What’s your job?

September 17, 2010

Fall term has begun at Montana State University and I am once again teaching two sections of a leadership course I was lucky enough to design. So, Mondays and Wednesdays 30 students and I explore what is leadership and why it matters.

Since I designed the course, the overarching definition for a leader comes from one of myfavorite quotes by Meg Wheatley — “A leader is anyone who wants to help at this time.”

So in my class, if you care,  you are a leader. This broad definition keeps all of us on the hook to learn leadership skills over the semester. The students are then accountable to apply the techniques through service learning. I’m also constantly reminded that because I want to help the students, I am leading until December 15th when the semester closes out.

I also like this big definition since it keeps me on the look out for what I like to call, “every day leaders.” These aren’t folks who are holding formal management roles, but ones who are simply trying to help. Today, I’d want to pass along two such leaders that inspired me over the past week.

First, check out this story by Joyce Hackett from Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project website (click on the link). Here the small act of observation combined with storytelling could profoundly change lives. The just act of reading this essay touched mine. I’d call Joyce’s courage to act and honesty admirable leadership skills.

And second, I have to pass along how Amy Pankratz of Souix Falls, South Dakota impacts lives around the country while serving as a stay-at-home mother of three.  This too is leadership in the highest degree. Notice how she:

changes paradigmsinspires imagination and creativityempowerselegantly reframes a situation

Is this not what we are calling for from our board rooms and corner offices?

I hope you enjoy her story.

Deidre Combs

Deidre Combs is the author of three books on cross-cultural approaches to resolving conflict and overcoming challenges:  The Way of ConflictWorst Enemy, Best Teacher  and Thriving Through Tough Times. The books integrate perennial wisdom from the world’s lasting cultural traditions with systems theory and brain research.

Dr. Combs is a management consultant, executive coach, mediator and core instructor in Montana State University’s Leadership Fellows Certificate Program and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Global Competence Certificate Program. Since 2007, she has also taught intensive leadership training to State Department-selected students, teachers and professional leaders from throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and Pakistan’s FATA region.

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