Leading through the Ages

I am a career organizational consultant, inspirational speaker, trainer or leader of learning sessions, and a former university professor. I have made and still make a living through words. And standing on my feet.

Just recently, I was musing with a colleague  that I can’t lead learning sessions today the way I did twenty, even ten, years ago.

• Back then I wore three and a half-inch pumps and stood for almost eight hours. Now if I tried that, my feet would hurt so badly that, at the end of the session, my workshop participants would have to carry me out of the room. Now I wear nice sturdy shoes from the Walking Store. They are not so fashionable, but they give the comfort and support I need to get through an all day workshop.

• Back then my trainer’s wardrobe of choice for certain engagements was St. John Knit. Classy and classic. Now I wouldn’t stop sweating if I tried to lead an all day workshop in the Saint’s suit. Although dress codes have changed significantly in twenty years, I don’t feel so compelled anymore to make a fashion statement. Instead I feel compelled to exude self-confidence in the gift, experience and wisdom I’ve garnered down through the years that help women today lead more effectively. For me self-confidence is the best fashion statement a woman can make.

[tweetthis]Self-confidence is the best fashion statement a woman can make.[/tweetthis]

• Then I would walk and pace the room, energizing the audience. Now I take breaks and sit while Participants are working on group work or individual reflection activities.

An Organizational Development mentor of mine back in the day taught me something that it took years for me to really grasp its significance. He said, “let the group do the work of the group.” By that he meant, that as the facilitator of a group process, I didn’t have to work so hard to control the group process – be it a task process or learning process. My role is to set a goal and objectives and put a roadmap in place. Then my role is to help the group make it along the way on that road toward the group’s objective. But they had to drive their own discovery.

So, whether you are leading training sessions, small groups, departments or a business, here are some tips I want to share with you from what I’ve learned from thirty years of leading group sessions.

Provide a Clear Vision

In a training or education setting, I give structure, frameworks and a process for learning. The Participants have to do the work—either discussing and unpacking frameworks with fellow Participants, or responding to reflection questions to help Participants internalize the lessons. The same goes for leading groups, a business or other enterprise. The Leader has to give a clear vision so that people within the team or organization see how they fit in and how their work connects to the vision.

Engage Through Involvement

As a leaders of training sessions, I set and maintain the tone of the session by engaging Participants but I don’t try to entertain them. Our sessions are entertaining but I’m not the entertainer hired to keep participants laughing and having fun. The most effective learning sessions are those that so engage the Participants that they enjoy the journey and at the end look back and realize how much they learned. Engaging learning is fun in and of itself. I found the same thing in leading a business. Leaders who try to keep team members happy with fun and games alone, are not helping team members grow.

Be Honest

As a leader, I know I don’t have to have all the right answers. It is ok for me to defer to the group for perspectives on questions group members ask. And it’s ok for me to commit to doing some more research and getting back to a Participant on a question that is not easily answered. Leaders must not hide behind a “know-it-all” mask. Authentic leaders, build trust and credibility by being honest.

Reflect and Refine

Growing as a leader has meant reflecting and refining my methods. I incorporate frameworks into my sessions to undergird the tools I share. Leadership development is a blend of theory and reflection; tools and practice. In the same way, growing leaders reflect on what they have done, refine it and continue to add to their tool kits.

Share Your Stories

Everybody loves a great story. Especially if its one they can relate to. As a leader, I earn credibility and connect with Participants by sharing a narrative around the topics that illustrate the frameworks and theory I share. I punctuate my framework’s now with lots of stories and illustrations amassed from decades of doing this work. Leaders connect with followers by connecting their stories. We all have stories and as we share them we weave a narrative of connection that strengthens our experiences together and commitment to each other.

So no, I can’t facilitate sessions the way I used to, but I have grown so much wiser that I no longer have to.

Leading through the ages is a growth process every leader experiences as she grows wiser and makes the necessary adjustments to live out her leadership at each stage of her life. Ideally, we adapt. We grow. We broaden our networks.

As we grow as leaders, we read more. We listen more. We talk less. We feel less of a need to prove our competence and worth. Ideally.

[tweetthis]As we grow as leaders, we read more. Listen more. Talk less. We feel less of a need to prove our worth. Ideally.[/tweetthis]

At this stage I am fulfilled by interactions in workshop or speaking settings. My former university classroom is now mobile. Yet at this stage I am also acutely aware that I will not lead like this for another twenty years. Instead, at this stage, I am training other facilitators and looking to leave a legacy of truths around a type of leadership that is empowering, impactful, collaborative and connectional.

This site is devoted to information and transformation of women leaders. How about you? How are you, as a woman leader, leading through the ages? At what stage are you? What have you seen to be the most significant shift in your leadership over the past 10 or even 5 years? And what are you working on that is legacy building for the next generation?

[tweetthis]How are you, as a woman leader, leading through the ages? What are you working on that is legacy building?[/tweetthis]

I’d love to hear from you so that as we make this journey together, we learn from each other!

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