Lessons learned

A few years ago, I participated in Group 1 of a new leadership program geared toward the IT profession. The program usually has four schools per group, each school sending a number of participants. The group meets four times over a six month period, each time at a different, participating school. Each meeting lasts about two and a half days, for a total of 80 hours of training. Our university is participating in Group 7 and they will be coming to campus in April. The Group 1 alumni (and a Group 2 alum) have been asked to attend a half hour session with Group 7 in order to share what the program taught us. I still need to work out the details of this, but as an exercise in working out my thoughts, I am inclined to go with something like the following:

I sat down with the intention of identifying the three most important things that the leadership program taught me, so I pulled out my notes and started reviewing the different tools and techniques we had discussed. There were references to SWOT analysis, Myers-Briggs, the three lenses, etc. Some of these tools I’ve internalized, and some I’ve completely forgotten. My telling you which tools I found effective is pointless. You have to find which tools work for you, what makes sense, what you can work with.

That brings me to my first take-away: know thyself. Know who you are, know your strengths and your weaknesses. Once you’ve identified your strengths, you can play to them. Recognize your weaknesses and you can find strategies to cope with them: hire people whose strengths complement your weaknesses; pay more attention to the parts of projects where you are not naturally inclined; etc.

My second take-away is that the leadership program is one of the few places you will ever be able to discuss your strengths and weaknesses as a leader in a non-competitive environment. Brian and Jim are some of the only people you will find who will take an interest in your development and in helping you to recognize your role in your organization, without having an ulterior motive. Take advantage of that opportunity. Be open with them. Discuss the things that you couldn’t tell your boss. But don’t just rely on Brian and Jim, work with your fellow university team members.

This brings me to my last point, on graduating the program, your team members will have gone through the same experiences you have. Use the opportunity of the program and the time you spend together to get to know these people. Learn to trust them, learn to behave as a team. Share problems with each other, share solutions.  Unfortunately, management presents very few opportunities to build trusting relationships. If you take advantage of this chance, you will find that you can build such a relationship with this group of people and that you will all become more effective leaders as a result.

This is at least where I’m leaning. I may completely change it if i re-read it tomorrow and it sounds too corny, but at the end of a long week, those points sound like the most important things I learned in the program

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