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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Acting like a leader

Strange to say, I don't think the most useful insights and lessons I've taken from the last few months in the Emerging Leaders Program have come from readings about monkeys and EQ, Meyer-Briggs assessments and 360 degree evaluations, or career counseling with experienced mentors.  I think all these tools have confirmed for me a lot of things I already suspected innately; at most, they've given me more systematic ways to think about interpersonal and professional relationships that I can use as a sort of double-check when I interact with top management or task others with assignments.

What seems most significant to me, on the other hand, is that the monthly check-ins and skills-building exercises remind me to act like a leader.  The tools we've been working on in the program have helped me to identify where I need to shore up my skills and experience, but I'm finding that the real key to establishing myself as an effective leader is taking the time to appreciate the ways in which my organization needs to adapt to developments in the funding world, the legal landscape, and other fundamental shifts in our operational context.  As Judith Sandalow, the ED of the Children's Law Center, explained to us, organizations can outgrow their current staff and management (just as staff and management can outgrow their organizations!).  I'd rather be a manager who can evolve and stay a few steps ahead, and then provide leadership by helping to guide the organization through these changes.

I'm trying to take a lesson from Judith's observation in a few ways, and I think it's working.  In the last few months, I've been more confident in taking on higher-level managerial work, seeking out opportunities to be more visible to external stakeholders, and involving myself in the long-term, bigger-picture strategy and direction of the organization where I work (including through my choice of stretch project, which involves policy setting for the entire organization and more direct contact with our Board than I've had previously).  I'll let you know how it all turns out!

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