In 1997, I was asked by a group of long term clients to create and deliver an in-depth leadership training program which could become the training ground for future senior leaders for their organizations. In 1998, after much work, reflection and visiting with numerous leaders around the country, I designed and taught the first From Vision to Action Leadership Training. This year long leadership development course encompassed four quarterly sessions. Through its challenging, interactive curriculum, participants gained core skills and knowledge through immersion in research, issues and solutions related to leadership, strategic planning and execution, and implementing organizational change. This fall the 24th class will graduate from this in-depth training and people are already signing up for the 2019 class.
During the first class back in 1998, I asked my students to tell me what are the characteristics of a leader worth following during organizational change. I still ask this same question twenty years later. The reason being is that leaders are involved in making things run better and changing things to make them work differently given how the customers have changed.
Over the decades, the answers have been interesting and thoughtful. There has been some change in the description of these characteristics and those reflect the changes in our society. For example, successful digital communication was not a part of our discussions back in ’98. But over all, most students share about how leaders think and how they interact with others.
I like these answers and I encourage the students to zoom out rather than just zoom in to answer the question. The reason being is because a long time ago I read a book by Kevin Cashman where he stated that “if you want to become a better leader, you first have to become a better person.” I still think about this quote on a regular basis.
If we truly want to become better leaders, especially during times of organizational change, then we must become better people. If that is the goal, then a leader is not just what they do with their mind and how they interact with others. From my experience of working with great leaders, I have learned that a leader worth following in the midst of organizational changes does think well and interact well with others but they also do a few other things exceptionally well.
First, they role model good self-care. They take care of their body through exercise, eating well and utilizing healthy stress management techniques.
Second, they have a healthy social and emotional life. This means they take care of their family, maintain relationships with a close circle of friends, and have mentors and older friends who help keep things in perspective.
Third, they have a spiritual life. They are involved in a faith community, and routinely take time for faith related activities on a daily and seasonal basis, recognizing that some questions about work and life can only be answered from a faith perspective.
This week, reflect on the question, What are the characteristics of a leader worth following during organizational change? And then write down your answers. It is time to seek wholeness over fragmentation. Becoming a better person is a fabulous life goal.