Last week, I started on a journey to offer insight on Leadership as Process. I suggested that whether you are a born leader or were born to lead, all leaders experience transformation on some level. Thus, I maintained leaders are “formed for success” from the inside ⇒ out.
As I set down this week to deliver on my promise to further discuss Leadership as Process, I recalled the words of my friend – “all of life is a process.” In turn, I thought perhaps it would be beneficial to begin by delving a bit deeper into what Process – in this context – really means. Process, I contend, is a series of specific actions that produce or lead to a particular outcome. The same can be said of leadership; how far you are able to go and what you are able to accomplish depends largely on knowing your desired outcome, charting the course to reach your ultimate goal, and taking the necessary steps to get there. Process is action oriented and outcomes driven. In other words, Process has an end in mind. At the same, time, it is characteristically dynamic – suggesting that Process in Leadership is not static but nimble enough to withstand corrective measures when necessary.
In preparing this week’s post, I thought about what this all means in real life application and immediately remembered my many years of experience as a litigator. Whenever I started with a new case, I would sit with my case, study it inside and out, develop a litigation strategy, and outline specific steps to follow with one – and only one – goal in mind – winning. To win as a leader, I propose, requires a System or Process by which you choose to live and operate. That system or process is essential in the lives of leaders, as it becomes formation in action.
In that way, Leadership is a Process of formation. It is individual, inside out work that develops, shapes, changes, refines, reforms, transforms, molds, and prepares. Unlike external work, which is temporal, true formation work lasts, as the internal is infinite. That is – true formation is transforming and transformative. It is an outgrowth of a continual and critical model of self and life reflection that will provide you an opportunity to learn as well as grow. In short, the greatest leaders understand they are shaped for the better by life’s experiences—something I term experiential formation.
Experiential formation teaches experience is life’s greatest instructor. But experience can be the best teacher only when we learn the lesson an experience was designed to teach. Nothing happens in life apart from experience. Often whether young or more mature we become our experience—good, bad, or indifferent, as experience shapes, forms, and reforms, and life is made up of a series of experiences.
One of the many experiences you may encounter as a leader in the formation process involves what may feel like moments of exile. Resist the temptation to define yourself by your exile. Understand your response while in exile will characterize you. Be assured that wilderness moments are temporary. Wisely use your time to traverse the rough places in ways that foster and encourage listening, learning, and growing. Understand the power, meaning, and depth of transformation that is often communicated in the whispers of the quiet, and avoid the temptation to run, sprint, jog, or dart from the very idea of spending time alone. Rather, comprehend the value that is gained for your journey during the quiet and time of reflection.
Evaluate life experiences as well as how you respond to them as a means of better understanding behaviors, patterns, growth (or lack thereof), and opportunities for further development in your walk as a leader. The result, I hope, will be that you come to appreciate that wise leaders use their experience as a catalyst for growth and development. They understand the value in lessons learned and turn tragedies into triumphs and testimonies to encourage others on their own roads of life. This I would offer is the dynamic aspect of “Process” mentioned earlier.
In truth, wise leaders leverage experience for a greater good and view the setback as a setup allowing them the opportunity to operate in an even greater space and pave the way for exponential impact. Unfortunately, absent close assessment, experiences are often repeated because the intended lesson has gone un-interpreted. The value of experience can often be gained only through close and critical examination, and the greatest leaders allow their experiences to aid them on the inside out journey of becoming even greater contributors in the lives of others.
Thus, Leadership as Process requires we each take steps similar to those I took for years preparing to win a case… Sit with life, study and understand who you are and your specific goals for your life as leader. Develop a strategy for where you want to go along with the specific steps you will follow to get there. Take the twists and turns of experience as a teacher in the refining process, and never be afraid to begin again. As I suggested last week – Everything Begins With a Start…
Until Next Week, Best Wishes On the Journey… Dr. G
Excerpts borrowed with permission from Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line by: Geneace Williams.
Original Copyright © 2013 Geneace Williams. Edited Edition Copyright © 2015