Follow the Leader…


Leadership: [lee·der·ship], noun.

1. The position or function of a leader; a person who guides or directs a group

2. The ability to lead

Synonyms: influence, command, effectiveness

What is your definition of leadership?  Think about it….it’s a pretty complex and dynamic concept, and while it is difficult to put into words, there is a synergy in all of the things that make up the idea of a good leader.  I asked around, and the answers I got each apply in their own place and circumstance and time:

–         A leader is a visionary

–         A leader is passionate and dedicated to their cause

–         A leader is someone who inspires others

–         A leader is someone who accomplishes great things and creates change

–         A leader is someone who has followers

Whatever your definition of leadership, there are a few key qualities that religious, political, entertainment, moral and historical leaders have embraced:

–         They’ve had to work really really hard

–         They’ve had something they believed in and were passionate about

–         They didn’t give up, even in desperate or difficult circumstances

–         They were inspirational to their followers

–         They embrace some degree of power

–         They had influence

Anyone can be placed in a “position” of management or leadership, but title does not a leader make.  True leadership most often emerges and is recognized when things are tough.  It is easy to lead when everyone is happy and healthy and all systems are in perfect working order.  Leadership (influence, command and effectiveness) is what we need when we long for direction, peace or change…These are times when the person in “power” is who we turn to for our cue, but know that power and influence are 2 very different things, and the following, respect, inspiration and dedication of organizations, nations, religions and people are born of influence…

Influence is the most important factor in leadership.  Without influence, one cannot hope to create change or passion or loyalty in others.  But, how do you build influence? You build influence by building relationship, and you build relationship by building trust.  And that’s not easy.

In order to build influence, relationship and trust, you have to connect with people at the levels of beliefs and values.  When people reflect on the things that they most respect and value about the great leaders in their lives, rarely do they speak of IQ or bottom line or the number of widgets (metaphorical or literal) they created in a week.  Instead they speak of qualities, beliefs, attitudes and character.  They speak about someone who cares for the cause, but also cares for the people behind the cause.

In order to build trust and therefore inspire others to influence and be influenced, you have to know them as a person and individual with ideas and feelings and a life. Trust me.  You have to be honest and genuine and work hard and set a good example.  You have to do the right thing even if it is the hard thing. You are both stalwart and vulnerable (never underestimate the power and leadership that lies in vulnerability, see TED TALK “the Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown ).  You make mistakes and you forgive others when they do the same.  You take time to listen, understand and respond.  You are patient.  You take responsibility and blame as needed.  You have courage.  You seek knowledge in all things, and you recognize the achievements of others in all things.  You reflect on the decisions you make for yourself and you consider others in those decisions.  Think of all of the great leaders you know, and even the people you hold in high regard and would follow  if they asked it of you…..they have these qualities. How they implement them may change, but they connect and value relationship as a part of task management and accomplishment.  If you have been given the gift of leadership, use it wisely and well, for it is a powerful honour to be given or to gain.

I have two favorite leadership quotes. Let them inspire you in your guidance of others to connect and create trust and authenticity.  The first is “connect before direct” (that’s one of my own and it has served me well with everyone I meet, teach and lead) and the second is by (and in honor of) Nelson Mandela:



Setting your Sails for the Winds of Change


Change is something we cannot completely control, and a part of life that is inevitable. While it sometimes uncomfortable or even a little scary, often it can bring about positive growth opportunities. It is an important part of “learning” and life. Part of the work in transitions, is helping people to navigate and understand change, and do it in such a way that is comfortable, positive and forward moving. There are a few ways to take an event or lifecycle experience, and create an atmosphere that is easier, helpful and “smoother” in the process of transition from one idea or thing or place to the next. Some of the strategies that can be used in any time of change follow:

*Find routine. Any sort of predictability in times of unknown or questioning can provide comfort. It is helpful to stick to familiar and routine oriented activities whenever possible. For example, if the family has always had a certain meal or outing together weekly (say Sunday nights) this can continue even in a new house or community.

*Determine the things that are within and those that are outside of one’s control. Try to focus on those things to which you have some influence. It can become hopeless and frustrating to focus on things that cannot change, which will only add to overall angst and fear. For example, if you need to move for work to a new community, rather than focusing on that, begin to focus on the choices you are in control of in the new community (i.e. the house you will live in, the activities you will participate in, or the school your kids will attend).

*Find the positives: Taking a situation that feels scary or unknown, and that is somewhat uncomfortable will inevitable cause a person to grow. We often tend to focus on those things that we are worried about or unfamiliar with. Try instead to take any positives or “silver linings” from the changes, however small they may be (i.e. I will never have to wait at “such and such” red light again or now I live closer to Tim Horton’s).

*Honor the uncomfortable feelings you are having and try to identify what is behind them. It is often helpful to “name” the things you are worried about or fearful of in times of change. For example “I am afraid I won’t be able to make any friends.” This will help with the next step. Once you can name the fear or negative emotion it is easier to communicate with others and work towards solutions.

*Work at finding solutions or ways to cope with the feelings and unknowns. If you know you are afraid of making new friends or not being able to find a new job etc. it is important to begin to problem solve through various things to try or ways to handle these possibilities (i.e. if I can’t find a job, I will ______ or _______ or _____. If I have trouble making friends at my new school, I can try to _____ or _____ or _____). Having these tools or possible solutions will lessen fear.

* Learn as much as you can about the situation. Knowledge is power, and thus if you are presented with something that is out of your control, or makes you feel powerless or worried, it is important to learn as much as you can about it, the possible outcomes, the potential positives and negatives and how this change will affect you. This will help to be better prepared for it when it comes. For example, try to learn about the new school or community, or what to expect as you move away from home. The more you understand and are ready for the change, the better able to “handle” it you can be.

*Remember times you have experienced “change” (even in small forms) in the past, and were able to come through it, even if you had to adjust some things. Remembering these times will help you to build confidence that you have experienced things like this before and done well.

*Keep in mind all things pass: Once the major change occurs, and you begin to adapt and learn the things you need to in order to enjoy the differences, you will again be more comfortable in your situation. Keep in mind that you will have accomplished one more thing, and while the process if often difficult or scary, it will come to that point of understanding and acceptance eventually and in your own time.

*Surround yourself with help and supports. Try not to do everything yourself, and in fact take it easy on your mind and body as they are trying to adjust and figure things out also. It can be exhausting to process and understand change never mind all of the things you actually have to do (i.e. find a new job, move, rearrange schedules etc). Be sure you have emotional support. Change can be difficult and scary, and it can be helpful to have someone walk through the process with you, and help you to understand various pieces of it…..that’s what friends are for!