Lander Medlin is APPA's executive vice president. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past spring and summer, I was truly blessed with the opportunity to further grow and develop my leadership skills by co-facilitating, with Charlie Jenkins, APPA's Individual Effectiveness Leadership Skills program at the institutional level.
We were fortunate to have two institutions--the University of Missouri, Columbia (who first thought of the idea) and Colorado College--lead the way in bringing this much-needed program and its powerful set of leadership skills to a large audience of individuals who work together day-in and day-out. Obviously both are very different institutions; one is a top public research university and the other a leading private liberal arts college. However, what's not so obvious is that we not only taught the course to over 70 individuals at the Facilities Department at the University of Missouri, Columbia, but we also had the opportunity to deliver the program to those individuals working across all the departments in the Administration and Finance Division of the Colorado College.
Although somewhat different audiences, the results were equally impressive. Both organizations provided extremely positive feedback for the quality of the program content and its deliverables (founded on the Franklin-Covey Seven Habits program, which includes a book, participant's workbook, and a 360-degree feedback profile and action plan). The quality of the individual participants at both institutions was impressive. Their willingness to stretch to achieve new levels of learning and understanding about themselves and their organizations; their sincere interest in improving their individual leadership effectiveness; and their overall eagerness and enthusiasm was inspirational. You always learn more when you teach, and I found that to be a fact.
So, why did I choose to focus on these events in this article? It's mainly because of my concern for the facilities professional and his or her future. I am more convinced now than ever before of the need for leadership skills development. Let's face it. The world as we know it is changing and at a rapid pace. I have written and spoken about change highlighting the critical driving forces affecting society, higher education, and the facilities profession. Let me reiterate what your colleagues have said those driving forces are:
These critical driving forces will, and in many cases already are, driving our profession toward significant role changes. We anticipate that those role changes will include:
Our primary resource for meeting such challenges is leadership, but our understanding and application of the skills required is still lacking and the practice of leadership is tenuous.
Why do I say this? Because the most prevalent belief is that leadership is positional; that is to say, leadership resides with the position (top level management) rather than viewing leadership as "everyone's" individual responsibility. Second, the myth still exists that leaders are born, not made, and that leadership is based on personality traits and personal style rather than character and competence. Leadership consists of a set of learned skills that with practice can be utilized successfully to improve individual human effectiveness and to build lasting relationships. Just as a tennis player can improve with practice, so too can individuals improve their ability to lead. We must move from the narrow view that leadership is about efficiency, control, and stability in maintaining the status quo towards an understanding of leadership as encompassing effectiveness, continuous improvement, innovation, empowerment, and relationships.
Catch the language? Management is the act of efficiently managing things, and leadership is the act of effectively leading people. Simple to say; extremely difficult to do and do well.
The fact remains that our largest renewable resource and most important asset is decidedly the people we work with, support, and serve. And, correspondingly, our training and development programs are primarily focused on technical competency rather than on the skills associated with building effective human relationships--the heart and soul of APPA's leadership skills program. Our leadership skills development must begin with the individual from the inside-out. Only then can we begin to lead others more effectively, lead an organization more effectively, and ultimately contribute to the profession.
So why is this so important? The key here is relationships. Charlie Jenkins wrote about the value of relationships in the May/June 1999 issue of Facilities Manager, and I recommend that you read it. Charlie is right on the money! The premise is that "the demise and derailment of high potential leaders is more often the result of individual factors involving relationships rather than technical skills and perceived competence in their professional area of expertise." Where is your focus?
It has been said many times that the only thing constant is change. I would add a second constant given today's environment: learning is an absolute requirement and an ongoing process. We must be equipped to deal with the challenges we face from the critical driving forces and the role changes we must grapple with well into the future. Where will you learn and discover the necessary leadership skills for your future success? APPA can help. We are ready, willing, and able to do so. As always I am available to discuss your needs in more detail at any time you would like to do so.