I’ve not posted for a while, because I’ve been beyond busy. I know that’s a kind of badge of honour in 2019, ‘how are you?’, ‘oooh I’m so busy?’, with the subtext being that being busy gives us worth and makes us feel important, useful, needed (or insert whichever button it presses for you here). I was busy because I said yes to a few things. Potentially a few too many things (something I discussed with my own coach), but things which meant I had to step out of my comfort zone, and develop as a leader. Gulp.

The first thing I said yes to was to be a guest on a webinar for The Lucidity Network. I spoke about managing upwards and influencing. I came to the conclusion that really this is all about building strong relationships, because when you are surrounded by relationships which are built on trust, when you need to have the difficult conversation, or call in the favour, that is so much more likely to go well. Lucy wrote up some top tips from our conversation, do check them out here.

Then I said yes to speaking at the Institute of Fundraising conference in York on leadership and resilience. In order to prepare for that, I took another step out of my comfort zone and spoke to Beth Crackles as part of her fabulous Cracking Charity Chat podcast. We talked about what leadership development is and my own journey. You can listen to it here. (A mere 30 minutes – perfect for your commute.)

Next up, as a favour for a friend, I designed and delivered a leadership development workshop for senior leaders at a government department. Working with two cohorts we spent a reflective day thinking about our leadership values and leadership style, and when and where we might want to flex that style to get a better result. In my leadership development work in organisations, it’s so interesting to hear how different values play out in different work cultures and the challenges this places on leaders. (How does your work culture impact your ability to have the conversations you need to have?)

And running alongside all that,  I had agreed to sit on our school PTA committee, which has already reminded me already of several important leadership lessons: the importance of clear communication and strong relationships, and the beauty of team work when it goes well.

And in saying yes to all these things, I’ve stretched myself in many different ways. I’ve spoken to my own coach and my coaching supervisor about themes that came up for me such as when to let go of responsibility – the boundaries between my work, volunteering and home lives and how to step up and own the voice I have as a leader in a variety of different settings, not just doing pure leadership development work. Even as someone who reflects a lot, I could not have grown as much or as consciously as a leader over the last three months without them helping me work through ‘what is really going on here’, ‘next time this happens how do I want it to play out?’ and ‘what is the impact I want to have?’

So in answer to the original question, leadership development is everything we do which builds our resilience, our empathy and indeed all of our competencies as a leader. Most of this happens as we go about our regular jobs, as we say yes to things or step out of our comfort zone. But to maximise these opportunities for growth, self reflection is absolutely essential.

My relationships with my coach and coaching supervisor helped me to learn more about myself, my resources, what’s important to me and what isn’t. I play that role every day with my coaching clients, holding a mirror to them, challenging and supporting them to help them get the most from their experiences, and grow and develop as leaders. If you’d like a coach to walk alongside you when you’re so busy you don’t know if you’re coming or going, or you’ve taken a stretch that feels uncomfortable, get in touch, it would be fantastic to speak to you.

P.S image of a lovely conference room in York on a glorious sunny day!