Ash, Smoke and Learning to Lead

Amidst the tragedy of the raging wildfires in the mountains of Northern California, under a soft rain of ash and the drifting pungent smell of wood smoke, an intrepid group of twenty-four people assembled to start a year long leadership program. The purpose of the weekend was to provide them with an opportunity to get to know one another and to help start them on their personal journey towards the discovery of their own leadership style.

The goal of the program, which is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, is to not only cultivate future business leaders, but to grow long-term community difference makers. I had the privilege of serving as one of the facilitators and like many times before, found I received far more than I gave. Away from our connected and frenetic lives and surrounded by the power and unpredictability of nature, we talked about what skills, traits and behaviors are needed by today's leaders. The sincerity of the conversation and the collective wisdom of the group was amazing.

Those of you who have been long time readers know that I believe in an approach to leadership that I call Integrative. This is the blending of logical and linear traits with behaviors that are mindful, present and authentic. An Integrative leader is someone who not only possesses drive, vision, creativity and razor sharp business acumen, but meets people in a manner that makes them feel heard, cared for, valued and respected. With the changing demographic in the workforce, Millennials are going to represent a big portion of the makeup of any organization. My belief is that an Integrative approach to leadership is going to be vital for both retention and motivation. As a group, we discussed at great length the actions and behaviors that would be indicative of an Integrative leader. I thought I would share a few.

An Integrative leader is someone who not only possesses drive, vision, creativity and razor sharp business acumen, but meets people in a manner that makes them feel heard, cared for, valued and respected.

Do you always have to be in front to lead?
One of our small group activities required each team to assess a bag of materials provided and then construct an object that would best perform the task we outlined. The result was not the purpose, but rather it was the process. Once completed, we discussed how each group determined their leader. Some claimed "group think" or consensus, while others admitted to the identification of a single leader. For the latter, a simple question was asked; was it leadership to be the one in front with the idea, plan and passion, or was true leadership simply giving that person the room to run with it? For your contemplation, I will leave that open ended.

2015-09-14-1442272610-7560525-BassLake.jpgIn order for people to succeed, you must provide the room to fail.
This is a struggle for many as it is an act of letting go. It is so easy to fall into the trap of micromanagement, but that is the enemy of staff development. In order for a person to succeed, you must allow them the room to fail. Within that space lies both opportunity and learning. It presents the opportunity to be creative, solutions minded and accountable. Learning occurs because failure is one's best teacher.

It is all about people!
2015-09-14-1442272727-5034416-LemoClassroom.jpg
If you accept that leadership is getting things done through others, then to focus inward seems a foolish pursuit. Yet, that is where traditionally so much leadership development focus is placed. The power is the people and in understanding what fuels them. Learning how to relate and communicate authentically in a manner that makes people feel heard, cared for valued and respected is where leadership development efforts should be placed.

A final thought.
There is no one style of leadership that everyone should emulate. Rather, it is the integration of the traits and behaviors previously discussed, meshed with your own natural talents.

I admit that what I have expressed is most definitely out of the box. I would welcome your comments and thoughts below.

Thanks for reading.

Elliot Begoun is a Business Growth Consultant and the Principle of The Intertwine Group. His purpose is to help businesses and business leaders grow. He works to solve real issues, establish strategic guardrails, develop integrative leaders and foster employee enlightenment.

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This article first appeared on www.TheIntertwineGroup.com