Let’s put this all in perspective. We need to learn to lead. We can learn this formally and informally, through study and experience. Leadership is, therefore, caught, taught and sought. We do not need to privilege one mode of learning as though it must inherently be better than the others. In the same way that thriving is built on a platform of character, competency and wellness, so too the essential competency of leadership can be built on what we have read about, what we aim for, what we have committed to practice, what we have taken in through formal programs of training and development, and what we learn along the way that is passed on to us in relationships of character apprentice. We also learn much from what we see put into practice by others. Modelling is essential, yet without a process to allow us to test out what we have seen with others, to refine its execution, and to have our success acknowledged through qualification, how would anyone know if we were prepared in any sense to lead?
So there is a specific knowledge base that can help us to lead more effectively, a set of skills that we can put into practice, a suite of dispositions that can guide our values and beliefs about leadership, and a wide range of approaches we can use to continue our learning on an ongoing basis. The attainment of qualifications is a starting point for us; our expertise will most likely be limited when we start to put it into practice, but at least we will have some idea of what might be done and how best to break down the leadership task into achievable goals and strategies.
It’s also important for us to recognise and reward interest, effort and talent in those who aspire to serve. After all, the commitment to serve is an indication of the need to expend more time, energy and resources on directing, motivating, influencing, and inspiring people to bring about willingly a shared intention that most likely will not have been brought about without such a commitment to place the needs of others before oneself, often with much less tangible reward for such efforts and much more criticism and stress than might be assumed at first glance. The least we can do is to take the time to acknowledge the study and hard work that went in to the courses, programs, degrees and other educational processes that our emerging, middle and senior leaders have gone through to help them to respond to the call to lead and do their job as leaders better. It seems only reasonable that, when they make mistakes, we acknowledge that to do so is human, even if the responsibility they have taken on goes beyond themselves. And when they do attain their qualifications, we can pay due respect to the intent and effort required to gain them. It’s not wrong to want to lead, nor is it wrong to want to become better qualified to do the job of leadership. Leadership on The Pathway To Excellence is hard work, and qualifications are a good starting point to demonstrating to one and all our willingness to engage in and complete the learning as to how we might do this work better.
We can contemplate our understanding of our Leadership Grades and Qualifications by considering the following questions:
- Do I keep an ongoing log of my academic credits, qualifications and experiences in my leadership development?
- Do I routinely seek out my instructors, employers, directors and coaches for letters of recommendation and support for my leadership development portfolio?
- Do I seek the advice of experts or professionals to ensure that my success in achieving my personal development plan is optimal and beneficial?
- Do I reflect on how I have grown in knowledge and mastery in developing my leadership competency?
- Can I articulate and communicate my journey as a leader, using my personal log and portfolio to document and enrich my story?