GLP – LeaderShape (04-06-13)

19 Jun

The very first thing that we did upon arriving at Leadershape was write our name on and, optionally, decorate a paper bag which was to be put on the wall of our ‘Learning Community’ room. We were told that it was for us to put in all the letters and cards we would write to one another over the course of the camp, but I pretty much ignored it after pasting it up on the wall. I had immediately dismissed it as just another camp activity I had done before.

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Looking back, I have realised how much my views on leadership or team building camps have changed. Instead of the boring ‘lectures’ or silly team bonding games I had expected, the lessons taught and activities planned were insightful and applicable, and most of all, fun. However, my greatest takeaway was not how amazing the sunshine was when it was out, or how incredibly good the food provided at every meal was (although those were important things). My greatest takeaway is the fact that leadership is built on top of trusting relationships, and how without relationships, things ultimately crumble under the weight of competition, misunderstanding and frustration.

During the camp, in our smaller groups called ‘Family Clusters’, we had a group facilitator and a ‘Family Cluster’ room which other participants not from our ‘Family Cluster’ could not enter. It fostered a sense of privacy in the room, which in turn provided a safe space for everyone to share their thoughts with one another. In that room, we crafted individual vision statements for what we were passionate about and wanted to create in our ideal futures. It was a bold step for me, as I had never felt like I had to put all that down in words, and in fact, I was afraid to do so as writing a vision or goal down felt like I was expected to succeed at it. Furthermore, sharing my vision with others meant I ran the risk of failing and having everyone talk about where I went wrong. It was frightening, but after a few days of building on that vision, I became more and more confident of what I knew I was passionate about.

In the middle of the camp, I chanced a glance upon the paper bags again. I felt compelled to walk over to grab some paper and start writing short notes for everyone in the camp, to thank them for anything I appreciated about them. We were also given stickers with various adjectives on them, so I tried to find an adjective to describe each person to paste on the note. I saw the paper bags as a medium of translating my ‘thanks’ to everyone for being true to their passions and for actively listening to everyone’s thoughts.

On the last night, we went around the ‘Family Cluster’ room and did three things with each person in the team – tell them what you appreciated about them, suggest ways they could enhance their leadership style and listen to them share with you as well. I was pleasantly surprised that almost all of my ‘Family Cluster’ members brought up something I wanted to work on and had written down as reflection on the first day – to fully participate and not be afraid to put my ideas out there, even if it means they could be shot down. It shows me their genuine observations of me, and it also reassured me that a leader doesn’t have to be the typical image of a charismatic extrovert. Instead, a leader is simply someone with a vision for others, who holds fast to his values and who continues to work hard despite setbacks – some not so simple things to do.

Many leadership camps out there tell you many things. Very few of them have you actually experience them in such a personal way. My paper bag is now pasted on the first page of my participant manual, and the front cover has a column of adjective stickers I had received from others. These have come to represent the honesty and care I had learnt about and experienced with my fellow camp mates. It has showed me that my words mattered, that people mattered and that relationships mattered. We grew in our understanding of one another and also in our friendships. It is difficult to be ignorant of someone with whom you have shared your thoughts, and with whom you have exchanged one of the hardest things to give and accept – personal feedback. All the support and edification I was receiving from everyone gave me the assurance that stepping out of my comfort zone was a good decision and that I shouldn’t let risks stop me from playing the game. I am convinced that Leadershape is not a ‘feel good’ camp. It is a ‘be challenged’ camp, and that can feel pretty good.

LeaderShape camp

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