Monday, January 9, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened Recently

I was sitting in a meeting recently and as I looked around the room I realized something startling. I was the oldest person in the room and by quite a few years. This was a surprise to me.

I believe that most people do not think about being old or getting older. Instead, we believe we are a “young” person. I know from experience it is a blessing to be given the gift and opportunity to grow old. However, it is quite the shock when one realizes that all of sudden everyone in the room has framed you up as “the old guy.”

Furthermore, it is a wonderful when I am sitting in a room coaching someone who is a young senior executive and they ask me to coach someone who is even younger than they are. Given how often this is happening now, and how often I work with very young leaders, I decided this winter to share some of the fundamentals that I am teaching and coaching these young people as they enter the exciting and dynamic world of leadership.

First, I recognize that some young leaders have not read extensively, or experienced many significant life events. While this is normal, there are a couple of things we need to understand whether we are at the beginning of our leadership journey, in the middle, or near the end. As I wrote in the From Vision to Action booklet called “Planning for Change” (, there are some important fundamentals to remember when becoming a leader:

“First: People do care. Unfortunately, all too often people's capacity to care is buried under layers of cynicism resulting from negative experiences with work or life. But this doesn't change the reality that fundamental to human nature is the capacity to care, and to care deeply. The desire for our lives to make a difference is intrinsic.

Second: People want to engage in meaningful work. Yet, some are taught at an early age that it isn't wise to dream big, and many end up selling themselves short. We all need to meet financial commitments and to create a life for ourselves and our families. But ultimately, people prefer work that is meaningful and compatible with their talents, personalities, and values.

Being a cog in a wheel is a waste of human potential. Each of us has interests, dreams, and desires which are as varied as the colors of the spectrum. But issues of meaning matter, and a smart executive --whatever the size or scope of the organization -- knows this, and sets his or her course accordingly.

Third: People need community. We have a fundamental human need for integration, for pleasure, for accomplishment, for meaning, and for contributing outside the realm of mere self- interest. And we need the support of others.

Every person needs to know there is someone who can offer support when they fail, when illness strikes, or a child is struggling -- and, more importantly, who will take the time to listen. We need community within which to share, to tell stories, and to test our dreams. Even dyed-in-the-wool introverts appreciate the value of a few good friends!

Fourth: It is fundamental to human nature to learn throughout the life-cycle. We exercise this capacity every day. No matter what our educational background, or our intellectual or developmental capacity, we learn every day in formal and informal contexts.

In short, it is people who are our primary resource during change, and successful individuals and companies understand this. Taking time to understand the marketplace, the customer, the rules and regulations, and the competition is critically important, of course, but not at the expense of the fundamentals.”

This winter my goal is to explore the fundamentals of leadership with you and to further share more insights that all of us, no matter our age, need to remember. For now, let each of us be mindful that people care and want to engage in meaningful work. They also what a sense of community and to learn through out their lives.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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