I have recently embarked on a twelve month course of study at Waikato Management School, and am incredibly lucky to have been offered a scholarship for the whole programme. Following an inspiring introduction evening two weeks ago, I am now in the middle of the first four day 'residential', joining with 19 other leaders evenly split between the 'for profit' and 'for purpose' worlds.
I had some expectation that there would be lots of talk about leadership styles, group dynamics and practical ways to make me a better leader. The first exercise (undertaken a couple of months ago) included a LOT of self evaluation, and a 360 feedback which, although largely positive, had delivered back some (in my view) scorching criticism of my style (read: personality) and I am still smarting from it. Demanding, impatient, unable to share, over burdened, untrustworthy, single minded and ambitious? Moi??? (ok so no one actually said that verbatim, but as my own worst critic, that's what I interpreted...) - and in fact there was even a session today on not being hard on oneself (point noted)
Anyhoo, the last two days have been delivered by an amazing man, Dr Peter Cammock who has somewhat rocked my world about what being a good leader is actually about. In fact, there's been almost no discussion about leading OTHERS at all, and the first two days have had a strong focus on the inner self, leading oneself, and concepts like Flow, positive psychology, and understanding the real impact and implications of pessimism and optimism in relation to the question 'are you happy'. There was lots of talk about work life balance, and where the overlaps are, should be, and shouldn't be. We've even done a fair bit of work on mindfulness and practised meditation.
I've been madly scribbling down notes, but also spending a lot of time just listening and letting the information wash (deluge!) over me, and as well as being valuable time out from normal life, I've also had to address a few things that have been niggling me, in relation to my work life. All good stuff!
I've worked out what motivates me (I love to connect people, and I like to be feeling like I'm making a difference), I have identified people who I admire and who have influenced me and why (a raft, but the common threads are their ability to inspire, and also at a personal level those who have given me freedom to be myself, without judging, and those who exude positivity).
I've been particularly struck by the concept of hedonic adaptation - the idea that even when amazing things happen, eventually we return to the same levels of happiness that were there before the amazing thing - essentially that the highs and lows of life even out over the big picture, but also that this can be the curse of the easily bored - the high of the new can only make one happy for a certain length of time if one is not happy in the first place (current research suggests it can last up to about a year). A good lesson if I'm thinking about getting bored in a job, or any other pursuit for that matter.
But what has really resonated with me is the idea of life 'opening up' when we are on the right path. All those things like mindfulness, and positive psychology and so on, really are about being settled in myself as a person, knowing who I am and what I want, before I can even consider anything else - essentially being my own leader before I lead anyone else. I love the idea of a calling, finding a purpose, understanding my place in the world (also all part of to days discussion), and I was really intrigued by the idea that if we don't follow the path that is destined for us (the modern, business friendly term is emergence apparently) that this can explain why so often we never quite feel 'on track', or worse, life seems to be constantly trying to make things difficult for us. There was discussion about whether every had a calling, and if so, do the distractions and obstructions mean we are not listening to that calling, or simply are not yet aware of it (which makes sense in view of when things just don't seem to be going well day in day out, but also goes some way to explaining those times when life is sweet. Although one wonders - when it goes from great to bad, is that because we got off course (either deliberately or not), or is it simply 'bad luck'? A post for another time perhaps.
All in all, I'm really enjoying the brain gym, the opportunity to meet new yet like minded people, and the pure pleasure of discussion, learning and questioning. Its hard but its fun.
And finally, my favourite quote of the time so far , which is related to working on my strengths to make then stronger for 80% of the time, and not trying to over focus on, or eliminate my weaknesses (cos that's impossible):
You'll never be great by being barely adequate at what you're currently crap at.
CELF leadership presenter Dr Peter Cammock.