What is it about fiery crashes that captivates us?
Video of the 9/11 aircraft attacks on the twin towers attracted over 30 million viewers to YouTube. A recent aircraft accident in San Francisco has attracted 4.8 million viewers. Even the non-fiery landing of US Air Flight 1539 into the Hudson River has attracted 4.3 million.
Metaphorical crashes also attract us. A gifted leader in business, government, the military or the clergy pancakes into the tarmac in a very public way. We all are drawn to the news. You might remember these names: Bernie Madoff, Anthony Weiner, David Petraeus, Ted Haggard. There are countless others. Every time—every time—it was a leader talented in one area of his life but who retained an unhealthy, un-thriving dimension of life often far out of sight to those closest to him.
If we limit ourselves to developing leaders in one or two areas of their whole 8-dimensional life we set the stage for a future, perhaps public, collapse. There is a better way.
At Leadership Design Group we call this Designing Leaders through Mentorship. Here are four vital suggestions for developing the leaders with whom you work:
Developing Leaders Who See Their Whole Selves
Emerging leaders must understand they are whole, 8-dimensional people. This is foundational. We have an intuitive understanding that we are multi-dimensional but most of us go through childhood and adolescence without ever being taught what a “whole life” means.
Think of your own schooling. If it was anything like mine, it was heavily academic, aimed at a future vocation. It probably included an occasional hit-or-miss emphasis on physical development.
Much of our life, particularly in adolescence, was given to developing as social people. Only rarely, though, did anyone ask us to stop and think about what it means to thrive socially.
Most of us had a class or two in some fine arts skill. For many, it may just as easily have repressed than enhanced our creative juices. Can anyone remember a class in emotions? Or finances?
Good families and other social structures will, of course, fill these gaps in formal education. But the hard truth is most emerging leaders have never been taught to see themselves as whole people and to understand they need intentional work in each dimension of their life to thrive.
My wife taught art in high school for many years. I remember a particular student with amazing artistic skill. It had lain fallow; unrecognized, unappreciated, unused through the decade and a half of his young life. My wife’s simple affirmation, “Wow, you can do this. You are creative in this area” caused him to see himself differently as a creative person.
Developing leaders must first include laying the essential foundation: an emerging leader is a whole person and must view him or herself that way. The best of leader developers build this foundation.
Developing Leaders Who Thrive as an Integer
We have written previously on the concept of “integrity” being more than ethical or moral. Integrity implies whole…complete.
Once emerging leaders begin to see themselves as whole people (an integer, if you will), they must be challenged to thrive as whole people. Leader development must prod, peek, and poke into every facet of an emerging leader’s life…with them and with their permission. They must not be allowed to become one-dimensional superstars who neglect the vast depths of who they are as a whole being.
You might be saying, “Ugh. I don’t have time for this. This sounds difficult and messy.” That’s a common reaction; we hear it often. But if you want to build leaders who thrive, you must challenge an emerging leader to grow in every dimension of life.
Does it matter to your business, activity or organization? Most of us remember Major Nidal Hasan, the US Army Major who shot and killed 13 soldiers from his own unit as they prepared to deploy overseas. Major Hasan nursed some intensely negative emotions that flowed from a flawed belief system. Though there were ample signs that this was true, no one detected the approaching eruption of those emotions into betrayal and murder.
Did it matter? It mattered to the unit. It mattered to the 13 families who lost a loved one at a place and time they never would have expected.
The best of leader developers will get their hands messy in order to help emerging leaders thrive in every dimension of life.
Developing Leaders Who Develop Others
Once we have enabled emerging leaders to see themselves as whole people and to learn to thrive in every dimension of life, we must encourage them to develop others in the same way.
The circle of life—its natural rhythms, progression and repetition—requires constant renewal. People, families, businesses, organizations, churches and governments all grow, expand, thrive—then age, and deteriorate. Developing leaders for the next project…the next product…the next phase…the next generation must be a constant activity for those with an eye on the future.
In my years of Air Force service, I loved how training and leader development were at the core or our activity—they were our essential DNA. I could go out onto the flightline—sometimes very late at night—and almost always find an experienced mechanic teaching a young 18-year old how to do what he or she knew well. Often those experienced mechanics were only in their early to mid-twenties themselves. Despite their own youth, they knew how to develop others. We were constantly in the business of replicating our sections, our flights, our squadrons, groups and wings.
An emerging leader who has been taught to see him or herself as a whole person, and to thrive in every dimension of life, can immediately begin to teach others to do the same. Passing it on does not take a wizened old geezer. It takes only someone who has been developed with the expectation he or she will be able to develop others.
The best of leader developers will encourage emerging leaders to begin immediately to develop others.
Designing Leaders Through Mentoring
At Leadership Design Group, we encourage others to accomplish this process through mentoring—formal and informal, group and individual mentoring. A mentor has the skills to allow those they mentor to explore and discover their own path to thriving in every dimension of life.
A mentor also knows the joy and deep satisfaction of that look on someone’s face who has discovered there is a different way to live…that old wounds or failures or errors need not define us and need not shackle us. We—all of us—really can learn to live into and out of all that we are designed to be.
Join us on the journey, won’t you?