Leadership 101

Have you ever done something that you knew, within every fibre of your body, was great? For many of us, that doesn’t happen often. We try to do our best, but things sometimes get in the way and our outcomes are limited by things beyond our control.

Me, pontificating to the team…yet again.

Last week, I was one of the lucky ones. All the stars aligned and I was part of a team  who delivered the first Ontario Parks Leadership Foundations Course. 5 days of everything from asking and answering questions, listening critically, participating in “The Challenge of the Day”, guest speakers, story tellers…you name it, we included it in the course curriculum. And the outcome was great!

Gail and I were part of the team who designed the course, and we were asked to facilitate this initial event. 25 new leaders from the Ontario Parks organization were selected, and we put them through their paces. The timing was hard for me. I’m also doing some truly exciting change management work for Natural Resources Canada. I am committed to doing my best for my Ottawa team, so though my days were filled with leadership activities, my nights were filled with change management writing and research. By Friday, I felt like I’d been “rode hard and put away wet”.

But it was soooooo worth it. Every moment, from sitting around a table at a restaurant on Sunday night with people I barely knew celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, to standing in front of a room of new leaders and asking them…no, demanding, that they think critically, outside the box, and telling them I won’t settle for less than their best.

And they gave it to me.

New leaders, thinking really, really hard!

Each day, I challenged them to write down and share their  3 most valuable “Take Aways” with me. Some were handed to me, others were shoved under my door at night, with each participants’ thoughtful input. I wanted to know what makes a great leader; what is unexpected about leadership; what does it take to really lead. Here are some of the responses:

  • Change is inevitable. Be prepared to adapt. You must, if you are going to lead.
  • Managing different personalities requires different approaches.
  • Ordinary people do extraordinary things when they are challenged, inspired and passionate; when they believe and are believed in; when they hit a barrier or when barriers are removed.
  • Exemplary leaders possess vision, courage and empathy.
  • Leadership is saying “no” sometimes.
  • Personal sharing from the heart will connect you with others.
  • Trust people and the knowledge and experience they have.
  • Leadership is about inspiring others to believe in themselves and be the best version of themselves.
  • Leaders are not above followers.
  • Anyone can manage, but not everyone can lead.
  • Don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone.
A bit of shenanigans is always good for any course!
A bit of shenanigans is always good for any course!

I knew, when this course was over, that it was a great success. As I stood in front of the group, I shared my story. I told them that when I left the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, I walked away without looking back because the family that was the MNR was gone. Over that week, I found it again. It is in the eyes, ears, hearts and spirits of these new leaders in Ontario Parks. Ontario is lucky to have them. And I was so, so very lucky to know them.

Published by Susan Gesner

A skilled professional with a wealth of experience in a variety of facilitation, consultation, education and research fields. I am known for my leadership, strong interpersonal skills and my ability to bring teams together for a common goal. I strive to incorporate my own and other's passion for the environment and sustainability for the future. Oh, and I love to run, fly fish, ski and make music!

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