“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” –Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize Winner)
Better leadership is praised as a solution to many problems: dysfunctional teams, weak performance on key indicators, motivational valleys. But after two days with the LEAP Advanced cohort, which started their 9-months journey in November last year, we were reminded of this simple truth: no effective leadership without self-leadership. During the intense two days meeting the group of young leaders, many of them board members of their oikos Chapters, got to know each other – and themselves – much better. The first afternoon, despite being surrounded by nature, everyone spent bent over their phones. Not as a distraction, however, but to use the online application developed by SelfLeaders, which allows users to choose from an array of values to form a “value tree”. Values are arranged in three different categories: foundational values – the roots – are topped with the stem values of self-fulfillment, and finally those for the greater good. When everyone had chosen, the group set out to explain their choices. This was a simple but powerful exercise to practice story-telling and playfully explore the origin of one’s own attitudes. In the following days, the participants reflected on societal norms and how different kinds of listening will trigger different kinds of reactions from those you’re talking to. Most useful was the exercise on asking “powerful questions”, which provoke thought processes that may lead one’s opposite to reconsider positions – and even let them find answers to long held problems.
What made this meeting a pleasure to everyone – despite cold and rainy weather in Hoisdorf outside Hamburg – were the extended cooking sessions. The participants, who over the year organize in peer-to-peer reflection groups, cooked beautifully for each other and experiences leadership in practice: there are few things as challenging as settling on a recipe on empty stomach.