"Some of you will know that I have spent this year as a Clore Social Leadership Fellow, which has not only been about having lots of days out of the office to participate in learning and training alongside my equivalent fellows across the country, (oh and a six week secondment to Canada…!) It has been about exploring why leadership is important - to me - to people leading organisations or projects like you - and to everyone who is questioning the leaders we have chosen globally, and what we might choose in the future if we are to turn things around.
I graduated last week, and am in the process of writing a provocation piece, an article for publication which summarises what I want to say about the type of leadership needed essentially. My team have asked me to share something about my experience for this update, and so, because it’s difficult to sum it up in a way that doesn’t lose what has been so special about it, I am going to share three core insights that best encapsulate my journey , if you want to know more, you know where I am:
The journey starts with you asking yourself all sorts of questions about how and if you really are called to lead – my advice is this; try to answer those questions, you will probably find you are leading change in lots of ways already…
As the path moves on, you begin to understand what calls you to action, and how you want to not only respond to that personally, but help others do that too – my advice; find what really moves you, and do that more of the time – the rest will work itself out!
And finally, there is no destination, but if you walk this path, you will find yourself arriving at a place where ‘how you want to lead,’ and ‘the type of leadership needed’ meet in the middle – my advice, let the work you are meant to do discover you, and when it does, when you feel the urge to lead the way forward… offer that…do not hide your contribution, it is probably something people are looking for or need
For me the journey began by looking at definitions of good leadership, to try and find my own style and purpose. What I discovered surprised me; turns out I don’t really respond that well to other people’s definitions or declarations of what is supposed to be important to me. Things come to life for me when I find that out for myself and invest in doing what needs to be done to be my best self. I have had to learn to just offer that, even if it doesn’t feel good enough, or ready – to offer what I have in service of the whole (as well as the self) and to support others to do the same. I think Thich Nhat Hanh expresses this capacity to find the best in yourself and others to make a difference to the whole perfectly:
Our Earth is like a small boat. Compared with the rest of the cosmos, it is a very small boat, and it is in danger of sinking. We need a person to inspire us with calm confidence. To tell us what to do.
Who is that person? You are that person. Only with such a person, calm-lucid-aware – will our situation improve. I wish you good luck. Please be yourself, please be that person
What this taught me was that being a leader is about being yourself in the fullest sense, and that what you have to give is often called upon in moments and places where it is most needed – even if it doesn’t feel ready or good enough. The practice of leadership similarly is about stepping forward when what you have is needed, and then stepping aside when it is time for the gift of the next person to be given (it is definitely not all about you).
What has been the very best part of all these (often theoretical) conversations with leaders, around the country and overseas, is that I’ve been able to talk about my experience of working in a collaborative community, where inspirational leaders step forward and do great things all the time. Our little CoLab hub, birthed (officially) by a committed group of collaborators in June 2016, is already maturing into a safe and supportive space – not only for people in crisis – but for people taking a risk to step forward and offer their true selves in services of outcomes they truly care about."