#31 Be. Leadership February 2016 - Leadership? What is it and why me?

by Sarah Williams

Where to start? What a trip (also the name of our syndicate, coincidently) this three days was. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew I was excited, and nervous. I did feel in my gut that this leadership programme was for me, the right thing at the right time.

Due to the timing of my flight I was the very last one to arrive at the Sudima Hotel, arriving at approximately 5 minutes past 10am after I had checked my bag and had a very quick post-flight, nervous wee.

I’m going to start with my overall impression of the weekend and work backwards from there. I met the most wonderful people. I could write that sentence 100 times and submit that as my blog. I am so incredibly grateful for the relationships that I have started to build with the other participants and the members of Be. Leadership. This was the most welcome I have felt into any group for a very long time. Lesley, Philip, and Michelle really set the scene for the type of learning environment that the programme encourages and I was super relieved that, while there are very high expectations set of us, we were encouraged to be a bit naughty and be honest and have fun.

The theme of the Opening Retreat was “Leadership, what is it and why me?” This is a really big topic. The question of why me will be one that hovers over my head for some time. And maybe, that is something that should never go away. One thing I learned this weekend was the importance of the concept of unpacking, and checking in with yourself. Leadership isn’t about having all of the answers.

One thing that I really resonated with was something that Red said about the concept of a “well manicured” leader. I have definitely borrowed that phrase a couple of times since and it has challenged my ideas on what a leader is and that it comes in all forms. Leadership is not a role. Leadership is about an invitation to act, to participate and to create change with others (Lesley’s welcome).

I also learned a few new dirty, dirty curse words over the weekend.

– don’t be a sheep peeps!

Course – this is a programme of learning.

Safe – success for us is a high degree of discomfort, disruption a lot of time and sometimes confusion (Lesley’s welcome).

Our first speaker was Les Morgan, Director of Operations, Sudima Hotels. Les has a special relationship with Be and feels that theirs is a natural partnership. To me the strong theme in Les’ discussion was around generosity which he feels is a very important part of being a leader, being generous with spirit and with money. Les is clearly a confident leader; however he still has the process of checking in and regularly meets with mentors. He listed mentors as of the top five things that have influenced him as a leader. I will take this message back and hold onto it throughout my own leadership journey.

We met in our syndicates to develop some questions for Les and this was new process to negotiate, which we discussed following Les’ presentation. Lesley empowered us with the idea that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission, and to go boldly. Over time we will learn to distil our ideas, and this will be something that will continue to challenge us. And we will also probably learn not to be quite so polite with each other, watch this space!

Tonya and Jake, Be. alumni came in to speak with us about their Be. Leadership experiences and their own leadership journeys. They both talked about being open to the experience and about having learning objectives and getting everything that we can from the experience. It was great to see the passion that they both have and this only made me more excited about this process. Any words of warning? Buffets can be dangerous.

The Be. Leadership programme 2016 was officially launched on Friday night which saw us enjoy some leadership juice with former Be. Leadership participants, the Be. whanau and some of our own families. What a great opportunity to take a deep breath and say, we made it, we’re here! I loved being able to get to know the other participants a bit better. Red, your wife Helen is a ball of light.

Our first speaker on Saturday was Penny Hulse, Deputy Mayor, Auckland City. I had the pleasure of being the host for this session. Penny arrived like a breath of fresh air. I was a little nervous about my role as host but she put me at ease straight away. Penny talked a lot about being guided by what is the right thing to do, about hope and resilience. I loved that she talked about not having a thick skin and not wanting to grow one. Penny was very honest with us and that I feel that was a real gift that we should all be incredibly grateful for. Two words: "Magenta Highway".

On Saturday afternoon Karen Sew Hoy, HR Director, DDB New Zealand came to talk to us about our Myers Briggs results. I was a super "floofy" ENFP which was no surprise to me as I had been fortunate to complete this process recently through work. What a great way to identify our own and each other's preferences and areas of focus, like the extroverts shutting up once in a while so the introverts can get their voices heard. It was a bit eerie to read the profile synopsis and see how much that reflects who I am and how I operate.

I came away from the weekend absolutely buzzing with anticipation and excitement. I know that this programme is going to be a life changing experience. I am extremely grateful to be a part of this leadership ride and build on the strong relationships we are already starting to build with each other. I look forward to growing in this environment with a bunch of amazing people whom I trust, completely, already.

"Leadership is about doing what you know is right – even when a growing din of voices around you is trying to convince you to accept what you know to be wrong." — Robert L Ehrlich