As I mentioned yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a great learning session through the United States Department of Education and New York State ASCD. During our mental health summit, I served as a critical friend, which I shared as being a very powerful experience.
What was incredibly powerful for me, and also really important, was the fact that I was a passenger in this process, and I was, in effect, “along for the ride”.
One of my biggest strengths and also greatest weaknesses is my desire to be intricately involved in everything that is going on. I love to play a role, get my hands dirty, try things out, and be a part of it all. I understand that isn’t always possible, and certainly not always effective, but I enjoy it.
My leadership and learning styles are much the same. I want to share ideas, influence thinking (and have my thinking influenced by others), and be a part of all the good work that takes place.
Of course, I also need to realize that I can’t, and shouldn’t, be a part of everything, so it is necessary for me to be placed in situations from time-to-time that require me to not be a decision-maker, or leader.
So, I struggled a bit with asking questions that weren’t leading, and I did my best not to hedge any of the information I shared as being what I might do (or what I wouldn’t). It was imperative that the plan come from the group who would be enacting it, and that I was there to simply inquire, paraphrase, and wonder.
I understand the rationale behind this. If I won’t be a direct problem-solver beyond the planning, then I shouldn’t be a direct decision-maker. And yet, even knowing this, it wasn’t easy for me to step aside completely; I needed to actively restrain myself at time to avoid taking the reins.
For those of us who are “all-in” leaders and learners, these types of role experiences are incredibly helpful in grounding us and reminding each of us that part of being an effective leaders is remembering that there must be times when you aren’t in fact, leading, and aren’t in some cases, directly responsible for the learning either.
What was awesome about the role is that I felt equally good about my participation afterwards as I would have if I was leading the process more fully. Definitely food-for-thought.