience?

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” – Ralph Nader

The title of this post is intentionally two fold. Firstly: So often our leadership lens can be adversely impacted by the notion that a ‘leader’ must be elected and then they join an exclusive club. We can see leadership as individuals being in competition with others to get the badge. Then that title bestows leadership on that person so they are now in control. And finally that its primary function is the narrow skill set of standing on stages giving speeches, as well as executing the ‘you’re either with us or against us’ divisiveness that’s evident in arenas such as Question Time. What a destructive narrative this provides. I’m not saying being elected disqualifies you from being a leader. I am saying though that being elected doesn’t guarantee you’re a leader.

“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” – Albert Einstein

Secondly and really importantly though is what I wrote earlier: leadership has a purpose, not an agenda. How we view, challenge and navigate these powerful paradigms can have a significant impact on the ripples created by our daily thoughts, words and actions. It’s why we’re so passionate about the development of leadership potential. Within our spheres of influence we purposefully use experiential learning and ongoing communication to assist in the fostering of ‘informed, connected, and empowered individuals believing deeply in their own and others potential’. What a privilege it is to be able to engage, challenge and inspire 21st Century learners, who then continue to motivate us through the courageous difference they make as true leaders as they grow and develop.

“Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.” – Brene Brown

A leader’s path is filled with vulnerability, questions and out of our comfort zone learning. This is why we need each other. To remind. To reassure. To recharge. To reimagine. To recommit. To reengage. And it’s also why as leaders our purpose, not an agenda, is always close at hand. Each of us really can ‘be the change we wish to see in the world’ as we explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically. Will we have the courage to consistently and compassionately do this though? Thank you for being on this ongoing journey with us. None of us can do it alone!

“Be a voice not an echo” – Albert Einstein

The Field We Love Playing On

May 13, 2018 at 11:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi

The quote above has stayed closely with me ever since I first heard it many years ago. It’s a theme that I strive to personally embody (imperfectly) and professionally foster (again imperfectly) each and every day. Our individual and shared journeys of potential can at times feel littered by judgement and competition (a combination of our own and others). Whether that judgement and competition is real, perceived or feels embedded and immovable, it’s presence can have a significant impact on our ability to lead and make a difference in our own and others lives.

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” – Virginia Burden

Cooperative advantage for us is how we change the game. Unpacking, fostering and leveraging it within our own and others lives opens up pathways to purposefully reconnect with the field we love playing on. Interconnectedness is our innate way of being as humans. It’s also how we most effectively bring leadership to life. This past week I got to witness another inspiring example of what’s possible when we consistently reflect on, practice and celebrate cooperative advantage within our spheres of influence.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S Truman

The Year 6 students were completing their 9th L.E.A.D. with Me weekly session. The three classes have only got one more program day this week that will conclude this part of the program. The reason I say this part of the program is we are always committed to connection to meaningful action beyond all our program experiences, whether it’s through ongoing communication, reflection opportunities or the continued practice of the student’s developing skills, attitudes and behaviours. That’s why last week’s session was all about how do we bridge the gap, between where we are and where we can be.

“The real challenge is for each of us to determine where we feel we can make the most impact.” – Jay Samit

In a particular challenge two groups became one. They weren’t told to. They didn’t need to ask permission to. And they certainly weren’t looking for recognition from others for doing so. They just noticed, and then acted on, that the combination of people, resources and time would be so much more effective this way than trying to go it alone. It was powerful to watch. Especially because in the now bigger group no one needed to be in control. There were invitational questions, each group member was heard, everyone bought in, everyone played a role, and really importantly everyone celebrated the journey up to and post completion. It was cooperative advantage in action.

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work.” – Vince Lombardi

Which Question?

