And yet, whether they are leading a small drug rehabilitation clinic where resources are limited or a FTSE 100 company with abundant assets, the questions they face seem to me to be startlingly similar. How do I make change happen? How do I manage risk? How do I lead others? How do I sustain myself?
In the 20 years that I have specialised in leadership development I have had the privilege of hearing stories from leaders from all walks of life and work. The most inspirational are those that tell the tale of how even the most successful and glossy leader has started by taking a first step. Sometimes these first steps have been uncertain, sometimes blithely upbeat and unconscious. I have been inspired by stories of people ingeniously making something out of nothing, of overcoming personal limitations to achieve greatness; of making it up as they go along and hoping for the best and being surprised when the best miraculously emerges!
At the centre of all of these diverse stories is a solemn and wonderful truth. The biggest, most potent resource for leaders is personal. Fundamentally, leaders have the courage and conviction to lead because of something about them as a person. A sense of self-belief, an ability to inspire through brilliant relationship skills, a way of seeing the world as a set of opportunities for change and improvement. These are skills and attributes that come from within. From my work with leaders I am convinced that those who engage with their own personal potential in an active and conscious way are always more successful, and more compelling in their leadership than those who don’t. (Sorry Mr Trump et al.)
If we are our own biggest resource in the sometimes lonely world of leadership then we need to take care of that resource. We need to nurture and sustain ourselves to be resilient and upright in times of challenge and change.
At Oasis, we work with leaders from all backgrounds to develop themselves in a way that recognises that a person who wishes to be a powerful change agent needs to take the brave step of engaging directly with themselves in order to make change that is responsible and sustainable. It helps if you can learn to understand who you are and how you relate to others. It helps if you can learn to operate outside of what is comfortable for you more of the time without getting depleted and lost. Our approach to developing leaders goes to the heart of leadership. It’s up close and personal rather than distant and theoretical.