I have been spending some time researching leadership to better understand the qualities and interactions that go into creating a worthwhile leader.
The reason for this is that I am an ideas person and can come up with worthwhile projects and initiatives to advance the field and systems. I can work with people to get those initiatives kickstarted and get things rolling. Where I struggle is when the newness wears off, and people’s jobs get in the way.
How do we keep things advancing?
That’s where leadership comes in.
What is Leadership?
Leadership is timely, appropriate actions that help groups set and attain realistic goals.
There are many ways to define leadership and unpack the skills, habits, and practices. I value the 4, 7, 1 model put forth by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
NOLS identifies four key leadership roles necessary to confront challenges.
Designated Leadership – The designated leader is the head architect and guardian of the group. They can delegate and should collaborate when possible, but can’t abdicate responsibility and accountability. Complex, potentially risky, or tough activities and decisions are best handled with a designated leader guiding or monitoring the process.
Peer Leadership – Each person sees what needs to be done and does it without a hierarchy. All members assure quality completion of group tasks, functions, and goals. Peer leadership works best when members clarify who is responsible for what.
Active Followership – Group members show good leadership by following the leadership of others. They seek clarity, give input, respect the plan, help out, and work for the betterment of the group and its goals.
Self-Leadership – A group member is a leader by virtue of who they are and how they influence others, not by the position they hold. This is leadership through character and judgment.
Seven Leadership Skills
Complimenting the four leadership roles, NOLS identifies seven skills that need to be applied situationally, iteratively, and in combination with each other.
Vision and Action
Initiate. Assess what needs to be done and do it.
Motivate. Add your energy and attitude to projects to help encourage others.
Inspire. Create an environment that fosters achievement of goals.
Clarify group goals, roles, and values. Use this knowledge to guide your actions. Stay flexible and open to change.
Serve the mission and goals of the group.
Be inclusive. Welcome and value diversity in the group.
Be as concerned for others as you are for yourself. Be kind and open-hearted.
Do your share and stay organized. Say yes and deliver. Say no if you cannot.
Keep people informed as the situation changes.
Speak up when appropriate. Be silent when appropriate. Listen actively.
Differentiate between facts and opinions. Paraphrase and ask questions to clarify.
Have the courage to state what you think, feel and want. Speak for yourself. Use “I language.”
Work to improve your knowledge, organization, facilitation, technical skills, and physical abilities.
Set goals and follow through.
Take care of your mental and physical health to remain a functioning member of the group.
Tolerance for Adversity & Uncertainty
Things will go sideways. Find the opportunity in challenges.
Seek out things you find difficult and strive to find comfort in the discomfort.
Live in rhythm with what you cannot control. Control what you can. Know the difference between the two.
Judgment & Decision Making
Work to develop good judgment. Consider all available experiences, resources, and information to achieve goals.
Use situationally appropriate decision-making styles. Identify a leadership style and let your team know what it is.
Question norms. Challenge assumptions.
Understand your abilities, limitations, and learning needs. Seek feedback from others.
Learn and improve from experience. Take steps to improve. Admit and correct mistakes. Be proud of success and build on these.
Be clear about your values and goals.
Strive for balance. Work hard. Play. Reflect. Rest.
Your Signature Style
The last piece of the puzzle involves you.
You have a specific skillset and desire to be a certain type of individual within the group.
The key is to consider the signature style you hope to build, and leverage the roles and skills identified above.
You want to strive for that area where everything intersects naturally.
Iteratively and strategically weave together these three contexts as you create your leadership style.