I Am A Leader: Thoughts on Leadership from Jen Waller

Welcome to the I Am A Leader blog series, featuring leaders who make a difference. Today’s guest blogger is Jen Waller. Jen is on a mission to support, nurture and encourage coaching skills and talents from non-coach to coach and beyond.

As an experienced coach and trainer Jen is happy to utilise all skills at her disposal to assist clients from getting out of their own way and making a difference in the world with their coaching.

Her coaching blog, Coaching Confidence, is a blog for coaches of all niches. Containing daily quotes, alongside posts covering topics such as personal development, coaching skills and resources.
Keep in touch with Jen via:

A busy twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/thecoachingblog

Or if you prefer facebook, http://www.facebook.com/coachingconfidence

What do you think of when you hear the word leader? When I last looked up the word in a dictionary there were 11 different points listed for that word. Visit a bookstore or library and you’ll find book after book on leadership. (A quick visit to the UK Amazon site gave me a choice of 17,353 books in the leadership section.)

My guess is, as a reader of this great blog, you have a better grasp and a greater interest about being a leader and what that means than many other people. You are perhaps able to identify for yourself if you are already a leader, and maybe you have a really clear definition in your own head about what that means.
I think the first time I can recall that I would have used the label of leader for myself was during my teenage years. As a member of the UK Girl Guide association the group was divided into smaller sub-sets, known as patrols. Each patrol would vote for who in the group would be its “leader”.
These leaders were usually the older members of the group who had the most experience. So I didn’t read too much meaning into the label when I was voted as our patrol leader.
I took the role seriously and made sure I did things like arrange various extra curriculum activities, looked after new members, did what I could to support the group and set a good example etc. I just didn’t give much thought to that word “leader”.
Time progressed and I left education and started my first full time job. Working in the hospitality industry at management level I got an incredible education in so many parts of running a successful business. As a manager, in the size of outlets I was working in, you were required to be incredibly flexible in the role that you played to ensure the smooth running of a shift and the business.
Looking back I can see that I could have thought of myself using the label of a leader. I was consciously aware that my mood and behaviour could influence the rest of the staff and impact upon the customers. I was often required to make quick decisions, problem solve and provide answers etc.
However, my job title included the word manager and I don’t recall the words “leader” and “leadership” being part of the day-to-day conversations. So leader was just not a label I associated as being relevant – even though with the benefit of hindsight I can now see I learnt so much about leadership whilst in that role, apart from using the label of leader!
It was during this time I identified that it was developing staff that I loved. I took what to many may have looked like a change in carer direction, as I moved into specialising in training and development in a different industry.
As part of the learning and development team I spent a lot of time not only training and working with groups, but also having coaching conversations.
At one stage I worked for a business that went from being a growing medium sized family owned business, to one that was part of a multi-national organization in an industry that was going through regulatory change.
As the business evolved I had several conversations about leadership – perhaps prompted by part of the documentation that was used for every staff members progress review including the term “leader”!  As a training team member many staff turned to us, formally and informally, to relate that to their roles in the business.
It became clear to me then that many of them had slightly different ideas about what being a leader meant. Often if their job title didn’t directly include being a line manager it never occurred to them that they could also be a leader and develop/enhance their own leadership qualities/behaviours.
I now own my own business and one of the quotes about leadership that currently appeals to me is:

“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it for themselves.”

(Stephen R Covey, The 8th habit)

I provide a service to existing coaches and those looking to become a coach. One of the common traits of those that I work with is that they want to make a difference in the world – our work together is usually about providing them with a variety of support so that they can increase and actually see the difference that they are making.
When I look at doing anything business related one of the questions I ask myself is does this “support, nurture and encourage coaching skills and talents from non-coach to coach and beyond”?
Yes, that makes it easier for my business to stay aligned with my mission, and I’m also aware that it is in alignment with being a leader even without being an employer of 1000’s of people.
I know that over time my thoughts around leadership and being a leader have changed and naturally developed.
As someone interested in leadership I’d like to end this post with inviting you to play with two questions:
  • What does being a leader currently mean to you?
  • What can you do as a “leader” to make even more of a positive difference?
A special thank you to Jen Waller for sharing her insights about leadership with us today! Stay tuned every Friday as the I Am A Leader blog series continues. Please share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter using the #iamaLEADER hash tag! You can connect with SOS Leadership on Twitter here and Jen Waller here.

Check out all of the I Am A Leader blogs here!

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