Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Lure of "Leaderful" Learning

"It is not leadership from any one person that is required, it is an aspect of leadership each of us summons from within.  In this respect, the same qualities we have sought in one person can be found distributed among many people who learn, in community, to exercise their leadership at appropriate moments.  This occurs when people are vitally concerned about issues or when executing their responsibilities.  Leadership thus becomes a rather fluid concept focusing on those behaviors which propel the work of the group forward." 

This great quote by John Nirenberg* pretty well sums up the model of leadership demonstrated and taught during GLADE.  Let's take a closer look. 

1.  Each of us summons this style of leadership from within. 
During initiative-based, hands-on, problem solving exercises, it is the job of the facilitator to 1) quickly access each individual, to recognize whether the individual is introverted or extroverted, motivated by thoughts or feelings, relies upon 5 senses or possesses intuition, or sees things in black and white or many shades of gray.*   

2.  This style of leadership is exercised at appropriate moments.
The job of the facilitator here is to communicate (non-verbally or whispering) with individual participants throughout the problem solving exercise; encouraging the extroverts to step back and actively listen to all members of the group, encouraging the introverts to step out of their comfort zone to express key concepts for solving the "problem" (often it is the quiet observer that possesses the "key" to solving the problem),  looking for signs of positive coalitions forming  within the group, ensuring  these positive coalitions are inclusive and  permeate the group and, finally, enacting authentic, real world problem solving.  As time progresses, each GLADE participant recognizes how his/her virtues strengthen the group.  GLADEsters then sense that one's timely contributions to the overall success of the group are absolutely necessary for both balance within the group and the success of the group outreach.  

3.  This style of leadership requires that the entire group is vitally concerned about issues.

Common interests bring people together.  Potential participants in GLADE are screened to ensure that they share a vision of conservation from the very beginning.  Since each of our students has already expressed an interest in nature and the environment, our common vision for GLADE is to literally "save the world" from ecological collapse, but we focus on a much more local aspect of that vision. 

4.  This style of leadership focuses on behaviors which propel the work of the group forward.
Once the momentum and energy of the collective vision is unleashed, each individual senses the power of his or her personal vision of conservation.  During the week-long residential academy, participants restore two acres of Giant Cane riparian habitat to increase biodiversity and provide rich habitat for Swainson's Warbler, a species that once nested here. 

Riding a wave of empowerment, the young leaders return to their home communities to develop their own Conservation Action Project, and GLADE provides grant money, expertise, and support to get their projects off of the ground.

We continue to ride the wave of passionate synergy as far as it will take us, and we are all, planners and participants alike, excited about where it has taken us so far.  Summer of 2009 GLADE alum are still riding the wave of conservation with us, and their ripples have created new concentric circles reaching outward to groups like the Springfield Plateau Master Naturalists, Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Girl Scouts, and others.   What we are seeing is that these young GLADE leaders, working within a supportive network of community and conservation activists, have an incredible ability to profoundly and positively impact their rural communities. 

Within the GLADE community of planners and participants, we have become "leaderful"*, and our regional communities have been eager to join our young leaders in their leaderful projects aimed at conserving and preserving both an environment and a way of life here in the Ozarks.  Our actions today will shape tomorrow.

*Nirenberg, J. (1993). The living organization: Transforming teams into workplace communities.  Homewood, IL: Business One Irwin.

*Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator

*Sandmann, L. (1995). A framework for 21st century leadership. Journal of Extension.

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