I have been invited to keynote an upcoming conference in Toronto and the topic they want me to address is"leadership." The group gathering are all upper level folks involved in human services and disability issues and they want to explore ways/means to lead change. These thoughtful executives are all interested in shifting their program efforts from the classic "micro" focus, to a bigger, more "macro" sense of culture and community change. It is an area I have been exploring in our work at CLASS (www.classcommunity.org) and my Canadian friends feel an exchange of ideas would be helpful.
Now most of my adult life, both vocationally as well as being a member of many community groups, I have ultimately found myself in leadership positions. I was program director when I first started at CLASS in 1973, and became the CEO in 1991. I have held leadership roles in the PTG when our kids were in school, founder and Commissioner of the Human Service Volleyball League, President of most of the Boards of Directors I have served on, Chair of state-wide advisory groups and the like. I am a student of leadership, reading most of the key books/journal articles/blogs on the topic, and I teach leadership issues at the School of Health and Rehab Science at the University of Pittsburgh.
As I initiated my preparation for our Toronto conference, however, I began to broaden my perspective. Most people think of leadership as something others do, people who are in charge, or have been elected or selected to lead, and that if you are not in these roles, there is not much that leadership training/reflection can do for you. But in relooking at the key aspects, this is an erroneous perspective.
All of us, no matter our role or position, can benefit from thinking more about leadership ingredients, or traits; and, if we apply them to everyday life situations, we can be more effective and successful. Think about these aspects of leadership, reported in a recent edition of the Harvard Business Review, but apply them to any situation you are currently dealing with in your life today:
Good leaders show "learning agility," that is they apply actions from lessons learned. Good leaders "build and sustain important relationships." They know the potency of social capital. Good leaders are "realistically optimistic," that is they know ultimate success happens in achievable increments. Good leaders have a "caring nature." Good leaders think about being a "host" rather than a "hero." Lastly, good leaders "listen as much (or more) than they talk."
These aspects are not reserved for the elite, or upper level players - they are all aspects that can make everyday life better, no matter your position or issue. So, the next time you see something in the paper, or on the bookshelf, or online regarding leadership, take a good look at it. The information will probably be as important to "everyday leaders" as to the big CEO's or Presidents!