Leadership on a Shifting Dancefloor
Thoughts from a new participant before the dialogue. Click here to read.
After the Windsor Leadership Dialogue
On January the 13th and 14th 2020, I attended the Windsor Leadership Dialogue as an assistant rapporteur to Gillian Chivinge, the theme of which was ‘Leadership on a Shifting Dancefloor’. Leaders from the commercial, independent, and voluntary sectors attended the event at St. George’s House within the grounds of Windsor Castle. The dialogue was facilitated by a team of three custodians who were former participants and associates of the Dialogue.
The informing idea of the event is that a dialogue is a kind of collaborative thinking – and most importantly, that dialogue doesn’t need to lead towards an answer. It is instead an opportunity to think and to learn together, and to share space in an intentional way – with no specific end-goal or ‘target’ to achieve. Unlike a meeting at a workplace, for example, the Dialogue would not require that action was taken, there was nothing that needed to be done – the participants were free to just be together in a way that they found useful, exploring questions that felt pressing for them. My expectations were simultaneously off-the-scale and nought; I had no idea what a dialogue would actually look like when done by the ‘experts’. The Dialogue hoped to take people - who often had prestigious achievements – divest them of their rank in the hierarchies and order of society, and place them as equals, each with something to contribute and something to learn. I was surprised and grateful to find that I was to be included in this ethos, valued and embraced as an equal amongst people I thought ‘great and good’, often at least 20 years older than me.
My lofty dream of observing perfect dialogue in action, of seeing the ‘experts’ perform, soon met with reality...
What a 48 hours!
Key takeaway: there is no single ‘Self’, there is no one type of ‘Leader’.
Furthermore, I cannot get frustrated by people putting me in a box because in actual fact I am often the one drawing the lines and I am also the one with the power to rub them out.
The dialogue spurred so many emotions, which I will go into later. For now, let me see if I answered all my pre-WLD questions:
What makes the participants good leaders?
I did not ask this question outright. But from what I observed, I would say what makes a good leader is listening, questioning, potentially taking what may seem like a personal risk to do the right thing, and funnily enough admitting when you do not know the answer. Despite them seeming intelligent and well informed from where I was standing, they acknowledged: ‘I know I am not the wisest person here because I know that I know nothing’ – Socrates.
Why don’t I see myself in society’s visible leaders of today?
It was option 5 (mostly), perspective! It was immediately apparent to me that various leaders have various demeanours and personalities and I almost feel as though I had been ignorant assuming many leaders were so homogenous. While everyone had convened for a common purpose and perhaps had similar attitudes towards life, they were all so different and I managed to see elements of my own personality in almost all of them. What a relief!
Note: cognisant of the fact that it was an informal environment and that they were also the types of leaders who acknowledged that they still had things to learn, despite their titles.
Nevertheless, my experience was still sufficient for me to conclude that there are no personality traits that define a leader, probably just attitude.
What do I need to do to become a good leader?
Again, I did not know how to ask this outright. However, nuggets of advice that I did manage to pick up were: a) to be who I am but enjoy continuous growth, b) to work on my networks, and c) to take some professional risks.
Any other nuggets welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Outwith that, I will try to emulate what I observed as written under question 1.
I came away feeling the following:
Inspired – by the participants’ desire to try to make positive tangible change within society and by the fact that they were willing to grapple with the frustrating obstacles that life puts in the way.
Comforted – by the fact that such accomplished people not only acknowledged but actually embraced the fact that they still had growing to do and things to learn.
Relieved – because while working on my self-awareness and emotional intelligence remains important to me, I now know that I don’t need to obsess about knowing every aspect of one definitive version of myself. All I can be is who I am today and the destination itself is continued growth.
Energetic and excited – apparently I am already a leader! …so they said. As a result, there is no need for me to wait to take ownership of things until I have a grander title, it can all start (or continue) now!
Weird! – on Tuesday morning we created something that you can feel when a group of people give all their attention to a common task. For a moment, we were on a wavelength that created an atmosphere that cannot be described or quantified but was powerful, energising and outright bizarre. I am grateful to have been part of it, will not forget that sensation and look forward to experiencing it again someday.
Grateful – I am going away feeling very grateful to Nick for enabling me to have this experience, the leaders for embracing me, and to our hosts at St George’s House, Windsor Castle. Not only were the staff excellent, grounds beautiful, and choir spectacular, but there was also something about being stood in the chapel “within” centuries of history that made reflection different, easier and stronger.
Until next time!
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