Thoughtful leadership

Tonight I was inspired! As in brimming with excitement, can’t wait to get back into the thick of things kind of inspired!

One of the downsides to maternity leave is that the organisation that you work for moves forward without you and you lose any momentum that you before you left.  And whilst situations often change (although in my experience much stays the same despite the time away!), sometimes something big happens and you’re not there to get involved.  Four months ago, my organisation recruited a new CEO and by all reports, he’s the type of guy that I would relate to.  But of course, being on maternity leave doesn’t provide too many options in making sure that I’m not just a faceless payroll number amongst the hundreds of others across the organisation.

Oh no siree, in case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t do wallflower particularly well, and have already orchestrated two opportunities to engage with him since moving to town!  The first was to send him a welcome email from our local newcomers group, which welcomes new people to town and the second was to crash our end-of-year, all-staff meeting with a colleague who was also maternity leave which resulted in a brief introduction.

But why go to all that trouble I hear you ask? Well, when I left on maternity leave 8 months ago, a sustainability review on my unit was about to be undertaken, which basically means, they’re looking at all the services across the organisation to see if they can make them more ‘efficient’.  Now, if I was a cynic, I might feel threatened and a bit worried that perhaps my job was at risk and whilst I am convinced that change is a-coming, I’m not concerned yet.  Firstly, I believe I have proven that I’m an asset to the organisation and I’d like to thing that they’d bring me into the conversation if there was change that directly impacted me, even if it was only to get my thoughts and opinions on the matter.  But I also am not too concerned because I thrive on change and have been waiting to see more of the new CEO’s approach before I hit panic stations.

And I’m happy to report that it’s looking pretty good!!!  Tonight I arranged for the the SIL to come over and watch the girls for me so I could attend the launch of our local community leadership program.  As a previous participant of the program and a member of the alumni, I try to get to the events that I can, but for this event I knew I needed to be seen there.  Especially as our new CEO was the keynote speaker.  This would be the first opportunity for me to get a handle on his personality, his management style and potentially his vision or views for our community.  And I am so glad that I did.

Our new CEO put a whole range of things on the table which triggered a million mental notes to come home and write down or google, including the introduction to this amazing woman:

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Meet Mary Parker Follett.  Google tells me that Mary was a writer, social worker, political theorist and organisational consultant, is known as “the woman who invented management.”  Back in the early 1900’s she pretty much founded management theory (and the fact that she was a she meant she was denied entry to study her doctorate at Harvard). Her early influence on modern management theory has set the foundation for much of the writings on leadership and organisations that we still use today.  What is so remarkable is that her words really are still completely relevant today, particularly around the concept of giving up personal power (coercive) in favour of group power (co-active) and transformational leadership.

Now I get that this mumbo jumbo is probably not everyone’s cup of tea but I love it! And I love that our new CEO’s views on generating positive and effective outcomes is very much aligned with mine, especially in the area of partnerships and collaboration, empowering stakeholders to create solutions and engaging with the end-user customers that are directly impacted by the services we provide for their feedback and input. Hearing him speak was like a revelation!

Now, before I go any further, I need to point out that we have some pretty fabulous managers that subscribe to this approach too, but like any organisation, there are also a few stalwarts and what I like to call ‘pay-check players’ (meaning they come to work, do the bare minimum with no aspiration or desire to effect change and then pick up their pay-check), who don’t subscribe to this approach.  Who are still invested in the ‘we’ve been doing it this way for x number of years, why change it’ or ‘its easier for us if we do it this way’ as opposed to ‘its easier or more relevant for the customer if we do it differently’.

When you’re an ENTP personality style that manages from the gut like me, coming up against people like that can be hugely frustrating and at time really demoralising.  It kills off passion, creativity and undermines the value (perceived or otherwise) of your contribution to your job.  And when you’re an extroverted big picture thinker in a leadership team with all other introverted process oriented analysts (including your own manager) you’re practically giving them the sledge hammer to swing at your head.  So hearing our new CEO talk about thoughtful leadership and engaging right brain qualities such as empathy, innovation, intuition and collaboration had me dancing a happy dance on the inside.  With every word he spoke, I was grinning like a loon.  My friend (and work colleague) event leant over to me and asked if I was going to give him a standing ovation after he finished speaking!

When the speech was finished, I waited in the foyer so that I could properly introduce myself and luckily for me one of our senior managers was there and beat me to it. I like to think I played it cool and didn’t make a gushing mess of myself but I suspect my ‘corporate’ brain hasn’t switched back on yet so I can’t be sure!

With so much change in the wind and a new CEO who no doubt is looking to put his own stamp on the organisation, I’m excited to be heading back under his thoughtful leadership and find a way to participate in the discussion.  And I’m praying that the momentum might last long enough to make up for the early mornings and long hours as we get back into the swing of things!

Do you get excited by inspirational/management theory?  Ever find yourself so excited by what someone has to say that you are hanging off their every word?

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