Thursday, June 6, 2019

Leadership Statement

"A variety of opinions is welcome, as long as your perspective does not intentionally hurt another".  I have been thinking about this concept for a long time now.  I am disheartened when I watch the news or observe the world around us, and witness so much hatred and polarization.  I think that a difference in opinions is necessary.  I learn a lot about the world and about myself, when I meet someone new and they share their story with me.  What I cannot abide is when that opinion intentionally hurts another person or a community.  We need to find common ground in this world, not relish in our differences.  We need to work together to find solutions to the issues that we face like the environmental crisis, not act in silos.  We need to recognize differences as gifts, not view them with hatred.

Other statements that I love:
In a world where you can choose to be anything, choose to be kind - Jennifer Dukes Lee
No one is too small to make a difference - Greta Thunberg

Follow me?

This is a truly hard question to answer.  I am incredibly driven, organized and ambitious.  I enjoy a challenge and am a risk taker.  I am very appreciative to those who join the path with me and am willing to express my gratitude continuously.  So from those perspectives, I would hope that people enjoy being on the journey with me.  I welcome alternative perspectives and love when people bring forth a great idea that will help us all.  For example, when one of the conference committee members suggested that we invite Jack Saddleback to be our opening keynote I was thrilled.  I knew he was the perfect choice for our conference and acknowledged her wonderful suggestion. 

I do what I say I will and continually follow up with the members of my team to ensure that they have everything to be successful. 

My shortcomings: I need to learn to be impartial.  I have a hard time not investing everything, and that can get me into trouble.  I can also be dominating.  For example while in school anytime I had a group project to work on, I worked for the A, whether or not my group was on board.  If there was no designated leader or I was a part of a lackluster group, I took over and got everyone an A.  I did not want to sacrifice my grade point average for their lack of investment.  I do not regret doing that, and would do the exact same thing if I returned to school.  I simply acknowledge that this is not a true leadership trait.

Own it

My leadership style lets others thrive.  I want to work towards a common goal with enthusiasm and passion about the task ahead.  I want the team to feel invested in the project, and that they have been given an opportunity to shine.  I am very gratified when my team is successful.  I am not competitive and feel no need to be acknowledged.

I set the course and then trust the team to do what they are really good at.  I delegate with responsibility, meaning that I follow up and make sure that the person has what they need to successfully complete the task and that they are on track.  I acknowledge success and failure along the way with poise and with gratitude.  I ensure that I verbally express all of the small things along the way where I felt that the person went above and beyond my expectations of that role. 

I try really hard to be open to constructive feedback.  If it something where I am heavily invested in, I find it hard to not take this feedback personally, but I am working on it.

If I make a mistake, I own it and apologize for it.  I also allow myself to learn from failure.

I do not feel that my style has changed all that much over the years, but my confidence has.  I used to be easily intimidated by challenges and by assertive people.  I have learned to stand my ground and believe in myself and my position.   

Born this way or learned behaviour?

Is a leader born or developed?  I like to believe that it is a little bit of both.  I believe that we are born with inherent characteristics that make us who we are.  That is why two children with the same parents and essentially the same upbringing can be totally different people.  We are all born with preferred tendencies, skills and talents.  I prefer to be an introvert, I have a small circle of close friends, but mostly just like to hang out with my family and my sister.  I am creative, enjoy research and am quiet.  My sister is extremely extroverted with a huge circle of friends, is an excellent teacher and is not creative in the slightest. We could not be more different from each other. 

But it is also our environment that shapes who we are as a person, and we can be taught. I participate in leadership workshops and have gained a self awareness about what 'makes me tick' and what skills and talents I bring to the table.  Some I think, I have always expressed, and some I have learned on the job or through an experience I have had. 

An example that I could provide here would be my more recent desire to be an advocate.  I never thought for one second that I would be the type of person who would write letters to their MLA, or to the editor of a local newspaper or who would show up at a protest, let alone organize one.  But I have done all of those things in the last two years.   The political climate woke me up and caused a substantial shift in my outlook and also my willingness to take on a leadership role within my community.   So did the political climate make me into a leader or was I always one?  I think a little bit of both.

Not Ready to Make Nice

When asked, who do you admire most as a leader - I always immediately think of the Dixie Chicks.  In 2003, while traveling in Europe, Natalie Maines (lead singer of the band) stated that the band was embarrassed that George W. Bush was from Texas and that they were not in favour of the impending war with Iraq.  These comments did not go over well to say the very least.  People from all over the United States demanded that their local radio stations stop playing the band's songs.  They burned their CD's and boycotted their concerts. 

