Sunday, 17 November 2013

Developing Leaders: What can you teach in one session?

Odysseus takes a trip

Some people start with theory. I start with the participants

As a trainer or teacher, how do you engage learners in a conversation about leadership? Leadership is complex and context dependent. Some people begin with leadership theory. I start with the participants, and draw out the experience of leadership they bring. This blog is about the best participative leadership exercise I ever invented, and you can download the complete exercise with instructions by going to my new website,

‘To see ourselves as others see us’ Robert Burns

Leaders need self-awareness. If you don’t know who you are, why would anyone follow you? Self-awareness helps to build trust and confidence. Self-awareness can’t be taught. We have to learn it as we go through life. It can be an awful pain, learning who we are, and how we impact on other people. But knowing who are, and how other people see us, we can choose to do more of the things that help us to win friends and influence, and less of the things that confuse or irritate people.

Can we teach self-awareness?

Or can we teach self-awareness? Some years ago I developed a set of leadership competencies based on what I have learned from working with leaders in the context of sustainability. Using the competencies as framework for self-assessment, I created a participative group leadership exercise that I have run with all kinds of people in all kinds of places. The whole thing takes just over an hour.

The Leadership Odyssey

I call the exercise ‘The Leadership Odyssey’, because participants go on a short learning journey, with other people, and together they explore their leadership skills and attitudes. 'The Odyssey' is a good example of how I like to work. It's fun going virtual island hopping, and people learn things while they are having fun. In a short space of time people can begin to discover what they do well as leaders, and what they want to develop. 'The Odyssey’ works well at the beginning of a leadership programme as an ice-breaker, and a thought-starter. It can be run as a stand-alone exercise. 'The Odyssey' can also help people to generate ideas for creating their personal development plan. 'The Odyssey' is probably the best participative exercise I ever invented.

Download ‘The Odyssey’

You can download ‘The Odyssey’ complete with instructions by going to my new website, I hope you enjoy using 'The Odyssey', and please let me know you get on. 

For more information about leadership and learning, please take a look at my new website