For the last thirteen years, I’ve taken for granted the fact that I live in the Washington, DC area – our nation’s capital, rich with history and full of sites that attract tourists from around the world and all walks of life. And I get annoyed when those same tourists block the escalators or take a long time to get through security on the Hill when I’m trying to get a meeting. All of that changed last week.
As an employer, Goodwill Industries International has afforded team members the opportunity to embark on a “leadership walk.” Our specific walk was designed by David Oldfield, director of the Midway Center for Creative Imagination. The walk entails pairing up with colleagues from other departments and visiting several memorials along the National Mall. Last week my friend/colleague and I checked the forecast and along with hundreds of tourists, basked in the first full day of sunshine in DC in several weeks, with plenty of snacks, water, our cameras and field guide in tow.
The guide included our instructions noting which sites to visit and a list of provocative questions to discuss based on the leadership style of those we were honoring. At the Lincoln Memorial we talked about his team of rivals approach and our own antagonists. Standing before the imposing statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we discussed effective advocacy. The Jefferson Memorial sparked a discussion about contradictions and leadership.
We shared the personal and professional experiences that have shaped our leadership styles and the qualities that we aspire to achieve. Coming from similar backgrounds we talked about diversity, inclusion and equality, and ways in which we can increase our understanding of other perspectives. As we were heading into the Memorial Day holiday, we reflected on the sacrifices made by those who served our country and wondered how our families would be different if her father or my grandfather didn’t return from Vietnam or Korea, respectively.
When representing the interests of Goodwill and the people we serve before Congress and the Administration, I interact with the leaders of our country and their staff daily. This exercise allowed me to reflect about the challenges that face our country today and the qualities that I look for in a leader.
You don’t have to live in DC to take a leadership walk” of your own. Think about our founding fathers (and mothers). Read their writings; research quotes that inspire you. Consider what makes them so powerful to you. The field guide states, “insights without action breed cynicism.” One of the goals of the walk is to transform the insights gained into behavioral changes. Perhaps this is something from which all leaders, especially those elected to lead our country, can benefit. Share reflections from your own leadership walk in the comments section below.