Friday, March 1, 2013

Leadership Identity

Preparing for the Southeast Captaining 101 Clinic and meeting individually with a number of college leaders (and spending a lot of time driving by myself) have led to a considerable amount of thinking about leadership.  I am learning a lot from these college players, and I always leave those conversations feeling challenged and inspired to be a better leader myself.

I have a few posts worth of content about some of what I've been learning and reflecting upon, and I'll try to get some thoughts up on the blog over the course of the next week.

At the Captaining Clinics and in these individual meetings, we talk a lot about the need for team identity and the importance of cultivating a unique team culture, setting goals, and developing a plan.  Success doesn't happen by chance.  It requires a plan and intentional movement in a singular direction over the course of many months, or even years.

As team leaders, we need to develop our personal leadership identity alongside cultivating team identity.  Every team is a reflection of its leadership, and strong leadership has goals and a plan the same way a team does.  Similar to how team identity evolves over time, our leadership identity evolves too.  As we face new challenges, and as we grow as players, leaders, and people, our identities evolve (hopefully in a positive direction!).

All of this is a bit nebulous, especially for young leaders, but I think we can ask some key questions to begin defining our personal leadership identity.

First, why do I play this sport?
Our reasons for playing ultimate ground us.  When things get rough, remembering why I play reminds me that all of the struggle is worth it.  When I get discouraged, I go back and read the list I've made.  It usually works wonders.  This list has also helped me to recognize that not everyone plays for the same reasons I do.  That recognition is key to helping me understand what makes my teammates tick, and shaping my approach to putting them in a position to succeed.

Secondly, why do I lead?
For me, articulating why I lead serves as a heart check.  When difficult situations arise and practice planning, emails, and one-on-ones start piling up next to life stuff, reminding myself of why I lead brings joy to the "work."  It also means that I can bring more positive energy to my interactions with my teammates, because ultimately, my reasons for leading are tied to them.

Next, what are my strengths and weaknesses?
Know thyself.  As leaders, we assess our roster for strengths and weaknesses, and develop a strategy based upon our assessment.  Similarly, when we know our own personal strengths and weaknesses, we can put ourselves in a position to be better leaders.  Good players train their weaknesses and maximize their strengths.  Good leaders do the same.

Lastly, what are my goals as a leader?

This John Wooden quote summarizes many of personal goals as a leader:

"Others may have far more ability than you have. They may be larger, faster, quicker, able to jump better, etc. but no one should be your superior in team spirit, loyalty, enthusiasm, cooperation, determination, industriousness, fight, and character. Acquire and keep these traits and success will follow. Define success for those under your leadership as total commitment and effort to the team's welfare."

Outcome goals (e.g. "cultivate a happy team") and process goals (e.g. "be kind in every interaction I have with my teammates") give me direction.  They dictate where I put my time, energy, and effort.  They also give me something to work toward.  Goals allow me to push my boundaries and strive to be my best self.

If you haven't done so already, go out and buy a notebook and answer some of these questions.  Document your journey.  Having it all written down will help guide you along the way, and is an awesome thing to look back on after the season.

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