My Leadership Sweet Spot

Leaders must be learners and last week I completed the Healthcare Leadership Development Program. It was great program focused on each of us as individual leaders, the healthcare environment we operate in and leadership in crisis.

As a wrap-up, each participant was asked to share a three minute success story.  Not quite Ignite style (wouldn’t that have been fun) but engaging nonetheless.

Here’s what I shared:

In Airborne school, I jumped out of a perfectly good aircraft. It was an amazing moment falling through the air looking over to watch the airplane that brought me up there – fly away without me in it. Come back!

I didn’t really know how fast I was falling until I began to see the tops of the trees. At that point, I did what you may think would be the last thing you would do as you were falling to the  ground – I closed my eyes. I didn’t close my eyes because I though it would magically suspend me in mid-air or stop the inevitable from happening.

I closed my eyes because I didn’t want to overthink my landing. I closed my eyes to let my body do what it was trained to do. And it did. Five points of contact later, I got up and walked off the drop zone.

My personal leadership challenge is not to overthink this stuff, to get out of my head, get out of my own way and do what I do best.

I’ve been in formal leadership roles since 1985-ish. Every day, I wake up and step into a leadership lab and even after doing this for so long, some of the best insights still come to me at times when I least expect it.

In an impromptu debrief of week one, we we were asked to find someone we hadn’t spoken with yet and discuss something that happened since the last time we had met. I found Betty (a medical center director), or she found me, and she zeroed right in on an approach to a missed expectations issue I shared. Turns out, we were both women, in the military and the military communication style did not translate well to everyone in the workplace.

Who knew?!

I now make it a point to let my staff and those I mentor know that they are not responsible for my communication skills but they are responsible for leaving a conversation with complete information. If they don’t get what they need, they need to ask for it.

When others take this on, I see expectations being met and hear clarifying questions being asked. I see confidence, awareness, ownership and strength where it was not visible before.

And that’s the leadership sweet spot for me. It’s not a position, a title or a grade. It’s not my name in lights. It’s creating possibility where none existed before.

This experience reminded me that as a leader, I am much bigger than any role I may fill. So, although I leave the program not knowing what’s next for me (think 5 year plan, friends) I leave knowing that whatever my next step is, I got this.

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Deborah Button

My leadership style is to encourage everyone to be enthusiastic team players, as well as confident in their ability to work alone. As government workers, we do not stand alone. We are part of a large team.