Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On leadership...

"We shape our buildings, therefore, we shape us" - Winston Churchill

As part of a doctoral course, I recently had to examine and reflect on this quote from the famous Prime Minister of England, who said these words at a time his country had been ravaged by war and left with uncertainly for a future.  Indeed, a time that could be described as transformative, when transformative was certainly not as much a buzz word as it now...

My interpretation of the quote included, but was not limited to, a vision and understanding of how a physical space can touch, change a community's life.  A place can become alive for a person and impact their outlook on life.  A building can become a home and safe haven for employees. We, as people can physically shape the building by "using it", walking through its doors, riding elevators, chatting with co-workers at the water cooler, or doing our jobs in our stations.  This is of course, after the actual building has been built by hard working laborers who left their sweat and deep breaths with every brick and mortar laid. 

We shape our buildings, therefore we shape us, through the conversations that take place, the life experiences shared, the tears shed, as well as the laughs.

I believe it takes great leadership to make difficult decisions.  I don't know for a fact, but perhaps Winston Churchill had to decide to demolish a crumbling building in order to rebuild a new, stronger one, with a solid infrastructure and secure beams, to ensure its inhabitants, people, friends, and colleagues alike would have a roof over their heads long term.  Then more shaping takes place.  And the shaping is done by us, thanks to the building.  How do we come together to shape it better?  How are all members of a community invited to share views and opinion of what this so-called shaping should be.  Ultimately, how does this experience of exchanges, agreements, disagreements shape us as a community... Can we agree to disagree?  Can we come to a consensus?  Can we trust our leadership?  I hope yes...

As a self- proclaimed contradicting realist, who sees things from a practical perspective, never losing hope in the ideal, I hope negative circumstances and events in life shape us as a community of imperfectly human people to critically think and not lose sight of the greater good.  A city needs to be rebuilt.  A program should be evaluated and assessed to yield better results.  A leader must lead in order to prepare his or her people for what the future will bring.
We may not agree with the methods of the re-shaping, but how that it is taking place place. What we must realize is that it is having a direct impact on us, therefore shaping us...  When we as a people embrace this concept, transformational learning takes place through transformational leadership. 

As I tackle my second quarter in the challenging yet fulfilling journey of doctoral studies in transformational leadership, I am reassured of what I have felt for a long time.  Kendra Cherry sums it up well.

"Transformational leaders not only challenge the status quo; they also encourage creativity among followers. The leader encourages followers to explore new ways of doing things and new opportunities to learn.
Transformational leadership also involves offering support and encouragement to individual followers. In order to foster supportive relationships, transformational leaders keep lines of communication open so that followers feel free to share ideas and so that leaders can offer direct recognition of the unique contributions of each follower.
Transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to articulate to followers. These leaders are also able to help followers experience the same passion and motivation to fulfill these goals.
The transformational leader serve as a role model for followers. Because followers trust and respect the leader, they emulate this individual and internalize his or her ideals."

I would add that the transformational leader would never lose the enthusiasm and fulfillment in the process, the journey. Having said that, a leader can't do it all alone. He or she needs a community, collective and supportive, in order to not genuinely strengthen the integrity of the organization, program or company.  

Is it easy? Of course not. We, individual adult learners, live and work every day challenged by the physical, spiritual and even hypothetical buildings we shape.  May we allow the same buildings to shape us in a way we can be proud of, with trust, faith, enthusiasm and hope.

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill.
 Cherry, K. What Is Transformational Leadership? How Transformational Leadership Inspire