When I was a little girl, my favourite story was “The Little Engine That Could.” I would beg my mom to read it to me over and over again. I was captivated by the idea that believing in your abilities would help you transcend obstacles that others viewed as impossible. Climbing big mountains with a small engine is tough going, and it’s easy to feel discouraged. Good leaders know this, and they know how to help the people around them climb aboard – even when the destination isn’t clear.
I feel compelled to share leadership stories right now for two reasons: because it is dramatically absent in current provincial politics (no need to elaborate), and because it is widely evident in local and regional politics. I’m a big fan of civic engagement, I like to feel like my leaders are interested in my ideas. And while I believe that talking about your concerns with leaders does influence the outcome, I’m still waiting for a reply to my April letter (did you write one?)
Good leaders are motivated by their quest for shared abundance, and they view contributions from others as beneficial. Effective leaders are curious about the people they are leading, they are driven to understand their needs and to build a shared identity. Poor leaders are stuck in Maslov’s basement, positioning to win their point and competing for limited resources. They’re not much fun to work with. If you know someone like that, keep reading.
Since storytelling is the best way to share information, here are two elegant examples of effective leadership from people I’m privileged to work with right now:
- Squamish Lillooet Regional District: the project managers took an expansive view to motivating people across 16,310 square kilometres to reduce their garbage. They could have imposed by-laws on their member municipalities, requiring them to reach waste reduction targets they developed behind closed doors. Instead, they embarked on a 12 month committee process to identify shared goals and shared resources. Being inclusive from the very beginning ensures that everyone is on board and feels connected to the success of the project. People laugh during meetings, a good sign that positive relationships are being forged.
- Resort Municipality of Whistler: the small town that invites the world to play is committed to reducing its community greenhouse gas emissions. Project managers could have developed brochures, and then complained six months later when nothing changed. Instead, they invested time to understand needs of their community so that the resources they develop actually remove barriers and motivate action. People in the community volunteer their time to help, a good sign that they feel valued.
If you are a small engine and your challenge feels like a massive mountain to climb, try sharing the load. There are tremendous resources available to you (hint: they are often found in the people you are trying to influence). The Little Engine That Could believed in herself because of her small size, not in spite of it. Be nimble. Be bold. Above all, try something different if you’re unsatisfied with the results you’ve been getting from your commander-in-chief approach to leadership.
Not sure where to start? Give me a call for a complementary needs assessment.