Hello SOTGC community,
Sometimes we find leadership skills developing in unusual environments. As many of us manage, coach, or lead the next generation, we can help them tap into their skills in places or ways they might not consider. For me, from an early age, I loved climbing, tumbling, and hanging off anything including Dad’s shoulders. What started as fun grew into valuable skills I put into practice nearly every day.
How did hanging upside down for fun as a kid help me be a strong leader today? It taught me five valuable skills:
1. To see things from a different point of view—Leadership is always done in relationship with someone, and often times inviting a fresh viewpoint can increase communication, support, and partnership. It also invariably brings in innovation or creative insight. This is a key to change: learning what the better thing is so that we can give up the current for the better. Typically, most of us will not give up doing what we currently do until we see something that is better. Getting a fresh perspective and a different viewpoint will often help us see the better and be able to release the old. Hello Change!
2. To take a risk—Climbing up the monkey bars or throwing myself over a rail takes a calculated risk, even if, as a kid, I didn’t think about possible pain, I just thought of the pure joy of it all. To lead well includes taking the time to take courageous action towards a goal and, sometimes, we are not sure if it will fail or succeed. However, we do know we have to try.
3. To loan others my influence and courage—As kids there were always those who weren’t quite sure if they wanted to try, but with some encouragement and visual examples, they jumped up! We often don’t know what others who watch us lead or follow our example really are thinking or feeling. We can loan them our own influence and our own courage to help them accomplish shared goals. This may look like me helping a mentee get a lunch appointment or putting my name behind one of her first-time projects.
4. To ask “what can I do to help?”—Building onto the previous skill of loaning influence and courage, asking specifically what the other person thinks I could do to help will go a long way. A mentor and previous supervisor, Dean Rush, did this so well for me. He loaned his influence up the ladder and his courage while weekly asking how he might help me accomplish the goals I saw would take us to the next level. When you actually ask this question with authenticity and healthy boundaries, it functions as a powerful teamwork catalyst.
5. To observe and wonder—when hanging upside down, interaction is definitely limited. That’s when observing and wondering can be enjoyed and expanded. Observing involves examining things we might see every day, sometimes in new places. This allows us to consider possible connections we might not have considered. While this is similar to the first skill of different points of view, observation and wondering is used for data collection but also for experimentation.
According to Hal Gregersen, the executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, “All of us were quite good at [innovation] when we were 4 years old.” The problem is, without cultivation, these skills are often lost by adulthood. While I’m not suggesting a break to the nearest playground or Cross-Fit studio to hang on the monkey bars, I am encouraging us to look at leadership development in alternative environments.
• Who are you currently leading that might benefit from one of these skills?
• Where do you find some leadership skills in your background?
• What helps you when working with the up and coming leaders?
Photo children hanging off rail, original 1966 photo found on hauntedbystorytelling.tumblr.com