One of the greatest responsibilities you have as a leader is to define who you are as a person: what characteristics of past leaders do you want to adopt, and more importantly, what characteristics do want to avoid? Once you have established who you are as a leader, you can begin to mentor the next generation of new leaders, which of course will mean they will adopt things from you they like and determine there are things about your style they do not like.
What we are really talking about here is continuing to grow as a leader while mentoring others to grow. Growing leaders is perhaps the most rewarding part of leadership; unfortunately, there is no clear blueprint for this. Even if there was a specific instruction book, some of the principles would remain through time, but the perspective each generations brings would alter the approach.
Chris Walden, VP/CIO at HealthAlliance, and I are working together to create a guide focused on growing leaders. We are calling this project Milk To Maturity: Growing Leaders In A Connected Generation. Our platform is CultureInfusion.com, a blog where you can find posts we have written that help frame up the direction of our book.
There are six phases we are describing on the road from milk to maturity: pure milk, milk and cereal, fruits and veggies, pizza and spaghetti, meat and potatoes, and finally, the surf and turf phase. Using food and the growth of the human body as an analogy allows us to articulate complex ideas and experiences in a way that everyone can relate to, keeping in mind the target audience here includes both high level leaders and those just starting out on the road.
We have launched this as a crowdsourcing effort realizing that we do not have all of the answers; what we do have is our own personal experiences and research. Being part of a connected generation, there is no greater way to drive the point of connectedness home then to use that very feature to enable our peers to include their thoughts and experiences.
This is where you come in; this is your chance to give back and train a new generation. How might you do that, ask? Good Question! There are two primary means: simply provide a comment right on the blog post, or submit an email to us. For example, what was your biggest challenge during the milk and cereal phase? Is there something you wish you — or one of your leaders — had done differently? We’d like to know. Your comments are extremely valuable along this journey.
The ultimate vision is to place in the hearts of every leader the idea that what they do matters to the ones they lead. How a leader behaves in all areas of their life sends a message to those they are leading. This is covered in more detail in the surf and turf phase, but it is the foundation of our message. We believe this will turn into a workbook and a whole leadership development program where Chris and I can guide either individuals or organizations through as coaches and mentors.
We are not creating a business opportunity; rather, we are acting on what we believe is the call of our lives. Our response to that call does not depend on anyone’s approval of the idea — it only requires our obedience. We move forward obedient to the call and invite your feedback to any and all parts of the process, even the sticky little grammar issues that we have! Leading is not about having all the answers; leading is about being vulnerable and available, sharing and realizing that no matter where we are on our leadership journey we will never be too old to learn from others.