Early Lessons in Leadership
It’s never too early to start developing your leadership potential. Take, for example, my daughter’s Girl Scout Daisy Troop. Recently, the twelve Daisies “bridged” to the next Girl Scout level and became Brownies. As the Troop Leader for almost 2 years, I reflected on the experiences that brought us to this ceremony and realized that these first graders had not only earned badges, they also learned foundational skills critical to any leader’s success.
Leaders should be in a constant learning loop, with an enthusiastic willingness to occasionally be a beginner versus always trying to be the expert. They demonstrate a curiosity that overshadows any fear of the unknown and, in so doing, they encourage a learning culture within their teams.
Learning agile leaders proactively seek input from their team members and encourage others to learn from mistakes by modeling this behavior themselves.
For Girl Scouts, this looked like excitement and energy at all the new activities in which they were engaging –from coding robots to selling cookies. The girls rose to every occasion, asking questions and striving to learn.
Collaborative leaders are inclusive and bring people together. They willingly share information, expect others to do the same and are motivated by the idea of achieving the team’s goal.
A collaborative leadership style is one that makes the time to enroll others in the team’s mission, emphasizing the role that each member plays in the overall success. And this leader is quick to recognize others for their contributions, creating a heightened team spirit that drives stronger results.
The Daisies regularly amazed me with their willingness to welcome new members and show them the Girl Scout Promise, songs, etc. They helped each other by sharing supplies, ideas and, most importantly, sharing insight regarding themselves. There was a sincere interest in getting to know each other, and in “being a sister to every Girl Scout.”
We live in a VUCA environment and require leaders who won’t just survive the pace but who will thrive in it. To do so, leaders must become pros at rebounding and not get stymied by setbacks or adversity.
Resilient leaders remain confident under pressure and maintain a positive outlook despite adversity.
Some may call it naiveté, but I believe the more accurate description is that our 1st grade girls are resilient. Even when activities didn’t always go as planned, they persevered with positive attitudes. During one meeting, the girls were building doodlebots and rushing to get them done so they could try them out before the meeting ended. Some girls experienced faulty batteries, starter switches, etc. and yet they never complained, they asked for help and new supplies so they could try again. It was powerful to watch their patience, determination and resiliency! And, ultimately, to watch their joy as their robots doodled!
Authentic leaders are aware of their strengths, limitations and their emotions. They are bravely vulnerable and show their true selves at work. Teams members value their straight-forward communication style and their “head, heart and guts” approach to leadership.
Our Girl Scouts are models of authenticity; they show up as they are! Their hearts are always engaged and ready to connect. They find joy in just “being” and aren’t worried about “becoming.”
Engaging and Inspiring
The most successful leaders create climates where people are motivated to give 100% to help the team achieve its goals. They engage individuals by clarifying how their unique responsibilities support the greater good. Inspiring leaders drive alignment and commitment to a shared vision. People want to work for them, they are known as the “good bosses.”
The Daisies had a palpable team spirit! When the Troop celebrated a successful cookie season, each girl received an individual certificate but that seemed of little importance to the girls. Their focus was on the Build-a-Bear party they would be attending together. They knew that party was the ultimate goal for everyone to enjoy.
The leadership skills outlined above are certainly not the only ones critical to success, but they do represent a strong foundation. As you build your own development plan, be sure to add in what Harvard Business Review calls, “learning in the flow of work.” “Learning in the flow of work is a new idea: it recognizes that for learning to really happen, it must fit around and align itself to working days and working lives.”
With that mindset, you’ll be able to establish an infinite learning loop that will enable you to continually enhance your strengths, learn new skills and address any gap areas. While you may not receive any merit badges for the work you’ll be doing, you’ll reap the rewards from having a more positive leadership impact and that’s definitely better than Thin Mints!
Elizabeth De La Peña Veeser is the Principal of DLP Coaching, a firm dedicated to helping leaders and organizations achieve their greatest potential. Contact her today to explore how she can support your development.