A friend of mine sent me the following email:
“For a school assignment this week, I am supposed to ask 5 leaders in my community the questions below. I’m hoping you’re able to take about 5-7 minutes to respond to these questions so I can put together my assignment.
- What are the skills that are most useful to you as a leader and why?
- How did you develop these skills?
- What has been the most meaningful experience, that influenced you as a leader and why?
Thank you for your time,”
After replying to her, I thought I’d share my response in this blog.
“I’m not sure I can answer these questions well, because I’m still a novice when it comes to leadership. In fact, I continue to believe that the only reason I’m President of ASTD-Orange County is because they ran out of options.
“That said, I’ve always viewed my role as that of collaborator. My ability to lead comes during those times when I’m able to take the information and ideas supplied by the team and mold them into something that meets a larger picture.
“So, to answer the question: “What are the skills most useful to you as a leader and why?” I would say: the ability to link disparate actions to an organizational purpose. Leaders call that “Vision,” which leaves a bitter taste in some folks’ mouths. I prefer purpose.
“I honestly developed those skills by being a trainer. A lot of what we do in designing our material links up to what a leader needs to do when conducting meetings or managing others. For me, the light clicked on during some Human Performance Improvement classes, when we started discussing the root cause of the situation. There’s not that much difference between finding the root cause of a problem and identifying the main objective of a course. And from there, identifying the main purpose of an initative. So for me, I developed what few leadership skills I have not by attempting to be a leader, but by attempting to operate better within the organization.
“My time served on the Board at ASTD-OC has been the most meaningful, influential experience as a leader. It taught me how to lead organically, through a trial and error process that one cannot afford in the business world. Specifically, I can point to my last year as VP of Communications, when I realized one key fact: that I had not set up the Communications Team to continue without me as well as it was doing with me. Rather, I had spent the first year of my tenure just doing the job, and while I managed to assemble a team to fulfill the most necessary functions within the team, I had not done anything towards a succession plan. So the next VP of Communications had nothing to go on, and started from scratch. The fact that Communications has something to show for it after I left that position is pure luck, and that’s not a leadership skill.
“I suppose that’s what I mean by my role being one of collaborator. There’s got to be someone who can take your place when you’ve moved on.”
If you had received my friend’s email, how would you have responded?