Leadership...Shining a light in the dark!
I've been privileged enough over the last few years with OLDBULL FITNESS to run mentoring programs for a number of developing coaches both in Australia and internationally.
While it sounds "cheesy", one of the great personal rewards of these programs is meeting up with the young coaches down the track a few years after completing the mentoring program, and seeing how they've developed. I was lucky enough recently to spend some time with a guy who did my mentoring program and I can report has developed into a very good coach and an excellent analytical thinker.
During our meeting, he hit me with a number of questions, but probably his simplest made me really think and choose my reply carefully. I thought it would be worthwhile sharing a synopsis of my reply. The aim, as with all my work, is to help coaches out there consider their own perspective. Use my thought process as a vault to developing your concepts.
Question (from an inquisitive thoughtful young coach) - Do you think leadership is important?
Answer (from an older, roadworn coach) - Absolutely yes, and here's why...
At a fundamental level coaching is education. For an "educator" to be successful they must possess two critical things; knowledge and leadership. Knowledge to share, and Leadership to illuminate the student on the "way forward". Educating, and by extension, coaching is not about simply bestowing knowledge on the unsuspecting athlete or student. It's about sharing knowledge within the context of broader personal or professional growth.
To lead means to "break ground". It means establishing a way forward...a path, a method, a philosophy...such that those that are being lead gain more than just an immediate directional adjustment, they receive a "way" in which to continue.
"Feed a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime". Lao Tzu (Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism).
Leading requires engagement. It requires gathering those around you to a common theme. True leadership cannot be forced on people. True leadership comes from sharing a part of you that others would like to see in themselves and are therefore drawn toward.
Here's my checklist for effective leadership
Knowledge of Self
Understand your personal values...what you stand for! If you don't know what yours are, sit somewhere quietly and reflect on 3-4 single words that define you. Write them down. Leave it for a few days and repeat. These words will essentially define your values. It may take some time to stabilize your value definition, and it may evolve over time, but keep at it, you will get it. Knowing yourself helps you identify in others' ways in which you can help them.
Knowledge of Subject
No brainer really. If you aspire to be a leader in a professional field then "know your stuff"...and I don't just mean just the textbook stuff. I mean academic and practical application at the highest level possible. Know the "how" and much as you know the "what" of the subject.
Your philosophy is the central construct in which your knowledge base sits. Philosophy answers the "How do all the pieces fit together?" question that always comes up when working with complex subjects. Philosophies are developed with time, patience, success, failure and attention to detail. Check out my thoughts on developing your own philosophies. The importance of your philosophical approach is that it shows the way forward. It coalesces all the knowledge and experience you have into a path that can easily be communicated.
This closely relates to knowledge of Self. Know how you communicate well. Develop as many communication skills as possible...eye contact, body language, tone, inflection, emotional intelligence, empathy, respect, humility, etc. Each element you add to your skill set increases your ability to get your message across clearly and concisely.
As a closing thought, I would encourage you to consider the importance of humility in both your personal and professional philosophies. You need to be confident in the knowledge and experience you have, but humble enough to accept you don't know everything...no single person can.
Leaders have a clear message.
Leaders can illuminate a way forward.
Leaders "teach you to fish" they don't just "give you a fish".
Don't be mistaken, leadership is an art like many other things in life. Learn it. Practice it.
Good luck on the path.
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