When we begin to see leadership in terms of influencing the context and the people around you, we quickly realize that leadership opportunities present themselves often in our everyday lives.
As I stated previously, I often ask students or executives in seminars to find and talk about leadership events in their own lives. If they get ‘stuck’ trying to find things to talk about or stories to tell, I try to remind them that any time they take a stand and attempt to change group behaviour, it is a leadership event.
So, here are some simple, everyday examples:
Example 1: An MBA student thought that her four-person finance study group was wasting a lot of time by not taking the organization of their meetings seriously enough. In particular, they would set meeting times and agendas, and then they would not stick to them. Group members would often arrive late, and sometimes without having read the documents to be discussed.
The woman telling this story was not sure if she should take a stand on this issue or not. Her hesitation came from not wanting to appear ‘too serious’ or ‘un-cool’ in a group that had developed a culture of nonchalance.
As it turns out, an interesting element of her story was that the culture of indifference and detachment had grown without anyone in the group having realized how. When the woman finally decided to speak out and make her stand, the other group members were happy and relieved that someone had finally addressed this issue.
It turned out that it had been a cause of concern and frustration for each one of the group members. The group met to discuss the problem, and they decided that they needed to treat each other with more respect. They decided to set some group rules, and the members made the commitment to arrive on time and prepared.
Example 2: A company executive who worked in a seven-person marketing services group told seminar participants (during an exercise when we were all talking together about things we would like to change in our work lives) that he would like to get to know the people he worked with. He was a gregarious type who liked to socialize.
Similar to the woman in the first example, this man was hesitant. Perhaps the others he worked with were less interested in making the effort to know each other, he told himself.
He decided to take the initiative, and he asked the groupÕs boss if they could organize an afternoon of ‘ice breaking and team building’. The boss liked the idea, they brought in a facilitator, and they proceeded to have a fun and interesting afternoon together.
In one of the team building exercises, each group member was asked to reveal one unexpected thing about himself. As usually happens, people were surprised by what they heard from the others. When they were asked weeks later about the success of the event, the conclusions were nearly unanimous: the workers felt far more group cohesion, and an atmosphere that was more fun and conducive to productivity.
As this blog entry is getting a bit longer than usual, I will continue it next time, with another example and a bit of analysis.