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Creating Successful Leaders

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I was once approached by a colleague with a very unexpected and uncomfortable suggestion: he thought I should distance myself from a particular co-worker and went as far as to suggest that by associating with this other female colleague, I was actually hurting my career.

I believe that this man was speaking from a place of genuine interest in my well-being—he thought he was doing me a favor. I knew that the person with which he wanted me to stop associating had, as of late, lost some of upper management’s support. However, I perceived this recent lack of support to be due to misunderstanding, not due to a lack of skills or business acumen. I found this person to be extremely intelligent and was learning a lot from her. So, as much as she was a personal friend, she was also someone who was teaching and guiding me with her experience and education.

Instead of accepting my colleague’s advice, I decided to respond by sharing the positive things about my relationship with this particular female co-worker. I described what I learned and valued as a result of associating with her and attempted to show a side of this person to him that he did not know. I asked him, “What better choice than to befriend someone who challenges my thinking and exposes me to things that she has learned and experienced that I have not?”

I share this story to illustrate just how hard being a part of a community can be. You will encounter people who try to sabotage the relationships you’re trying to build, and learning how to handle this gracefully can be quite the challenge. It comes as no surprise that strong communities are built upon respect, reciprocity, and courageous leadership, but how do we go about achieving this? How do we overcome the naysayers and saboteurs?

Author, speaker and consultant Peter Block shares some insight into how healthy communities are formed. Take a peek at this clip from one of his talks:

 

As Block says, strong communities…

1. Center on people’s gifts and strengths, and give them a space to flourish.

2. Are localized, within walking distance. Keep your community close, if not geographically, then on a personal level. Shoot for that small town feel, where everyone knows your name and everyone’s got something valuable to bring to the table.

3. Disregard labels, encourage genuine interaction. Official titles and bureaucracies are a sure way to kill community. While necessary, don’t let labels define your community. People are not numbers and labels.

Seeing past the labels and looking at personal strengths is what allowed me to defend my coworker using examples of her positive attributes. I’m glad I stuck up for her, because as I suspected, she turned out to be a great teammate and friend. Applying these three simple ideas to your community–whether in your neighborhood or in your office–will transform a stale environment into a dynamic one.

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