Thursday, 25 June 2009

The most astounding leader of all

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to join the Wales Public Service Summer School for the day. This is a week long festival of leadership learning organised by Public Service Management Wales, the public service organisation with which I’ve had the privilege to work over the past three years.

Summer School really is a feast, a glutton’s paradise of learning opportunities for senior and developing leaders. The 200+ learners are exposed to often controversial thinking from across the world, are challenged to convert learning into action and are fed to bursting point with stimulating conversation and calls to action. It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time!

Whilst there, I caught up with old friends, was re-inspired by an old acquaintance, Baroness Rennie Frichie, and met, Nick Smith, - the ‘flow’ man and author of the Life 2.0 blog which I have referred to previously and admire enormously. I was also able to support the delivery of a workshop which introduced the powerful action learning methodology to a group of leaders. During this workshop I was disturbed by two members of the group who described how all this contact with great thinkers and leadership theory was leading them to believe that they were really not cut out for leadership. They seemed to have a sense that it was all alien to them, that they didn’t have the way of thinking nor the knowledge that was exhibited by others so weren’t worthy to be in the leadership club.

Lets be clear about what’s important here.

Leadership theories can be great. They can challenge us and stretch us. A decent leadership tool box is a real asset. It gives me more choice and helps me think creatively and communicate effectively. But it’s all just icing on the cake.

Leadership, like any other art form comes from within. It comes from the values we hold, our belief system, our vision, our drive and excitement to make things better, the absolute conviction that there’s something important to be done and the sense of personal responsibility that leads us not to pass the buck!

Only then are the theories and tools useful.

I worry that sometimes we stifle real talent by not recognising and celebrating the fantastic leader within all of us. It's instinctive and intuitive, 100% honest and therefore hugely powerful. Yes it needs nurturing and refining, but it’s the cornerstone of our success and the most genuine and powerful tool at our disposal!

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