Editorial & Opinion, Wednesday, October 3, 2007, p. A8
It takes a lot to surprise me. I can only think of one time in my life when I was really surprised and didn’t have an inkling of what was about to happen. And yet, I now find myself at a crossroad in life and the path forward will be a surprise. My crossroad became evident when I skeptically attended the women’s leadership conference out at Searchmont a couple of weeks ago.
The conference was opened by one of the Sault’s quiet female leaders, Jody Rebek of Destiny Sault Ste. Marie, positively “creating a safe environment for learning.” She asked us to see the weekend as an opportunity to “stretch our edges.” I parked my cynical thoughts at the door, but couldn’t help but think that I would, indeed, stretch my edges in a yoga class that afternoon.
We went through a number of exercises of self-discovery; alone, in pairs and in groups. We explored our “true colours,” which reinforced my dislike for touchy-feely conferences by my personality-type. There are four dimensions: blue (feeling/relationships), green (scientific/inquisitive), gold (organizing/details), orange (creative/spontaneous). If you are interested in your colour, there is a free test at www.positivelymary.com
We looked at our life wheels and value wheels, showing many of us that if they were bicycle wheels we would be in for a bumpy ride. We received coaching skills, got coached, attended our pick of marketing/personal finance/generational workshops, ate incredibly well and got some exercise (from belly dancing to yoga). We met dozens of potential new friends, while enjoying the stunning tapestry of fall colours draped across the landscape at Searchmont.
As much as I was enjoying the weekend, I realized that I had forgotten the purpose of the event. Going back to the title on my binder, I paused: Women’s Leadership Conference. There was no session on effective management styles, no assertiveness training, no leadership profiling, or communication for buy-in and team results. There was plenty of thinking outside the box, but there was no corporate speak.
Then I realized the subtle and powerful lesson that was right there in the subtitle: planting the seeds of success. We were given the seeds that we now had to cultivate. Here is what I took away from it, aside from 50 new potential friends.
Leadership is about charting and staying the course. The best leaders know themselves, are authentic, are living in line with their values, know how to listen, understand that others have different colours and values and can propel the efforts of the people around them in the right direction.
Leadership starts with us learning to find out what makes us happy, not what makes the people around us happy. Leadership grows as we show our children that it is right to take time for ourselves, that we owe it to ourselves and our families. Leadership blossoms when we can be ourselves and live a life in line with our values both at work and at home. Leadership fertilizes the ground for others when we are secure enough in ourselves to surround ourselves with people smarter then us or better than us at certain things and are not afraid to ask for help or admit that we don’t have all the answers.
Leadership is taking the time to find the balance in our lives that works for us and brings us peace, not the balance we are told we should have by the media, by work colleagues, by our friends, spouses, children, in-laws, or parents. Leadership is starting to find that peace today; so that we can confidently drop our rock in the pond and watch the ripples reach out into our communities. Leadership is watching the ripples flow and creating positive change on the surface and below unapologetically.
Lindsay Sukornyk, President of North Star Coaches and the event’s keynote speaker, reminded us of a quote by Marianne Williamson made famous by Nelson Mandela that encapsulates my learning for the weekend on leadership: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? . . . . There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. . . . . And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
And finally, leadership is all of the organizers, sponsors, speakers and participants that made the event possible and such a roaring success.
And speaking of roaring: I am woman, hear me roar! . . . (Now someone please pass me a box of facial tissue).
Nadine Robinson is a freelance writer and a marketing & communications consultant. Her column appears every other Wednesday. Contact her at email@example.com