Leader Pathways

The Life of Leading Greatly  
August 2009

Mentoring Leaders for Bold Tomorrows

Individual Mentoring or Custom In-house Group Programs

Publishing and Speaking

In this Issue:

The Heart of Leading: Possibility and Resolve


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Leader Mentoring by Michael ShenkmanIn Leader Mentoring: Find, Inspire and Cultivate Great Leaders, Michael Shenkman makes the case that mentoring differs from instruction, teaching, and coaching in that it emphasizes not talents and skills used in executing a project but the qualities and values of life that are needed to sustain oneself in the creative endeavor. "No mentors, no leaders," he says, adding, "I want my new book to strongly advocate for leader mentoring as an essential, premium developmental service that aspiring leaders and their sponsors, bosses and partners need to invest in."

Click the book's cover to learn more.

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   The Heart of Leading: Possibility and Resolve

Michael Shenkman Our definition of leading calls for “transforming ... possibilities into realities.” What do we mean by “possibilities?” Is something impossible because the project of making it real might fail? Since a leader’s “success” seems so dependent on a project’s outcome, we might be tempted to think that way. But, really, does a person decide to lead in order to be judged on the success or failure of one project or another? We do not think so.

A leader looks beyond the success or failure of any project, and instead makes a commitment to possibility. In making something possible into something real, successes and failures are inevitable; they go with the territory. But the lure the possible is what gives the leader a sense that there is excitement and vitality in the air; leaders are attracted to that aliveness a possibility offers.

So, again, what is a “possibility” such that it has the heft and power to attract and define a leader? Why does it take a possibility to evoke the urge to lead? What is it about a possibility that drives a leader to look beyond the projects along the way – whatever successes and failures lie in wait?

We say possibility is something that is “more expansive and more encompassing.” That means realizing a possibility does not take away something that already exists, thereby shrinking and diminishing people’s worlds. And, a possibility doesn’t just repeat, improve on, or find new ways to reintroduce (as new and improved) what already exists. It promises to put something new, valued and important into people’s lives, something that wasn’t there before.

Still, a possibility must be more than a mere fantasy. A possibility merits the leader’s attention. Something is possible because all around “it,” things are happening that seem to point to “it,” and yet, “it” is not happening. This drives us to ask, “Why is it not there?” We are concerned that such a thing hasn’t happened.

When faced with such a concern, a leader decides how to proceed. The leader studies the situation, learns and understands the dynamics in play, in order to find out how to make this idea more than a mere possibility. Armed only with this vision, the leader willingly steps into an arena that, while calling for a new reality, even needing it, has real obstacles arrayed against it. No amount of planning, research, conviction or confidence can promise success. But the leader proceeds nevertheless, with nothing but that possibility spurring him on.

Here we see the real heart of the matter: it is the leader’s singular, focused, dedicated resolve and only that resolve that moves a possibility toward reality.

Thus, something worthy of that name, “possibility” requires a leader’s resolve in order to come into existence at all. Yes, the project transforming that possibility into a reality might fail, again; but once a leader decides to act, failure is not the issue – creating competent, dedicated, inspired and resolved followers who will take up the challenge with the leader, that is the issue. The leader has to press hard against all the odds to create the followers who do what it takes because they have come to share the leader’s resolve.

None of this guarantees either success or an outcome that matches initial plans. The possibility is always larger than any “brainstorming” can map out or any project can accomplish. The leader doesn’t “realize” a possibility as much as she steps into a life that is filled with the concern and imbued with vision the possibility opens. The possibility isn’t a matter of execution – as any project is – but it is a matter of the leader’s daily living in the concern, the daily dedication and resolve to enable followers to act in what the possibility offers them and others.

When we cultivate leaders in our mentoring program, our intent is to steel the prospective leader with that resolve, in other words, “self trust.” Our intent is to help leaders recognize, and deepen their commitment to their resolve so that they can shepherd that possibility through all its paces into being a more expansive and more encompassing reality. With a leader’s resolve, a possibility is being offered, and then others can choose to step into the arena to make it so. 

Help us! You can then say that you too joined forces to launch a new way to develop the aspiring leaders who bring us bold tomorrows. To learn more about how Arch can work with YOUR organization, contact me personally or visit www.leadermentoring.com.