“Let’s get rid of the tables” came the suggestion. An innocent enough suggestion but one that signalled a significant shift had taken place. It was the SPAR Leadership Development Programme (SLDP) reunion and the 2009 / 10 cohort had organised a reunion. The room was full of expectancy and the event had been at the initiative of the group themselves to further their own learning journey and continue to share experiences and stories. To their credit, SPAR leadership had sanctioned the event and given it their blessing. Sitting in the board room style setting something just didn’t seem right – until that is the call was made, “Let’s get rid of the tables”. The circle was created, the connection made and the conversation sparked into life.
The SLDP has been an amazing adventure as a learning journey. Some innovative thinking is underpinning the programme and SPAR has been bold enough to experiment in a way that has enriched what it means to be learning how to lead. Significant emphasis has been placed on the need for emotional intelligence (EQ) as an essential ingredient in what is required to lead at a senior level within an organisation. Daniel Goleman, who has written extensively about EQ describes it as a persons ability to relate to both self and others. Goleman argues that there are five components to a person’s EQ. Three measure the self: self-awareness, self-regulation, and personal motivation. The other two components that measure one’s relationship to others are empathy and social skills. From his research into corporate leadership, the scope of which included a study of some 188 companies, Goleman concluded that the more one climbs the corporate ladder, the more important EQ is to effective leadership.
What SPAR have sanctioned is a willingness to explore ongoing learning that is driven not by programme experts but rather by the learning community themselves. Studies in resilience have shown that three elements are necessary in an environment in order to foster resilience. These are: caring relationships, high expectations and opportunities to participate. By encouraging this initiative Spar are inadvertently delivering on all three elements. They are in the process of developing resilience within the organisation and in turbulent times of exponential change, who wouldn’t want a resilient business?
Some good things will emerge from this initiative and I have no doubt that if carefully nurtured and developed, SPAR will stand to gain a tremendous amount from this investment of both time and resources. Essentially I am witness and part-participant to something very special happening; Something that has the potential to discover new frontiers in the territory of how leadership can be learnt.
The temptation of course will be to overlay the initiative with too much formality, to want to measure it too early and possibly control it through curriculum and agendas. That’s the temptation because that it how such ‘learning’ is normally justified and managed. If leadership is wise they will leave this one alone and allow it find its own pathway. To do so will be to be to light the fire of what it takes to be a learning organisation. It will also serve to build the muscle of self-directed learning. Such things go to the very heart of what it takes to be an adaptive organisation and it will be the adaptive organisations that survive the future.
SPAR, good on YOU!