Five Oaks Consulting

The leader as learner: thinking out loud while being interviewed

Lynne Gilliland and I were reflecting on leadership in her series ‘Lessons from leaders’. Lynne, a fellow independent consultant, focuses this interview series on leaders in international development.

What we covered: What have I learned in my 15 years of senior leadership development in the INGO sector about the tremendous value of robust self-awareness? How do I view failure and how to develop resilience? What is the tricky but critical balance between projecting strength and vulnerability as a leader? And what does it mean to be a ‘developmental leader’? This is what Lynne and I talked about in this 24 min interview. Have a look to see if there is a nugget of value here and there. We also spoke about a sense I have: that we as civil society people are not always honest about some of the motives of why we do the work we do. Lynne called that “provocative”; I call it necessary. You see for yourself…

Now if only I did not have this annoying habit of looking up at the ceiling every time…

A word of gratitude: Lynne has been tremendously helpful to me in offering advice about how to launch my independent consulting practice, and I am grateful to all the wisdom and resources she has so generously shared with me since I started in January!

2 thoughts on “The leader as learner: thinking out loud while being interviewed”

  1. Tosca , i enjoyed this interview. What stood out for me was the point you made about accountability and learning. As CEOs we should be accountable for, and transparent about, failures on our watch. The buck does stop with the CEO. We want and need the same kind of accountability from the other leaders in the organization. If we want to learn from these failures and have our organizations learn, we need to review our failures and be honest as possible in that review. In doing so, undoubtedly we will learn things that we controlled and could have done differently and also acknowledge that which was beyond our control. The challenge is to manage this learning process in a way that does not undermine the accountability. You said this is a grey area – and you are right. Thanks for helping crystallize this “aha” in my mind.

    Good luck in your new business!

    1. Anne, I am glad you derived some value from listening to the interview. My thinking is: if 1) the leader concerned analyzes honestly what was within their control (for which they are fully accountable) and what was not (where I would argue the accountability is somewhat more nuanced or tempered). And 2) this analysis is seen to be credible by the leader’s board or other supervisors. Then 3) this helps both with accomplishing accountability (answerability) and learning-out-loud (and – importantly – being *seen* by staff to be learning out loud, which reinforces a culture of learning); and 4) helps with maintaining personal resilience on the side of the leader concerned. I had that personal resiliency in mind in bringing up this grey area. Does that make sense in your mind?

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