April 29, 2018 at 11:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love asking questions. The potential responses they open up, the responses themselves and the subsequent questions inspired by those responses give me such a buzz. I tell this to participants all the time, I’m a full bodied learner. On many occasions the buzz created within me by questions and responses becomes visible so others can see it as well. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.” – Lou Holtz

About a month ago a friend and I spent the weekend on the Royal Coast Walk, camping overnight at the picturesque North Era. It was all up about 30km walking over the two days, so there was plenty of time for questions and responses. We had great conversations around a number of areas but it was one particular question I asked my friend that’s had me asking a lot of other people the same question since. ‘What is the most important or valuable question that you ask yourself or others each day?’

“We live in worlds our questions create.” – David Cooperrider

I loved his response. It was a work related one for him, with its perceived simplicity getting me hooked straight away. My friend shared the potential gateway his question opens up to so many positive, connection filled and empowering thoughts, words and actions for their students that can follow because of it. Within lives an invitation to get playful, curious and engage with self, others and the world around them. I love the power of questions.

“Questions are the engines of intellect – the cerebral machines that convert energy to motion, and curiosity into controlled inquiry.” – David Hackett Fischer

It’s been so much fun asking many people this question over the past month. There’s been such a variety of responses, and a million subsequent questions arising from those responses. There have been some similarities of course, but mainly it’s opened up for me a greater understanding of what uniquely makes each individual tick. It’s such a privilege to listen. So what would your response be? There’s no right or wrong, just an opportunity to reflect on what role questions play within your individual and shared journey of potential.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein

 

Planting Seeds

November 13, 2017 at 3:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s spring time here in Australia and the gardens are blooming. I love this season, warmer weather, being back in the ocean and of course the incredibly beautiful flowers, plants and trees that are in full bloom. It’s had me thinking though about the journey through the various seasons to get to this point. Seeds need to have been planted and tendered to if we want to reap the benefits when it’s finally time for them to blossom.

“Leadership’s not a title. It’s a behaviour. Live it.” – Robin Sharma

I love how we’re able to plant seeds right throughout our program experiences and within our ongoing communication with our client schools. There’s nothing like the feeling of creating fertile soil as participants open up to the key messages and themes that are explored within the day. You can see it in their eyes, body language and engagement, when something resonates deeply there’s a physical response. One such example in the last few weeks or so has reminded me why we’re so passionate about the development of leadership potential in Primary Schools. What a privilege being on this journey is.

“Leadership is about the decisions you make, and the actions you take each day. The world is waiting. Leadership is a choice – and it starts with you.” – Alyse Nelson

It was the end of a great day with 113 Year 5 students. I’d been so impressed with their engagement, depth of thinking and contributions right throughout the program. As the students began moving back to their classes at the end of the day a few came up to me to shake my hand and say thanks. I was incredibly grateful for all their reflections but it was the final boy who had hung around who really humbled me with his heartfelt remarks. He said, ‘I just want to say thank you because before you came I thought leadership wasn’t for me, now I want to put my hand up and lead’.

“Recognise that every interaction you have is an opportunity to make positive impact on others.” – Shep Hyken

Wow, I could tell this had taken a lot of courage for him to come up to me like this and share his reflection. I was so humbled and thanked him for that, as well as his efforts throughout the day and the difference he’ll be apart of making as a leader. How often do we get trapped into thinking that something isn’t for us because of a perceived lacking (a particular skill, attitude or behaviour), rather than owning that a leader uses their daily thoughts, words and actions in purposeful ways to create ripples (e.g. not just standing on a stage giving a speech at assembly because you’re wearing a leaders badge). When we embrace and make real anything it comes to life, and the energy that’s created throughout that process will inevitably be felt by others.

“When I found my why, I found my way. When I found my way, I found my wings.”

We don’t need to be elected to be a leader. Leadership isn’t a badge or position. As the John C. Maxwell quote suggests, ‘It is about one life influencing another’. I really am so privileged to be surrounded by so many inspiring leaders each and every day.

