Last September we began our journey with Leadership Dutchess, an annual professional development program hosted by the Chamber Foundation, Inc., and now, after nine transformative months, we are graduating. Throughout the course of the program, we took deep dives into communication, public speaking, team building, project management and other topics pertinent to leadership. We had the opportunity to apply what we learned to a group fundraising project, an 80’s themed dance party, and the program culminated with a service project for Hudson River Housing. As we reflect on our time in the program, we wanted to share some of the valuable lessons we learned about work, life and being an impactful leader.
Wherever you are, be all there
Time and attention are valuable investments. While the passing of time itself is unavoidable, how you spend it is up to you. When you choose to devote time to something, whether it’s work-related or not, being present is highly beneficial to you and those around you. Rather than thinking about the emails that might be piling up in your work inbox, the dishes that need to be done at home or your approaching project deadline, pay attention to what’s right in front of you and open yourself up to new friendships, valuable learning opportunities and exciting experiences.
Clear communication is key
Clear communication is key, but it’s not always easy. When a group is responsible for planning an event together, things can get complex fast. Establishing a communication system (one that’s universally adopted by the group) from the get-go reduces cluttered minds and inboxes and helps streamline tasks more efficiently. For example, who is recording meeting notes? Who will send those out? What system will be used to communicate? Facebook? Email? Slack? Gaps in communication lead to confusion, missed opportunities and sometimes double the work.
The power of the first follower
Picture this – one man is dancing wildly at a festival, flailing his arms about and making a scene. People stare and laugh at the man, who stands out as he continues to dance alone. After a while, a woman joins him and mimics his unique moves with delight. Onlookers notice and begin to join them, one by one at first and then flocks of people – all drawn in like moths to a flame. The crowd of dancing people swells, and those not joining in become the minority.
What was the turning point? The first follower. When the dancing man was alone, he was simply a spectacle. When the woman joined him, she created a trend and the crowd felt more comfortable joining in. There’s immense value in supporting leaders and ideas that you believe in and sometimes by doing so, you pave the way for others to join in.
If you’re ready to point out a problem, be prepared to offer a solution. When it comes to event planning, things can go wrong – and often do. Whether it’s an unresponsive vendor, inclement weather or a local cupcake festival on the same day as your big event – challenges are bound to pop up. It’s good to anticipate and acknowledge barriers, but not for the sake of worrying or complaining. Action is key!
Sometimes being a leader means stepping back
You may not always think of a leader as someone who steps back or aside, as we typically think of leaders being at the forefront. However, ‘leading from behind’ can actually be one of the most effective ways to motivate and inspire others. Moving out of the way in order to let others step forward allows each individual in a group or organization to not only utilize and sharpen their skills, but also makes room for a more collaborative and productive environment.
You are only as good as your team
Leadership is not all about the leader but rather the relationship built between a leader and his or her followers. It’s essential for a team to put their best (collective) foot forward but that can only happen when there is buy-in from everyone to move towards a common goal, productive collaboration, clear communication and autonomy for each individual that is a part of the team to utilize their skills.
The importance of saying yes… (and no)
Saying ‘yes’ to Leadership Dutchess was an incredible decision and journey in more ways than one. For some, being a part of this class was stepping out of a comfort zone and many classmates are graduating with more confidence and an openness to new experiences. Embracing this opportunity has allowed us both to grow professionally and personally (and we’ve become both friends and colleagues along the way!). In turn, sometimes saying ‘no’ is what enables us to say ‘yes’. In order to be a leader with integrity and authenticity, it’s important to recognize which opportunities and experiences to say yes to and determine which may be out of alignment for you.
Kristin Delia, account manager, and Sheila Bogan, senior account executive, work at Impact PR & Communications (prwithimpact.com), a public relations firm based in the Hudson Valley serving clients in in the travel, hospitality, food and beverage, non-profit and lifestyle sectors. Both Kristin and Sheila were among The Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Dutchess Class of 2019 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com or by phone at 845-462-4979.