My Leadership Journey
I used to refer to myself as a reluctant leader. My view of leadership was a hierarchical one that brought forth images of power over others, and of someone who had all the answers. I am more comfortable with an image of walking beside others who are working toward a common goal. My chosen profession in Early Learning and Family Support supported this image and allowed it to flourish. I could clearly see positive outcomes for children and young parents when I was not in a position of power, or as the expert, when we were all working to find answers as a team.
After 20 years with the same organization, and after working my way through every position I could, I found myself in a leadership role because I was “the last one standing”. I experienced “imposter syndrome”, and for a time, I did not feel as though I ‘fit’ into my preconceived notion of what I thought a leader should be.
The search for an authentic connection in this role brought me to the concepts of servant leadership and to words like empathy, stewardship, listening, and conceptualization. I began to see words like power and expert in a different, and far more positive light.
Throughout my journey, I began to realize just how important a clear vision, mission, values, and purpose is to aligning all systems of an organization. These principles guide the way our teams work with participants, how we communicate and work collaboratively, how we create and implement policy, and the way we interact with our community.
When I first learned the concepts of Systems Thinking through an Organization by Design Inc. workshop, it gave me the language to describe the importance of this alignment. The concept of Systems Thinking also served to reinforce my experience, and the critical importance of relationship and connection.
It is only through the building of relationships and the forming of intentional connections that we are able to better understand one another’s mental models; to gather information and perspectives, to test assumptions and to see an issue fully. These are capacities that Systems Leaders possess. These connections, within the system, enabled us to see the big picture together which allows everyone to see the valuable contribution they make, and the part they play in our work.
I now see the word ‘power’ in a different light. I see power as a way of empowering the leader that lives within all of us, and the word ‘expert’ as expertise in creating places and spaces for relationships, connection, and life-long learning.