It’s Not About Arriving

October 30, 2017 at 7:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I can’t believe that we are almost at the end of our year long leadership program for young adults within SCARF here in the Illawarra (Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families). What a ride it’s been, and such a privilege to spend time with incredibly inspiring difference makers each month. We’ve had the opportunity to pull apart what leadership is, and then over the months develop transferable skills, attitudes and behaviours that will assist us all along our journeys. Saturday’s session was definitely no different, but with an added bonus thrown in.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

We were delighted when we heard that Manal Younus (http://www.manalyounuspoetry.com) would be in Wollongong and joining us within our Let’s L.E.A.D. session on Saturday. She was a special guest for SCARF’s major fundraiser over the weekend (Art for Refugees) and graciously made time to join in on our learning and also share her gifts and talents as well. I love spoken word poetry, and Manal is so talented in it. Our whole group was transfixed as she shared a few of her pieces of work at the end of the session and then created a discussion that supported the learning and leadership journeys that we’re all on.

“Spoken word poetry is the art of performance poetry. I tell people it involves creating poetry that doesn’t just want to sit on paper, that something about it demands it be heard out loud or witnessed in person.” – Sarah Kay

One line in particular from the first poem Manal shared really resonated deeply with me. I couldn’t, and still can’t, get it out of my head. It comes from the poem linked in the YouTube clip above from her first ever National Poetry Slam entry a few years ago. The line is ‘… and prefer to be in planes that are taking off than ones that are just landing’. It couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m thinking about this idea of ‘the end’ of this year long leadership program. Leadership, and this process, is definitely not about arriving.

“Real leadership is less about seeking applause and rewards and more about doing the best work you’ve ever done and having an impact you’ve never imagined.” – Robin Sharma

Each moment is a new opportunity to take off. Each moment is a new opportunity to learn. And most importantly, each moment is a new opportunity to contribute. We’re not reaching ‘the end’ of our year long leadership program because that’s not what leadership is about. I can’t wait to continue being a support to, and being supported by, these incredible difference makers. As leaders do!

A Piece of the Puzzle

October 23, 2017 at 4:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s such a privilege to be a piece of the puzzle within so many educational journeys. As I’ve written before, we understand the amazing commitment schools and educators have for the welfare and educational opportunities offered to their students as they progress through their school years. Education is a complex and interdependent journey, with many important pieces of a puzzle supporting students, staff and school communities to achieve the best outcomes for each individual. It’s so humbling to be reminded of the positive impact we are apart of creating as we explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically, together.

“An extremely important and beneficial program for all students in Year 5, 6 and beyond. Our Year 5 students were fully engaged in every session and couldn’t wait for the next Friday! Cameron is an enthusiastic, positive, approachable and kids relatable presenter. The success of this program is attributed to him and his interactions with our Year 5 students! Thank you Cameron.” – Year 5 Teacher at one of our client schools

The feedback above came from one of our client schools at the end of last term. We were so humbled by the beautiful words that the organising teacher left us with on that final Friday. The 80 Year 5 students we got to work with were incredible. I can’t wait to hear about the ripples they create as leaders of their school community next year. More importantly though, I can’t wait to hear about the ripples they create as positive difference makers each and every day as leaders (not needing to wait for a badge or to be the eldest in the school to be called a leader).

“I haven’t had this class for quite a while, the changes are just incredible.” – Comment from a Casual Teacher who was present within a program experience last week

Our new L.E.A.D. with Me Program is providing us with the opportunity to have ongoing contact with a cohort over a longer period of time. Each class completes sequential weekly sessions of 90 minutes in length over the course of a term. The comment from the Casual Teacher above came last week as we worked with the Year 4 group for the 8th of 10 sessions. The growth and development within the 3 classes has been fantastic, and it’s so humbling to not only have this noticed and reported back by their classroom teachers, but also by others within the school community.

“Absolutely fantastic and worthwhile day…. This will give all teachers at our school leadership techniques to inform their students. Thank you!” – Year 5 Teacher at one of our client schools

Something that we love about our program experiences is that learning is not just for students. We are constantly learning from the wisdom and contributions of the participants, but also the teachers are constantly learning as well. What we’re most passionate about is meaningful connection to action beyond the program day. And for that to happen we know that the teachers play a really important role. It’s so humbling to receive feedback like the one above from a new client school last week who’ll have teachers within the school creating new leadership ripples after those who were apart of the experience share with other teachers as well.

