Friday, March 29, 2013

Sampling the leadership principles at the Kansas Leadership Center | By Angela Gaughan

In my position as the project lead for the support group services initiative at the Wichita State University Center for Community Support and Research (CCSR), I recently jumped at the chance to participate in one of the ‘Your Leadership Edge’ programs led by the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) staff.

After day one of the three day program, a co-worker who is also a coach at KLC, asked me what I thought of the program. I realized later that what I told him was a canned response. Comments like, “It was great!,” “Everyone was friendly,” and “I enjoyed it.” Later, the more I thought about it, I realized a few things.
My main goal for participating in the program was to gain an understanding of the terms used by the KLC staff. I didn’t volunteer for a three day “program” so I could change the way I do things. Who would do that? I wanted to understand the terms like “raise the heat” and “get on the balcony.” The first article we were assigned to read labeled it as “KLC-ese.” That was my goal; to understand it. I didn’t know that I would be challenged to apply it to the work that I do.

In the last few years I became familiar with the language KLC uses. In my previous position at CCSR I typed notes from leadership meetings, copied handouts and assembled folders for various leadership projects the CCSR staff led around the state in conjunction with the KLC principles.

As I look back, I was antsy when our facilitator, Ron Alexander, was leading us though a session, Case In Point. I was uncomfortable until I realized what was happening was the lesson, and that he was purposely letting us learn from his leadership or lack of it. I observed that another participant was ‘on the balcony’ during the session. In a sense, he stepped away, removing himself from the discussion. He later admitted that he understood what was happening, and decided not to participate, but sit back and observe.
The session showed us the difference between authority and leadership. We agreed that leadership was an activity, not a position, and discussed the difference between the two. I came away with an understanding that people in authority don’t always exercise leadership or use it as an activity to help people make changes.
What I learned after one day was more than just a bunch of definitions, but the beginnings of a way to use my strengths and interests to influence and make changes in the work that I do. To name a few specific applications, I can sort challenges into technical and adaptive ones. From that I can access how to begin to tackle the adaptive challenges. By being aware of the temperature in the room I can better evaluate how to influence discussions. And finally, I can identify and diagram the factions in my work to help me take the next steps with the initiative I am working on.
I think that anyone who wants to better influence their community can benefit from KLCs ‘Your Leadership Edge’ program. For example, our group included a writer, a superintendent, a pastor, a professor and several community advocates, who live and work in at least six different communities in Kansas. 
Now, it’s time to head back for the last two sessions.

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