Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Leaders of the future

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
John Quincy Adams 
I’m in a leadership class through the employee resource groups at my corporation and we’re studying a great book called “Leaders of the Future 2.” My team recently taught a chapter on leading through crisis and complexity. One of the sections talked about nonprofit leadership, another on Army leadership, and another on corporate leadership.
I was completely fascinated by the differences among the three, and the subsequent threads that can be woven through them. Army leadership (or armed forces, more accurately), promote their leaders 100% from within. They don’t put out job openings for commanders or generals. Therefore their entire culture is focused on teaching, training, mentoring, and teaching every person how to teach, train, and mentor. Amazing! I have seen very few organizations that have a good succession plan, even among the rank and file team members. I see groups that are shocked and totally unprepared when a team member finds a new role. The majority of corporations hire “important” roles from outside, believing that experience in a similar role in another company will bring wisdom far beyond anything learned within the walls of the company.  I don’t understand. I don’t disagree or dislike it because I’m sure one day I’ll be looking to leave and find a role based on that principle, but it got me thinking about my organization.
I confess that I don’t know how to mentor effectively. I can train. I can teach. But how do I mentor someone to take over my job? I honestly don’t know how I got my job myself, so how could I possibly mentor someone else to take it over? Are there training classes on how to be a good mentor? I should look into that...
One of the teachable moments about crisis for me was that corporate and nonprofits leaders spend their lives avoiding crisis, while the Army trains their leaders for a crisis, understanding that crisis are inevitable and you’re sure better know how to lead and manage through them if you want to survive.
Nonprofits also fascinate me, having worked at two of them and volunteered at many of them. Due to the unfortunate salary discrepancy, a lot of leaders in associations are very young, needing a lot of mentorship from their board of directors (many of whom are more experienced in their roles or have experience in corporations). Taking the lessons learned in the military and in corporations to the board of a nonprofit is a vital way to nurture nonprofit leadership.
From this, I took away the importance of fostering leaders, nurturing leaders, and mentoring leaders for the future. I was inspired to rejoin a nonprofit board I left about five years ago. I was inspired to seek out a mentor of my own and try to feel my way through this mentorship idea. My next challenge: learning how to take someone that I want to mentor and convince them that they need mentoring… where’s the book on that?

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