“One of the Year 5 parents I was speaking to was wondering whether you offered any small group outside of school programs?” – Email question from a Principal last week after beginning an ongoing L.E.A.D. with Me Program

We love hearing from school communities about how much students share with home about their experiences. It’s great to know that the participants want to pass on information about what they loved, what they learnt and what happens now. We were also really humbled by the email enquiry above we received last week looking at ways we can further support the learning and leadership journeys of students within our programs. It’s an exciting development that we’re looking into as we journey towards our vision of ‘informed, connected and empowered individuals believing deeply in their own and others potential’. Thank you to all those we have the privilege of sharing this journey with.

Journeying Beside

June 26, 2017 at 8:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As schools around NSW prepare to break up this week for the winter holidays I thought it’d be a good time to reflect on something I think regularly about. I love language. How it sounds. How it connects. What it means (or doesn’t mean). But I also love digging deeper into where it has come from.

“All assessment is a perpetual work in progress.” – Linda Suskie

‘Assess’ is definitely one of those words that is used a lot in educational settings. So as students take home their half yearly reports this week they will include results, observations and findings gathered through a wide range of assessments. Some will have fallen within the general category of formal assessments. While others would of been gathered informally. Putting these categories aside for a minute though, the origin of the word ‘assess’ can really assist us as we navigate its purpose and practical applications.

“Origin and Etymology of assess. Middle English, probably from Medieval Latin assessus, past participle of assidēre, from Latin, to sit beside.” – www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assess

I absolutely love the phrase, ‘to sit beside’. It immediately fills me with pictures in my mind of the most powerful assessment tools that I’ve used myself or witnessed others using over the years. We are all learners. So we’d all know the feelings of when assessment is used to engage, empower and guide the most effective navigation of our individual and shared learning journeys. Unfortunately though, assessment can sometimes feel like a weapon being used to judge, separate and stifle. Reflecting on this original meaning regularly reminds me of the purposeful thoughts, words and actions that make the biggest difference in our own and others lives.

“For teachers, as for students, the most effective evaluation comes from someone who sits beside us and helps us grow.” – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Thank you to all those incredible teachers, students and school communities who have courageously chosen progress over perfection during this first half of the 2017 school year. Enjoy your upcoming holiday break, and we look forward to continuing to explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically with you as Term 3 kicks off in a few weeks time.

Purposeful over Positional

March 6, 2017 at 5:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” – John Wooden

Last Saturday we kicked off our year long ‘Let’s Lead’ program with SCARF Youth here in the Illawarra (Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families). We have 16 participants (16 – 28 yrs old) registered, who’ll be coming together on the last Saturday of each month. Between these sessions we’ll then be communicating online as we explore, reflect on and then practice the purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours of choosing to lead. I think the biggest motivator for us all is to continue growing and developing our ability to be difference makers in our own and others lives. It’s an individual and collective journey of potential that we’re courageously taking together.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

It is so inspiring to work with a group of participants who are willing to commit their valuable time, energy and contributions within a year long program like this one. I’ve shared the proverb above before (it’s one of my favourites) but it absolutely epitomises what this group is all about. As we pulled apart what leadership is within the first session of the year I was reminded of the importance of experiential learning within our leadership journeys. Using our own experiences and wisdom, along with the working definitions of leadership from others within our global village, we were able to make real the daily thoughts, words and actions that a leader embodies.

“Be purposeful. Be patient, and be active.” – John Assaraf

I can’t even imagine what ripples we will create individually and together as the year goes on. This is a really exciting part of leadership, when individuals and groups choose to navigate purposefully over positionally. We don’t need any special titles or circumstances to make a difference. We just need to keep coming back to an attitude of I Can, a belief in You Can, while inspiring We Can, as we journey together. It is such a privilege to be involved in the development of leadership potential. It’s a process. One that I’m grateful to be purposefully navigating.

“Leadership is influence.” – John C. Maxwell

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