Seven months and hundreds of leadership lessons

Leaders will never do more important work than they’re doing right now to manage a crisis while building the future.

In my consulting work, I’ve hosted numerous conversations in communities across country Victoria over the last seven months, with people trying to take the best out of circumstances that radically changed their outlook on life and they’ve taught me some really important lessons about leadership that I can best summarise through these observations.

They often reminded me that we can choose to stay locked down (in every way) through negativity, resentment and anger or we can take opportunities to create better days without trying to somehow get back to a normal that no longer exists.

The numerous leaders I’ve learned from most recently don’t have roles in big organisations or companies. They don’t have executive power or impressive titles. They described themselves as “just regular people…we’re not big or important”. Some are members of local associations and clubs. Some volunteer, others hold down a couple of jobs (all vulnerable) and some are unemployed. They seem indifferent to acknowledgement or reward and are literally offered leadership because they’re people of good will who are selfless and offer a positive, problem-solving orientation.

These people turned up to our sessions thinking that discussions to explore positive ways for the community to move beyond the covid crisis would be worthwhile. They came along optimistic about creating a more positive future if people listen to each other and share ideas to take small steps toward bigger successes.

And they were right.

Our sessions gathered countless stories of community-building efforts such as growing a diminishing volunteer base, of successful advocacy that raised money and political support for new infrastructure, of starting initiatives to grapple with local problems, of support for vulnerable groups like young people at risk of poor mental health, or the elderly or isolated who are suffering, of local collaborations around resilience and recovery, of plans to re-energise

community spirit and support local commerce through sport, music, play, marketing local produce, encouraging tourism and rethinking the use of public spaces.

To me, these people are extraordinary connectors (because they rally others, they network, encourage, urge and persuade) and act as spotters (of opportunity and luck) and boosters (because put simply, they make things happen, “we always have the next project ready to go”).

They show up. They adapt (even if during 2020, this has meant upending their lives) and show others it’s possible to move beyond a longing for a lost past. They accept that many changes we’ve had to make during this year will stick. And not all changes have been bad.

They have a go. “We don’t always have a firm plan…we nut things out and change as we go so we don’t try to measure success too early. That’s why we keep and share a journal with ideas and lessons”

They don’t wait for help to arrive. They get on with it. They admit, “change is hard, we make mistakes, we mess up but then we just think roadblocks are new challenges and we look for others to help”.

Their positivity and enthusiasm is infectious.

These are so many Victorians who have showed up and become purposeful leaders without even knowing it!

At Leadership Victoria we have many opportunities to seek out and support more purposeful leaders, to help strengthen their skills, spread their stories and show all Victorians what we’ll need to know and do to reset the best of community life. I for one, can’t wait for more leadership lessons.

Chris Kotur
Leader In Residence, Leadership Victoria

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