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Work Life Lead: The 5 C’s of Lessons In Leadership


A few years back, a friend of mine, John, told me that he had a vision for Asheville, where we live and work, to become a center for leadership development. He shared this with me as he began to introduce me to a group that had just formed called Lessons In Leadership.

The purpose of Lessons In Leadership is to provide world-class, low-cost, high-impact charitable leadership training for individuals, organizations and businesses in Asheville and Western North Carolina. The difference from other leadership development groups is that none of the members give up their jobs to serve this venture. We are all volunteers giving-back to the community that has supported us as citizens, parents, and business people.  To date, we’ve given back $23,000 to three local charities who care for local people in need with special attention given to the needs of children.

At the heart of Lessons In Leadership is a simple idea. No matter who you are, what you do or what you’ve done in the past, you can learn to lead. I’ve heard far too many times from people that they are not leaders. We do not accept this assumption.  The role someone has in the community or business doesn’t distinguish one person as a leader and another a non-leader. We are only distinguished by the attitudes and behaviors of leadership in the context where we live and work. Every citizen of your community and ours can learn to be a person of influence and impact in their social and organizational settings. All it takes is the activation of personal initiative and passion to begin to make a difference that truly matters. The rest simply builds upon this drive to create goodness and a change that matters.

The effect of what we are doing can be summed with five words: Contribution, Collaboration, Connection, Confidence and Credibility.  Each of these can happen right where you are.

1. Contribution: We’ve learned many lessons through this experience, none more important  than the value of contribution. Our give-back purpose is a part of this. However, there is more to it than just producing an event.  In your community, like in ours, there is a huge untapped, unrealized potential waiting to be released. This potential for contribution exists in every business, every family, every school, church, club and organization. It is exists in you, right now.

Think for a moment about your contribution to your community? Is simply showing up for school events? Just participating is not enough we have found. We need people to contribute by taking initiative to make a difference that matters. Decide what that difference is for you, and begin to find ways to take initiative to act on it. That is all it takes. That is all we have done with Lessons In Leadership.

2. Collaboration: The person who wants to work independently is a relic of an era that is fast fading in the rear-view mirror of time. The future belongs to those people who learn to collaborate.  Within Lessons In Leadership, we have two collaborative organizing groups. One is the Core Group that organizes the main evening event every January and manages strategic direction. The other is the Workshop Group that began to meet a year ago to produce the workshop event that we just held. There is an assumption and an expectation that this group will produce two or three events of various types a year. We meet next week to begin the conversation about what is next.

Both groups are true collaborations. They are not groups of people who get together to see what they can get out of the collaboration. Our groups are selfless, non-ego driven examples of what people can do when no one cares who gets the credit. People who are simply out looking for their own advancement do not find it an easy place to fit in. The collaboration works because the vision and purpose for Lessons In Leadership is such that no one person can make it happen. It is a genuine team effort.

3. Connection: After each event, our participants told us that they want more interaction and connection with people. As a result, we are intentional about making our events more than the typical networking event where congenial banter is mixed with the exchange of business cards.

We create opportunities for connection in two ways. First, we try to recruit groups to attend. We appeal to business owners to bring their leadership or administrative teams. At our main event, this past January, one of our Core Group members, brought 42 people from his bank. Before the event, they met for pizza, fellowship, encouragement and thanks for their work as a team. As you can guess, they came revved up to learn and experience a great time together, that can be translated back to their work with customers and one another.

Second, our workshop event, held just two weeks ago, was organized around multiple opportunities to make connections with people. There was a lot of interaction during the event itself. In addition, we scheduled a networking breakfast prior to the workshop, and a networking with the presenters lunch after. We also made a personal connections with each person who registered as we sent four emails describing how they could prepare to get the most from the event, and to introduce our presenters.

4. Confidence: Our events are highly interactive. The more opportunities to do something, to express something, to make meaningful connections, the more personal confidence grows.  This confidence is not arrogance. it is a belief that regardless of what we face, that we can learn to master the art and practice of leading.

Confidence is one of the developmental benefits of what we do. This is especially true for the presenters. The way we build this confidence is by practicing the presentations, critiquing them, and giving feedback after the event is over. How many of us walk into situations where we need to be prepare to speak effectively to a potential boss or client, and are not prepared  to be our best because there is no one there to help us. We are intentional about developing local talent. We are working with people who are new at speaking and those who are  seasoned veterans of classrooms and conference platforms and strengthening their ability to make a difference as a speaker.

5. Credibility: Lastly, a locally produced, charitable leadership training event creates credibility for everyone connected to it, including the community. Being credible, which is similar to being authentic, enhances the work, the relationships, and the opportunities that we have. By contributing, by giving back, by making connections, by developing talent, by instilling confidence in others, by doing all these and more we begin to have an impact that builds credibility. The trust that comes with credibility as a community asset that is very valuable in today’s world.

What we have done here in Asheville can be done in any community. Think local, charitable, collaborative, and impact focused. Find four or five men and women that you trust and start by talking about how you can give back to the community. Don’t start with the event. It is just an activity on the calendar. Start with what you feel is the genuine need in your community. Whatever that need, a higher functioning, more competent community of leaders is required to meet that need. Make that your goal, and you’ll find the right approach to make it happen.

After our first event in January 2008, we realized that what we created was much bigger and more significant than we realized going in. We thought we’d have a hundred people attend. We had over 600. It was at that time that we saw the potential for other communities to do the same. The logistics are simple enough, even thought there is a tremendous amount of work.. It is the spirit of the group that matters more than anything else. Build the group, and you’ll know what kind of event you need to create.

If you are interested in finding out more, send me your contact info and we’ll be in touch.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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