Reflections From Forum 2016

Years ago I bought a piano. I always wanted to play the piano. After a few short weeks, I came to the conclusion I had made a financial blunder in buying it. I still very much wanted to play the piano, but I discovered that I did not want to learn to play the piano!

learning leadershipThe Leadership Challenge Forum 2016 was held last month in Nashville, TN. This is a once a year get-together for many practitioners and users of The Leadership Challenge development methodology, created by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Many of you are aware of my nearly thirty year relationship with the authors and this life changing material.

This year’s theme focused on Learning Leadership, although the importance of all learning was stressed throughout the session. Nearly 200 people traveled to Nashville, for a wonderful and downright enjoyable learning experience. People learned from the three excellent keynote presentations, including Jim and Barry’s insights from their newly released book, Learning Leadership. They learned from the couple of dozen breakout sessions, which focused on everything from application of the Leadership Challenge Practices in a corporate environment, to the impact of leadership on millennials in Sudan. And they learned from the many new people they met, as well as from their long-time friends and colleagues. It was an enjoyable and encouraging couple of days.

In addition to the authors, the other keynotes this year were provided by Keni Thomas and Dr. Samineh Shaheem. These may be unfamiliar names, which they were to me, but they were worth the price of admission for sure.

Keni Thomas, one of the leaders of the 3rd Ranger Battalion immortalized in the book and movie, Blackhawk Down, shared the breathtaking story of his men’s herculean efforts, and cited example after example of great leadership which occurred before and during this unforgettable ordeal. Many will forgetkeni Keni’s name in a few weeks but they will never forget him. Nor will they forget the lessons he shared, about standing the line and never leaving anyone behind, especially those who might appear to be a little slower or more challenged in their learning. Thank you for your service Keni, not only on the battlefield but for all the people in the world you continue to touch and inspire.

Dr. Sam, as she is known, is currently a professor at Hult International Business School in Dubai. Her expertise is in areas such as Cross Cultural Psychology and Learning & People Development. She reminded us how important it is to examine our past programming and limiting beliefs, in order to achieve our very sam best. There will always be an abundance of iron clad rules, routines and regulations in organizations or government, conspiring to keep the status quo in place. However, some of the greatest inhibitors to our success may well be our own incorrect assumptions and limiting beliefs, which come from previous experiences and past programming. Leaders must never be afraid to challenge the way they think, and to closely examine their own comfort or complacency zones.

There is one last comment I would like to make about my experience at the Forum. After almost thirty years of Leadership Challenge experience, there were many moments at the conference when I felt overwhelmed, perhaps even a bit inadequate. I cannot recall how many times I found myself saying, “I never thought about that,” or “wow, how did you ever come up with such a clever thing to do.” That said, there is little I find more joyful and inspiring that being around and leaning from really smart and creative people, who are graciously willing to teach, coach, mentor and yes, be good friends.

I hope all of you continue to be lifelong learners and find ways to be with others around you, who share the same passion about learning.

Enjoy a Summer of Learning.

Share Your Thoughts