At the leadership event organised by the Swedish Institute for current NFGL chairpersons, I discovered new ways of looking at leadership with the help of Caroline Stiernstedt Sahlborn’s workshop. The workshop named 'Five Super-skills for the 21st Century – Essential skills for thriving in a complex and rapidly changing world' was full of experience-based exercises. It was a great experience that I would like to share to benefit others.
The better you know yourself, the better you can lead others. To become a good leader, first, you have to know how to lead yourself. Five transformative skills (openness, compassion, perspective seeking, inner compass and sense-making) were found to be the way of achieving self-leadership.
Openness can be explained as ‘meeting situations, people, thoughts and feelings with openness, acceptance and permission’. It requires listening and curiosity, and we practised these skills at the workshop.
We practised the art of listening by teaming up and choosing one person to be the storyteller and who will be the listener. The listener had to change between the four levels of listening: listening from habit (pretending to be listening only), hearing things and taking over, listening from within and finally listening from the source (which is the level likely to change your mind).
Photo: NFGL chairpersons attending the SI Leadership event
After one round, we switched roles. After the exercise, we would have a reflection with questions such as: ‘what happens when you don’t listen to other people?’ and ‘what happens when someone gives you complete attention?’ I found it very hard to pretend to be listening which made me realise that I enjoy listening to others more than I thought I did.
We practised our curiosity by playing a game that consisted of asking questions for five minutes. After that, the person asking the questions gives you feedback, and you have the opportunity to re-formulate your questions. This exercise made me realise I was asking questions that didn’t really interest the other person. I wasn’t too creative by asking compelling questions.
Compassion can be explained as ‘meeting myself and others with warmth, care, humility and integrity’. You should be aware of your strategy when encountering something difficult and you should see failure as a learning opportunity by having a growth mindset.
Perspective-seeking is the broader understanding of myself and others. You should ask yourself ‘what am I basing my decision on?’, the better you are at this, the better you are at understanding different perspectives.
Having an inner compass is to understand ourselves in relation to what is important to us. The exercise to develop this skill was the most enlightening to me. We were given a paper with a list of values and asked to select which one we identified the most with. Afterwards, we divided ourselves into groups, where each person talked about stories that connect to a value for 15 minutes without interruption.
I’ve learned that a value becomes a value when you connect it to a story. If a person can’t connect a value to a story, it means that value is not important for them. For example, one of my stories was:
“When I was studying in the USA, my grandpa got really sick. After a few weeks, my grandpa passed away, and because I was so far away from home, I wasn’t able to go back to be with my family. That moment was the moment I realised how much I value community. The friends I made in the USA were the ones who helped me get through it, and for that, I’m forever thankful.”
Each person gave feedback about what they discovered about the others, and about what they found out about themselves. I realised that by listening to others, there were some values I wouldn’t have chosen at first but that I could very much relate to. When you connect to a value on an emotional level, I figured out, it becomes real.
Finally, sense-making is about seeing and understanding the more significant patterns and your role in the world we create together. After gaining these five skills, you will become a better leader! I certainly learned a lot about myself and others, and I highly recommend you try the exercises as well.