Reflections of an Emerging Leader

The first thing our group of twelve classmates heard was,  “No matter what your title or what your role here, you are a leader.” More than a few of us looked doubtful. Our trainers, Sherldean Jones, Manager Learning and Development, and Denise Diehl, Learning and Development Specialist, would have their work cut out for them. They didn’t disappoint.

Over the weeks ahead there were videos, practice exercises and lots of questions to answer revolving around reading the book, The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. We learned the value of SERVE. See the future. Engage and develop others. Reinvent continuously. Value results and relationships. Embody the values.

What did we learn? Essentially, a great leader is someone people follow willingly. That requires that colleagues like and respect their leader. For that to happen, leaders must invest time in getting to know and care about people as individuals. We must show that not only are we willing to help them grow and learn, we believe in the ideals we preach and will jump in the ditch beside team members to get jobs done. If a leader is investing time to cultivate a team, they must know where the road leads. The future is constantly changing, and leaders need to be aware of what is happening, how to adapt and why reaching a destination matters in the first place.

As I listened, that all made sense. I could see how leaders I’d worked under had either succeeded or failed in these areas and in turn how it affected the performance and attitude of those tasked with following them. Eureka! A+. Job well done.

But wait. Something else was happening. It had been so gradual, so natural, that few in our group noticed it until it was so engrained that there was no going back. Our class of twelve went from being coworkers to being friends, then from friends to something akin to family.

At some point, the lessons that Sherl and Denise taught us actually happened among us. Maybe it started with the one person who asked, “Do we have Vegas rules here? Do we all agree that what we say in class, stays in this class?” We agreed and slowly, with effort, trust formed. We talked. We debated. We learned. We listened – really listened. We spent time working through tasks small and large and depending on one another to accomplish the goal. We discovered the challenges faced by our classmates at work and at home. We began to know and appreciate each other not just as coworkers but as individuals. It was in our differences that we found one another’s strengths. By the end of the six months we relished challenges that we could work through together. We supported each other. We stood up for each other. We stepped forward to help when a team member needed it and stepped back when another teammate was better suited to the task. It was fluid adaption. Each of us a leader and each of us a follower.

That team still exists now that the six months is over. We gather for lunch to support each other and to help other staff discuss solutions to problems that affect our entire company. Just imagine what could be accomplished if every employee went through the same training. If departmental lines dissolved and our more than 600 employees became one huge team, each valuing and supporting the other. Each working together to get through challenges and reach goals. Each leading and each following. That would be a team that could truly improve the lives of those we serve every day.

I am sincerely grateful to the donors to Westminster Canterbury Foundation who made the Emerging Leaders program possible. I hope you know what an incredible gift you’ve given all who attended – and what an impact it has on those we serve.

Copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

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