• Mike Fry

Leadership Muscle - Use It or Lose It

Photo: Me jumping off the “Diaper Pole” during Pecos River’s Playing to Win seminar. It was as much an exercise in developing courage as anything. Note, I edited the image to remove the safety equipment that was overhead. The edited image provides a clearer idea of what this leap felt like, which was far more important than what it actually looked like.

If there is one thing I have learned about leadership over the years is that it is as much an acquired skill as it is a set of in-born characteristics. Take Intellectual Horsepower, for example. Research has proven that a person’s IQ is largely based on genetics, which gives them a mental processor that either runs fast or slow. Most are somewhere in between. In spite of that, a person can exercise their brain in various ways to learn things and keep it functioning optimally. They might not be able to change the basic hardware very much. They can, however, improve how it functions.

Each of the 22 leadership skills required to run an animal shelter has both the genetic and learned components. Courage, for example, is largely a genetically inherited personality trait that predisposes some people to being open to new experiences. When that is combined with successful experiences in challenging situations, confidence is grown into what people perceive as courage.

For these and other reasons, reading a book cannot develop leadership. Exercising leadership muscles, in real-life situations, develops it, especially if done over time and with deliberate attention on doing so. Similarly, failure to use those muscles can cause them to deteriorate.

This is an important concept to understand, because whether a person or organization is successful is largely a function of leadership, which is why is it commonly agreed that Effective Leadership is the most critical component of the No Kill Equation. Without it, none of the other components of the No Kill Equation will be able to function properly. With it, practically anything is possible, even if it has never been done before and no one currently knows how to do it.

Developing leadership is, therefore, absolutely critical to people and organizations. But, there is a catch: people and organizations are notoriously bad at self-assessment. They have a difficult time objectively identifying what their skills and weaknesses are. Furthermore, they have little understanding of how leadership development works. Too often, they use the wrong criteria to select leaders, and then fail to develop them. This usually results in long-term disaster.

In other words, developing leaders is one of the most important and most difficult things for shelters and rescuers to do, so much so that it rarely even makes it on the organization's to-do list. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that a large number of animal shelters are failing to fulfill their missions. It is also why No Kill Learning has developed a revolutionary new program to help identify, select and develop leadership in the animal welfare field.

A new activity-based and experiential kind of learning has been integrated into a 9-week online course, the first of which begins on January 9, 2016. In this new kind of leadership development class, students will meet weekly online, via video conference to talk about the coursework they will be doing throughout the week during their daily lives. Assignments will be tailored to each student in order to develop specific leadership skills they lack. The skills each student will be developing will be determined using confidential feedback provided by the people in their lives that know them best. Translation: This class is not for those who fear a challenge. But, if changing the world is something you want to do, this class could be the leap you need to take.

Note: due to the nature of the class, class size is very limited. But, it is filling up. You can register here if you are interested.

#leadership #nokillequation #assessments #development