Saturday, January 7, 2012

Facilitation: A New Stage of Leadership

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to YMCA Camp Tecumseh in Central Indiana to serve as a mentor for the Alpha Beta Session of the NIC program Futures Quest! I arrived on Wednesday and met my fellow mentors at the airport. It seems funny to me now that those first few hours together were spent in relative peace and quiet since only four days later I'd sadly be leaving a group that had become its only crazy little family unit. While my new friends made my time at Futures Quest absolutely amazing, this experience also really opened me up to the next phase of leadership in my life.

During one of our first sessions we asked the members of Alpha Beta what it meant to be a leader or what leadership was. One of the brothers said that a leader is someone who allows other to lead. I took that away as being the most true definition. For most of us our opportunity to "come of age" or "set up" is when we develop our leadership skills, when we hone in on the character components we need to someday, be a leader. Our leadership styles and skills are shaped by a series of opportunities which eventually lead to officer roles or committee positions. The ironic part about leadership, is that by the time we are often deemed and recognized as leaders, our leadership style is no longer active. Our role as leaders is to create a path in which others may follow to their own successes.

At this year's Quinnipiac Leadership Conference, the keynote speaker said that the best leaders "don't pull, they push." Which brings me back to the point of my Futures Quest brother - a true leader in many ways in fully developed, they know their strengths and have worked to better develop their weaknesses. They know how to encourage, and organize; they know how to lead by example and speak to a group. A true leader can do all of these things, all while knowing they cannot lead forever - that they must allow new leadership to grow and develop and bloom.

Leadership in any form is progressive. We meet goals and expectations and then must find ways to move forward. I have been truly blessed with so many leadership opportunities during my time as a collegian but I know I must move forward from the officer-oriented leadership I have become so familiar with.

Having the opportunity to facilitate something I truly believe in was a complete blessing. I will be the first to admit, I love validation - who doesn't? - raising your hand and giving an answer to a teacher, coach, or mentor, to have them say "Yes, that's correct" or "Perfect" was something I long considered and sought out. But I have to tell you, as I have gotten older there has been no greater validation than seeing that "lightbulb" moment happen for students and peers I've gotten to work with. WIthout giving anyone any particular answer - seeing the men in my group answer questions and receiving that praise was absolutely amazing! Knowing that these young men were thinking in a new way, and seeing through a lens that I helped to provide and created for them was one of the most fulfilling leadership experiences.

There was one instance when one of the brothers in my small group practically read out of the mentor guide - giving specific examples that my partner, Taylor, and I were supposed to touch on. (Shout out to Justin!) He got it! And, nothing could have made me happier!

I can not wait for the next opportunity to facilitate these types of conversations, I've already started looking! Facilitation is so incredibly important in our community because we hold such power. Young men and women have the ability to make a huge difference in our local and global communities while at the same time, they can be at risk for making negative choices that affect us all. When leaders are able to affectively facilitate these discussions, our community leadership and emerging leaders can take ownership of the issues we are facing today to propel us forward in a way that being told what to do never allows.

I am so grateful and blessed to have gotten to work with such amazing people as I make my own Quest up the leadership summit!

<3 Love and Loyally

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