An 8th grade girl I know had the following conversation with her mom:
- Daughter: “I think now that I’m going into high school next year, there might be enough kids in the church youth group for them to start having a separate group for the high schoolers. They could start separating the middle schoolers and the high schoolers more.”
- Mother: “You might be right. You know who you’d need to talk with about that idea—the Family Pastor would be the one to make that call.”
- Daughter: “Yeah, but I wouldn’t talk to him first. I’d talk to some other people first to get support for the idea. Then we could talk with him about it.”
- Mother: “Do you know that there are leadership classes for adults that teach them to use strategies like that?”
- Daughter: “Really? That just seems obvious.”
And so we come around again to the idea of the intuitive leader, something I’ve addressed on my blog before. The fact that an 8th grader intuitively knows some of these skills and strategies (quite a few of them, in the case of this particular 8th grader) underscores that idea that some people come by leadership intuitively. Depending on your theology, they may be born with certain natural abilities, they may receive the spiritual gift of leadership, they may have a personality that more naturally lends itself to leadership.
Any of these possibilities works just fine for the person in possession of intuitive leadership skills. But what about everyone else? How can we teach others what “just seems obvious” to us? Sometimes when things seem obvious, we don’t even think to teach them.
Here are a few ideas:
- Start keeping a leadership journal. Spend 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each work day to jot down notes about ways you used your leadership skills during that day. Be as specific as possible (e.g. talked personally for a while with a colleague before getting down to business). You’ll start to see patterns in your behavior.
- With certain key topics, spend some time either journaling or talking with your coach to unpack ways you use your leadership skills in those situations. In the example above, the topic is leading change.
- Based on the two exercises above, make a checklist of leadership behaviors. (If you are an intuitive leader, this will feel obvious and a bit pedantic to you. Do it anyway.) These are the behaviors you need to teach others.
- When you communicate these behaviors to those you are trying to train, state them directly. Write them down. Don’t worry about “stating the obvious.” Ask them to find specific ways to implement the behaviors you’re teaching, then follow up with them afterwards to see how it went.
- Keep at it. Recognize that it will take time for those behaviors to begin feeling natural to those you are training.