Pursue Your “Mastering Degree”

   We long to become better.  That is what makes a leader, a leader.  A better listener, better collaborator, a better story-teller…  That is the destination on the other side of the chasm, or up the trail.  As we take a look at our tool-belt we find a combination of formal and informal programs which have proved to be useful resources in getting us this far along.  Perhaps we have a diploma or two strapped to our waist.  There may be the counsel of a mentor collected and stored there.  Maybe strong reflection in the midst of a life crisis sharpened us in some way.  And no doubt, hanging about the belt will be a smattering of books and conferences which have been a resource.  But the landscape has shifted, as it always does.  And the impact of those specific tools has plateaued.  What we need to master today is significantly different than what we have studied in the past.  Or maybe those courses are still useful, they have just been lying dormant for way too long.  If leaders are learners, how are we learning now?  What does our “mastering degree” entail for this present chapter?  Have we taken a moment away from the activity to set up our own academy, our own dojo?  What must we intentionally engage in order to further develop who we are and how we lead?  Perhaps it is back to the traditional classroom.  Maybe that means auditing a course at the community college, taking a few online classes or perhaps it is an advanced degree.  Or it might be a program made up of a combination of seminars and workshops which create our core curriculum.  How would it look for us to sit down and define the competencies we must master and then seek out the one-day to one-week classes which will get us there?  What if instead, we find that we are in deep need of a partner in our mastery?  Maybe we need to add a mentor to our circle, or a leadership coach (shameless plug).  Maybe instead of looking for additional content in a class, we search for a human who can walk alongside us and ask important questions, share insights and observe practice?  Lastly, it might be that we need to get out of our heads (and our office) and do more.  Maybe we need to set up an apprenticeship or register for an excursion.  Learning often comes when we reset the context and allow ourselves the opportunity for new epiphanies in new spaces.  Do we need to run with the bulls in Pamplona or spend a day working in a brewery?  What can we learn about innovation when we make pottery or about collaboration when we sign up with a team to do a “Mud Run”?  I find that we are most often shaped by the matrix of raw material, risk, reflection and relationship.  When you look at your leadership journey are these components clearly a part of your “mastering degree” or have you simply decided to stop being a student?  With new opportunities and challenges on the horizon I am not sure that is an option for those who call themselves leaders.

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