Discovering, Developing, and Enhancing Leadership SkillsA few months back I was given the opportunity to apply to be a part of a leadership program through a group called Leadership Southern Indiana. When I read that their mission was to "To actively engage leaders and develop ethical leadership that impacts our region," I was instantly hooked. I was excited at the opportunity to be a part of their program, "Discover". This is a 9 month program that "aims to help participants become informed, inspired, connected and capable leaders that Southern Indiana will need to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow." As a leader in my school district, an active minister at my church, and a passionate resident of Southern Indiana, I couldn't wait to get started.
This past week, on August 27 and 28, it all began at Wooded Glen Retreat and Conference Center.
I honestly had no idea what to expect. My optimism was high but it was also realistic. While I had heard and read good things about the program, you never really know if something is going to be the right fit until you jump into the middle of it. I was not disappointed.
We stared off the day by getting to know each other. I love meeting new people, so this was great. Beyond just meeting new people, it was just cool meeting people who had very different careers. I am very used to hanging out with educators. This gave me the chance to spend time and learn with people who work in architecture, engineering, banking, finance, real estate, healthcare, photography, and more!
Our morning session was lead by Al Cornish, the Chief Learning Officer for Norton Healthcare. He was great! I would even say that he was "semi-fabulous"! (Sorry, you had to be there to get that joke.) We dove into the history of our area and created a human timeline. We discussed the positive aspects of Southern Indiana, and the challenges we all face in the region. As a person who has only lived in the area for less than 3 years, it was a great way to catch me up to speed and to build a foundation for all of us.
After lunch we were greeted by the very engaging and enthusiastic Dr. Todd Arwood. We spent the afternoon exploring our personal values. I have been in many sessions where we have looked at our personalities or learning styles, but never a session that helped us identify what our values are and how they drive every decision we make. It was enlightening to me as I thought about our values being the lens by which we view the world.
That night we got to hang out after dinner, play games, and talk around the fire. It was the perfect way to end that first day together.
Big Takeaways From Day 1:
- I'm in the right place, at the right time. I couldn't be more excited about this journey.
- I have a lot to learn from a great group of people. The different experiences and lens that we view the area with are important to my growth as a leader and the leadership of the region.
- The values that were missing from my value pyramid said as much about me, if not more, than the values that were on my pyramid.
I'll be 100% honest, the more I heard about what we were going to be doing, the less I was looking forward to this day. I honestly thought it might ruin the entire experience for me. On this day we were going to be broken up into teams, and put through different team building activities that could include scaling a wall that I'm still not sure is 10ft, 13ft, or 15ft because it changed height every time somebody described it. Several things about this just made me very nervous. 1) I don't like the outdoors. 2) I'm not very athletic. (Which is a huge understatement.) 3) I'm not a very competitive person. Now that doesn't mean I won't talk trash, just ask the folks who got play Euchre with me the night before. In the end, I really don't care if I win, I just like to have fun.
Thankfully, I was completely wrong about the day. I had such a great time and learned a lot about myself and leadership in the process. I don't think I could describe in enough details the different activities but know that they included things like placing 2x4s between stumps and then having to have each member of the team get across without falling off or else we all had to start over. We had an activity that made us walk wires, cross logs, walk a wire while holding onto rope-vines, and if anyone fell off, we all started over. Did I mention the activity that had me swinging on a rope and trying to land in a hula hoop?
It was really great working with my team. There were many times I wanted to quit, but the desire to not let my team down, and their encouraging cheers kept me going.
Big Takeaways from Day 2:
- The first activity was a lot about balance and we maximized our team balance by holding onto each other and having a nice mix of people who had good balance and those of us who struggle with balance. I struggle with balance, literally and figuratively. It reminded me that I need to surround myself with the right people who will help keep me balanced.
- The second activity involved a great deal of balance but for me it more about overcoming fear and fighting my natural instincts. This is the one activity that I really thought, "there is no way I'm completing this." It really pushed me out of my comfort zone but the more time I spent outside of my comfort zone, the more it became my comfort zone.
- There was a part in the second activity where you are standing on this wire and there was a rope that you could use to help you get across but the rope was very lose. Every instinct in your body would tell you to pull back when you grab the rope. However, pushing forward created tension and that tension gave you the balance to move forward. It got me thinking about getting out in the middle of a project that you're leading and you hit one of those spots when moving forward looks very dangerous. You're tempted to either stand still or pull back, but neither of those are the correct choices. Sometimes you just need to push forward. Even though your mind is telling you that you're going to just fall on your face, you must ignore that fear and push forward. Yes, you have to stick your neck out there, and yes it might create some tension, but in the end, it's the only way you'll get through that phase.
- The third activity was the most difficult. We had to swing on a rope and land in a hula-hoop. The thing that made this the most difficult, in my opinion, was the lack of control. Once you were on the rope you were at the mercy of the forces around you. Control is the one thing I think every leader attempts to have and it's scary when you feel like something you're leading is out of control. We were very fortunate to have an Eagle Scout in our group and he had some very nice equipment in his backpack that day. We tied extra rope onto the hanging rope to form a rope perpendicular to the hanging rope. This was so that once a person was on the hanging rope, the other teammates could just pull the person out to the hoops. It was really an attempt to increase control of the situation.
- Finally, I learned that I actually do like competition. As long as I'm the competition. I would rather work with people, than against them any day of the week. However, I'm in constant competition against myself. I want to be better than I was last year, last month, last week, and even last night.
My Biggest RegretI never attempted to conquer the wall. Looking back on it now, I wish I had attempted to make it over the wall with everyone else. Maybe it's ok to look at some projects and say, "that's not really a project that fits me and my skill set." A leader has to know when to step up and when to step out, but I wish i would have pushed myself one more time and tried it.
In the end, I had a great time and learned a lot. I am looking forward to being a part of this group now more than ever. We will have monthly activities that I hope to keep blogging about and reflecting on. I hope you'll continue on this journey with me.