What I admire about the Dixie Chicks the most is that they had everything to lose and indeed lost a lot, but they never backed down from what they said.  They stood by their comments and each other and accepted the consequences of the fall out.  To me, that shows courage, integrity and the most important quality of a leader - the willingness to be accountable.  They stuck to their principles and they stood their ground.

They have always been my favourite band, and after that happened, they gained my respect and unwavering devotion to them as people. I would also argue that their best CD was released in 2006 as a very personal portrait of that time in their lives.  The single "Not Ready to Make Nice" is the perfect response to the controversy.  The best part is that at the 49th Grammy awards the song won - Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Country Music Performance by a Duo or Group. It is rumoured that they are back in the studio recording new music.  I really hope that is true as I would love the opportunity to see them in concert again.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Wolf Pack

In a recent class discussion, a student detailed an article that was shared on LinkedIn illustrating leadership concepts through an analogy of a traveling wolf pack.  According to the original article a wolf pack is lead by the sick or elderly so that they set the pace for the rest of the group.  If they were at the back of the pack they would be vulnerable to attack or risk being left behind.  The strong members come next as they are able to protect those ahead and behind them.  At the back of the pack is the alpha, who can see all of those ahead of them.  The essence of analogy is that the alpha is the visionary, setting the course for the rest of the pack.  The LinkedIn article goes on to compare the alpha to the CEO of a company, questioning if it is possible for the company or the alpha to ward off an unexpected attack from an unprotected angle.  A disruption.  The article ends with a question, "So do you trust your alpha?"  (Lindegaard, 2016, para. 10).  Although the article reveals that this analogy does not reflect actual wolf pack behaviour, it does provide a compelling vision for leadership. 

This story has caused me to ponder the leadership concept as presented, but it also sparked my curiousity about the accuracy of the tale.  After reading the article in detail, as noted above, along with a fact check that was done by Snopes, I was initially disheartened that it is not.  That opinion quickly dissolved when I read the final paragraph of the article which reveals the true story behind the image.  According to Evon (2015) "the pack is not being led by the three oldest members and trailed by an "alpha" wolf, as implied by a viral Facebook post.  Instead, one of the stronger animals leads the group in order to create a path in the snow for them" (para. 8).  This additional detail adds a lovely  little ripple to the story.  That the member of the wolf pack who leads the journey, does so to make the path that much easier for all of those behind them.  What a powerful and inspiring image of leadership. 

References
Evon, D. (2015, Dec. 22).  Do the oldest and weakest wolves really lead the pack.  Snopes.  Retrieved from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/wolf-pack-photo/.

Lindegaard, S.  (2016, Jan. 6).  Leadership lessons from a wolf pack.  LinkedIn.  Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leadership-lessons-from-wolf-pack-stefan-lindegaard/.

Lessons in Leadership

I feel so fortunate to work for an institution that believes in life-long learning and supports my growth as both an employee and as an instructor.  As I reflect on the past week in the leadership institute and the points that continue to resonate I am struck by the overall concept of what it means to be a leader and how leaders inspire 'the best' from others (those in their employment, or those with similar values and ideas in the case of a movement).

Ultimately leaders create a vision for the future and inspire others to join them on that path.  When I participated in the Library Leadership and Development Program and the University of Saskatchewan, one of the principles that was shared with us was 'lead from where you stand'.  In other words, anyone, at any position in the organization can be a leader and demonstrate the characteristics that we commonly associate with leadership.  You can have a positive impact on your colleagues, act with integrity, lead by example and build trust.  An example that comes to mind for leading by example occurred when my colleague and I were creating the D2L module for ATL on research skills.  We modeled the way by strictly following copyright, referencing and citation practices.  We were keen to provide a good example of how to use external resources 'properly' in an online course, providing a learning opportunity for those who viewed the class materials.  It was a small thing, but might help to inspire others to follow suit.

The qualities that I admire most in a leader are accountability, and integrity.  I also am in awe of those who stand up for what they believe in and use their voice to advocate for social justice issues.  One of the greatest leaders in the world right now is Greta Thunberg, a Swedish student who is an outspoken climate activist inspiring millions of people to participate in weekly 'School Strikes for Climate'.  In her own words, she has said that "no one is too small to make a difference" (Hewitt, 2019, para. 3).  This principle complements 'lead from where you stand' as it recognizes that anyone can be a leader and can have a positive impact on the world around them.

References
Hewitt, R. (2019, May 29).  No one is too small to make a difference review Greta Thunberg's vision.  The Guardian.  Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/may/29/greta-thunberg-review-speeches-that-appeal-to-both-heart-and-mind.