Leadership, It’s Complicated; Learning Through Sharing Stories
If you ask a room of people how they define and understand leadership you will get many different answers. Some people will respond with naming a leadership type or style, others in the room with respond with descriptive words. If you search for leadership on the internet you will find leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization. Simple right? Leadership is complex, dynamic, deep and takes time to unpack and understand.
Before I go any further I want to say that we are all leaders. You might not have a formal organizational professional designated leadership role. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a leader. As a leaders we need to learn and grow and we do that though learning growing. Leadership shouldn’t be daunting , it should be embraced and welcomed into our everyday conversation.
Just because leadership is complex doesn’t mean that we cannot explore it in a meaningful and practical way. You can read about it, there are many sources and references worth reading. You can attend a seminar or lecture, which some are good but many are presentations of management principles and not leadership principles. You can watch videos or listen to Podcast, through hearing a conversation or story.
We see examples of leadership every day, where these examples are ripe for sharing and learning through story. So why can’t we or don’t we share these stories? I’ll give you three likely reasons:
1. What I did or what I saw was just part of the job. As a nurse I have thought this and heard this often. What I did wasn’t special, it was just me doing my job.
2. What happened wasn’t exactly positive or didn’t turn out as expected so I don’t want to share that, I don’t want to embarrass anyone or myself.
3. I do not share it because I do not know how to share it, and/or it makes me uncomfortable to share the story.
I would encourage you to reframe your perception and shift your mindset and you will see that these three reasons to not share can be overcome, and if overcome your story may be beneficial to someone else.
I would encourage you to write you successes down and share what you do as a leader, don’t dismiss your every
day successes ad part of your job.
Who cares if it didn’t turn out as expected, you know what? I can learn from your experience, perhaps I might be in a similar situation in my future and your story helped me find success.
At some point you just have to share your story. Your story might be imperfect or not executed perfectly or not an A grade but you know what you can improve the next time you share.
Here's one of MY stories:
A couple Mondays ago my son texted me and said, “Dad I have an assignment due on Wednesday, I need help but I have a track meet tonight, and Jazz Band tomorrow night what do I do?”
I asked him what he needed to get done and he told me it was taking 40 pictures of nature (that he knew about since last week by the way) for his photography class. He is 15 and for him he has a lot going on and needs some guidance and support (what else is going on). I could tell him what to do (transactional leadership) or I can empower him to come up with a plan (transformational leadership).
I texted back “I will support you in whatever it is you need from me, so if you can think about your plan and let me know how I can support you I will be happy to do so."
My son is logical and task driven, he can get overwhelmed when there is a lot going on he needs to write things down to see how it can be done, I know this about him and it helps me in supporting him (knowing your people).
An hour or so later he text me back and said “Dad I have a plan, I can leave track at 5pm tomorrow and you can drive me around to take pictures and then I can get to Jazz Band at 7pm.” I said, “sounds like a plan, good job on thinking out what to do, I am happy to support you.” (supporting your people)
We drove around he took pictures, I was able to share with him how to take pictures and support him learning something new. I also got the opportunity to discuss the importance of planning and using time wisely, his life will only get busier.
So did you learn something from this story? Simple story yes, but lessons learned from a leadership perspective might be that as a leader you are faced with situations that are not your own, and that you may need to respond or react to some new piece of information. In this case my son had an emergency and needed my help. As a leader you need to understand what else is going on and how these other items and deadlines might impact decision making.
As a leader you need to understand the preferred leadership approach. In crisis emergency situations you might need to be a transactional leader, in other cases such as this one you might employ a transformational leadership approach. In all cases you need to know your people, what are their strengths and weaknesses, and then you need to support your people. Finally when you get to interact with your people take the time to engage in conversation and share knowledge and expertise.
Leadership is complex and to better understand leadership we can learn through story. I would encourage you to share your story and through sharing, we can all become better leaders. Find that example in everyday life that is every day leadership. I want to hear from you!
Joe Hess PhD, MHA, MS, RN
Joe Hess PhD, MHA, MS, RN is from Mount Joy Pennsylvania. Joe fell into his nursing career, and that is a story for more than just a Bio. Joe received his BSN from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He started his nursing career in the Army Nurse Corps at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Since 2004 Joe has worked at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital in various roles; research coordination, Nurse Manager, and Performance Improvement in Pediatric Trauma. Joe has a Masters in Health Administration, Masters of Science in Health Evaluation Sciences from Penn State University and a PhD in Leadership from Alvernia University. Joe is an adjunct professor for Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. Joe enjoys spending time with his family, backpacking, hiking, can camping; anything outdoors. He runs ultra marathons and enjoys fly fishing and hunting. Photography is hobby of his and always has a camera ready to snap a picture.
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