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The Soul of Your Leadership

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Nov 13, 2008, 11:12 AM

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The Soul of Your Leadership

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By Garcia Wood

Why do you lead? How do you lead? I asked these questions to my audience at the Western Association of Independent Camps (WAIC) conference and the ACA Rocky Mountain Section Conference to camp directors, camp owners, and camp program directors; the answers varied — "Because I was asked to." "Because I want to make a difference." "Because I want to influence young people in a positive direction . . . ." As a professional in the camp industry, one needs to keep asking these questions. Asking the bigger questions takes us to our place of mission and vision as opposed to the everyday details and tasks that bog us down and get us away from the true essence of leadership, our purpose, or what one might call the "soul" of leadership.

As director of training services for camp leaders and a freelance consultant working with many corporations, nonprofit organizations, and young people for the past eighteen years, I have discovered that knowing the soul of our individual leadership is critical if we are going to develop and influence young people and young adults.

Each of you (camp owners, directors, counselors) has a responsibility to identify the soul of your leadership, or more specifically, what it is that you do that works in your camp environment. You have a magical quality that works for you, or you wouldn’t be where you are. You have had choices in how you work with others in your camp environment, and you have chosen a way to "be." Identifying how you have chosen to "be" is what allows you to coach and influence others. Identifying what it is in your core (the values and ethics you use when working with young people) is what makes what you have to offer valuable and teachable. This is what I label as leadership.

How one wants to "be" is a huge question for all of us, and one that I ask my students when I am in a leadership role. The other question I ask is "what do you have inside that no one can take away?" These qualities cannot be affected by the external environment. The answer to this question takes me and those I am influencing to the deepest core values and beliefs of who we are as leaders.

I was working with an eighteen-year-old counselor, Maria, who was crying in the bathroom. She told me, "I do not fit in here, and I do not belong here. I want to leave." I consoled her and calmly asked her two questions: "What do you have that no one can take away from you?" And, "Who do you want to be?" She paused, but continued to cry and vent. I asked her again, "What do you have that no one can take away from you?" She answered, "I am always nice, and I know I am a good person. I want to make a difference in the world, maybe go into the Peace Corps." I asked her to translate that into her more internal virtue: kindness and drive for purpose. These virtues are parts of her soul that make her happy and that no one can take away. For the remainder of the time at camp, Maria seemed to have a different type of confidence and strength. Identifying these specific characteristics within ourselves sustains us as individuals, and becomes an important lesson in leadership among our young people.

As camp professionals, one of our jobs is to help our campers and camp counselors find their souls — who they are as different individuals from each other — and how they can shine and celebrate these individual differences.

Garcia (Garsha) Wood is director of Training Services for Camp Leaders. She is responsible for staff training and development for the company’s internal staff, serving camps with staff training in the camp industry and clients outside the camp industry who desire development in leadership and team effectiveness. Additionally, Garcia works as an adjunct professor for the Daniels College of Business Executive MBA program in leadership and team development and serves as a leadership consultant for various organizations.

Originally published in the 2008 September/October issue of Camping Magazine.


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