Leadership: Universal and Joyful

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the Mid-Atlantic Researchers Conference (MARC 2011) in New York City. I spoke in front of a dynamic and diverse group of researchers and fundraisers. The attendees ranged from brand new prospect researchers to managers and directors. My keynote, Leadership: Universal and Joyful, focused on the core idea that everyone is a leader.

I started the talk by asking the audience to reflect on their perspective of themselves as a leader.

Often people think they are only a leader if their job title contains words like manager or director. However, thought leaders like John Kotter and Warren Bennis describe leaders as people who think long-term, innovate, challenge the status quo, establish direction, focus on people, and inspire.

I asked the audience “what changes for you when you consider these definitions of leadership?” “What is possible if you step into your leadership power in whatever role you hold?”

I have been reading a lot of thought provoking books on leadership lately and I realized that I was very fortunate to have worked with many true leaders. During the keynote I told a story a personal story of how I was empowered to be a leader.

While working at KCI, I was a Senior Consultant, but I was not a manager. I didn’t have any staff reporting to me, but I was fortunate to work for a manager who encouraged us all to find our place to lead.

One way for me to demonstrate my leadership was in running strategic planning sessions for our research team. These sessions were held twice a year with a focus on continuous improvement, innovation, and improved client service.

When we first implemented a culture of having offsite retreats, we started by creating our vision and values for the team. We then moved into goal setting and every action was examined to see if it made sense with our vision and values.

These meeting were all about innovation, developing new ways of doing our work, examining what we were doing and deciding if it still made sense. In other words these meetings were all about leading and not about managing.

As a team we designed the meetings so they would rejuvenate and inspire us. I also challenged myself to design meetings that suited the distinct personalities and strengths in our team. Brainstorming, creativity exercises, personal reflection, future scenarios, and writing exercises were used. In other words, we had a whole lot of fun and used a whole lot of coloured pens and sticky notes.

And the opportunity to create and run these meetings was one of the most powerful ways for me to step into my power as a leader.

What opportunities exist for you to step into your leadership power?


© 2011, Janice Cunning. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this posting if you include my contact information. Please contact me if you wish to reprint any portion of it in any periodical or on a website

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About Janice Cunning

As a certified coach and fundraiser, I am passionate about partnering with people and teams to increase their personal and professional Joy Quota.

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