At my last conference presentation, one of the other presenters was a person I’ve worked with on a few occasions. She is a dynamic fireball of energy, a leader in every sense of the word, ‘lives’ professionally and is a key player in the middle of where things happen in government, from policy to how the workings of the government are decided and implemented. Her presentation was dynamic, energetic and very, very powerful. At the end of her talk she took questions from the hundreds of people in the room.
I sat at a side table watching this unfold. She’s a what you see is what you get person with a fabulous sense of humor, and as I’ve worked with her and knew her style, I was eager to hear how she would answer the questions put on the table. I figured some of the questions would be the kind many people ask country leaders, i.e. those aiming for the magic wand kind of answers. They were asked and answered in as honest a way possible.
What really delighted me was when she answered one of the questions which was “What do you read to strengthen your leadership? What books would you recommend for us to read to grow as leaders?” She gave them a list of what came to mind, not only books but articles and speeches but then threw in the unexpected: “John Cleese’s videos on Leadership.”
For a moment the room went silent and then everyone started talking at once. Earlier she had mentioned loving Monty Python so everyone in the room thought she was pulling their leg. My table mates had seen me deep in conversation with her recognizing I knew her, so looked at me as if I would confirm that she was in fact pulling their leg. My answer was “She’s right! t’s an amazing series. You should watch it as it’s unlike any other training video you’ll ever see”. They thought I was kidding. I sat there with a grin on my face and then added “It really is a great series. Are you only looking in what you think are the ‘right’ places, reading the ‘right’ things and speaking to the ‘right’ people? What makes them all ‘right’?
I am constantly asked what books l read to hone my professional skills and my answer is “Everything I can get hold of”. If I stuck to books only on coaching I’d miss out on the rest of life and coaching isn’t only about coaching. It’s about working within the context of life. One can’t be separated from the other. Just as leadership can’t be found in a canned course or book it’s snippets of everything we live, experience, read about and learn, all mixed up and filtered through our unique personalities to come out when we need it and how we need it to lead, direct and question.
Are you looking in only the ‘right’ places and feeling as if you’re coming up short? Many look for the perfect book, course or direction. Life isn’t like that. True leaders glean information from everywhere. They soak it up like a sponge, are constantly growing, rethinking and reinventing.
What are you reading? What are you not paying attention to that you should be paying attention to?